... the story all over the internet about how PF's spin-doctors gave the waiting world a deliberately mutilated and falsified letter of Benedict XVI. Just don't miss it!
This episode provides a hilarious, immensely funny insight into the minds of the dodgy operators who surround PF, and how far they are prepared to go to manufacture their Fake News. You couldn't .... as we say .... make it up! It epitomises the superbly corrupt and deliciously sleazy atmosphere of the Renaissance Court which sprawls at the luxurious top of the Santa Marta.
Happily, the full text did emerge. GOTCHA! And it provides agreeable evidence that Ratzinger's old, deft, feline wit has not deserted the dear old man. Briefly summarised by me, his Letter says (and I've put into square brackets the section the spin-doctors didn't want you to see):
"Thank you for inviting me to write a page about the little books you sent me. I think they are splendid little books about my splendid successor. [Sadly, however, I haven't read them and I don't intend to do so. And I never comment on books I haven't read, so I won't be sending you a page.]"
This pontificate simply gets better and better! Keep engaged and make sure you never miss a laugh!
15 March 2018
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The paragraph that wasn't clear in the photo was, however, read out by Mons. Vigano at the press conference, so it's not true to say that the press office was intent on suppressing the entirety of what BXVI said. Could it be that some are focusing on the admittedly silly behaviour of the Secretariat for Communications to distract from the rest of what Papa-Emeritus Benedict said?
Yes, this episode certainly provides insight into a tawdry papacy--and that's putting it mildly. OTOH ...
While it's true that Ratzinger states in the last paragraph that he hasn't read the 11 volumes and doesn't intend to read them or write a review of them, nevertheless ...
The two preceding paragraphs don't rely in any way on a reading of those volumes. Rather, they speak from Ratzinger's own knowledge of the man Bergoglio. Thus the letter states very clearly Ratzinger's views on two issues:
1) It's as ridiculous, in Ratzinger's opinion, to regard Bergoglio as lacking in philosophical and theological formation as it is to regard himself (Ratzinger) as merely an armchair theorist without an understanding of the "concrete life of a Christian today."
2) Bergoglio "is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation" and there is in fact a real continuity of substance between the two pontificates which should not be obscured by "differences of style and temperament."
I'm no more a fan of Ratzinger than I am of Bergoglio. My personal view is that Ratzinger detests Bergoglio on a purely human level, but I see no reason to doubt his sincerity or honesty in those two paragraphs. Nor does the closing paragraph in way negate them.
Dear Father, I wish I could laugh, but this behaviour by Vatican officials is immoral and incompetent. If they didn't realise they would get caught out, they should have. It is all so disappointing after the pontificates of Saint JP2 and Benedict XVI.
The half-truth is often more deceptive than the straight-out lie. We should be thankful that these liars seem not very accomplished.
No Martin, your last cannot be.
When the same office (1) doctors a photo of a letter, and (2) publishes only part of the text of the very short letter and deletes the central paragraph, then the answer is - NO.
By deliberately obscuring the embarrasiing bits in a way that would obviously lead to them being so thoroughly scrutinized afterwards, do you think perhaps that this was done intentionally in order to bring greater embarrassment to PF? There are apparently, according to him, not a few in Rome who oppose him.
I have found that a good antidote for Bergoglio Blues is reading Hubert Jedin's volumes
A History of the Council of Trent Volume I: The Struggle for the Council and A History of the Council of Trent Volume II: The First Sessions at Trent, 1545-1547Oct 18, 2011.
Despite Papal resistance, on the local level there were reforms and saints galore. Not to mention all sorts of theological reflection on what to do when a Pope lapses into heresy. I leave open the question of whether or not PF has so lapsed.
What I would like to know is what exactly did His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict mean by saying that Pope Francis "is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation"? Especially bearing in mind that Pope Francis has earned NO post-graduate qualifications in either philosophy or theology (or canon law or any other relevant discipline) and is totally unqualified to teach at even first degree university level.
