Retired Pope did not co-author book with Cardinal Sarah

The controversy about a retired Pope allegedly co-authoring a book that seemed to set out to undermine the current Pope has come to a head.

America magazine and other outlets give an update on the saga that leaves none of the chief protagonists smelling of roses or devoid of blame.

Pope Francis and, I suspect, the elderly retired Pope Benedict have again been badly served by those in the Vatican’s curia.

This debacle has to raise questions about Cardinal Sarah’s future. Perhaps it’s time for him to ‘reflect on his position’.

It should also lead to very clear norms being laid down for the retirement of future Popes. Would it be so bad to be referred to as the retired Bishop of Rome? And yes, along with the title the robes should be shed  with the role.

Mattie Long

Benedict XVI has asked Cardinal Sarah to have his name removed from the book on priestly celibacy

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI did not co-author the book Des profondeurs de nos coeurs (From the Depths of Our Hearts) with Cardinal Robert Sarah, and this morning asked the Guinean cardinal to have his name removed as co-author, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, his personal secretary, told the Italian news agency ANSA, after midday on Jan. 14.

“I can confirm that this morning, at the instruction of the emeritus pope, I asked Cardinal Robert Sarah to contact the editors of the book requesting that they remove the name of Benedict XVI as co-author of that same book, and also to remove his signature from the introduction and conclusion [to it],” stated Archbishop Gänswein, who is also the prefect of the papal household.

He said: “The emeritus pope in fact knew that the cardinal was preparing a book and had sent a brief text on the priesthood authorizing him to make whatever use he wanted of it. But he did not approve any project for a book under the two names, nor had he seen or authorized the cover.”

Archbishop Gänswein concluded, “It was a question of misunderstanding, without casting doubt on the good faith of Cardinal Sarah.”

The German archbishop and secretary of Benedict XVI issued this statement to ANSA and KNA, the German Catholic news agency, after speaking with Cardinal Sarah earlier in the day.

He did so after Cardinal Sarah issued a statement around noon in which he stated explicitly that Benedict XVI was fully aware of the publication and that he had given the emeritus pope “the full text”—the chapters, the introduction and conclusion—as well as “the cover” of the book and received his approval.

“Considering the polemics provoked by the publication of the book, ‘From the Depths of Our Hearts,’ it has been decided that the author of the book for future editions will be Cardinal Sarah, with the contribution of Benedict XVI,” Cardinal Sarah tweeted on Jan. 14. “However,” he said, “the full text remains absolutely unchanged.”

The tweeted announcement came only a few hours after Cardinal Sarah had issued a formal statement accusing people of slandering him by saying that while Pope Benedict may have contributed notes or an essay to the book, he was not co-author of it.

This news is an extraordinary development around a book on the priesthood and celibacy, in which the authors firmly oppose the ordination of married men, and which stunned people in the Vatican when news of its publication was released. The authors were widely perceived as seeking to pressure Pope Francis.

He has been considering the request by the fathers of last October’s Pan-Amazonian synod to allow the ordination of mature married men in areas where Catholics are unable to receive the Eucharist for months or even years because of the shortage of priests. Francis, who has made clear he does not intend the change the law of celibacy, is expected to give a response to that recommendation in his exhortation on the Amazonian synod, which sources say will be released by mid-February.

When news about the book was first broken by Le Figaro, the oldest French daily, on Jan. 13, many in Rome questioned why Benedict XVI had opted to make his position public in a book when he has every possibility to make it known to Francis personally since the two live close to each other in the Vatican. One senior Vatican official, who asked not to be named, told America he was “alarmed” when he learned of the book’s publication.

Benedict, who will be 93 in April and is very frail, can hardly write because of physical difficulties or hold a conversation for more than 15 minutes and moves about in a wheelchair, according to a Vatican source, never understood that he was being involved in co-authoring a book with the 74-year-old Guinean cardinal, who is the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and who has on several occasions shown that he does not agree with Pope Francis on a number of questions.

“Benedict XVI has not co-authored a book with Sarah. He had not seen nor approved the cover [of the book], nor did he approve the fact that the book would be published as a volume written by four hands” (that is, co-authored), a source close to Benedict who requested anonymity because he had not been authorized to make a public statement told America on Jan. 13, making clear that this information came from the emeritus pope.

