This is from the cover of "From the Depths of Our Hearts," by retired Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. In the book they defend priestly celibacy, an issue that was discussed at last year's Synod of Bishops for the Amazon. CNS photo/Ignatius Press

Publisher won’t remove Benedict XVI as co-author of book on priestly celibacy

  • January 13, 2020

VATICAN CITY -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI wants his name removed as co-author of a book defending priestly celibacy but the publisher insists Benedict wrote the book with Cardinal Robert Sarah.

Updated 2020-01-15 14:28

Sarah, who co-ordinated work on the book, released a statement Jan. 14 saying Benedict’s name would be removed as co-author at the request of the former pope. Within hours, however, the president of Ignatius Press, the book’s North American publisher, said in a statement the two men clearly collaborated and therefore “Ignatius considers this a co-authored publication.”

From the Depths of Our Hearts was scheduled for release in French Jan. 15 and in English Feb. 20. 

Pope Francis is expected to address the question of celibacy in a response to last October’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, which raised the possibility of ordaining married men to serve in remote regions. Observers noted how unusual it was for the retired pope to intervene publicly on an issue being considered by Pope Francis.

“Considering the polemics provoked by the publication of the book, From the Depths of Our Hearts, it has been decided that the author of the book for future editions will be Cardinal Sarah, with the contribution of Benedict XVI,” Sarah tweeted Jan. 14.

“However,” he said, “the full text remains absolutely unchanged.”

The tweeted announcement came only a few hours after Sarah had issued a formal statement accusing people of slandering him by claiming that Pope Benedict may have contributed notes or an essay to the book but Benedict was not a co-author.

Archbishop Georg Ganswein, personal secretary to Pope Benedict, phoned several German news agencies and spoke with the Reuters news agency Jan. 14, saying the retired pope wanted his name removed as co-author of the book, its introduction and its conclusion. The archbishop confirmed that the book’s first chapter, attributed to Pope Benedict, was the work of the retired pope.

Since marriage and priesthood both demand the total devotion and self-giving of a man to his vocation, “it does not seem possible to realize both vocations simultaneously,” retired Pope Benedict wrote in his essay.

The French newspaper Le Figaro published excerpts of the book Jan. 12 and, almost immediately, some people began questioning just how much of the work actually was written by the 92-year-old former pope.

The introduction and conclusion were attributed jointly to Benedict and Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. The book has two other chapters, one attributed to each of them alone.

In a statement Jan. 14, Ignatius Press indicated its edition would still credit Pope Benedict as co-author.

Correspondence between Sarah and Benedict indicates that they “collaborated on this book for several months,” the Ignatius Press statement said. “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,’ ” therefore, “Ignatius Press considers this a coauthored publication.”

Given Pope Benedict’s declining health and energy, many questions were raised about just how much of what was attributed to him was written by him and about the decision to list “Benedict XVI” as co-author of the book, rather than “Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI,” the form he used for his series of books on Jesus of Nazareth.

At the end of a day of questions and accusations, Sarah tweeted early Jan. 14: “Attacks seem to imply a lie on my part. These defamations are of exceptional gravity.”

To prove his “close collaboration” with Benedict to defend celibacy, Sarah tweeted photographs of correspondence from the retired pontiff.

In a letter, dated Sept. 20, Pope Benedict said that before receiving a letter from Sarah dated Sept. 5, he already had “begun to write a reflection on priesthood. But while writing I increasingly felt my energies would no longer allow me to edit a theological text.”

“Then your letter arrived with the unexpected request for a text precisely on priesthood with particular attention to celibacy,” the retired pope continued. “So, I took up my work again and will send you the text when it is translated from German into Italian. I will leave it up to you to decide if these notes, whose inadequacy I strongly feel, can have some usefulness.”

In a brief note posted by Sarah and dated Oct. 12, Pope Benedict wrote that “finally I can send you my thoughts on the priesthood. I leave it up to you if you can find some usefulness in my poor thoughts.”

Sarah said on Nov. 19 he sent “a complete manuscript to the pope emeritus comprising, as we had decided by mutual agreement, the cover, an introduction and a common conclusion, the text of Benedict XVI and my own text.”

“For my part, the text can be published in the form you envisaged,” Pope Benedict said.

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