Amid still-unfolding controversy surrounding a new book on priestly celibacy, the book’s US publisher says it plans to continue identifying pope emeritus Benedict XVI as coauthor of the text. The former pope’s private secretary requested Tuesday that Benedict not be listed as a coauthor.
The book, “From the Depths of Our Hearts,” is a text on priestly celibacy, initially identified as being coauthored by Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Vatican’s office on liturgy, and emeritus pope Benedict XVI, who resigned the papacy in 2013.
The book contains a chapter credited to Benedict, a chapter credited to Sarah, and an introduction and conclusion, which have been attributed to the two men jointly.
News of the book’s existence emerged Sunday, and by Monday afternoon, the contribution of Benedict XVI to the work had been called into question.
On January 14, Benedict’s private secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, said the former pontiff was not informed he would be presented as co-author of the book and had not seen its cover, adding that Benedict has asked for his name and photo to be removed from the cover.
Ganswein affirmed that Benedict had written the chapter attributed to him, and gave permission for it to appear in a book, but said that Benedict had not actually co-authored the introduction and conclusion attributed to him.
“The name of Benedict XVI as ‘co-author’ of the book should be deleted and replaced with ‘with a contribution by Benedict XVI.’ His name must also be deleted after the introduction and the conclusions, because they are texts by Cardinal Sarah. It is simply a matter of correctly assigning the authorship. It is not about changes in content, “Gänswein told CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.
The book is set for English publication by Ignatius Press. The publisher said on Tuesday it still considers the text to be coauthored.
“Ignatius Press published the text as we received it from the French publisher Fayard. Fayard is the publisher with whom we have collaborated on three other Cardinal Sarah titles. The text we received indicates the two authors are Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah. That text also indicates that Benedict XVI co-authored an introduction and a conclusion with Cardinal Sarah, as well as his own chapter on the priesthood, wherein he describes how his exchanges with Cardinal Sarah gave him the strength to complete what would have gone unfinished,” Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press, said in January 14 statement.
“Given that, according to Benedict XVI’s correspondence and Cardinal Sarah’s statement, the two men collaborated on this book for several months, that none of the essays have appeared elsewhere, and that a joint work as defined by the Chicago Manual of Style is ‘a work prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contribution be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole’, Ignatius Press considers this a coauthored publication.”
“Cardinal Sarah indicates the content of the book remains unchanged. That content, as noted, includes a co-authored introduction, a chapter by Benedict XVI, and a conclusion coauthored by Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah.,” Brumley added.
The publisher’s statement followed a January 14 release from Sarah, who said that he had in October proposed a jointly authored book to Benedict, and that after the two corresponded over the matter, he sent on Nov. 19 “a complete manuscript to the pope emeritus containing, as we had mutually decided, the cover, a common introduction and conclusion, the chapter of Benedict XVI, and my own chapter.”
Sarah said that Benedict approved that “complete manuscript” on November 25, and that the two discussed the matter in person on December 3.
Gänswein said attribution of the introduction and conclusion, and Benedict’s identity as a co-author, was a “misunderstanding.”
Later on January 14, Sarah tweeted that, while he stood by his version of events, he had requested that Fayard, the book’s French publisher, acquiesce to Gänswein’s request. The cardinal has insisted that “the complete text will remain absolutely unchanged.”
A spokesperson for Ignatius Press told CNA on January 14 that while the publisher is “aware” of Gänswein’s request, it stands by its statement, and considers the text a co-authored work.
“There is no doubt that Pope Benedict wrote the section ‘The Catholic Priesthood;’ and since Cardinal Sarah says ‘the complete text will remain absolutely unchanged,’ then the entries in the table of contents: ‘Introduction by the Two Authors’ and ‘Conclusion by the Two Authors’ say all we need to know,” the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson told CNA that Ignatius “can’t speak to what Ignatius might do if Fayard acquiesces,” and that it will address that question if it becomes necessary.
Beyond the question of how the emeritus pope is credited in the work, the book has been the source of controversy because it addresses priestly celibacy while Pope Francis is said to be considering recommendations from a 2019 synod to permit the priestly ordination of some married men in the Amazon region, where there is an acute priest shortage.
Some critics have suggested that a retired pope should not have spoken on a controversial subject under consideration by the current pope. Other critics have suggested that Sarah unfairly manipulated Benedict in order to lobby Pope Francis on the subject.
Supporters of Benedict say the retired pope has been encouraged by Pope Francis to engage on Church matters.
On January 13, Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of the Vatican’s communications office, praised the book.
“Ratzinger and Sarah — who describe themselves as two Bishops ‘in filial obedience to Pope Francis’ who ‘are seeking the truth’ in ‘a spirit of love for the unity of the Church’ — defend the discipline of celibacy and put forth the reasons that they feel counsel against changing it,” Tornielli wrote.
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