The shadow pope

The shadow pope

Almost regularly, disturbing fire comes from the retirement home of the pope emeritus. Who triggers it usually remains unclear. But it almost seems as if the retirement years of Benedict XVI. has become a kind of second term.

It was half a stroke of genius, half an act of desperation, and in any case historic: on Rosenmontag 2013, Benedict XVI. in a Latin speech to the cardinals his renunciation of the papacy. The Catholic Church had the abuse scandal hanging in its robes, two document leaks had exposed corruption and felt in the Vatican. The pope felt old and weak. He resigned. With the sedis vacancy, all curia leaders were out of a job. What a coup!

He vowed obedience

A new pope should fix it. At the farewell on 28. February vowed Benedict XVI. to obey him, whom he did not yet know. He himself wanted to withdraw into the silence of the Vatican gardens and serve the Church in prayer. Seven years later, it is clear that from the "Klosterl" not only prayers to heaven were heard, but also words to the outside world. Not all of them were in agreement with Francis' successor.

Although Benedict XVI had. By his own admission, recognized that he had run out of strength to "steer the little ship of Peter". Nevertheless, even as a former pope, he retained enough authority to repeatedly interrupt the new captain.

This happened most conspicuously on the ie of the abuse scandal. For Francis, the problem has to do with "clericalism," uneasy authority and power structures. Benedict XVI. on the other hand, in an April 2019 essay, blamed the sexual revolution of the 1960s and a lax moral theology as the roots of the evil. Applause came from those who want less self-recrimination in the Catholic Church and more of a clear edge against the zeitgeist, including Cardinals Gerhard Ludwig Muller and Robert Sarah.

Irritations about the contribution to Judaism

Benedict XVI. had entrusted his personally colored "notes" on the subject to the Bavarian "Klerusblatt"; via digital media they made unexpectedly high waves. It was a similar story with an article on Judaism, which the emeritus gave as a private reflection to Cardinal Kurt Koch and, at his coaxing, had printed in the magazine "Communio" in July 2018.

The text touched on sensitive ies, such as the theological legitimacy of the State of Israel and the continuation of God's covenant with the Jewish people. Benedict XVI. only wanted to make a few clarifications; but representatives of the Catholic-Jewish dialogue were irritated by the theses and the fact of their publication.


Then there was "Lettergate," the affair surrounding Benedict XVI's letter. to a multi-volume publication on the theology of Francis. At its launch in March 2018, then Vatican media chief Dario Vigano proudly read a letter from the emeritus pope praising the book project while declaring that "also for physical reasons" he felt unable to contribute his own.

Slice by slice, it came out that Vigano had misappropriated essential parts of the letter – in which Benedict XVI. Astonished showed that among the authors Peter Hunermann trades name. The dogmatist once licked the sting of the prefect of the faith Joseph Ratzinger with the "Cologne Declaration" in 1989. On such an author, Benedict XVI seemed to be. to think now, one could confidently do without; little flattering for Franziskus. Vigano had to leave his post.

Media Foundation for Catholic Journalism

Also causing surprise was a new message ied by Benedict XVI. established foundation for Catholic journalism, based at the conservative newspaper Die Tagespost. Its purpose overlaps with that of the Catholic School of Journalism ifp in Munich, a long-established institution of the German Bishops' Conference.

Most recently, the Emeritus made headlines with his contribution to a book by Curia Cardinal Robert Sarah. The tape, a defense of priestly celibacy, has been interpreted as a warning against possible exemptions by Francis. Even if in this case there was talk about "misunderstandings", the question remains, how it could come to that. Recent film footage shows the 92-year-old as a decrepit old man. By resigning seven years ago, he also wanted to escape the intrigues at the Curia. It seems they have caught up with him again.

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