Perhaps as he wrote Pope Benedict had crossed his fingers! He certainly hadn't crossed his heart and hoped to die.
With regard to this "episode," it may prove educational to read a lengthy interview with the recently deceased Cardinal Lehmann--conducted, of course, shortly before his recent decease. The interview concerns his recently published memoirs and focuses on his well known dissent from Catholic teaching--teaching that goes straight back to the Apostolic Tradition. This dissent was, as has become typical, maintained while leading a comfortable life at the expense of the Catholic faithful. In particular, the interview chronicles his side of his relations with two recent pontiffs--Wojtyła and Ratzinger: Cardinal Lehmann’s Memoirs: On His Humanae Vitae Dissent and the Conduct of Some Popes. Believe me, this interview says a LOT about the entire V2 Church.
I'd like to second the views of Martin Browne, OSB. The books in question were not books BY Bergoglio, they were books ABOUT Bergoglio. I believe that, even at his advanced age, Ratzinger feels perfectly confident that he understands Bergoglio's thinking without having to read 11 books about him. So, if Ratzinger says that he and Bergoglio are in continuity--matters of style and temperament aside--the world in general should accept Ratzinger's evaluation at face value. And ponder the implications in a serious way.
Mark: "a real continuity"? Why have you inserted the word "real". Examining the continuity is one thing; finding how much continuity is another.
A quick follow up. Christopher Ferrara has penned what I consider the best explanation of The Ratzinger Letter from a perspective that attempts to explain away the, well, incriminating statements about "continuity" and so forth: More Fake News from the Vatican, “the Pope in the Attic,” and the End of the Line for Neo-Catholicism. In essence, his defense amounts to the claim that Ratzinger is attempting in his own way to save the Bergoglio papacy from itself. In doing so Ferrara attacks the position that I have espoused, going so far as to state:
"The letter’s claim of an “internal continuity” between his pontificate and Bergoglio’s is a transparent evasion of the truth. “Internal continuity” is just another way of saying “apparent lack of continuity.” Nor can the apparent lack of continuity be reduced to “differences of style and temperament.” There is not an even arguable continuity between the two Popes regarding the dominant theme of Bergoglio’s pontificate ..."
In this regard a comparison with the Lehmann interview will prove instructive. Be it noted that Ratzinger's personal secretary Georg Gaenswein, a canon lawyer and former theologian under Ratzinger at CDF, has also vouched for the continuity of theological principles. So, I can accept that Ratzinger would like to save the Bergoglio pontificate from its style and temperament, but I accept the continuity of theological substance. It all comes down to what Ratzinger regards as continuity.
Well, Mark, I for one am a great fan (if that is the right word) of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. He is a brilliant scholar and at the same time able to preach and teach about Jesus in a very effective manner, in a manner that all can understand from the greatest to the least. I don’t know why you dislike him or how you know he detests Bergoglio. “Governo “ was his weakness. How he tolerated his Secretary of State is beyond me. But that he was a deeply spiritual man whose contribution to theology will be valued in the decades and, perhaps, centuries to come I do not doubt.
While the obfuscation and deliberate slanting of Pope Benedict’s letter are reprehensible, my concern is more personal: the blatant manipulation of the Pope Emeritus for ulterior motives.
One suspects that Vigano’s purpose in writing to Benedict initially was to elicit some comments, which he could then publicize. Benedict’s reply was meant to be a private response given as a courtesy - a courtesy Vigano abused by making it public.
This episode is indicative of the atmosphere in the current Vatican administration where clerical ambition and ingratiation are endemic.
"Despite all the differences in style and temperament" is a diplomatic way of saying ... well, goodness, let's go to the dictionary:
1. a person's...nature, especially as it permanently affects their behavior
2. the tendency to behave angrily or emotionally
That's the first that came up, at least. There's also this:
2a. unusual personal attitude or nature as manifested by peculiarities of feeling, temper, action, etc., often with a disinclination to submit to conventional rules or restraints.
