Ex-Pope Benedict undercuts Francis on priests and celibacy

Clay Curtis
January 14, 2020

Benedict, who was the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years, at first withdrew to a life of quiet contemplation in the Vatican, but has increasingly begun to speak out on key Catholic issues.

Benedict's book could be considered a public attempt by the retired pope to sway the thinking of the current pope.

Francis is now considering allowing it in remote locations, such as the Amazon, where communities seldom have mass due to a lack of priests.

A majority of bishops at the synod in October said married men should be ordained to offer a supply for the shortage of priests. Although he has long reaffirmed the gift of a celibate priesthood in the Latin rite church, he has stressed that celibacy is a tradition, not doctrine, and therefore can change.

Pope Francis, left, talks with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in the former Convent Mater Ecclesiae at the Vatican, in 2016, three years after Benedict stunned the Catholic Church by resigning to become pope emeritus.

But Vatican experts expressed astonishment that the retired pope would speak out on such a sensitive topic.

The new book is not the only time the former pope has spoken publicly over an issue. In April 2019, Benedict wrote on a German monthly that the current sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is born from the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

"In my opinion the spiritual schism in the church is already underway", said Grasso, author of "The Abdication" about the consequences of Benedict XVI's retirement.

"The priesthood of Jesus Christ causes us to enter into a life that consists of becoming one with him and renouncing all that belongs only to us", he writes.

For his part, Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Vatican's liturgical office, reflects that "celibacy is sometimes a trial, but it is also a liberation" as well as "a joy", so depriving communities and priests of this "is not a work of mercy".

Marriage, he writes, requires man to give himself totally to his family.

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In the book, to be published by Fayard on 15 January, and with different sections written and signed by different authors, Benedict argues that priesthood and marriage are not compatible, adding that renouncing marriage "in order to place oneself at fully at the disposal of the Lord has become a criterion for priestly ministry".

In the book dedicated to priests of the world, the two authors however urged them to persevere as they also admonished Catholic faithfuls to hold firm and support them in their celibate ministry.

'It is urgent and necessary for everyone-bishops, priests and lay people-to stop letting themselves be intimidated by the wrong-headed pleas, the theatrical productions, the diabolical lies and the fashionable errors that try to put down priestly celibacy, ' they write.

Francis is said to be preparing a response to the synod's recommendation.

The book is being published at a moment of renewed interest - and confusion - in popular culture about the nature of the relationship between Francis and Benedict, thanks to the Netflix drama, 'The Two Popes'.

After the news broke, Twitter exploded, with the general take that Benedict was trying to force Francis's hand on priestly celibacy.

"The (liberal Church) mafia is out to get Benedict XVI".

"Not only there is no canon law concerning the situation created by an incapacitated pope", tweeted Villanova theologian Massimo Faggioli. "This intervention raises deep questions about the role of the emeritus pope".

Mark Brumley, the president of Ignatius Press, however, denounced such conspiracies and said Benedict isn't being used.

VATICAN CITY, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Roman Catholic scholars rebuked the former Pope Benedict on Monday for his comments in a new book regarding the delicate matter of priestly celibacy, saying his words were helping to destabilise the reigning Pope Francis.

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