The Emeritus pope Benedict XVI, who will be 93 in April, and Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, have coauthored a book defending celibacy for priests of the Latin Rite church.
The authors present themselves “as bishops” in “filial obedience to Pope Francis” who “seek the truth” in “a spirit of love of the unity of the church,” far from “the ideologies that divide” and far from “political maneuvers or power games or ideological manipulations.”
“We cannot remain silent,” they said, quoting St. Augustine.
They call on the church “not to be impressed” by “the bad advocacies, the diabolical lies, the erroneous ways by which they wished to devalue priestly celibacy” in the media reporting of that synod. The authors claim that “in past months” they came to see that “the strange mediatic synod had prevailed over the real synod,” and this gave rise to their decision to write this text together. “We exchanged ideas and concerns. We prayed and we meditated in silence. Each of our meetings consoled us and calmed us mutually,” they said.
They call on the church “not to be impressed” by “the bad advocacies, the diabolical lies, the erroneous ways by which they wished to devalue priestly celibacy.”
The 175-page book, written in French, is entitled Des profoundeurs de nos couers (From the depths of our hearts) and will be published in France on Jan. 15. Le Figaro, France's oldest and second most-read daily, broke the news on Jan. 13 and presented some brief excerpts from the book together with background articles by its Vatican expert, Jean Marie Guenois, who sent an announcement of the work to more than 40 journalists from different countries.
Benedict XVI, who as pope often underlined “the great significance of priestly celibacy” while at the same time opening the door to the entry of hundreds of married Anglican priests into the Roman Catholic Church, writes in the book that “celibacy is indispensable so that our journey to God continues being the basis of our life.”
The book comes on the eve of the publication of Pope Francis’ exhortation following the Amazonian synod, which is expected to be released by mid-February.
Pope Francis stated in January 2019, in an airborne press conference, that he believes celibacy is “a gift for the church” and that he will not introduce optional celibacy. He said that he only saw the possibility of ordination of married men as an extreme measure to provide the Eucharist to people in remote areas who would otherwise remain without it for long periods.
In Le Figaro, Mr. Guenois wrote that Cardinal Sarah and Benedict XVI share “a great spiritual friendship.” He said that the cardinal frequently visits the emeritus pope and that they began exchanging views in a fuller way at the beginning of 2019.
Benedict addresses the issue head-on in his chapter in the brief book, which is composed of a joint introduction and conclusion penned by Benedict and Sarah, and then a chapter apiece in between. Benedict’s chapter is dense with biblical references and he explains in scholarly terms what he says is the “necessary” foundation for the celibate priesthood that dates from the times of the apostles.
“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 priests, this is the foundation of the necessity of celibacy but also of liturgical prayer, meditation on the Word of God and the renunciation of material goods.”
Edited from AmericaMagazine and AP