All the differences in style and temperament... especially as it permanently affects their behavior. Oh, dear. There may be some different connotations to the Italian "temperamento", for better or for worse. But -- not to say Father Benedict used it in this way -- but that's just the sort of word I might use in a letter of "recommendation" on the suitability of a candidate to tactfully indicate hazardous mental instability. I would feel certain the subject would never wish such a letter published, at least not in its entirety.
Cherub wrote: "Mark, ... I don’t know ... how you know he detests Bergoglio."
I'll go with S Thorfinn's explanation. It seems clear enough to me that Ratzinger had a point he wished to make when he wrote "despite all the differences in style and temperament." At a minimum he wanted to distance himself from Bergoglio's "style and temperament." I'll leave it at that.
Nicholas Bellord wrote: 'Mark: "a real continuity"? Why have you inserted the word "real".'
Because I considered that the English "real" better captures the significance of the Italian "interiore" in this context.
Ratzinger's exact words are:
la continuità interiore tra i due pontificati, pur con tutte le differenze di stile e di temperamento.
Sandro Magister, a native Italian speaker and veteran journalist who published the letter in its entirety, also focuses on the same word and notes in that regard:
l'aggettivo "interiore" vale almeno quanto il sostantivo "continuità"
In other words, the continuity is not a mere appearance of continuity, it's a "real" continuity that goes to the interiority of the two men's thinking on theological and philosophical matters. Despite the fact that the two men aren't exactly simpatico on a personal level. Or, to use Ratzinger's exact words, have "differences in style and temperament."
Cherub also wrote: "Mark, ... I don’t know why you dislike him [Ratzinger].
It's not a matter of like or dislike. He likes cats and so do I, so perhaps we'd get along fine if we ever met. It's his "brilliant" scholarship and "teaching" that I dislike. For example, in The Spirit of the Liturgy--a book that is lauded by many Traddies--Ratzinger praises the Teilhardian spirit of Paul VI's liturgy (as he also did after becoming pope, most notably at Aosta). See what you think of this--and bear in mind that he agrees with this:
"Against the background of the modern evolutionary world view, Teilhard de Chardin depicted the cosmos as a process of ascent, a series of unions. From very simple beginnings the path leads to ever greater and more complex unities, in which multiplicity is not abolished but merged into a growing synthesis, leading to the Noosphere, in which spirit and its understanding embrace the whole and are blended into a kind of living organism.
“Invoking the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, Teilhard looks on Christ as the energy that strives toward the Noosphere and finally incorporates everything in its ‘fullness.’ From here Teilhard went on to give a new meaning to Christian worship: the transubstantiated Host is the anticipation of the transformation and divinization of matter in the Christological ‘fullness.’ In his view, the Eucharist provides the movement of the cosmos with its direction; it anticipates its goal and at the same time urges it on.” (7)
Divinization of matter? Huh?
Hugh McLoughlin said... "what exactly did His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict mean by saying that Pope Francis "is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation"?"
I assume he is referring to the Jesuit formation of the pre Vatican II era, which Pope Francis would have gone through.
Hugh McLoughlin said... "Pope Francis has earned NO post-graduate qualifications in either philosophy or theology (or canon law or any other relevant discipline) and is totally unqualified to teach at even first degree university level."
Pope Francis does have a post-grad qualification in philosophy; an Argentinian licentiate, roughly equivalent to an English Masters.
As for being unqualified to teach in universities, I don't know what country you are writing from, but in England no post-graduate qualifications are required to teach at university (when I was a callow undergraduate, my tutor rather looked down on those of his colleagues who had a doctorate, since they had clearly not been judged good enough to be given a Fellowship without one). But for many countries that do, particularly the Latin-influenced ones, the qualification required to teach is generally the licentiate (literally a license to teach), which Francis has.
I do not think much to his revealed philosophy or theology, and he does not appear to show any great interest in either, but he does have the qualification.
Richard, I do know that in my country you cannot teach in a university without a higher degree. So you would need at least a Masters to teach undergrads. I am not familiar with the status of the Holy Father’s academic qualifications so I make no comment on that.
