THE “LETTERGATE” PLOT THICKENS: A NEW PARAGRAPH SURFACES IN BENEDICT XVI’S LETTER

THE “LETTERGATE” PLOT THICKENS: A NEW PARAGRAPH SURFACES IN BENEDICT XVI’S LETTER

The SPC – Secretariat for Communications – this afternoon issued an unsigned communiqué concerning the letter that Pope Benedict wrote on February 7 to Msgr. Dario Vigano in response to Vigano’s January 12 invitation to the Pope emeritus asking if he would critique, “with a brief and dense theological page,” a collection of 11 small volumes about Pope Francis’ theology.

At the March 12 presentation of the collection, Msgr. Vigano, prefect of the SPC, read a few, but not all, of the paragraphs of Benedict XVI’s response. Vaticannews.va released a story about the book presentation, including a photo of Benedict XVI’s letter to Vigano with several lines intentionally blurred.

That photo, and what was deemed to be a missing part of the letter, caused quite a firestorm and the ensuing case has even been called ”Lettergate.”

A day later, vaticanista Sandro Magister published what he said was the entire letter, including a translation of the blurred lines, adding a heretofore unknown paragraph.

Here is today’s communiqué from the SPC:

“On the occasion of the March 12 presentation of the book collection, “The theology of Pope Francis,” edited by the Vatican Publishing House, a letter from Pope emeritus Benedict XVI was made public.

“Many polemics followed about an alleged manipulation for censorship purposes of the photograph distributed together with the collection.

“Because of the reserved nature of the letter, only those parts were read that were considered opportune and relative to the presentation and, in particular, what the Pope emeritus stated concerning the philosophical and theological formation of the current Pontiff and the interior union between the two pontificates, omitting notes about the contributors to the volumes.

“The choice was motivated by the reserved nature of the letter and not by any intent to censor. To dispel any doubt it has been decided to publish the letter in its entirety.”

And today, because they released the entire letter, we have yet another “heretofore unknown paragraph” AND a very different closing sentence by Pope emeritus Benedict!

Here is the missing paragraph:

“In the margin, I would like to note my surprise for the fact that among the authors there is professor Hunermann who, during my pontificate came to light for having led anti-papal initiatives. He participated in a relevant measure in the release of the “Kolner Erklarung” that, in relation to the encyclical “Veritatis splendor,” attacked in a virulent way the magisterial authority of the Pope, especially on questions of moral theology. And the “Europaische Theologengesellschaft” that he founded, was initially intended by him to be an organization in opposition to the papal Magisterium. Afterwards, the ecclesial feeling of many theologians prevented this orientation, making that organization a normal instrument of encounter among theologians.

I am certain you will understand my refusal, and I greet you cordially.
Yours,
Benedict XVI

Thus, here is the now complete, unvarnished letter (my translation) sent by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI to Msgr. Vigano:

Benedict XVI
Pope Emeritus

Rev. Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano
Prefect of the Secretariat for Communication
Vatican City

7 February 2018

Most Rev. Monsignor,

I thank you for your courteous letter of January 12 and for the attached gift of the 11 small volumes edited by Robert Repole.

I applaud this initiative that wishes to contradict the foolish prejudice of those for whom Pope Francis would be a man lacking a particular theological and philosophical formation, while I would have been solely a theoretician of theology who understood little of the concrete lives of today’s Christian. These small volumes demonstrate, rightly so, that Pope Francis is a man of deep philosophical and theological formation and they help us therefore to see the interior continuity between the two pontificates, even with all the differences in style and temperament.”

In any case, I do not feel like writing about (these volumes) a brief or even dense theological page because, throughout my whole life, it has always been clear that I would have written or would have expressed myself only about books that I have truly read. Unfortunately, also for physical reasons, I am not able to read these eleven little volumes in the near future, and even more so because other commitments that I have already made await me.

“In the margin, I would like to note my surprise for the fact that among the authors there is professor Hunermann who, during my pontificate came to light for having led anti-papal initiatives. He participated in a relevant measure in the release of the “Kolner Erklarung” that, in relation to the encyclical “Veritatis splendor,” attacked in a virulent way the magisterial authority of the Pope, especially on questions of moral theology. And the “Europaische Theologengesellschaft” that he founded, was initially intended by him to be an organization in opposition to the papal Magisterium. Afterwards, the ecclesial feeling of many theologians prevented this orientation, making that organization a normal instrument of encounter among theologians.

I am certain you will understand my refusal, and I greet you cordially.
Yours,
Benedict XVI

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