24 January 2023, The Tablet

Theologian explains why Benedict XVI published posthumous book

by Bess Twiston Davies

An 190-page book of essays by the late Pope Emeritus has been published, according to his orders, three weeks after his death.

Theologian explains why Benedict XVI published posthumous book

A book on priestly celibacy by Cardinal Robert Sarah wrongly listed the Pope Emeritus as a co-author. After a critical response, Benedict said: “I do not want to publish anything else in my life.”
Ivandro Inetti/CNA

Pope Benedict XVI decided to publish a book of essays after his death because of the furore evoked by his contribution to a book on priestly celibacy by Cardinal Robert Sarah.

The Pope Emeritus said he was wrongly listed as the co-author of From the Depths of Our Hearts by Cardinal Sarah, when it was published in 2020.

According to the theologian, Elio Guerriero, Benedict had told him after the publication of Sarah’s book: “I do not want to publish anything else in my life.

“The fury of the circles opposed to me in Germany is so strong that the appearance of any word from me immediately provokes a murderous clamour on their part,” he told Guerriero, adding: “I want to spare myself and Christendom this.”

Benedict informed Guerriero he should not have been listed as co-author of Sarah’s book and had only contributed extensive notes which formed one chapter.

Guerriero curated What is Christianity?, an 190-page volume of essays by Benedict, published on the Pope Emeritus’s orders, three weeks after his death on 31 December, 2022.

Benedict’s former private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, also helped edit the volume. Four of the book’s 16 essays had never previously published.

Benedict speaks in the book of “individual bishops and not just in the United States, who rejected Catholic tradition in its entirety, aiming to develop a kind of new, modern Catholicity in their dioceses.”

He adds: “In not a few seminaries students caught reading my books were considered unsuitable for the priesthood. My books were hidden as though they were harmful literature and read only in secret.”

In the preface, dated 1 May, 2022, Benedict disclosed that he had felt unable to make any plans following his resignation in 2014.

He wrote: “When I announced my resignation I had no plan whatever for what I would do in the new situation. I was too exhausted to plan other work.”

“After the election of Pope Francis I slowly resumed my theological work. In the course of the years a series of small and medium contributions, presented in this volume, took shape.”

In one essay on the Catholic priesthood, Benedict argues that the Second Vatican Council gave the Catholic Church a “beautiful” document on the priesthood, but failed to “face the fundamental question” of the difference between Catholic and Protestant understandings of ordained ministry.

Another essay tackles Catholic and Protestant differences in Eucharistic theology.

According to the publisher, Mondadori, German responses to Benedict’s arguments on such topics had led him to opt to issue the book after his death, and initially in Italian.

Meanwhile in Bavaria, the regional court of Traunstein has provisionally suspended a lawsuit against Pope Benedict.

It was instigated by a 38-year-old Bavarian who alleged he had been abused by Peter Hullermann, a priest of the archdiocese of Munich, in the 1970s and 1980s. The firm defending Pope Benedict, the former Archbishop of Munich, had asked for the suspension until it is clear who Benedict’s legal successor shall be.

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