VATICAN CITY — The Vatican on Monday sought to downplay the decision by retired Pope Benedict XVI to reaffirm the “necessity” of a celibate priesthood at the same time that Pope Francis is considering ordaining married men.
The book, “From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy and the Crisis of the Catholic Church,’’ is coauthored with conservative Cardinal Robert Sarah.
Benedict’s intervention was extraordinary because he had promised to remain “hidden from the world” when he retired in 2013, and pledged his obedience to the new pope.
The implications for such an intervention are grave, given that many Catholics nostalgic for Benedict’s orthodoxy are already deeply opposed to Francis, with some even considering Benedict’s resignation illegitimate.
The book is likely to fuel renewed anxiety about the wisdom of Benedict’s decision to call himself “emeritus pope,’’ rather than merely a retired bishop. 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.
“The priesthood of Jesus Christ causes us to enter into a life that consists of becoming one with him and renouncing all that belongs only to us,’’ he writes. “For priests, this is the foundation of the necessity of celibacy.”
Marriage, he writes, requires man to give himself totally to his family. “Since serving the Lord likewise requires the total gift of a man, it does not seem possible to carry on the two vocations simultaneously.”
Catholic social media was abuzz Monday after Benedict’s bombshell, with Francis’ supporters saying it showed the problems of having an “emeritus pope’’ seemingly undermining the current one, and suggesting that Benedict — at age 92 and increasingly feeble — was being manipulated by his conservative entourage.
Mark Brumley, the president of Ignatius Press, however, denounced such conspiracies and said Benedict isn’t being used.
“Why some folks choose to interpret the new book by Pope Emeritus Benedict and Cardinal Sarah in anti-Pope Francis ways speaks volumes,’’ he tweeted. “Let’s pray for healing for the critics that they can rejoice in a new work from two great churchmen of our time, including a major theologian.’’