UPDATE: Even more comes about The Letter™: additional missing text

UPDATE 18 March:

Here is an interesting tweet from expert canonist Ed Peters.

___ Originally

There is an Italian saying that the Devil makes great saucepans, but doesn’t provide lids for them.  Eventually, people will see what’s cooking: the truth will come out.

Just when you may have thought we had gotten to the bottom of The Letter™, or Lettergate, as Ed Pentin called it, more floats by, like a body face down in a slow moving river.

I have several updates about Lettergate – HERE – but this deserves a separate post.  It seems to me that this whole mess needs to be understood and remembered.  Hence, posts.

First it was revealed that the head of the Vatican’s office for communications (not the Holy See Press Office  – a separate but now subordinated entity) doctored a photo of alleged letter of Benedict XVI about a series of booklets about the theology of Pope Francis in order to avoid the embarrassing revelation that Benedict neither read them nor intended to read them.

I said “alleged” letter.  Now we learn that there was even more in Benedict’s original letter that was redacted out of the version that was read to the press during the presentation of the booklet series.  And again Sandro Magister has the story.  HERE


Between the paragraph omitted in the press release and the valediction there were, in fact, other lines.

And this much could be guessed just by observing the photo of the letter (see above).

In fact, between the first two lines that were made illegible in the photo, at the bottom of the first page of the letter, and the valediction and signature of Benedict XVI on the second half of the second page, there is a space too big to be occupied only by the last part of the paragraph omitted in the press release.

And what else was written there, that Viganò was careful not to read in public and took such pains to cover up in the photo with the eleven booklets on the theology of Pope Francis?

[NB] There was the explanation of the reason why Benedict XVI had not read those eleven booklets nor intended to read them in the future, and therefore why he had declined to write “a brief and dense theological page” of presentation and appreciation for the same, as Viganò had requested of him.

The reason adopted by Benedict XVI in the final lines of his letter – we are told by an incontrovertible source – is the presence among the authors of those eleven booklets of the German theologian Peter Hünermann, who was an implacable critic both of John Paul II and of Joseph Ratzinger himself as theologian and as pope.

About Hünermann, a professor at the university of Tubingen, it may be recalled that he is the author of, among other things, a commentary on Vatican Council II that is the polar opposite of the Ratzingerian interpretation.

It is therefore clear that, given what Benedict XVI writes in the second half of his letter, the first half also takes on a new significance, entirely different from the one that Viganò wanted to attribute to it in his mangled and biased press release.


Here’s the English rendering of what Benedict wrote in the last part of The Letter™:


[…] all the more so in that I am under other obligations to which I have already agreed. [That’s where it seemed to end, before this new part came out.]

Just as a side note, I would like to mention my surprise at the fact that the authors also include Professor Hünermann, who during my pontificate put himself in the spotlight by heading anti-papal initiatives. He participated to a significant extent in the promulgation of the “Kölner Erklärung,” which, in relation to the encyclical “Veritatis Splendor,” attacked in a virulent manner the magisterial authority of the pope especially on questions of moral theology. The Europäische Theologengesellschaft, which he founded, also was initially designed by him as an organization in opposition to the papal magisterium. Afterward, the ecclesial sentiment of many theologians blocked this tendency, making that organization a normal instrument of encounter among theologians.

I am certain that you will have understanding for my declination, and I cordially greet you.


Benedict XVI

This certainly sheds more light on why Benedict declined the honor of writing a preface to the series.

It’s like:

“Thanks for insulting me by asking me to praise this series, when it is in part penned by someone who stood diametrically opposed to the Magisterium… at lease my Magisterium and that of John Paul before me.  I can’t square this circle now and I have better things to do in the future. Thanks but no thanks.  Have a nice day.”

This monumental goat rodeo just gets worse and worse.

Doesn’t this remind you of the seemingly inevitable truth that while a crime is bad, it’s the cover up that really brings you down.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. John V says:

    And Msgr. Viganò still has a job why?

  2. teomatteo says:

    The “why involve Benedict?” seems to be clearer to me. The theology contained therein must not speak for itself since it is coming from a pope who has admitted that ‘he is no theologian’. The intellectual weight of Benedict is what Vigano and company need. This whole silly farce reenforces to me that St. John Paul II was correct, “The vatican doesnt have room for two popes”.

