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My jaw dropped when I read the latest from Benedict XVI . . .

Since Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy and began his retirement in seclusion, he has said nothing publicly.

There’s a very good reason for that, and that’s why the most recent thing he’s written is so amazing.

He’s just publicly weighed in on Cardinal Kasper’s proposal to give Holy Communion to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

Here’s the story . . .

 

1) Why is Benedict XVI so silent these days?

To give his successor a free hand. If a pope emeritus continued to speak out and play a substantial role as a public figure, it could cause all kinds of problems for his successor.

If the two were perceived as being in opposition to each other, it could be extremely traumatic for the Church. Hypothetically, it could even create a schism.

That’s why, when St. Celestine V resigned, his successor kept him imprisoned in a castle until he died.

By choosing to live in a monastery at the Vatican and staying out of the public eye, Benedict is deliberately staying out of Francis’s way.

He’s also setting a precedent for future popes emeritus.

 

2) What has Benedict said since retirement?

Very little. We know that he has been writing letters. In one letter, he took an atheist mathematician to the woodshed, and the mathematician later published the letter.

He also wrote a speech that was read at a Roman university by his aide, Archbishop Georg Ganswein.

But, in general, he has written very little that has come to public light.

And none of what he has written has dealt with controversial issues in the Church.

Until now.

 

3) What does Benedict think of “the Kasper proposal"

Over the last year, the Church has been wracked by a revival of Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to give Holy Communion to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics in some circumstances.

Cardinals have been publicly debating each other in the press.

We don’t need to rehash the whole, sad history of that here.

As we’ve watched that situation play out, I’ve repeatedly wondered what Benedict must be thinking—and doing.

Since Pope Francis allowed public discussion of this subject to continue, and since it’s a source of controversy in the Church, you wouldn’t expect him to speak out publicly on the subject.

That would be precisely the kind of interference in his successor’s affairs that he set out to avoid by going into seclusion.

But this issue is so important, with such high stakes, that it’s also precisely the kind of situation that would test that resolve.

I thought, perhaps, he would play a background role—giving advice to Pope Francis off the record at an opportune moment. We know that kind of thing happens.

But he’s now done much more than that.

He’s told us what he thinks.

And it happened through an unusual chain of events that seems providentially structured.

 

4) What happened?

Back in 1972, when he was still a theology professor, Joseph Ratzinger wrote an essay on the indissolubility of marriage in which he tentatively floated a variation of the Kasper proposal.

This was one of several ideas that Prof. Ratzinger tried out in the days of theological experimentation after the Council but later abandoned.

Indeed, he became a leader in the opposition to the idea that Holy Communion could be given to the divorced and civilly remarried.

Thus, when Cardinal Kasper and two other German bishops floated the proposal in 1993, Cardinal Ratzinger—as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—wrote a paper forcefully rejecting the idea.

You can read it here.

But that 1972 essay was still out there, and when he revived his proposal last year, Cardinal Kasper started quoting it.

I can only imagine that this deeply displeased Benedict.

Nobody likes having his words thrown back in his face—particularly when they are words that one has disowned.

For Cardinal Kasper to publicly cite the 1972 essay in an effort to associate Benedict’s name with and thus promote a position that Benedict has rejected must really come across as twisting the knife.

And yet it would seem that Benedict’s hands were tied by his seclusion.

Only they weren’t.

 

5) Why not?

Because, for the last few years, there has been an effort underway to re-publish collected editions of all of Benedict’s theological writings. (His private ones, that is; not his magisterial documents.)

This effort has been led by Cardinal Gerhard Muller.

And now they’ve published—in German—a volume of Benedict’s writings that includes a revised version of the 1972 essay.

The publication of this series of volumes thus allowed Benedict, from one perspective, to yank the rug out from under Cardinal Kasper’s use of the 1972 essay.

From another perspective, it allowed him to weigh in on the present controversy without having to make a new, public statement that could be perceived as deliberately interfering in the affairs of his successor.

The fact that this set of volumes was underway, and that that particular essay had not yet been republished when Cardinal Kasper started using it for his own purposes, is a providential blessing.

And what Benedict said is extremely encouraging.

 

6) What did he say?

You can read the full text of the part of the essay that changed—and the 1972 original—at Sandro Magister’s site (ht: Fr.Z).