Mark you did say you are no fan of Benedict. In my country that is dialect for “don’t like”. If you didn’t mean that I apologise.
Mark, see www,phrasemix.com
If It is true that there is a continuity, how is it true? What is the substance in which there is continuity? I take everything Pope Benedict says seriously, but I do not see it.
"RichardT" I am writing from Scotland where it is also not required that one possess a PhD (or equivalent) to teach University level courses BUT I should have pointed out I meant at Pope Benedict's level, that is as a full Professor since we are comparing/contrasting Papas Ratzinger/Bergoglio. Where the Pope Emeritus taught one was required to possess both a PhD and the habilitation, essentially a second PhD to achieve that status. A Licentiate may or may not be of a higher academic standing than an English BA (that would be an MA at the older Scottish Universities) (I know several priests who have PhLs, STLs, and JCLs from both the Greg and the Lateran; and at least one layman, a former Professor of Italian) but possession of that alone would not to me indicate a "profound philosophical and theological formation". Nor am I convinced that the normal Jesuit pre-Vatican II training would have brought one up to that level. Certainly the three such Jesuits that I knew personally would have made no such claim. Even if one of them, a distant relative as well as a friend, did serve as Rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute.
Mark Wauk- re Divinization of matter, just s quick thought to defend the idea: what about the uncorrupted bodies of some saints? For that matter, why is a relic special? What about our resurrected bodies? It is raised a spiritual body- but it can still be called a body. Divinized matter? This is not rigorous thinking but speculation, stretching the mind to envision what is beyond our ken.
I don't think it's wise to seize on "la continuità interiore" in this letter as a key to reveal the true relation of the previous pope to the current one. Look at the whole, consider the public interventions the pope emeritus has made and desired to be published, consider especially the actual facts of direct theological & policy contradictions between the papacies, and you get a good picture. After all, isn't that what Pope Benedict XVI spent most of his career teaching, that to be properly understood, one Scriptural passage or Council or papal pronouncement must be reconciled to the whole - and then the inner continuity is revealed?
Does anyone seriously think the Amoris Laetitia solution that Ratzinger/BXVI specifically opposed is an example of continuity? A ban on the very term "reform of the reform", never mind the actual program? The razing and replacement of the St. John Paul II Pontifical Institute? No, no, no! Then, what - synodalism? Not really. Misericordia? Well, arguably, but why not?
“Pope Francis is a man who has had a profound theological formation. There is some kind of ‘inner’ continuity between his pontificate and mine. No, I’m afraid I haven’t the energy to write a ‘short and dense’ - per your request - endorsement of his theology. Have a nice day”.
And on the basis of this, suddenly it’s open season on our beloved German Shepherd! As for PF’s spin doctors, not so much Alistair Campbell, more Keystone Cops. I thought Calumnygate was their finest hour but somehow they’ve contrived to lower the bar still further. Taxi for Msgr Vigano….
Let me recommend to one and all Sandro Magister's latest important contribution to understanding this episode. Still at this point available only in Italian.
It seems there was even more manipulating of the letter than previously acknowledged, and it has very much to do with Ratzinger's declining to write anything about the volumes presented to him. The reason has to do with the identity of some of the authors. Since some commenters have expressed doubts re my translations, here's the important paragraph in Italian:
Il motivo addotto da Benedetto XVI nelle righe finali della sua lettera – ci dice una fonte inoppugnabile – è la presenza tra gli autori di quegli undici volumetti di due teologi tedeschi e soprattutto di uno, Peter Hünermann, che è stato critico implacabile sia di Giovanni Paolo II che dello stesso Joseph Ratzinger come teologo e come papa.
So, I see this as further confirmation that Ratzinger's refusal was not aimed at Bergoglio per se, but rather at the notion that he should endorse his longtime and implacable critics. The Vatican Communications Office, rather than taking Ratzinger's No as No, attempted to make what use they could of the positive element in the letter. That was foolish and, yes, dishonest. But it still doesn't change the affirmation of an "inner continuity" of thought.
inner continuity of thought ... 'of thought' is not in the original, as you concede by putting it outside your quotation marks. I'm not sure, either, that it is implied.
