German laypeople have accused Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Cardinal Robert Sarah of creating “division” in Church with their “irresponsible” anti-optional celibacy stance as revealed in a polemical new book.
Full text of the “We are Church” Germany statement:
The reform movement “We are Church” accuses the Emeritus Pope Benedict of contributing to the division of the Catholic Church. His recent statements on celibacy are “outrageous”, said the movement’s spokesman, Christian Weisner, on Monday in Munich.
After his resignation as Pope, Joseph Ratzinger had said “that he would keep silent and no longer interfere in church politics”. Now, however, he was joining forces with a determined critic of his successor Pope Francis.
“This is a schism in the Church to which he is contributing in a very decisive and irresponsible way,” Weisner said. “This is a very bad sign.”
Weisner called on the Catholic bishops to distance themselves clearly and tell him: “Dear Joseph Ratzinger, enough is enough.”
Also in terms of content, the adherence to celibacy, which Ratzinger demands together with the conservative Cardinal Robert Sarah in a new book, according to advance reprints in the French newspaper “Le Figaro”, is from the point of view of “We are Church” the completely wrong way.
In times of a worldwide lack of priests, the church could not otherwise “perform missionary work and keep the congregations upright in our country”, Weisner said.
“In the whole history of the church there were long phases where celibacy was not obligatory,” he stressed. “The Catholic Church has changed much more in the past than we are told today”.
Even notorious anti-Francis critic Cardinal Gerhard Müller stepped in Tuesday to defend Pope Bergoglio, in a way, playing down the importance of Benedict’s contribution to Sarah’s anti-optional celibacy book in comments to Italian paper Corriere della Sera and insisting:
“We don’t have two popes, there is only one pope, Francis”.
Benedict’s title of Pope Emeritus is a mere “courtesy”, Müller further explained.
“In reality, Benedict XVI is an emeritus bishop”, said the cardinal.
That said, Müller, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2012 to 2017, insisted Benedict wasn’t interfering with Pope Francis’ teaching, but instead taking responsibility for the Catholic faith, as all pastors, including bishops emeriti, are required to do.
Why it matters
In the newspaper Il Giornale, in the meantime, Müller also described the playing-off of Benedict against Francis as an “anti-church game”.
It was “absolutely clear” that all the cardinals, bishops and Catholics were on the side of Pope Francis, Müller insisted.
Doubling-down on his statements to Corriere, Müller explained to Il Giornale that Benedict “never wanted to interfere in the current leadership of the church”.
But that fact, the cardinal continued, does not mean that Ratzinger must remain silent, as he is “not yet dead”, and the mission of a bishop lasts until the end of his life.
Regarding the debate about married priests, on the other hand, dogmatic professor Müller expressed his opinion that exceptions to priestly celibacy in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church were not possible.
That’s because the faithful and wider society outside the church would interpret such exception as a death sentence for celibacy, even if it would remain optional.