Published: Tue, January 14, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

Benedict Warns Successor Against Lifting Celibacy Rule

Benedict Warns Successor Against Lifting Celibacy Rule

Pope Benedict XVI defended the celibacy of Catholic Priests after his successor, Pope Francis hinted on relaxing the ban on married men serving as priests.

Pope Francis visits his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in Vatican, December 21, 2018.

While Vatican expert Iacopo Scaramuzzi pointed out that "cohabitation (in the Vatican) is hard if the emeritus pope does not respect his own promise to hide away and obey".

To more fully understand Benedict and Sarah's point, look no further than Deutsche Welle's report on the new book: "Some believe the more progressive Pope Francis may attempt to remove celibacy as a requirement for all priests" - even though Francis is on record saying the exact opposite.

Pope Francis is now considering whether to allow "viri probati" - married "men of proven virtue" - to join the priesthood in certain circumstances, such as in remote locations like the Amazon where communities seldom have Mass due to a lack of priests.

Francis will decide in the coming weeks whether to relax the celibacy rules in remote locations, such as the Amazon, where there is a shortage of clergymen. Cardinal Sarah, 74, has increasingly become a figure around which opposition to the Pope is coalescing.

"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".

"I can not keep silent!"

Rome has been abuzz with speculation about how Benedict was able to author the book given his age and physical frailty which has made it hard for him to speak or write.

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According to Cardinal Sarah and the former pope, they observed "a unusual media Synod that prevailed over the real Synod".

In that light, it is significant that the English edition of the book lists the author as "Benedict XVI", with no mention of his emeritus papal status on the cover. He stressed, however, that the retired Pope's essay on clerical celibacy still stands.

It is not explicitly required by the Bible but is a discipline required by the Church. Yet it also makes assertions an internationally-respected theologian such as Joseph Ratzinger would normally shy away from. "Secondly, I would say that I do not agree with permitting optional celibacy, no", Francis said on January 28, 2019.

Benedict caused a stir with an essay previous year in which he blamed the Church's sexual abuse scandal on the effects of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. On Monday, the Vatican issued a statement reminding reporters that Francis supports celibacy as "a gift for the Church". A recent documentary revealed the difficulty that Benedict has in communicating and the crucial position played by his secretary.

Pope Benedict vowed to remain "hidden from the world" when he became the first pope in 700 years to resign in 2013.

Priestly celibacy was introduced about 900 years ago, and before then clergy were often married.

"The Pope emeritus in fact knew the Cardinal was preparing a book", Archbishop Gänswein added, "and had sent a short text of his on the priesthood", authorising the Cardinal to use it as he wished.

"But he hadn't approved any plans for a double signature book nor had he seen and authorised the cover", Gaenswein said.

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