The source also said that “several months ago, Benedict XVI was writing his own piece on the priesthood and Cardinal Sarah asked to see it. The emeritus pope made it available to him, knowing that he was writing a book on the priesthood.” It is now clear that Benedict never knew that he was being involved as co-author of that book.

Cardinal Sarah refers explicitly to this text of around 20 pages in tweets on Jan. 13 and Jan. 14, in response to the news stories that questioned the co-authorship of the book. He published the tweets with copies of three letters from Benedict XVI to him regarding this text, which is the only part of the book that Benedict has written. As the letters show clearly, the emeritus pope gave the cardinal the right to use that text in whatever way he wished.

This text is now a chapter of the book and the only part of the book written by Benedict. Cardinal Sarah wrote both the introduction and conclusion and showed it to Benedict who agreed with the contents, but the source made clear to America on Jan. 13 that Benedict never realized that he was being presented as co-author of the book, which will be published in France on Jan. 15 and in the United States in February.

“It is evident that there is an editorial and mediatic operation from which Benedict XVI separates himself, and to which he is totally extraneous,” the source close to Benedict stated.

America has written to both Archbishop Gänswein and Cardinal Sarah but so far has not received a reply from either.

According to The Associated Press, Ignatius Press, the U.S. publisher of the book, which has been Benedict’s English-language publisher since before he became pope, has defended the book and Benedict’s participation in it.

Joseph Fessio, S.J., Ignatius’ founder and editor, said he had read the text in French and English, and said only Benedict could have written it.

“Is it really believable that Sarah would perpetrate a fraud?” Fessio asked in an email to The Associated Press. “Or alter something from Benedict? Or claim that Benedict didn’t collaborate and agree to the intro and epilogue?”

Material from The Associated Press and Catholic News Service was used in this report.


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  1. Iggy O Donovan says:

    Apparently Benedict may have “written” but did not “co-author” the book “From the Depths of our Hearts”. Now that distinction smacks of “mental reservation” if I ever heard it.

  2. Paddy Ferry says:

    I completely agree with Mattie and Iggy too. As the song says “When will they ever learn”

  3. Joe O'Leary says:

    Sarah should have been fired long ago for his abuse of his position to issue liturgical edicts at odds with church practice.

    “The most insidious diabolical attack consists in trying to extinguish faith in the Eucharist, sowing errors and favouring an unsuitable manner of receiving it,” the cardinal wrote.

    “Truly the war between Michael and his Angels on one side, and Lucifer on the other, continues in the heart of the faithful: Satan’s target is the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated host.

    “Why do we insist on communicating standing in the hand? Why this attitude of lack of submission to the signs of God?

    “[Receiving kneeling and on the tongue] is much more suited to the sacrament itself. I hope there can be a rediscovery and promotion of the beauty and pastoral value of this manner. In my opinion and judgment, this is an important question on which the church today must reflect. This is a further act of adoration and love that each of us can offer to Jesus Christ.”

    Communion in the hand, he points out, “involves a great dispersion of fragments” of the Host, which, although small, are still the body of the Lord. Failure to respect this can cause people to lose their belief in the Real Presence, leading Catholics to think: “If even the parish priest does not pay attention to the fragments, if he administers the Communion so that the fragments can be dispersed, then it means that Jesus is not in them, or only ‘up to a certain point’”

    NOTE: Christ is present in the Eucharist only as long as the species retain the form of bread.

  4. Paddy Ferry says:

    Thanks for sharing that, Joe. How do people like Sarah make it to the top in our Church?

  5. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Paddy & Joe –
    Cardinal Robert Sarah, with his long dominant influence on many bishops, archbishops and Bishops’ Conferences of West and East Africa, is precisely the reason why Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana and Ab Protase Rugambwa of Tanzania (as Secretary to Cardinal Chito Tagle) should be looked to as the necessary counterbalance to the Guinean in the Curia and especially in both francophone and anglophone Africa. It’s always useful, I feel, to see Robert Sarah as the spiritual grandson of French West Africa’s Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre – from the year of Sarah’s birth up to the Second Vatican Council. Sarah was a doughty opponent of dictatorship in Guinea and no doubt sees himself as equally opposing the dictatorship of decadent Western ideology in the European Church’s relationship with Africa.

  6. Roy Donovan says:

    Why did Pope Francis appoint Sarah with such ‘bad’ theology to the position he holds? Amongst many other questionable statements, in a stroke, Sarah wipes out all the married priests in the Eastern and other rites whom Vat II regarded as equally full in value to celibate priesthood.

