Because I have about 60 emails having to do with this, and since I’ve already made a few comments about this odd story elsewhere, here is a follow up, for the sake of completeness.
Sandro Magister posted the full text of The Letter™ from Benedict XVI’s about some volumes published on Pope Francis theology. At first we had just some blurbs from the letter, which caused a not a few people to scratch their heads in puzzled wonder.
Last January, the Secretariat for Communications under Msgr Dario Edoardo Viganò, sent Benedict XVI 11 booklet series with offerings of various authors concerning “The theology of Pope Francis,” published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana. On 7 February Benedict wrote to Viganò about receiving the booklets. On 12 March Viganò read the letter during the presentation of the series to the press, just before the 5th anniversary of the election of Francis. Only portions of the letter were distributed to newsies. The press took the two things as being connected and as a comment of Benedict on the pontificate. It seems fairly certain that it was Viganò’s intention that Benedict’s letter should be taken as a ratification of the pontificate. The “doctoring” of the photo of the letter seems to confirm that.
Whereas only bits of the letter were known before, but now the text is out. Magister transcribed it from the video of the conference he also attended in person.
Mons. Dario Edoardo Viganò
Segreteria per la Comunicazione
Città del Vaticano
7 febbraio 2018
La ringrazio per la sua cortese lettera del 12 gennaio e per l’allegato dono degli undici piccoli volumi curati da Roberto Repole.
Plaudo a questa iniziativa che vuole opporsi e reagire allo stolto pregiudizio per cui Papa Francesco sarebbe solo un uomo pratico privo di particolare formazione teologica o filosofica, mentre io sarei stato unicamente un teorico della teologia che poco avrebbe capito della vita concreta di un cristiano oggi.
I piccoli volumi mostrano, a ragione, che Papa Francesco è un uomo di profonda formazione filosofica e teologica e aiutano perciò a vedere la continuità interiore tra i due pontificati, pur con tutte le differenze di stile e di temperamento.
Tuttavia non mi sento di scrivere su di essi una breve e densa pagina teologica perché in tutta la mia vita è sempre stato chiaro che avrei scritto e mi sarei espresso soltanto su libri che avevo anche veramente letto. Purtroppo, anche solo per ragioni fisiche, non sono in grado di leggere gli undici volumetti nel prossimo futuro, tanto più che mi attendono altri impegni che ho già assunti.
Sono certo che avrà comprensione e la saluto cordialmente.
And now… with some emphases:
Mons. Dario Edoardo Viganò
Segreteria per la Comunicazione
Città del Vaticano
7 febbraio 2018
I thank you for your courteous letter of January 12 and for the attached gift of the eleven small volumes edited by Roberto Repole.
I applaud this initiative which is intended to oppose and react to the foolish prejudice according to which Pope Francis would be only a practical man devoid of particular theological or philosophical formation, while I would be solely a theoretician of theology who could understand little of the concrete life of a Christian today. [Odd, for Ratzinger. By this phrase, indeed this paragraph, I must conclude that Benedict never expected this to see the light of day, much less to be weaponized.]
The little volumes demonstrate, rightly so, that Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation, and they therefore help in seeing the interior continuity between the two pontificates, albeit with all the differences of style and temperament.
Nonetheless, I do not feel that I can write a brief and dense theological page about them because for my whole life [!] it has always been clear that I would write and express myself only on books that I had also truly read. [!] Unfortunately, even if only for physical reasons, I am not able to read the eleven little volumes in the near future, all the more so in that I am under other obligations to which I have already agreed. [I’d love to know what they are. Could it be something else he has committed himself to write? Could it be his early commitment not to make certain comments?]
I am sure that you will understand, and I extend to you my cordial greeting.
It could be that the letter which was sent to Benedict with the volumes – which clearly was trying to get out of him that much-desired “brief and dense theological page” itself was the source of the dichotomy that Benedict rejects: “You know, Holiness, that there are people out there who say X about Francis and Y about you. Why don’t you write something that refutes that claim?”
Ratzinger didn’t take the bait.
So, Benedict ends up saying: I haven’t read them and I am not going to read them. But thanks for sending them. Pontificates are different and yet the same. I don’t have much more for you than that.
Moreover, as I mentioned elsewhere, I find it entirely out of keeping with Ratzinger’s style to make such a blatantly self-referential defense. If there is anything that anyone will notice in the writings of Benedict is his theme of self-referentiality. As I wrote elsewhere, some enterprising student of theology could write a thesis on the subject. I suspect that, given that he said that he wasn’t planning on reading them, his letter would not be weaponized… as it was by leaving out that paragraph when giving printed material to the press.
Meanwhile, La Nuova Bussola has something. Inter alia, we read…
In effetti in tanti hanno notato la singolarità del messaggio sia per lo stile – così diverso da altri interventi del Papa emerito – sia per i contenuti, anche se dalla portata molto meno sconvolgente di quanto si sia fatto credere.