Sandro Magister's latest is now available in English:
Since the "inner continuity" of the pontificates referred to by Ratzinger in this very carefully worded letter is raised precisely in the context of the "profound philosophical and theological formation" of "Pope Francis," my "of thought" seems legitimate. If I had specified "inner continuity" of philosophy and theology I think that, too, would have been legitimate. If you can offer some other point of reference for the "inner continuity" I'm open to that.
Ed Pentin has now provided a translation of the (presumably) final missing paragraph:
"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."
His points are well taken, but I think we all know by now that opportunism is a Bergoglian principle. This is no doubt an oblique expression of surprise and deprecation at Bergoglio's opportunism. That certainly sheds light on Ratzinger's views re Bergoglio's "style and temperament," but doesn't change Ratzinger's evaluation of Bergoglio's theological and philosophical formation.
I’ve Googled around the Kölner Erklärung (aka the Cologne Declaration) to which Benedict refers. It was sparked by the appointment of Cardinal Meisner (later of Dubia fame) to Cologne in 1988. Among its signatories, in addition to Hünermann, were the usual suspects including Küng, Häring and Schillebeeckx. The Declaration deplored “… moves to silence independent and left-leaning theologians, the systematic weakening of national bishops' conferences, a narrow interpretation of sexual morality...”. CDF chief Ratzinger opposed it ferociously, authoring a 7,500-word "Instruction", which “bluntly told Roman Catholic theologians…. that it will not tolerate public dissent from official church teachings”. He backed up the Instruction by threatening that dissenting theologians would face having their canonical licences withdrawn, and thus risk losing their university professorships.
Whether referencing the Erklärung in this way is intended as a dig at the current regime, you be the judge.
The Catholic Herald now has the full text:
This is beyond belief!
The curt manner in which BXVI signs off what he calls his 'diniego' (refusal) with the one word 'suo' or 'yours' speaks volumes.
That PF had a profound philosophical and theogical formation means nothing more than it says. It doesn’t and cannot necessarily mean that he has been faithful to that formation any more than Luther was to his. Inner continuity is more obscure, and could mean not much more than both of them they still belong to the same Catholic Church and both are bishops of it in communion with Peter. Damned with faint praise I’d say. EPB has never initiated any statements re PF. This response was a private response to a private letter made public by others for their own purposes and in a frankly misleading way. EPB has been astute enough to realise he was being set up and from his previous experience as Pope knew that his letter would almost certainly be leaked. Which explains its careful and often obscure referencing. Anyway, that’s my take on it. All very disappointing on the side of the PF supporters who have, by their manifest chicanery, let down PF himself.
One of the problems with living on the other side of the world (ie Southern Hemisphere) is that you can get out of sync with the news. Having now seen the extra paragraph I am even more appalled at the deliberate publication of a confidential letter and the truncation of that letter. Everything I have said before, I stand by. There is nothing in that letter that compels one to interpret it as supportive of the theological positions stated by PF. Nothing at all. It is a very serious and considered response to an outrageous request with EPB being only too well aware that the letter would be published despite it being “confidential”.
As I said, this letter was very carefully written. As such, it means exactly what it says. Was Bergoglio, has he been, "faithful to that formation" that he received, that "profound philosophical and theogical formation"? I suggest that he has, and to understand that you need to ask exactly what kind of "philosophical and theogical formation" received.
I would maintain that Bergoglio received a foundation in the thought--philosophical and theological--behind the "Spirit" of Vatican II, as embodied in Dei Verbum, Gaudium et Spes, Lumen Gentium, and Dignitatis Humanae. Anyone who has read the very few words Bergoglio ever wrote before "poping" will be struck by what I would term the "conventional Ratzingerian" nature of his thought. Once he "poped" it became apparent to all that Bergoglio's thinking aligned most closely with what could be called the Left Progressives of Vatican II, as opposed to the Right Progressives--Ratzinger, De Lubac, von Balthasar, etc.
