Archbishop Gänswein gives extensive interview on St Gallen Mafia, synodality and homosexuality in the Church

Your Excellency, this year marks ten years since the resignation of Pope Benedict.  There is enormous moral and doctrinal chaos in many countries of the world - in Europe, in Germany, and especially in the USA and Latin America.  I am of course talking about the Church.  Should we not perhaps yearn  for the calm, theological reflection of Pope Benedict?  Don't we need today his sense of the Church's tradition?

You have now outlined a picture, which looks somewhat dramatic.  From my point of view, the situation is very turbulent indeed, and in turbulent times it is important to have a good anchor, so to speak, which helps not to get lost, not to lose depth and not to lose a clear view of  into the future.  In the Catholic tradition in our Church we have, I believe, many treasures, that still need to be unearthed.   The treasure is also what Pope Benedict left behind during his pontificate.  (Interview continues after video in German)

Yes, but after these 10 years there is still a debate  about the circumstances and reasons for this decision by the Pope.  In the opinion of Your Excellency, are these matters have already been completely clarified, or perhaps one day historians will know these circumstances and these circumstances and these reasons even more deeply?

It is perfectly normal that history and those  who study it - historians - will one day also present their view.  The reasons or reason why Pope Benedict resigned from office need not first be gleaned from history but were given by Pope Benedict himself.  In his statement of 11 February 2013, when, after the consistory, he said, that due to lack of strength he could no longer powerfully exercise office as the successor of Peter.  Therefore, out of love for the Church and for love of Christ, he considers it his duty to renounce this office.

All conjectures that are then made and all conjectures formulated, are only speculations and assumptions, but do not correspond to reality.  There was only this one, ordinary reason.  Naturally,  people like to surround all this resignation with a nimbus of mystery, but there is no reason to embellish.  There is only one thing to do - to accept the Pope's word and really believe it.  This is my deepest conviction because of my knowledge of the situation, the person and what happened.  

One  of the Popes who resigned before Benedict XVI was Celestine V.   He too, in the text announcing his resignation, as far as we know the text today, gives a reason related to health.   Whether this was important to Pope Benedict - after all, Celestine had been canonised.- and so these health reasons for resignation already had a precedent in the past?  

Very briefly.   You mentioned a person whose example of resignation from office could have been used here. The person concerned, Celestine V, Pietro di Murrone was a hermit monk in the mountains, an abbot very famous in his time.  His   appointment to this ministry followed a two-year vacancy, sede vacante.  The Cardinals could not still not agree on the right person, until they chose the saintly Pietro of Murrone, who of course, had to resign in the fifth month.  He was then already 84 years old, in 1294 in July and resigned in December of the same year, i.e. after only five months,  because he had seen, at least so it appears from historical sources, as well as his own statement that he felt unable to lead the Church.  To what extent however, this was specifically due to due to health reasons, I cannot say.  It is dangerous to compare the two cases, but it is true that both resigned from office. Celestine survived another year and a half year.  Benedict - which came as a complete surprise to him - as much as 10 years.  This is a big difference, but it must be made clear that  every Pope has the right to renounce his office, it is a legitimate, necessary thing to do, if necessary.  Perhaps sometimes he also has an obligation to do so if he is simply no longer no longer able to fulfil this ministry due to lack of strength. Pope Benedict has made this decision about himself before his conscience, before God, and I think,   that to make a decision of conscience at this level, with such responsibility is simply an example of human decency.Also, the fact that this decision was made by this man and precisely out of such a sense of decency, should be a reason to respect it as right.  

There is, however, much speculation about the role of the of the so-called St Gallen group or even the St Gallen Mafia, as some claim.  Your Excellency spoke about the St Gallen group in his 2016 speech.  It was formed by Cardinals who were very critical of Pope Benedict.  They were already critical when he was acting as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  Did they limit themselves to waiting passively also for the next conclave during the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, or did they perhaps take certain steps against the Pope during his Pontificate?