  7. Sean O'Conaill says:

    Can someone explain to me why Matt 19:12 is presented as the ‘clincher’ for Jesus’s alleged lifestyle preference for celibacy for his followers, in CCC 1618?

    In context this statement re ‘eunuchs’ by Jesus is clearly a response to an observation that it might be better not to marry at all in light of his teaching on the inadmissability of easy divorce. ‘Well,’ Jesus seems to be saying, ‘some people have eunuch-status thrust upon them involuntarily, so others could choose that status (celibacy) rather than behave adulterously.’

    In other words it is chaste marriage that Jesus is defending here, not celibacy as the preferred option for all who wish to serve ‘the kingdom’. That reading is supported surely by the episode that immediately follows. When the ‘rich young man’ asks what HE must do to enter the kingdom, he is NOT advised to be celibate.

    CCC 1618 deliberately quotes Matt 19: 12 in isolation, as the clincher on priestly celibacy, ignoring completely this context, especially Matt 19:16-22.

    To continue to idealise mandatory celibacy when its historical contribution to the over-empowerment, and therefore also to the corruption, of the clerical institution is plain, is to be stuck in the deepest historical denial. Using Matt 19:12 in isolation as a proof text in that way in CCC 1618 is, for me, both gratuitous and scandalous.

  8. Paddy Ferry says:

    Reading Gerry O’Hanlon’s excellent book “The Quiet Revolution of Pope Francis”, if I now remember correctly, Gerry explains that Francis is not just advocating, by nice words alone, a new way of exercising power and authority in our church but by his actions too. So, he refuses to bully and banish people like Sarah and Raymond Burke, men he almost certainly strongly disagrees with, as Wojtyla and Ratzinger would have done when they were pope. So, he is not just talking the talk, Francis is also walking the walk. I think Burke has now been restored to a position in the Rota.

    However we must wonder, given the nature of the human condition if this laudable tolerance on Francis’ part will not lead to those opposed to him feeling free to undermine the Pope’s position. Indeed, is that not just what Ratzinger has been doing collaborating with Sarah in propagating Sarah’s views on compulsory celibacy.

    And, the attempts to now try and distance Ratzinger –sorry, Pope Emeritus Benedict –from the whole thing are truly laughable !!

  9. Joe O'Leary says:

    In response to Sean, yes, we should take much more seriously the use of very bad scriptural argumentation in Vatican documents and in the Catechism.

    John D’Arcy May wrote about that under the title “Catholic Fundamentalism?” He raised the issue re the treatment of the Genesis narrative in the Catechism and again re Dominus Iesus: “Can the Catholic Church be fundamentalist? Contemporary scholarship has shown that fundamentalism can take other forms than scriptural literalism. It consists in a rationalizing of traditional certainties in the face of pluralism and change. Its Catholic form could be described as “morphological,” residing in the structures of authority and power. Protestant reactions to Dominus Iesus missed the fundamentalist logic implicit in its synthesis of christology and ecclesiology. They praised the reaffirmation of Christocentrism but were dismayed that Methodists and Muslims were portrayed as inferior for essentially the same reasons. The document not only fails to reflect Vatican II’s program for decentralizing authority but also overlooks the implications of Nostra Aetate 4 for interfaith dialogue. Its assertion of soteriological and theological superiority raises ethical questions. Dialogue is a religious act of welcoming the Stranger. Its refusal contains a potential for violence.” (Did he mean Nostra Aetate 3, the paragraph on Islam?)

    This dishonest use of Scripture is damaging to the integrity of Catholic biblical scholarship and of Catholic catechesis.

    It is also a symptom of weakness in the claims on behalf of which it is employed. True teachings do not need to be backed up by distortions of Scripture, or by yanking scripture texts from their context and applying them anachronistically.

  10. Aidan Hart says:

    When saying Communion in the hand “involves a great dispersion of fragments of the Host, which, although small, are still the body of the Lord” Cardinal Sarah is obviously oblivious of the fact that the same “dispersion of fragments” also takes place when the celebrant breaks the large host at the altar!

    While I agree that Pope Francis may think he is setting the tone of a new style of inclusive management by appointing people such as Cardinal Sarah, who strongly disagree with him on vitally important issues, to positions of power and authority in the Vatican, it doesn’t make sense. No other organisation that I am aware of appoints senior staff who are opposed to the head of the organisation and will seek to undermine what he/she is trying to achieve and reform! It is a recipe for confusion, failure and disaster!