That difference should not disguise the essential kinship of the two schools, their "inner continuity." That continuity is real and substantive. Nor should anyone suppose that Ratzinger would dismiss the Left Progressives as inconsequential thinkers. The difference between the two wings lies in Ratzinger's preference for "continuity" and the willingness of the Left Progressives to instigate "rupture" if that's what it takes to get their way. Bergoglio, I suggest, believes he has found a synthesis, through a "hermeneutic of pastoralism" (AL), and the application of an iron and unscrupulous will. Therein lie the "differences of temperament and style." And behind this are other events leading up to the most recent conclave that probably also explain why Ratzinger expressed himself as surprised that the cardinal who finished #2 to him in 2005 should finish #1 in 2013.
All the clerical intrigue at Casa Santa Marta and the deep corruption of the present papal "court" (of which we know only the tip of the iceberg) reminds me of one of the little-noticed ironies of this most unfortunate pontificate: the suppression by Francis of the honorific title of papal chamberlains, or monsignori, to the lower clergy. He said he was ending it all to curtail clerical ambition and crass careeris! Is not this pope the grandest (and ugliest) of jokes?
Mark, try as you may to harmonise dissonance, discontinuity or rupture versus continuity, they are polar opposites. Whatever formation Bergoglio received, the issue is about where his thinking has gone post formation. Spin as you may, your gloss on what EPB said in his letter is not sustainable and the more so since we now have the censored last paragraph. In that paragraph EPB expresses his astonishment about the inclusion of a particular theologian whose writings are contra the magisterium. In other words, part of the series of books describing the theology of PF is written by a well known critic and dissenter from the magisterial teaching of Saint JP2 and his chief theologian and successor Pope Benedict XVI. That paragraph makes your attempt to harmonise the dissonance, I believe, impossible.
The essential kinship between EPB and PF is that they are both Catholic bishops and both have been Popes, PF still being our Holy Father. There is no papering over the essential gulf between continuity and rupture by adding the political word “progressive””. What is at stake is far more than politicised analysis of events. Progressive versus conservative is the political analysis of secular newspapers. What is at issue since Vatican 2 is something far more profound. Just what does the Catholic Church understand herself to be? Is she the continuing and consistent proclaimer of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Christ intended that Gospel to be understood? Or is she able to modify the previously consistent understanding of the Gospel to meet contemporary demands? Two kinds of progressivism which neatly omits reference to the other bit of the political analysis - conservatism thereby depriving that party of legitimacy. This approach to understanding the Church might suit some but, in my view, entirely misses the point which is to understand the real nature of the crisis in the Church’s self-understanding.
@ Cherub, I don't want to impose on Fr Hunwicke's hospitality at greater length than I already have--nor repeat myself. I've written on most of these matters at great length already, so ...
Take a glance at my comment in Fr Hunwicke's recent Heureka! Heureka! The notion of "living tradition" propagated by Ratzinger before, during, and after V2 is no more than a clever Modernist rebranding of the old heresy of "continuing revelation". The latter may have been espoused by V2 and its savants, but it is opposed by c. 1964 years of Catholic tradition.
I've now written at considerable length re the Ratzinger letter: Bergoglio's LetterGate--Continuity and Discontinuity. Contrary to what you imagine, the final (?) paragraph is to me icing on the cake of continuity.
On the general topic of Ratzinger's long held heterodox views, I recommend my translation of Prof. Antonio Livi's "Heresy in Power". Prof. Livi is a very eminent Roman philosopher. My intro to his essay contains links of great importance. There are follow up posts to that one, and more generally the months of January - March, 2018, contain quite a few posts that deal directly with this topic of continuity between Ratzinger, Bergoglio, and ... the Apostolic Tradition.
I note in closing that you haven't addressed Ratzinger's Teilhardian views on the Eucharist, above.
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