A Vatican cardinal at the center of a storm over a book about celibacy and the Catholic priesthood is denouncing the "brutality" of criticism directed at him and his collaborator, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, the AP reports. In an interview published Saturday, Cardinal Robert Sarah doubled down on his argument in the book, From the Depths of Our Hearts, that the Catholic priesthood is incompatible with marriage. "If you weaken the law of celibacy, you open a breach, a wound in the mystery of the church," Sarah said. Sarah, who heads the Vatican's liturgical office, insisted on the sacramental link between the priesthood and celibacy, even though the Catholic Church has long had married priests in its Eastern Rites as well as in the ranks of Anglican and other Protestant converts.
The book's publication earlier this month sparked furious debate, given that Pope Francis is currently weighing whether to allow married priests in the Amazon to counter a priest shortage there. Benedict's involvement looked like a clear effort to influence his successor's decision and called into question Benedict's promise to live "hidden from the world" after retiring in 2013. The controversy prompted Sarah to say future editions of the book would list Benedict as a contributor, not co-author. Sarah has insisted he acted in good faith and denied allegations that he manipulated the 92-year-old Benedict into participating in a frontal attack on Francis. The cardinal tweeted amid the initial criticism that he had visited the retired pope and "there is no misunderstanding between us."
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