The publication of a work co-signed by Benedict XVI, and directed against the possibility of ordaining married men as priests in the Latin Rite Catholic Church, provoked reactions in the Catholic world, and an earthquake back in the enclosure of the smallest state in the world, to the point of making the pope emeritus withdraw his signature.
While Le Figaro published on January 13, 2020 the advance sheets of the book entitled From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy, and the Crisis of the Catholic Church and gave the chance to speak to Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, co-author of the work written with Benedict XVI, the Vatican Insider site - the unofficial organ of the Holy See - called into question the good faith of the high Guinean prelate, and called it a case of manipulation.
A few hours later, on the morning of January 14, Cardinal Sarah published a press release on his Twitter account, with facsimiles of letters from Benedict XVI. These show the nature of the collaboration with the former Sovereign Pontiff, who said: “For my part, I agree that the text should be published in the form you have foreseen.”
Nonetheless, Msgr. Georg Gänswein, private secretary of the pope emeritus and prefect of the Pontifical House, made the following point on Vatican News, the official information site of the Holy See:
“I can confirm that this morning, on the indication of the Pope Emeritus, I have asked Cardinal Robert Sarah to contact the publishers of the book, asking them to remove the name of Benedict XVI as co-author of the book, and to remove also his signature from the introduction and conclusions.”
“The pope emeritus knew that the cardinal was preparing a book and he sent him a text on the priesthood authorizing him to use it as he wished.” But contrary to Cardinal Sarah’s statement, he claimed that Benedict “did not approve a project for a co-authored book, and he had not seen or authorized the cover. It is a misunderstanding that does not raise questions about Cardinal Sarah’s good faith,” stated the prefect of the pontifical house.
After this strange twist, which directly blames Cardinal Robert Sarah, the latter intervened on his Twitter account: “I confirm that I was able to speak this morning with Archbishop Georg Gänswein. This communiqué remains my one and only version of the course of events.”
“Considering the controversies caused by the publication of the book, it has been decided that the author of the book for future publications will be: ‘Cardinal Sarah with the contributions of Benedict XVI.’ On the other hand the complete text remains absolutely unchanged.”
If the facts that led to the current situation remain obscure, and perhaps we will never know more, one thing remains certain and not denied at this time: Benedict XVI’s text, opposing - in the Latin Rite Catholic Church - access to the priesthood of men already committed to the bonds of marriage, is authentic and fully assumed by its author.
The change from a “co-signature” to a simple “contributor” does not change the basis of the problem. But the reaction provoked shows the exasperation of those who absolutely want to abolish priestly celibacy and their determination to remove all obstacles.
Hopefully this book, will keep its promise and to reassure those who oppose this strange “synodal spirit” which makes the Rhine flow into the Tiber via the Amazon to the greatest misfortune of the Church.