You are talking about a group of Cardinals, which was described as follows one of the Cardinals who was a member of it  or participant.  These were Cardinals,  who, especially at the time when Cardinal Ratzinger was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, obviously very clearly - at least internally, in their own way, so to speak, distanced themselves from him or criticised him.  This was not, however, unless I have missed something, proclaimed openly.  In any case, it is clear that when the Cardinals unite to follow a certain line or promote a certain line, then when the conclave comes, they will represent that line in conclave.  I cannot say how far they have gone or whether these Cardinals have taken any measures, I cannot tell you simply because I do not know that.  Nor do I know how much or whether at all, let us say neutrally, Benedict himself knew about this group from St Gallen.  I do not even think that he  was very concerned about it.  How far the influence of these Cardinals was present and perceived at the 2013 conclave, I cannot say.  I do not know.  It is not that.   don't want to say,  I just don't know. I cannot honestly  say anything about it.

However, we can get some information from the ideas of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini,  who used to be the informal president of this group.  During his lifetime he was unable to implement his ideas for the reform of the Church, but six months after  his death, Pope Francis was elected and implemented many of these ideas: Synodality, a new evaluation of moral issues and so on.  Why according to Your Excellency has Pope Francis nevertheless realised so many of Cardinal Martini's dreams?

In one place, however, I must put a question mark.  I do not know to what extent your characterisation here of Cardinal Martini is correct,  it goes beyond my knowledge.  I witnessed on two occasions when Pope Benedict met with Cardinal Martini:  once in Rome and once in Milan during a visit  in 2012 at the Congress of Families in Milan.  Martini was by then very ill and it was very difficult for him to speak at all.  Cardinal Martini was also a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at least once during the period when Joseph Ratzinger was its Prefect.  The fact that they both had theologically different views is clear - it is enough to look at two or three books of both of them.  To what extent, on the other hand Cardinal Martini took a different path in terms of Church politics, I cannot explain.  I do not have a clear knowledge of this issue.  Nor must we forget that Cardinal Martini was appointed Archbishop of Milan while still by Pope John Paul II. It can therefore be assumed, that John Paul II placed his trust in this person at the time.  I know this because I was in that a student at the Gregorian University in Rome that year.  In any case, the then rector Carlo Maria Martini was a respected Biblical scholar and of course a respected personality in the theological world but also beyond it.  I think that one must, however, be very careful with speculations to what extent Cardinal Bergoglio and Cardinal Martini  - both Jesuits - were in contact at the time.  I do not know that either.  I think that one should be very careful about making conjectures, otherwise you can follow a certain line or give a certain interpretation of the development of events, which will perhaps be more one's own view of the matter than a historical account of what really happened.

In Your Excellency's 2016 speech the words were used: "an exceptional pontificate" and many people   thought that Your Excellency was talking about the political theory of Carl Schmitt's political theory.  I also have this impression - Is it true?

No. That was not the case.  It was not speech, but I was presenting at the Gregorian a book by the Italian professor Roberto Regoli, Professor of history.  It was, so to speak, the first attempt to describe the pontificate of Benedict XVI. This was a young professor I know.  He really did a solid job and had the courage to make that first take, the first interpretation.  In my opinion, it is a very good book strictly based on historical facts historical facts, according to the sources available at the time.  The comparison you quoted with Carl Schmitt did not occur to me at the time, I have to say it with all sincerity.  I often read that I followed the path of Schmitt's way of thinking, but that is not true.  I think it was a complete coincidence or....I did not think about him and I did not intend to  cast him, so to speak, in the role of interpreter.  No, my line, or better to say my thinking, was rather the opposite, I was actually assuming - I think this is important - that after the Pontificate of the Polish Pope it is possible,  that after all the well-known history of the 20th century a German would become Pope.

Cardinal Ratzinger spent 23 years in Rome as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  He came at the request of Karol Wojtyla.  He supported the Pontificate of John Paul II and theologically he contributed a great deal to it, that is quite clear.  Between them there was certainly unity of both spirit and heart - otherwise this possibility would not have opened up at all.  Cardinal Ratzinger was the last to believe,  hoped or wished to be his successor to the See of Peter.  Now I can say this from God's perspective,  that Providence willed otherwise.  And from a political perspective, I believe that it is precisely  in the person of Cardinal Ratzinger the Cardinals at that time saw uninterrupted continuity of the Pontificate,  which is why he later left the conclave as Benedict XVI. But Carl Schmitt has written about the law of the Supreme Sovereign, that in a state of emergency he has the power to suspend other existing laws, and Pope Benedict XVI has made just such a precedent.