  3. Kathleen10 says:

    Whatever it does it slams the lid shut on the proposal that Benedict is feeble of mind. Slams it and locks it. I don’t care what all he may appear to be, frail and elderly and half-blind, that seems all true, but if he wrote this, his neurons are all firing nicely. As Hilary White says he ought now to be taken at his word about things, including the current occupant of the Chair.

  4. Cranky Old Man says:

    Ah, the Vatican bureaucracy, like all bureaucracies, thinks it can get away with any silliness it comes to mind to foist upon outsiders. Let us call to mind for this bureaucracy’s benefit the warning of Horace: “Vis consili expers mole ruit sua.” “Power separated from good sense collapses into a ruin of its own making.”

  5. Benedict Joseph says:

    It appears Pope Emeritus Benedict was being depicted as taking a long walk off a short pier when in actuality he took one step forward and two steps back on the shallowest ledge. God reward him. Not a perfect situation, but he navigated it as best as can presently be expected. At this moment the “continuity” runs not so deep as some would like us to believe.

  6. maternalView says:

    I thought Benedict was irrelevant to these people so it is amusing they felt the need to get his support for these books on Francis’ “theology”. And when he didn’t they pushed forward anyway. That says a lot about their fear of how these books would be viewed.

  7. Thomistica says:

    Says something about this office of “communication”. They must regard the laity as really stupid.
    Coupla ways to read it. In one perspective, a strong whiff of clericalism, to say the least. (Poor laity, they need to see stronger lines of continuity between the two Popes; they’re so benighted, let’s help them along.). In a second perspective, is this their understanding of “accompanying” the laity by shielding them from what they regard as disturbing truths? So much for “accompaniment”.
    Please put up the lame press release by the office to explain away its actions, available here:
    “Confidential” parts of the letter? Then why did they issue any part of the letter, rather than cherry pick from it what is ideologically convenient?
    Did Pope Benedict get to have any say in what was redacted, as being confidential?

  8. TonyO says:

    Oh. My. Word. !

    Viganò must be a meathead for even thinking to use Benedict’s letter as support for the series. He should have just tossed the project off as impossible and left it at that. So what if he cannot promote them as “approved by Benedict”?

    Well, at least to my thinking, there is no way in the world the Vatican authorities have any reason left to weigh and balance keeping Viganò versus canning him. This is malfeasance of the highest sort with respect to “news” and communications, and warrants immediate firing. He didn’t just “fudge” Benedict’s level of support, he outright contradicted it. It’s willful, it’s pre-meditated, it’s wrong, and and it shows terrible judgment.

  9. chantgirl says:

    How incredibly insulting to ask Benedict to write a glowing review of this set, when one of the authors behaved in such a disruptive way during Benedict’s papacy.

    I agree that this does show that Benedict’s mind is still sharp.

    Well, I guess Benedict did write the letter. I wouldn’t expect him to badmouth Francis in a letter to a third party, but I do sense an ongoing concern to try to keep warring factions within the same barque. At some point, someone is going to need to speak plainly and clearly about the damage that Francis is doing to the Church. The Body of Christ is sick, and needs to be publicly diagnosed and treated. Where is John the Baptist when we need him? It almost seems that (false) unity is trumping truth right now. What good is it if we tolerate heresy within the Church in order to keep everyone under the same tent, if that heresy is going to lead many in the tent to Hell? We sure aren’t going to retain that unity at the end when some go to Heaven and some go to Hell. Better to truthfully acknowledge the problem, even if some people leave the tent.

  10. chantgirl says:

    Two other thoughts:

    Was the third secret of Fatima subjected to such treatment?

    Some trad bloggers (whom I respect greatly) may owe Benedict an apology. While Benedict could have been counted as more of a liberal during VII, his thinking evolved as he grew older. While I still wouldn’t call him a trad, he is much closer to that end of the spectrum than he used to be. I am just as upset as anyone that he abdicated, and that he has failed to speak publicly about the current crisis, but I think that this letter shows that he is not uncritically approving of Francis’ manifesto.

  11. Elizabeth D says:

    Reading this, I am very much more incredulous that Benedict’s letter was attempted to be used by them at all. I am cringing for them. What a horrifying mess.

