VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While Vatican II gave the Catholic Church a “beautiful” document on the priesthood, it “did not confront the essential question” regarding the difference between Catholic and Protestant understandings of priestly ministry, Pope Benedict XVI wrote in a posthumous article.
Explanation of the “sacrifice and atonement” aspects of the celebration of the Eucharist and, thus, the role of the Catholic priest, has been the focus of two new articles included in “What is Christianity?” – A book released only in Italian in late January by Mondadori.
Pope Benedict dated the book’s preface to May 1, 2022, and included an order that it not be published until after his death, which occurred on December 31.
Only four of the 16 articles in the book have been published for the first time. All written between 2014 and March 2022.
“The wrath of the circles opposing me in Germany is so strong that the appearance of any word from me immediately raises a murderous commotion on their part. I want to save myself and Christianity from this.”
The article on “The Catholic Priest” is a complete revision and expansion of a contribution made by retired Pope Benedict to Cardinal Robert Sarah for inclusion in the book From the Bottom of Our Hearts published in 2020. The main thrust of the book was an apology for priestly celibacy, but Pope Benedict said Cardinal Sarah did not He did not have permission to be listed as a co-author of the book and insisted that he only contributed extended notes that became one chapter.
Elio Guerrero, who helped Pope Benedict compile the essays in What is Christianity? He said it was the controversy over the book with Cardinal Sarah that prompted Pope Benedict to insist on waiting for the collection of essays to be published until after his death.
“I don’t want to publish anything else in my life,” Guerrero told Pope Benedict. “The wrath of the circles opposing me in Germany is so strong that the appearance of any word from me immediately raises a murderous commotion on their part. I want to save myself and Christianity from this.”
Explanation of the “sacrifice and atonement” aspects of the celebration of the Eucharist, and thus, in the role of the Catholic priest, has been the focus of two new articles in “What Is Christianity?”
The new version of the article defends priestly celibacy as the most appropriate expression of the priest’s total dedication to God and as a condition of ritual purity in keeping with the Israeli priesthood. But the new version focuses more on attachment to the ancient priesthood and sacrifice than on celibacy.
No version of the article mentions the continuing practice of ordination of married men in the Eastern Catholic Churches, nor the exceptions that Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict himself granted former married ministers of the Anglican Church and other Christian denominations who became Catholics.
The new version, and a new essay on “the meaning of communion,” both insist on differences between the Catholic understanding of the priesthood and the Lutheran understanding of the ministry and between the Catholic understanding of Mass and the Lutheran understanding of the Lord’s Supper.
He wrote that the differences “are not superficial and incidental but indicate a fundamental difference in understanding of Christ’s mandate” at the Last Supper when he tells his disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Pope Benedict wrote that this difference must be taken into account because Catholic leaders are considering extending Eucharistic hospitality to Lutherans outside of special occasions when Church law allows it.