  11. Paddy Ferry says:

    Having now read Austen Ivereigh in Commonweal, ( see below ) I now have to say it appears that Ratzinger was more innocent in this whole debacle than I had originally thought.

    “One of the many ironies of the recent debacle over the role of the pope emeritus is that Benedict resigned precisely to avoid such indignities. Having lived through the chaos of St John Paul II’s final, infirm years—the runaway Curia, the corruption, the jostling—Benedict planned a retirement that was limelight-free, contemplative, and supportive of his successor. Yet it hasn’t turned out that way. Despite his best intentions, the emeritus papacy has proved a disorderly institution, one vulnerable to manipulation by critics of Benedict’s successor. The pope emeritus has been dragged yet again into an unseemly power play against Francis—this time by Cardinal Robert Sarah, seventy-four, the Vatican’s liturgy hardliner. The result has again been to besmirch Benedict, and to raise questions about his legacy and judgment.
    Many wryly noted that on the same day Anthony Hopkins was nominated as best supporting actor for playing Joseph Ratzinger in the Netflix drama The Two Popes, the real, ninety-two-year-old Benedict was being drawn, in all his frailty, into a bid to stop Francis from agreeing to the Amazon synod’s call for ordaining married deacons. Sarah’s book, to be published soon in France and next month in the United States, was billed—dishonestly, it turned out—as having been co-authored by the pope emeritus. The cover even had his photo, and he was listed as the first author under his papal name, Benedict XVI. (Even when he was pope, he made sure to sign his Jesus trilogy “Benedict XVI-Joseph Ratzinger” to make clear these were his musings qua theologian.)
    Benedict had agreed to none of this, contributing just a few pages of theology, trusting it would be helpful to Sarah’s endeavor. Sarah claimed Benedict had been consulted at every stage, while Benedict’s minder, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, insisted he had neither approved the manuscript nor agreed to be co-author. Sarah was eventually forced to back down. After issuing an angry statement promising to forgive those who had “calumnied” him, he agreed to Ganswein’s request to ask the French publisher to remove Benedict as coauthor. (The book’s U.S. publisher, Ignatius Press, has so far refused, saying that, as far as they are concerned, the book was co-authored.)
    Some dust has settled, but it’s hard to know what really happened. Was Gänswein—who controls Benedict’s interactions with the outside world, and once argued bizarrely that there was now a twin papacy—genuinely appalled at what Sarah had done, or did he act only after being rebuked from the Vatican? Who (Gänswein or Sarah) was lying, or was there a misunderstanding that explains the discrepancy? Given Benedict’s frailty—he sleeps much of the day, has difficulty writing, and finds it hard to talk—had he been taken advantage of? If so, by whom—and why?

    But the more important question was over the propriety of Benedict intervening at all. He had promised Francis his “unconditional obedience and reverence,” and on the whole, these past six years, he has been loyal and supportive, while continuing to give theological reflections, as is his right. Naturally, Sarah’s supporters have stressed this right, claiming that both men are merely restating church teaching and echoing Francis’s own statements in defense of mandatory celibacy. Yet, to state the obvious, Benedict is not simply a theologian, and Sarah is not merely expressing a view. A quick glance at the book’s content makes clear the problem.
    From the Depths of Our Hearts (Des Profondeurs de nos coeurs in French) has an explicitly campaigning purpose: to reject any possibility that in his forthcoming response to the synod Francis could agree to allow an exception to the celibacy rule in the Amazon or elsewhere. In excerpts carried by the French newspaper Le Figaro, Sarah is scathing about any kind of married clergy, describing it as a “half measure,” a “second-class” priesthood, one that would constitute “a breach, a wound in the coherence of the priesthood.” “The peoples of Amazonia have the right to a full experience of Christ the Bridegroom,” he argues, presumably because Amazonian deacons ordained as priests can only offer a stunted experience of Christ the Bridegroom. Then he calls on Francis—to whom he claims “filial obedience”—not to deprive people of “the fullness of the priesthood” and “the true meaning of the Eucharist.”
    Sarah wants to close off the pope’s Amazon synod discernment by claiming that there is nothing to discern: a celibate priesthood is, in effect, divine law. The cardinal seeks to buttress this with the extravagant but unexplained notion of “an ontological-sacramental link between the priesthood and celibacy,” contradicting the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (Presbyterorum ordinis, 16) that celibacy “is not demanded by the very nature of the priesthood, as in apparent from the practice of the early Church and the from the traditions of the Eastern Churches.” Indeed, his theologically innovative contention places in doubt not just the priesthood of the early popes but that of thousands of Catholic clergy today. Sarah goes on to claim, astonishingly, that any weakening (tout affaiblissement) of the celibacy rule would constitute an erosion of the teaching of the three previous popes, even though Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict all allowed exceptions. “I humbly appeal to Pope Francis to protect us definitively from any such eventuality by vetoing any weakening of the law of priestly celibacy, even if limited to a particular region,” Sarah urges, in the by now familiarly obsequious style of humbug made famous by the dubia cardinals.
    What on earth is Benedict doing in theological company like this? The pope emeritus’s own contributions—which he had given to Sarah to use as he saw fit in the book—are a far cry from the cardinal’s: not just moderate, but rooted in traditional Catholic theology. He makes a strong case for celibacy as the best vehicle of the radical self-giving (along with material poverty) that priesthood entails, contending that Christian revelation has so transformed human understanding of the totality of God’s presence that both priesthood and marriage are whole-life vocations. But he stops short of Sarah’s wild claims, arguing only that it “would appear to be” difficult to combine both vocations at the same time, and that the ability to renounce marriage has become “a criterion for priestly ministry” (with that indefinite article, Benedict brakes well short of Sarah’s ontological claim). Benedict’s arguments are passionate, in short, yet traditional: his case is for priestly celibacy as a matter not of ontology but of convenience. He supports clerical celibacy because he believes it makes the priesthood easier to live out, not because the rule itself is mandated by God.