 So you were familiar with of Carl Schmitt's political theory or not?

Now, however, I must again raise my finger and say that this is only my own opinion based on my interpretation of the person who wrote it, to which I myself have made no reference to, and then a completely false interpretation is introduced into the world, i.e. Carl Schmitt and his theory and what he wanted to achieve politically as an action resulting from his theory has nothing to do with what I said.

Ok.  I have a question about homosexuality in the Church.  Pope Benedict already among his first decisions he decided to  publish a document regulating admission to seminaries and ordination of seminarians with homosexual inclinations.  Why this topic was so important to Pope Benedict?

It was about a document that the then Congregation for Education published with the approval of the Pope, who were also concerned with the matter.  It was a document that was not initiated by Pope Benedict,  but the initiative was taken still during the pontificate of John Paul II. However, as is often the case, a document simply goes through a certain stage of drafting,  and then it is analysed, additions, deletions, corrections are made and deepening takes place, which takes time.  So it took time  for the document initiated by Pope John Paul II, or rather the document initiated by the Congregation, to be then completed under the Pontificate of Benedict XVI, and then also obtain the approval for publication by the then Prefect of the Congregation for Education.  It is a topic that  obviously has in itself an importance and I am convinced that this was realised both before and after its adoption, as well as that it is still taken into account in the selection and formation of priests.

There is a big problem today with the issue of homosexuality.  There are bishops in Germany, in Belgium, in the United States, and also in Italy, who bless homosexual unions,while the bishops in Belgium claim that they have the Pope's approval.  We have not seen such approval, but they say so.  So what should the Vatican, the Pope, do with respect to these bishops?

Please note, as you said yourself, I have read - just as you have heard, - that some bishops invoke the Pope, and the Pope, so to speak, at least has not spoken out in any way against it.  I cannot judge whether he knows this or not.  I can only say that there are clear guidelines,  also on the basis of Catholic anthropology, on the basis of the teaching of the Papal magisterium or the magisterium of the Church, which are unequivocal on this issue.  It is enough to look at the Catechism  of the Church, but it is also enough to look at the at the tradition of the Church.  And if the bishops no longer agree with this teaching, this is rather a reason for an examination of conscience, because it is a public striving for what they themselves want.  It is not decisive what the individual bishop or bishops wants, but that, that the bishop is not obliged to preach his own theories, but to proclaim the Word of God in the name of the Church in the light of Catholic tradition, and also to defend it.  I have nothing more to say on this subject.

We currently have in the Church great controversy about Synodality, the blessing of homosexuality and many other topics.  Some people therefore fear that there will be schism.  But Bishop Georg Bätzing, for example  from Germany, believes that he does not share such fears, and that we can have unity in diversity in the Church in Europe.  We can indeed have such unity if some bishops bless homosexual unions and others do not?  Is this proper unity?

Look, also here you have to distinguish very carefully.  The previous question concerned the role of homosexuality  in relation to the admission of seminarians  to the priesthood.  Now it is about the fact that there are homosexual relationships between men and men, women with women.  To what extent is it expected from the Church to bless these relationships?  Here we have a very clear Church position.  The attitude of the Church has not changed, even if some bishops now openly support this.  However, in doing so they are cutting themselves off  from the teachings of the Church.  Every person can be blessed: whether homosexual or not homosexual, but the blessing of a relationship  is not about blessing one or other person, but the relationship itself as such.  - Which is clearly contrary to the position of the Church, built on the basis of ecclesiastical, Christian, biblical anthropology.  I repeat, if the bishops do not agree with this,  this is more reason for an examination of conscience than for noisy  propaganda - regardless of which country they are from.  Now you have mentioned two or three countries.  I have heard that too.  I can only express my astonishment at this.

Another important topic is that of interreligious dialogue.  Pope Benedict was, it seems to me, cautious about inter-religious dialogue.  In 2000, he published the declaration Dominus Iesus.  But then we had the Pachamama scandal at the Vatican, the Abu Dhabi declaration, the construction of the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi.  How would Pope Benedict feel?  Did he not think they contradicted Dominus Iesus?  Now he is looking down.

