Reflections on principles without reference to current debate

Reflections on principles without reference to current debate

Pope em. Benedict XVI. at his desk © Osservatore Romano/Romano Siciliani (KNA)

Even in the Vatican, things are not eaten as hot as they are cooked: A book contribution by Benedict XVI., initially seen as an affront to Pope Francis, turns out to be a historical observation without any real points.

Benedict XVI's much-discussed text. On priesthood and celibacy has been published in German. The weekly newspaper "Die Tagespost", published in Wurzburg and sponsored by the former pope, published the text in advance on Wednesday.

It is soon to appear in several languages in the book "From the Depth of the Heart". The book is edited by Cardinal Robert Sarah of the Curia, who initially gave Benedict XVI. as a co-author, thus causing confusion.

No reference to the Amazon Synod

In the essay, the former pope develops priestly celibacy from the Old Testament priesthood, but also acknowledges problems of justification in the present day. The text does not address a possible ordination allowance for married men, as discussed at the Amazon Synod at the Vatican in October. It bears the date of 17. September 2019.

The article entitled "The Catholic Priesthood" will also be published in Germany in February by Fe-Medienverlag in Kiblegg. Since the statements of Benedict XVI. on celibacy were widely interpreted as an affront to Pope Francis, they had sparked a debate about the former pope's relationship with his successor.

Benedict XVI. describes in the essay the Christian priesthood as a reinterpretation, in which in the figure of Jesus as high priest "the prophetic cultic critique and the cultic tradition starting from Moses merge". However, after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the determination of the relationship to the Old Testament priesthood "became inevitable also for the Catholic Church". The understanding of ministry has "rushed in upon us with a tremendous urgency" and "has become to this day the continuing crisis of the priesthood in the Church".

For the justification of celibacy, Benedict XVI refers to. Among other things, she refers to the "connection between sexual abstinence and worship"; this was "quite clear in the general consciousness of Israel. For today's Catholic priests, too, the whole of life is "in contact with the divine mystery" and thus requires "an exclusivity for God which excludes any other bond embracing the whole of life, such as marriage.".

Exceptions not a subject of the article

In doing so, Benedict XVI. explicitly against a "negative evaluation of the body and sexuality"; however, the priestly ministry and marriage each claimed the person in such a way that "both vocations at the same time seemed unrealizable".

He further interprets the renunciation of marriage and family as analogous to the renunciation of land ownership by the Israelite priestly tribe of Levi: "In this sense, the church has interpreted the word clergy (community of heirs). To enter the clergy means: to renounce one's own center of life and to accept God alone as the bearer and guarantor of one's life." Benedict XVI sees celibacy as a problem. Further, an expression of unreserved service and "true freedom".

In his remarks Benedict XVI refers to. among other things, to his books "The Spirit of the Liturgy" and "Jesus of Nazareth". He also reflected on experiences of his own priestly ordination in 1951.

Exceptions for married priests, as Benedict XVI. even decreed during his tenure as pope for formerly Anglican clergy who have become Catholic, are not the subject of this article.

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Christina Cherry
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