    So was the way the letter was presented by the Secretariat of Communications an ambiguous but licit “mental reservation” or was it bearing false witness about Pope Benedict in regard to the set of booklets? What a strong confidence they must have had in the humility and silence of Benedict that he would not cry foul.

    P.S. Maybe it was God’s will that Peter Hunermann receive, in this indirect way, so profoundly authoritative a rebuke. The thought crosses my mind that there’s still no one more qualified than the Pope Emeritus to be Prefect of the CDF.

    P.S.S. Greg Burke would never do anything like this.

  12. GregB says:

    It looks like the new church is coming to take the form of a high pressure boiler room marketing operation. Say whatever needs to be said to close the sale. Make the sale and charge the credit card.

  13. adriennep says:

    The Da Vinci Code finally meets the Marx Brothers.

  14. jazzclass says:

    Tune in next week, when we find out what Benedict put in the paragraph-long post script written on the back! Same corrupt time! Same corrupt channel!

  15. fishonthehill says:

    Poke the bear, and what did Vigano expect to happen?

  16. Mike says:

    For a long time now it’s been clear that the mission of the Vatican is not a wholly Catholic one. Confusion of the faithful, the publication of lies and heresies, has eclipsed the salvation of souls.

    Enough is enough. The novusordoist regime clearly has no intention to either (a) knock it off, (b) make amends for decades of damage, and/or (c) take steps not to let it happen again. The SSPX would seem to be much more interested in the salvation of my soul and the nurturing and development of an effective witness to Truth.

  17. Traductora says:

    Like several others here, I am mystified as to why the Vatican would have published any part of the letter or even acknowledged its existence. I’d think they’d want to pretend it had never happened.

    It was a sleazy, stupid stunt, presumably an attempt to imply approval by BXVI, not only of Francis’ incoherent theological notions and his person, but of the heretical and actually anti-BXVI “theology” contained in the booklets. And apparently all done with the confidence that BXVI was too out-of-it to notice, and that the rest of us are so dumb that we’d never dream of questioning anything that comes out of their Lordships’ sacred precincts. So in addition to everything else, it’s a massive insult and a pretty clear sign of what Francis’ coterie thinks of everbody outside it.

  18. servusfidelis says:

    Dear Father,

    Since we read this in the Catechism: CCC 2482 “A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.” The Lord denounces lying as the work of the devil: “You are of your father the devil, . . . there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

    It would seem to me that it is likely that Mgr. Vigano needs a trip to the Confessional . . . especially during Lent.

  19. robtbrown says:

    The latest is that the Italian news agency ANSA was told by “authoritative Vatican sources” that there has [allegedly] been “no manipulation” of the letter. Rather, it is “clearly an artistic photo”.

    If it is art, then Josef Goebbels was a great artist.

  20. Unwilling says:

    “I would like to mention my surprise” that the in re Hunermann paragraph, that seems to explain away what would have been a discomfiting gesture supporting P Francis’ theology, also contains self-referential expressions that had originally ameliorated my concern by introducing a hint of possible forgery. I just get more confused.

  21. Midwest St. Michael says:

    “The Da Vinci Code finally meets the Marx Brothers.”

    Oh adriennep, you just made my day and made me LOL. =)

    Thanks for that in these truly… Twilightzonish™ days in the Church.

  22. Toan says:

    “I love to see Thee bring to naught
    the plans of wily men.
    When simple hearts outwit the wise,
    O Thou art lovliest then.”
    -Frederick Faber, The Will of God

    Amazing how this one blew up in Msgr. Vigano’s face not once, but twice, with the second time making it abundantly clear–not only to orthodox Catholics but to liberal news outlets–that the Vatican’s communications guy is out to deceive the world.

    On one hand, I’m glad to see plans like this be so utterly foiled, and on the other…I’m sad for Msgr. Vigano’s soul, and for our Church. But our Lord is in charge.

  23. Fr. Reader says:

    Not everything should be mixed with that generalization called “Novus Ordo” that is as imaginary as the “Spirit of the Vatican II”. There are many realities, many people, many ideas going in different directions.

  24. Fr. Reader says:

    I wonder if the one hiding, editing and changing the words of our Pope Emeritus wants to lie to us only, or he also is lying to himself. I find really difficult to reconcile the service to the One that is the Truth with this kind of destruction of the truth.

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