Book by Pope Emeritus on Celibacy Gets Shrug in France
By Lisa Bryant
Voice of America
January 15, 2020
PARIS - The former pope Benedict XVI reportedly wants his name removed from a controversial book that appears to undermine his successor, Pope Francis, on issues of priestly celibacy. The book hit stores Wednesday in France, the first country to publish it. But despite the furor the book has stirred in the press, many French readers appear underwhelmed.
The book, "Des Profondeurs de Nos Coeurs," meaning "From the Depths of Our Hearts," defends priestly celibacy at a time when Pope Francis is considering whether to lift restrictions on married priests in remote areas. Cardinal Robert Sarah, who co-authored the book, rejects accusations he manipulated Benedict regarding the content.
The furor, which appears to lay bare spiritual divisions between the two popes, has made news headlines, but hasn't stirred up much public interest.
Parisian Brigitte Gallay says she has heard about the book, but notes Protestant ministers are married with children. She sees nothing wrong about a church that's closer to the lives of ordinary people — even though some Catholics might be shocked at the thought of married priests.
The Catholic Church has taken a hit in France, not just because of declining attendance, but also because of a major pedophilia scandal — the theme of a recent movie. A trial opened this month against a priest at the heart of the scandal, which has helped fuel debate about the dangers of priestly celibacy.
At Paris bookstore Gibert Joseph, social worker Alexander Monnot adds the book to a pile of others he's planning to buy. Monnot says he supports celibacy for priests.
"The fact is, at the very beginning of the Church, there was Jesus and 12 apostles," Monnot said. "And even some were married. They all left their families to preach. Jesus was not married. And priests should be an incarnation, a continuation of Jesus."
Monnot says he is looking forward to reading the book's arguments in favor of celibacy, but that's not the only reason he's buying it. He predicts the French publisher will recall this edition, which has Benedict's name as co-author, meaning the copy he's buying may one day be a collector's item.