    Yet folding Benedict’s gentle reflections into Sarah’s rant against married priests necessarily hitches the carriage of the elderly emeritus to the cardinal’s runaway train. If celibacy is coterminous with priesthood, where does that leave Benedict’s decision in 2009 to allow former Anglicans to petition “for the admission of married men to the order of presbyter on a case by case basis”? Does Benedict now regard those clergy, in full communion with Rome, as defective, “second-class” priests? And what of the many Eastern rites of the Catholic Church—many formerly Orthodox churches—with a long tradition of a married priesthood? Sarah claims elsewhere in the book that, in light of the “ontological link” between celibacy and priesthood, Eastern-rite clergy are called to abandon marriage over time, and the concession to former “Protestant” priests should never be repeated. Are these also, by implication, Benedict’s views?

    Francis is also passionately in favor of mandatory celibacy, pledging that he will never be the pope to end it. But like his predecessors he is willing to contemplate exceptions for compelling pastoral reasons, when the salus animarum—the good of souls—is at stake in remote mission places like the Amazon. But in his book Sarah claims there can be no “exceptions” to priestly celibacy, and even to use the word constitutes an “abuse of language or a lie.” Yet in 2009 Benedict cited St Paul VI’s 1967 Sacerdotalis caelibatus to support allowing former Anglican married clergy. Pope Paul had written that “a study may be allowed of the particular circumstances of married sacred ministers of Churches,” leading to “the admitting to priestly functions those who desire to adhere to the fullness of this communion.” The question now had to be asked: Did Benedict now agree with Sarah that these “exceptions” outlined by Paul VI were, in fact, a “lie”?

    Hardly surprising, then, that in the course of Tuesday’s frantic rowing back Benedict’s office demanded the removal not just of any suggestion of his co-authorship but also his name from Sarah’s introduction and conclusion. But the damage has been done: Sarah has turned the ex-pope into a counter-magisterium, a rallying point for opposition to Francis. Now, if Francis were to decide against approving the synod’s call for an exception to celibacy for Amazonia, opponents will claim that “Benedict had stopped him.” They will hail a victory for “fidelity to tradition,” appearing to short-circuit a synodal process that is supposed to defer, ultimately, to the pope’s own discernment.

    This and other previous fiascos—such as last year’s eccentric paper on sex abuse, which was promoted by Benedict’s court through the pro-Viganò media in the United States—has led many Catholics to call for the pope emeritus to do as he first promised and stay silent. It has also revived calls for the reform of the emeritus papacy, which canonists and theologians (including Massimo Faggioli of this parish) have long urged. In sum: he should be the bishop emeritus of Rome—as Francis correctly referred to his predecessor on the night of his election—not the “pope emeritus.” He should wear simple clericals, or a cardinal’s abito piano, not a white cassock. And there should be no office of the “prefect of the pontifical household” or any kind of parallel court. That way, if he does speak, he does so with the freedom of a private theologian.

