Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has co-authored a book with Cardinal Robert Sarah, one of Pope Francis’ fiercest opponents, in which both plead against ordaining married men, arguing that “optional celibacy for priests is not actually optional for an authentic priesthood”.
The debate on Twitter was served.
Here’s what some opinion makers had to say there.
First there were the visceral reactions, raging from shock to disappointment.
This was from veteran Vatican correspondent for La Croix, Robert Mickens:
Well-known US Jesuit James Martin said the Pope Emeritus’ intervention was “hard to fathom”, while Vaticanist Joshua McElwee described it as “incredible”:
Beyond the shock, commentators like theologians Natalia Imperatori and Massimo Faggioli pointed out that with the new book Benedict seemed to be breaking the promise he made when he resigned the papacy, that he would keep to a life of “prayerful silence”:
Shock and disbelief aside, other Catholic netizens wondered how Benedict, at 92, could have found the energy and concentration necessary to pen the pro-priestly celibacy volume with Sarah, especially after a recent documentary revealed him to be frail and perhaps in poor physical health:
But if Benedict’s physical and mental condition are not sharp enough for book-writing, Catholic Twitterers wondered whether there might be more to the story than meets the eye:
Ivereigh called it “intolerable” that Benedict, Sarah and their circles could be seen to be “interfering” with Francis’ pontificate, as did Vatican watcher Rich Raho:
In the opinion of many Catholic Twitterers, that connection identified by Ivereigh and Raho to the (Amazon) Synod – which by a majority proposed the reintroduction of married priests in the Church – was the key to the Benedict/Sarah conspiracy:
Vatican correspondent for the British Catholic paper The Tablet, Christopher Lamb, was in agreement with the connection between the Benedict-Sarah book and the Amazon Synod:
Catholic Twitterzens made the most of the opportunity to point out the error in Benedict and Sarah’s thinking against optional celibacy: that is, that that of married priests is actually the older and more authentic tradition, and nothing (metaphysically speaking) to be ashamed of:
Ivereigh also pointed out that Benedict has actually admitted married men to the priesthood in the past, and in that sense appears to have backflipped in his book with Sarah:
Beyond the specific question of Benedict and Sarah’s opinions on priestly celibacy, however, many Catholic Twitterers were in agreement that the news of Benedict still making his presence felt in Church debates revealed a fundamental problem around the institution of “Pope Emeritus”:
Not only, though, is there canon law regarding the limits of the office a “Pope Emeritus”, but Benedict’s continued interference is giving fuel to Pope Francis’ opponents, as Faggioli pointed out:
That said, some netizens took the opportunity for a bit of catechesis.
Though we appear to have “Two Popes”, in reality there’s only one man on the throne of St. Peter, as canon law professor Kurt Martens recalled:
Meanwhile, Catholic conservatives like the Rorate Caeli blog were ecstatic with Benedict and Sarah’s latest intrusion into the smooth running of the worldwide Church under Francis, and were already looking forward to a future conclave.
That was just one sign of the confusion – to say the least – that Benedict and Sarah’s new book has created.