Yes, but these things occurred while he was still alive.  You have linked together a number of elements that  do not lie on the same line.  You know, that Dominus Iesus was also published in the year 2000 at the request of Pope John Paul II. So we have simply a question of what is the role of the Church, what is the role of Jesus Christ?  Does it even still matter what the Second Vatican Council preached?  Has anything changed?  Does something need to be rethought in the Church's Magisterium?  Or should some change have been made?  Ultimately, Dominus Iesus is nothing more  than a synthesis of the teaching of Vatican II. Christus Dominus, Lumen Gentium,  as well as a document on interreligious dialogue.  It has attracted considerable public attention, but also criticism - which I could never understand.  It just shows that ultimately one is either ignorant of the teaching of Vatican II, or one does not agree with it.  I believe that the Second Vatican Council is ultimately meant to be a theological and faith-based foundation of the Church, on which the Church's magisterium is then based on.  You have mentioned a number of elements which I do not need to comment on in detail now.  There is a clear position of the Church, the clear position of the Magisterium and this is the binding position, decisive and it is also ultimately this position that guides us into the future.

OK, my next question is as follows: how does Your Excellency judge the future of the Church based on your experience, but also on the Pope Benedict's perspective?  I mean here about Synodality and other misunderstandings.  Many people  in Poland are afraid of schism, as I have already said.  Is Your Excellency also afraid of it or not?

I suspect, I point out that I do not know, but I suspect that now on the question of the Synod you are referring more to Germany.  In Germany it is the case that some years ago this so-called Synodal Path was initiated which ended in March with the definition of  postulates, or some postulates, which are simply not in line with the teaching of the Church as a whole.  It is worth noting that on the question of the synodal path, the very name arouses an already some confusion.  The Synodal Path also has no legal force.  There were bishops,   there were lay people from various organisations, as well as elected or enrolled lay people, who sat down together to talk about Church matters.  They can do that, after all.  However, then they put forward demands which are simply, I repeat once again, incompatible with Church teaching.  And now we must see what the Synod of Bishops will say about such Synodality - in October  this year, and then, in the second round, in October next year.  What are these  proposals, coming from just one conference or from one country, what value will be given to these proposals or demands in the general concert of the bishops' conferences?  I can only hope only that other conferences, that other countries speak with the same sincerity that Pope Francis always demands - parrhesia, meaning sincerity - with the same frankness will say what they think of the German proposals.  If these proposals, so to speak, equally incompatible with the teachings of the Church, were to be enforced by any means, then we would have cause for great tension here.  I can only hope and pray that those who are sensible really recognise this tension  and do everything to avoid division, whereby I am very confident that, with regard to the regarding the Synod of Bishops, what has happened in Germany over the last four years, is a different matter and it is also very worrying.

My final question:

We do not yet know what Your Excellency will  do, but what would he like to do in the coming years?

I have already said several times that I have spoken with Pope Francis on this subject.  He is the one who decides,  and I am the subject of that decision.  So when this decision will be made - we will see.

More or nothing else on this subject,  which is already dragging on for some time, I cannot  say.  It is a question of both respect,  and also a question of reason.  

Thank you very much for talking to us, Your Excellency.  Thank you.


Farmer Carolyn said…
What a bunch of inconsequential nonsense from Ganswein. Obviously, Pope Benedict didn’t confide his inner most fears to him otherwise he would understand about Benedict’s comment of not being eaten by the “wolves”. Did, Pope Benedict think Ganswein might be working for said wolves? Who were/are the wolves? It’s fairy easy to see who they were but Ganswein is too fearful himself to call them out lest he be put in some Nuncio in some far out prefect.
gsk said…
I agree, Farmer Carolyn. Either he’s being circumspect, which makes me wonder why he agreed to the interview, or he’s being honest, which makes it sound like he reads very little and assumes things are fine.(While I’ll admit that we probably subscribe to too many fantastic rumours, there is far more combustible tension in theological/liturgical circles than he wants to acknowledge.) It seems that this encounter took place before the latest word, which demanded that he leave Rome with no assignment, so if he was treading lightly for the sake of his future, it didn’t work. I’ve admired him for years, but now he’s living in a difficult limbo.