    The way Benedict’s entourage has at times used him and his writings to undermine Francis is a scandal and a disgrace. They have fed scoops and exclusives to the opposition media while the Vatican and its press office are kept in the dark. They have consistently disobeyed the Vatican’s 2004 directory on bishops, which insists that emeriti should avoid “every attitude and relationship that could even hint at some kind of parallel authority to that of the diocesan Bishop, with damaging consequences for the pastoral life and unity of the diocesan community.” Only by deference to the diocesan bishop’s authority, adds Apostolorum successores, “all will understand clearly that the diocesan Bishop alone is the head of the diocese, responsible for its governance.”
    None of this will bother Francis much. He is deeply fond of Benedict, and shocked to see him, now that he is frail, preyed on in this way. For now he says nothing. Sarah’s schemes, like those of others before him, have a habit of imploding by themselves. But with each unseemly fiasco, Benedict’s star is unfairly tarnished. The lessons are being learned. The parallel court and the counter-magisterium will end with Benedict’s funeral. The incumbent pope must have the freedom to be pope, for the sake of the Petrine ministry itself. The people of God need to obey one pope at a time, because of the grace that attaches to the office, just as the emeritus must be free from intra-ecclesial squabbles and power plays that fuel division and confusion. Of course, all this can be designed and modeled by the next pope who stands down. If that turns out to be Francis, the makeover of the emeritus papacy will surely be his final great reform—one designed not to weaken the Petrine ministry but to defend it for the sake of the freedom of the people of God.”

  12. Aidan Hart says:

    Paddy, the problem with thinking that the Amazonian region is the only area with a dire shortage of priests is that it ignores the fact that Ireland and many parts of the UK, Europe and American are also suffering the same shortage, with that situation getting worse every year.

    My own parish in N. Ireland has a main parish church and two outlying churches, served by the parish priest and one retired priest. When that retired priest is no longer able to continue to celebrate Sunday Mass the parish priest has made it clear that he will have to close the two outlying churches. That will leave the elderly and others living in the outlying areas served by those two churches and without a car, unable to attend Sunday Mass or Saturday evening Mass in the far away parish church. Even if they had cars, parking at the parish church would become a major problem due to it being situated in a residential area with limited parking of its own. I doubt if that situation is unique to my parish.

    Also, many ask why the parish recently had a local married deacon appointed, who can do nothing that a lay person, with appropriate training, can’t do and is unable to do what is most needed – to celebrate Eucharist. Why was he not ordained as a married priest?

  13. Sean O’Conaill says:

    #14. Same story here, Aidan – north-west. And of course we lay people are on the other side of a wall erected out of clerical fear of admitting the scale of the crisis or the possibility that we, the merely-baptised, might have any role in resolving it. They perform a mass-only, chapel-only role. The last time I asked for a discussion – of the homilist’s request to us to pray for more priests to spread the Gospel – I was told that the homilist was not authorised to discuss that. Clericalism is a disease that prevents its sufferers from recognising that they have it.

    But last night I was praying the Creed in secular space with other Christians, and it is only in that space that an opportunity exists for a discussion on what the meaning of that set of words might be now in 2020 in this part of Ireland.

    I recalled John Wesley’s predicament in the 1700s when he was banned from Anglican pulpits by the fervency of his preaching – and forced to preach out-of-doors in the new industrial towns – to a different social stratum. Methodism followed, and changed the landscape.

    Our clergy were mostly trained for a social role that relates now to the past – one of servicing already-full churches and preaching to a people for whom faith and deference were the same thing.. They are also paralysed by a lingering fear of authoritarianism, the legacy of the last three papacies. So now the Vineyard Church is thriving here in the north-west, while a Derry diocesan pastoral renewal plan is dismissed as impracticable by clergy who say they need to pace themselves for the long haul. For museum-curation, in other words, not evangelisation.

    That attitude afflicts clergy in the other Christendom churches too, of course. Secular space beckons, so who will be the next Christian sowers in that space?

  14. Paddy Ferry says:

    Sean@ 15, what a powerful piece, Sean. Well said!!

  15. Paddy Ferry says:

    “Clericalism is a disease that prevents its sufferers from recognising that they have it.”

    Sean, I think that sentence alone merits an in depth discussion.

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