Vatican City, Mar 17, 2018 / 12:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid accusations of concealment, the Vatican’s communications department has released the entirety of a letter written by Benedict XVI, revealing a previously unpublished paragraph which contains Benedict’s comments about a theologian known for his “anti-papal initiatives.”
The Secretariat for Communications published the full letter March 17, after questions were raised following the letter’s presentation during a press event March 12 for the release of a newly-published series of booklets on the theological formation of Pope Francis.
The series is published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana, the Vatican publishing house overseen by the secretariat.
#Vatican has now released the full contents of Benedict XVI’s letter to +Vigano, saying there was no intention to censor but parts were left out as it was confidential. Earlier today it emerged that more had been omitted from the letter (see end here: https://t.co/aXlyXH71Sg) pic.twitter.com/P6fld8eA21
— Edward Pentin (@EdwardPentin) March 17, 2018
The secretariat’s press release on the letter quoted portions of the letter praising the booklets, but included neither Benedict’s admission that he has not read them in full, nor the final paragraph published today.
In the paragraph, Benedict notes his “surprise” that an author of one of the new booklets is the German theologian Peter Hünermann, who, Benedict notes, “was highlighted for leading anti-papal initiatives” during the two preceding papacies.
In the letter, dated Feb. 7 and addressed to the prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, Msgr. Dario Vigano, Benedict also notes Hünermann’s involvement in the release of the 1989 Cologne Declaration, which “virulently attacked the magisterial authority of the Pope, especially on matters of moral theology.”
The previously undisclosed paragraph reads, as translated by Ed Pentin of the National Catholic Register, in full: “Only as an aside, 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 splendor’, 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.”
“I am sure that you will understand me for my denial and I greet you cordially,” the letter concludes. Earlier in the letter, Benedict acknowledged that he could not write a requested reflection on the booklets because he had not read them and had other, more pressing, commitments.
A March 17 press release from the Secretariat for Communications said there had been “much polemics” around its “alleged censorial manipulation of photography.”
“What was read out from the letter, which was confidential, was considered appropriate and related to the sole initiative, and in particular to what the Pope Emeritus says about the philosophical and theological formation of the present Pontiff and the inner union between the two pontificates, leaving out some notes regarding contributors to the series.”
“The choice was motivated by confidentiality and not by any intent of censorship,” the secretariat added.
The Vatican office wrote that it had now chosen to publish the letter in its entirety “in order to dispel any doubts.”
The National Catholic Register requested March 14 a copy of the letter Vigano sent to Benedict, but the request has not been answered.
Controversy about the letter heightened March 14 when the Associated Press reported that the Vatican had acknowledged obscuring two lines of the letter in a photo released to the press.
The AP’s Nicole Winfield wrote that the Vatican has admitted “that it altered a photo sent to the media of a letter from retired Pope Benedict XVI about Pope Francis. The manipulation changed the meaning of the image in a way that violated photojournalist industry standards.”
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!
Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.
Some on other Catholic websites have vilified Benedict XVI for his passive approval of Pope Francis and not calling him out on perceived abrogation of Apostolic Tradition, the Paradigm Shift. Although I agree with an urgent need to reprove Francis on the Shift and virtual German independence from Rome I also firmly believe he’s not an aberrant liberal in disguise but a man of profound faith and trust in God. He has his reasons my opinion is as I perceive the current dilemma. The other recently revealed missing paragraph makes it quite clear he’s not in agreement with the Pontiff’s theological “formation” addressed in another article especially in regards to Professor Hünermann. Perhaps reference also to once close friend deceased Cardinal Carlo Martini Milan who considered himself an Antepope and alleged the Church was 200 years behind the times. They Vigano and co doctored the letter to fit a narrative that Benedict desired no part in. They are convinced of their narrative’s viability in which contradiction is passe in the new epoch and what matters is reality. Thus no issue in admitting their purpose.
I wish to add to my comment what has unfolded. That Benedict XVI should have addressed the errors afflicting the Church was my position though criticized by some perhaps rightly so. Benedict the man in white at the Vatican honest good man that he is respected the new Pontiff Francis and observed his decision to abdicate with his usual integrity. God who knows the hearts of all men and whose wisdom is unsearchable providentially created the opportunity for him to speak. Benedict XVI by his refusal to endorse Pope Francis’ theological tracts has now spoken decidedly and resoundingly.