Of course, the initial variation of the Kasper proposal is gone. There is no trace of it.

Benedict says a number of very interesting things, and the section dealing with divorce, remarriage, and Holy Communion reads as follows:

The 1981 apostolic exhortation “Familiaris Consortio" of John Paul II . . . states: “Together with the Synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church […] Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope."

This gives pastoral care an important task, which perhaps has not yet been sufficiently incorporated into the Church’s everyday life. Some details are indicated in the exhortation itself. There it is said that these persons, insofar as they are baptized, may participate in the Church’s life, which in fact they must do. The Christian activities that are possible and necessary for them are listed. Perhaps, however, it should be emphasized with greater clarity what the pastors and brethren in the faith can do so that they may truly feel the love of the Church. I think that they should be granted the possibility of participating in ecclesial associations and even of becoming godfathers or godmothers, something that the law does not provide for as of now.

There is another point of view that imposes itself on me. The impossibility of receiving the holy Eucharist is perceived as so painful not last of all because, currently, almost all who participate in the Mass also approach the table of the Lord. In this way the persons affected also appear publicly disqualified as Christians.

I maintain that Saint Paul’s warning about examining oneself and reflecting on the fact that what is at issue is the Body of the Lord should be taken seriously once again: “A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself" (1 Cor 11:28 f.). A serious self-examination, which might even lead to forgoing communion, would also help us to feel in a new way the greatness of the gift of the Eucharist and would furthermore represent a form of solidarity with divorced and remarried persons.

I would like to add another practical suggestion. In many countries it has become customary for persons who are not able to receive communion (for example, the members of other confessions) to approach the altar with their hands folded over their chests, making it clear that they are not receiving the sacrament but are asking for a blessing, which is given to them as a sign of the love of Christ and of the Church. This form could certainly be chosen also by persons who are living in a second marriage and therefore are not admitted to the Lord’s table. The fact that this would make possible an intense spiritual communion with the Lord, with his whole Body, with the Church, could be a spiritual experience that would strengthen and help them.

He thus proposes pastoral care for those in this situation and finding ways to further involve them in the life of the Church—including allowing them to serve in church associations and perhaps as godparents.

However, he recommends no change on the question of administering Holy Communion.

Instead, he asks us all to engage in serious self-examination and not to receive Communion unthinkingly.

And he recommends the custom of approaching the minister for a blessing when—as with the divorced and civilly remarried—one is not able to receive Communion.

 

7) How significant is this?

Benedict’s revision of his 1972 essay is extremely significant.

It makes the general lines of his thought publicly known, and this is bound to be a great encouragement for those who wish to see the Church’s traditional teaching and practice maintained.

It also makes it harder to use Benedict’s name in association with the contrary proposal—as Cardinal Kasper and others have been doing.

It’s a net gain. It’s a gift from God. And, with the former pope weighing in on the issue publicly, it may even be a game-changer.

 

By Jimmy Akins










19 comments

  1. Susette Reply

    Thank you for the enlightenment.

  2. Delia graves Reply

    It will help you understand if you watch the documentary of the Secrets of Vatican why our beloved Pope Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy.

  3. Nessie I.Gonzales Reply

    May our relationship to God bring us much closer to Him

  4. Ricardo Pijuan, Bacolod City, Philippines Reply

    This has always been the teaching of the Church. Those who read this for the first time and said, “Amen” are now enlightened of the truth of Christ. Another thing I would like the readers to know is that Cardinal Burke and other cardinals and bishops ousted by the pope, are EXACTLY of the same mind as Pope Benedict XVI on this matter, no difference whatsoever. It was Cardinal Kasper who prepared the ‘talking points’ for the October Synod, in which document, asked the attending cardinals and bishops to ‘keep an open mind and find a possible window’ by which remarried Catholics and homosexuals can receive holy communion. Quite a few cardinals and bishops labled some of Cardina Kasper’s statements as “heretical”. Cardinal Kasper was handpicked by Pope Francis for this purpose and praised him for his work.

    1. Nathan Hicks Reply

      Considering that the Byzantine Catholics followed Orthodox practice of re-communing after divorce I’d have to disagree with your statement. The “Catholic” view has not always been uniform, and it has not always been what it is now.

