Today, 17 March, Sandro Magister, the well-informed Vatican specialist, has some more revelations to report with regard to the recent publication of a letter written by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in response to an invitation to review eleven volumes on the theology of Pope Francis. As it turns out, not only did the Vatican try to steer away from one paragraph in which Benedict stated that he did not have the time to review these many books, it also erased altogether a certain paragraph!
Here is what Magister reports:
The letter by Benedict XVI that Settimo Cielo published on March 13 in its complete form was in reality not complete.
Between the paragraph omitted in the press release and the valediction there were, in fact, other lines.
And this much could be guessed just by observing the photo of the letter (see above). […]
And what else was written there, that Viganò [prefect of the secretariat for communications, Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò] was careful not to read in public and took such pains to cover up in the photo with the eleven booklets on the theology of Pope Francis?
There was the explanation of the reason why Benedict XVI had not read those eleven booklets nor intended to read them in the future, and therefore why he had declined to write “a brief and dense theological page” of presentation and appreciation for the same, as Viganò had requested of him.
The reason adopted by Benedict XVI in the final lines of his letter – we are told by an incontrovertible source – is the presence among the authors of those eleven booklets of two German theologians, and one in particular, Peter Hünermann, who was an implacable critic both of John Paul II and of Joseph Ratzinger himself as theologian and as pope.
The other German theologian is Jürgen Werbick. About Hünermann, a professor at the university of Tubingen, it may be recalled that he is the author of, among other things, a commentary on Vatican Council II that is the polar opposite of the Ratzingerian interpretation. The booklets on the the theology of Pope Francis written by these two are respectively entitled: “God’s weakness for man” and “Men according to Christ today.”
It is a stunning revelation that should cost some people in the Vatican their current positions. It is a form of manipulation of documents that should even remind us of Soviet-style propaganda.
In the context of the two authors whom Benedict explicitly mentions and criticizes, it might be worth considering that it was Cardinal Gerhard Müller – then still teaching theology at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich – who once called Peter Hünermann, in 2002, “the doyen for the ordination of women.” According to another source, Hünermann claims that women belong to the “royal priesthood.” In 2016, he recommended Pope Francis to consider, in light of Church history, the possibility of admitting women to the office of the deaconate. Also in 2011, he had already called for the ordination of female deacons.
As to Jürgen Werbick, he called for the ordination of women in 2008 when arguing that many women are already essentially running parishes as assistants and thus should receive priestly ordination.
These few facts might help explain for us why these two authors may have been chosen to write books in praise of Pope Francis.
To return to the growing Vatican scandal itself. It is curious that Vatican News, the website of the Vatican itself, mentions in a report about the Benedict letter exactly these same two German theologians as contributors of the Pope Francis project, as if indirectly to acknowledge that Pope Benedict had also mentioned them in his letter.
Another oddity – or, better, another embarrassment – is the fact that the official news website of the German bishops, Katholisch.de just two days ago ridiculed traditionalist websites for their “conspiracy theories” and suspicions with regard to this same Benedict letter. The author, Agathe Lukassek, stresses that there is really nothing grave that has happened with regard to the letter, since the Vatican had read out loud the entire Benedict letter (thus Magister himself was able to transcribe the letter as it had been read out loud and publish it in the first place, on 13 March), and that the slight photo manipulation was really not so bad. Lukassek ends her ironic, or sarcastic, article with the words: “A female speaker of the Vatican, in any event, declared on Thursday afternoon, with reference to the fact that the letter had been read out loud, one has not omitted anything.”
We fittingly wonder what Mrs. Lukassek is now going to say. We likewise wonder what the Vatican is now going to say. It may be time for some sincere honesty and apologies and public recantations.
And where is Pope Francis in all of this?
UPDATE, 1.30 pm 17 March: Cindy Wooden (Rome Bureau Chief, Catholic News Service) has now provided the missing paragraph, on twitter. In this paragraph – which we plan to provide in English translation soon – Pope Benedict says that he was “surprised” to see Professor Hünermann among the contributors of the eleven books on Pope Francis, saying that this theologian had spearheaded, during his own papacy, “anti-papist” initiatives, had earlier signed the Koelner Erklaerung (Declaration of Cologne) which “virulently attacked the magisterial authority of the pope especially in the field of moral theology” and in relation to Veritatis Splendor. Additionally, says Benedict, Hünermann founded the “Europaeische Theologengesellschaft” which was originally meant as an “organization in opposition against the papal Magisterium,” but then only later changed its orientation due to other members.
Update, 1:50: Herewith, we present the translation as provided by Edward Pentin:
Only in the margin, I would like to note my surprise at the fact that among the authors is also Professor Hünermann, who during my pontificate had been shown to have led anti-papal initiatives. He played a major part in the release of the “Kölner Erklärung”, which, in relation to the encyclical “Veritatis splendour”, virulently attacked the magisterial authority of the Pope, especially on questions of moral theology. Also the “Europaische Theologengesellschaft”, which he founded, initially came to be thought of as an organization in opposition to the papal magisterium. Later, the ecclesial sentiment of many theologians prevented this orientation, making that organization a normal instrument of encounter among theologians.
According to Pentin, the Vatican Press Office now explains the omission, as follows: “The choice was motivated by confidentiality and not by any intention to censor. In order to dispel any doubts, it was therefore decided to make the letter public in its entirety.”
Update, 18 March: Some readers asked about Professor Werbick who was mentioned by Magister himself. Werbick has co-authored the Koelner Erklaerung and thus might have been implicitly implicated in Benedict’s own words, but he himself does not mention Werbick by name.