Late last week, the Dutch Catholic blog In Caelo et in Terra posted a translation of an interview with Archbishop Gänswein that was originally published on Christ & Welt. The Archbishop's responses range from the straightforward, to the indirect and very careful; coming through his words is a very clear desire to protect Benedict XVI from any danger.
Speaking of Pope Francis' speech on the "15 diseases" of the Roman Curia, Gänswein notes that the Curia's "reactions ranged from surprise to shock and incomprehension." To the question about who the Pope's closest advisers are, the Prefect of the Papal Household simply responds: "This questions always and consistently goes around. I don’t know." And where is the Church headed under Francis? "If you listen attentively to the words of the Pope, you will hear a clear message in them. Nevertheless, the question continuously arises of where Francis wants to lead the Church, what is his goal?"
Of particular interest to our blog is the following passage, dealing largely with the debate over communion for "remarried divorcees" and Gänswein's exoneration of traditionalists from the charge that they do not recognize Francis as the true, reigning Pope:
With the Synods on the pastoral care for families this past and the coming autumn, Francis created a focal point. Especially the question of allowing divorced and remarried faithful access to the sacraments causes much disagreement. Some also have the impression that Francis is more concerned with pastoral care than with doctrine…
I do not share that impression. It creates an artificial opposition which does not exist. The Pope is the first guarantor and keeper of the doctrine of the Church and at the same the first shepherd, the first pastor. Doctrine and pastoral care are not in opposition, they are like twins.
Do the current and the retired Pope take opposite views in the debate about divorced and remarried Catholics?
I know of no doctrinal statements from Pope Francis which are contrary to the statements of his predecessor. That would be absurd too. It is one thing to emphasise the pastoral efforts more clearly because the situation requires it. It is something else entirely to make a change in teaching. I can only act pastorally sensitive, consistent and conscientious when I do so on the basis of full Catholic teaching. The substance of the sacraments is not left to the discretion of pastors, but has been given to the Church by the Lord. That is also and especially true for the sacrament of marriage.
Was there a visit of some cardinals to Benedict during the Synod, with the request that he intervene to rescue the dogma?
There has not been such a visit to Pope Benedict. A supposed intervention by the Pope emeritus is pure invention.
How does Benedict respond to the attempts by traditionalist circles to recognise him as an antipope?
It was not traditionalist circles who attempted that, but representatives of the theological profession and some journalists. Speaking of an antipope is simply stupid, and also irresponsible. That goes in the direction of theological arson.
Recently there was excitement surrounding a contribution in the recently published fourth volume of the Collected Works of Joseph Ratzinger. The author changed some conclusions to the topic of the divorced and remarried in a stricter sense. Does Benedict want to involve himself with this in the Synod debate?
Not at all. The revision of said article from 1972 was completed and sent to the publisher long before the Synod. It must be remembered that every author has the right to make changes in his writings. Every informed person knows that Pope Benedict has not shared the conclusions of said contribution since 1981, which is more than 30 years! As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he has expressed this clearly in various comments.
The timing of the publication of the new edition to coincide with the Synod was then anything but happy…
The fourth volume of the Collected Works, in which the article is printed, was supposed to be published in 2013. The publication was delayed for various reasons and happened only in 2014. That a Synod on the topic of the family would take place at that time, was absolutely unforeseen when the planning of the publication of the separate volumes was made.
The archbishop's response to the question, "do the current and the retired Pope take opposite views in the debate about divorced and remarried Catholics?" has been reported as a "no". In reality his answer is more careful and nuanced than a straightforward "no". He simply states that Francis has not made any doctrinal statements contrary to those of Benedict XVI -- and this is absolutely correct. None of the signs and hints that have been given by Francis in favor of those pushing the Kasperite thesis amount to a doctrinal statement. As for the distinction between changes in "pastoral" practice and "doctrinal" change, this is something that even the Kasperites follow. The real question is where to draw the line, and this is a matter on which the archbishop is silent.
The exoneration of traditionalists from the charge of trying to turn Benedict XVI into an "antipope" -- or, more precisely, the charge of trying to have Francis recognized as a false Pope while Benedict XVI remains the true Pope -- casts light on something that many critics of Traditional Catholicism fail to notice. Those who have led the charge to have the Conclave of 2013 denounced as "invalid" have largely come not from "Traditionalist" circles but from fringe "conservative" types, usually obsessed with unapproved "Marian apparitions" and "private revelations" and with scant interest in the main issues dear to Traditionalists. By and large, Traditionalist Catholic circles have remained firm in upholding Francis' claim as the true Pope -- and this needs to be recognized.