  5. Pingback: My jaw dropped when I read the latest from Benedict XVI . . . | PagadianDiocese.org

  6. Pingback: The latest from Benedict XVI . . . | PagadianDiocese.org

  7. Mar Elena Bello Reply

    Why isn’t Benedict XVI, referee to as “Former or Ex-Pope? For all intent and purpose he’s no longer,”The Pope”. God Bless Pope Francis I .

    1. Colin Sheehan Reply

      His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is the proper title for the former Holy Father. Also, there is no “I” after Pope Francis. Not until there is a Pope Francis II. Just an fyi.

  8. Dave Reply

    Benedict XVI was one of the worse things to have happened to the church. His resignation was an attempt to curtail the mass exodus of people from the church because of his delusional thinking. The man never looked like he could be trusted; if ever there existed a scowl of the devil, it was the face of Benedict XVI. He knew he should never had been elected pope and only got there because he was an aide to JP II. The church definitely needs Pope Francis at this time to bring some common sense to the church and minister to the people not the $$.

    1. Colin Sheehan Reply

      That is the single most ridiculous comment I’ve ever read in my life. His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is a theological powerhouse. He has done so much good for the Church. You have to look behind the scenes. And what has our current Holy Father done besides cause scandal everywhere he goes. Speaking heterodox statements “I don’t believe in a Catholic god”. That’s what Pope Francis said. That, despite his intentions, is a heretical statement and completely against the Catholic faith. Pope Benedict, on the other hand, when he dies one day is likely to become a Doctor of the Church. He is near or possibly on the same level as St Thomas Aquinas. You are just an ignorant low information Catholic passing judgement on matters that are beyond your comprehension.

    2. Michael Sebastian Reply

      People who wants to live as the like say that Pope emeritus Benedict xvi is bad and worse. He pricked the conscience of many. What he wrote or said is true and lasts for ever.

  9. Lee Connolly Reply

    When all the rules , laws and regulations are pushed aside and the veil reveals the face of the Suffering Christ “Come ALL ye that hunger and thirst. ..” This is the Great Amen speaking. .. “For I came to save sinners…” Holy Communion should not be held back from those who hunger and thirst for it.Many miracles and revelations have been received by those taking Holy Communion who would dare to prevent that ? The Feeding of the 5,000 Did Jesus really say You may have and You may not have ? And if we see this as pre shadowing Holy Communion …. I would be too afraid to be the judge of the souls who partake from a desperate thirst and hunger lest their souls condition makes me guilty of withholding The Water of Life ! I add I am an ardent Catholic from cradle to grave and afraid to become accused of being like some pharisees or saducees as depicted at the time of Christ (.With no harm meant to any Jewish people whatsoever. I recognise and have a deep love for all Jewish people .) “Lest we drain the gnat and swallow the camel whole” Be Afraid

  10. gabby Toledo Reply

    Why is it that the abolition of the concept of limbo is not discussed here? Did he not declared it non-existent on Oct. 2006?

    1. Mike Reply

      Limbo is not formally defined and is still subject for debate.

  11. DUNCAN Reply

    Should those manning nuclear weapons be allowed to receive Holy Communion?
    Presumably they have consented to commit a mortal sin as least as serious as sext in in a second marriage.

  12. Gabriel Reply

    Catechism of the catholic church states that all interpretation of sacred scripture is tasked to Church through its magisterium in union with the successor of peter; bishop of rome. Many sects and cults today arise from individual opinions and immature judgement of material matters concerning faith. I believe as much as the pope and the church’s magisterium members have all mandate to interpret matters of faith; they too face the challenge of being in the weak and limited body which Christ continues to help them by His graces to overcome for the benefit of the whole church. Thus, controversies will remain to be there but we just have to fix our eyes on the author of our eternal faith, Jesus; who at commisioning of St. Peter assured him of the church’s victory over error and mistakes in propagating true doctrine to all generations and to ends of earth.
    Members who comprise the magisterium will thus continuously under the eye of the Holy spirit perceive the truth at the onset of any heretical view and disband it. Otherwise challenges touching faith matters always act as the power not to destroy but to achieve clearer understanding of the same and the call for church’s continued watch in prayer and surrender to the ulimate teacher; Holy spirit.

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