As the controversy surrounding the former pope’s contribution to a new book about clerical celibacy has shifted, in part, to the role of the personal secretary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and prefect of the papal household, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has accused Gänswein of “abusively and systematically” exercising control “towards the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, ever since the beginning of his pontificate.”
The accusations appear in a new editorial letter written to Italy’s La Verità and published today.
Viganò claims that “Gänswein has habitually filtered information, assuming the right to judge for himself how much or how little to tell the Holy Father.”
The former papal nuncio gives two examples from his own experience, both having occurred during the reign of Pope Benedict:
On April 4, 2011, in an audience with BXVI, I said to him: “I presume that you have seen the memorandum I gave to your secretary [a few days prior].” The Holy Father, in all simplicity and innocence, and without showing any surprise, said “No, I have seen nothing.”
On October 23, 2012, I asked the Prefect of the Papal Household, Msgr James Harvey, why I had received no response to my request for an audience. Harvey said: “Gänswein said to me: “Monsignor Viganò is the last person who can approach Pope Benedict!”
Viganò claims that Msgr. Harvey also told him at that time that Benedict had been seen, on one occasion near the beginning of his Pontificate, “pointing at Gänswein with his finger” while exclaiming, “Gestapo! Gestapo!”
Viganò says that Gänswein also worked to create distance between Benedict and his “dear assistant,” Ingrid Stampa, and that Benedict would “escape from this total control exercised over his person by Gänswein” by seeking out his prior secretary, Msgr. Josef Clemens. At these meetings, Viganò claims, Benedict would then be free to invite Stampa.
Viganò states that he is revealing this information now because of “what has been asserted by Msgr Gänswein to the Ansa agency, in contradiction of what Pope Benedict himself wrote in the exchange of letters made with Cardinal Sarah.”
Here, Viganò is referring to comments made by Ganswein on January 14, in which he told ANSA, “the pope emeritus knew that the cardinal (Sarah) was preparing a book and he sent him a text on the priesthood authorizing him to use it as he wanted. But he did not approve a project for a co-authored book and he had not seen or authorized the cover.”
Viganò asserts that Gänswein’s comments to ANSA constitute “a sensational as well as slanderous insinuation towards the most eminent Cardinal Robert Sarah, promptly denied by the same.”
As of this writing, Archbishop Gänswein has made no response to the accusations.
Translation of Italian sections by Giuseppe Pellegrino. See his full, slightly abridged translation of the letter here.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.