Benedict Breaks His Silence as Pope Emeritus

Makes it clear he doesn't like the idea of lifting celibacy rules, now under consideration
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 13, 2020 3:34 AM CST
Updated Jan 13, 2020 5:43 AM CST
Benedict Warns Successor Against Lifting Celibacy Rule
In this June 28, 2017 photo, Pope Francis, left, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI meet each other on the occasion of the elevation of five new cardinals at the Vatican.   (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool photo via AP, File)

A retired 92-year-old man has broken his silence to insist that his former colleagues should never have sex. Pope Benedict XVI, who adopted the title "pope emeritus" after retiring in 2013, argues that priestly celibacy is essential in a new book, "From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy, and the Crisis of the Catholic Church," the BBC reports. It was written as a response to an Oct. 2019 synod of bishops where a majority called for the ordination of married men in remote parts of the Amazon, where there is a severe shortage of priests. In the book, Benedict argues that the priesthood requires "renouncing all that belongs only to us" and says it "doesn't seem possible to realize" the vocations of priesthood and marriage at the same time.

The Catholic Church has for many centuries required priests to remain celibate, although exceptions have been made for married Protestant priests who converted to Catholicism. Benedict vowed to remain "hidden from the world" after he retired due to ill health, and critics say it is extraordinary for him to speak out on a subject that his less conservative successor, Pope Francis, is considering, the AP reports. Noted theologian Massimo Faggioli says the apparently unprecedented move is a "serious breach," per the National Catholic Reporter. "It interferes with a synodal process that is still unfolding after the Amazon synod … and threatens to limit the freedom of the one pope," he says. (Last year, Benedict blamed the church's sexual abuse scandals on the "sexual revolution" of the '60s.)

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