Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Promotes Priestly Celibacy in New Book, Suggesting Rift With Francis

In this June 28, 2017, file photo, Pope Francis, left, and Pope Benedict XVI meet each other on the occasion of the elevation of five new cardinals at the Vatican. Retired Pope Benedict XVI has broken his silence to reaffirm the value of priestly celibacy, co-authoring a book at the precise moment that Pope Francis is weighing whether to allow married men to be ordained to address the Catholic priest shortage. (L’Osservatore Romano/Pool photo via AP, File)

Former Pope Benedict XVI, who once vowed to remain hidden from the world after resigning, is once more speaking out. In a new book, set for release in February, the retired pontiff champions priestly celibacy at a time when his successor, Pope Francis, is considering allowing more married men to be priests.

“From the Depths of Our Hearts:
Priesthood, Celibacy, and the
Crisis of the Catholic Church”
Image courtesy of Ignatius

His remarks raise concerns that the two popes are at odds.

“I can no longer be silent or feign ignorance,” the emeritus pope said in the forward of the book, “From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy, and the Crisis of the Catholic Church.” The book is co-authored with Cardinal Robert Sarah, who heads the Vatican department for Divine Liturgy.

“We do it in a spirit of love for the unity of the Church. If ideology divides, the truth unites hearts. Examining the doctrine of salvation can only unite the Church around its divine Master. We do this in a spirit of charity,” the authors write.

Benedict, who once welcomed married Anglican priests who converted to Catholicism, allowing them to become Catholic priests while remaining married, appears now to have taken a harder line in supporting celibacy. The Catholic Church requires Latin rite priests to be celibate but does allow married men to be ordained as priests in the Eastern rite.

The book is scheduled to be released in mid-February, but an excerpt was published on Monday (Jan. 13) by the French daily Le Figaro. In it, the authors criticize the idea of allowing “tested” married men to the priesthood. That possibility was widely discussed during the gathering of bishops on the Amazon region called for by Pope Francis last October.

A document on the bishop’s gathering written by Pope Francis is expected to be released before March.

In an excerpt, the former pope presents a history of celibacy in the Catholic Church. The book argues that a priest’s duties toward the eucharist and his flock conflict with the requirements of marriage.

“To demonstrate this, it suffices to remember that the Church has always considered marriage as a gift given by God from the Garden of Eden,” they write. “Therefore, marital status concerns man as a whole, as serving the Lord requires the total gift of man, so it doesn’t seem possible to realize both vocations simultaneously.”

In the book, the emeritus pontiff signs himself as Benedict XVI, which has also been interpreted as carrying a special significance.

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Source: Religion News Service