Yes, I am one of them who noticed that.
Meanwhile, more from Pentin HERE:
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the Vatican admitted it had “altered a photo sent to the media of a letter from retired Pope Benedict XVI about Pope Francis.” It added that the “manipulation changed the meaning of the image in a way that violated photojournalist industry standards.”
The report said that the Vatican admitted to blurring “the two final lines of the first page” where Benedict explains that he “didn’t actually read the books in question” and “cannot contribute a theological assessment of Francis” as he had other commitments.
The AP added: “The Vatican didn’t explain why it blurred the lines other than to say it never intended for the full letter to be released. In fact, the entire second page of the letter is covered in the photo by a stack of books, with just Benedict’s tiny signature showing, to prove its authenticity.”
AP’s report continued that the missing content “significantly altered the meaning of the quotes the Vatican chose to highlight, which were widely picked up by the media.” [NB] The suggestion given was that Benedict “had read the volume, agreed with it and given it his full endorsement and assessment,” it said.
The news agency said the doctoring was “significant” because news media “rely on Vatican photographers for images of the Pope at events that are closed to independent media.”
The AP made the point that as with most independent news media, it follows “strict standards that forbid digital manipulation of photos” and that “no element should be digitally added to or subtracted from any photograph.”
This episode is particularly embarrassing for the Vatican, coming barely a month since it issued Pope Francis’ message for this year’s World of Social Communications in which the Holy Father called for a “journalism of peace” in an era of “fake news.”
National Review Online:
Faith, Sorely Tested: Today’s Edition
Despair is a sin — Bill Buckley said that frequently, and he was right to do so. It’s practical: One needs to keep repeating that so as not to lose faith. We shall prevail against the Gates of Hell — This is another mantra which many traditional/conservative Catholics say to keep the faith. Given the troubling machinations and trends of Holy Mother Church’s leaders and of Vatican bureaucrats, I find myself saying or thinking this daily.
Today’s reason for almost-despair is an Associated Press story: Vatican doctors photo of Benedict’s praise for Francis. Read it. Turning [weaponizing] the retired pope into a prop for the current pope’s theological play-acting is deeply embarrassing, but of no surprise for an ancient institution whose timid bureaucrats and diplomats (timid, except when it comes to hating America) are eagerly handing the faithful in China over to the Commie regime, whose ultimate leader, Pope Francis, has heaped scorn on abuse victims, and whose leftist cardinals are trying to rewrite dogma on sex, marriage, and sin.
We shall prevail against . . .
UPDATE 16 March:
Meanwhile, at Reuters there is a blurb, but with something rather curious that is fully in keeping with this developing “goat rodeo”. Reuters writes about the kerfuffle, calling it Lettergate in their title They quote something from Ed Pentin (clearly the best working Anglophone Vaticanista in Rome right now):
In an email to Reuters, he dubbed the whole episode the Vatican’s “Lettergate”.
And at the bottom of the piece Reuters add… here’s a screen shot.
“Dropped the word ‘angry’ in paragraph 10”!
So… where was that word originally?
It just gets better.
Even ultra-lib and card-carrying member of the New catholic Red Guards, the virtually always wrong Robert Mickens has a blistering piece at mostly wacky La Croix International about the handling of The Letter™ and about, especially, the head of the Vatican’s “reformed” (HAH!) Secretariat for Communications Msgr. Dario Viganò.
Here in one piece do we verify not one but two apothegemata, namely, the one about broken clocks and the other about enemies of enemies.
First, Mickens gives fulsome praise to L’Osservatore Romano for resisting Viganò and his “wrecking ball tactics, and his failure to provide precise details on what the final configuration of this new multi-media conglomerate is supposed to look like”. Micken’s describes also the dismantling of Vatican Radio (for which, if memory serves he worked for while, in the English section). Frankly, I think the dismantling of the short wave radio effort was deeply stupid. Only lack of imagination and competence prevented all of Vatican Radio from being resorted and revitalized. And let’s not even bring in the lack of basic social justice issues, such as just and ethical pay and treatment of employees.
Mickens raises questions about Viganò, including the pretty basic: How the heck did he get this job in the first place? Quote:
It is still a mystery to almost everyone how the prefect got his current position. No one seems able to positively identify the people with influence (most likely in the Italian hierarchy) that helped him get a Vatican job in the first place.
But how and why he eventually got his current high-profile job is still unclear. At the time, many believed that the leading and more qualified candidate was Msgr. Tighe.
I say: If they need someone, I’m available. I might even give Mickens a job, back at Vatican Radio!
Anyway, a lot of his article concerns The Letter™ and its surrounding Goat Rodeo and how it all revolves about Msgr. Viganò. It’s brutal.
Ultra-liberal La Croix International is behind a paywall, but they let you read a few free articles.