Retired Pope Benedict distances himself from controversial book on priest celibacy

Brendan Morrow

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is distancing himself from a controversial new book about the importance of priestly celibacy that he was listed as the co-author of in what critics argued undermined Pope Francis.

Controversy erupted this week when reports emerged that Benedict, who retired in 2013, co-authored a book defending celibacy as a "necessity." Since Pope Francis is weighing allowing some married men to become priests, this move was seen as Benedict trying to undercut or influence Francis, CNN notes. The Wall Street Journal called it "the former pontiff's most explicit effort so far to influence a decision by his successor."

But Benedict is now asking to no longer be listed as a co-author of the book, From the Depths of Our Hearts, which is to be published in French on Wednesday, the Journal reports. Pope Benedict's private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, reportedly called co-author Cardinal Robert Sarah Tuesday to make this request, and he's also asking that Benedict's name be removed from the book's cover, introduction, and conclusion.

"It was a misunderstanding, without casting doubt on Cardinal Sarah's good intentions," Gänswein said. Benedict has previously said that he does "not agree with allowing celibacy as an option," per NBC News.

Cardinal Sarah said Tuesday Benedict will no longer be listed as co-author and that the "author of the book will be: [Cardinal] Sarah, with the contribution of Benedict XVI," CNN reports. He said, though, that "the full text remains absolutely unchanged." Still, The Washington Post notes that this hasn't resolved the situation entirely, as "the book's English-language publisher said it still considered Benedict a co-author."

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