Reading Benedict Through Francis?

Oh for a courageous, truly Catholic Pope!

As two of my favourite blogs (this one and this one) have mentioned the story about Benedict allegedly saying to the old lady she can be “more useful” if she remains a Proddie, I would like to offer my two very devalued liras. Bearing in mind, of course, that I wasn’t there. I would like to examine firstly whether Benedict would say that, and secondly why we now get to read such things from the Vatican press.

1. Did Benedict really say it?

I doubt it. I doubt it because it does not seem to me in line with the man; who, by all his deficits in issues of sound Catholicism, certainly knows the fundamental difference between a Catholic and a Protestant. It’s just not very credible to my ears that Benedict would have said to her “don’t get on board the Barque of Peter. You are better off swimming alone in the cold waters of rebellion”.

Rather, I think it far more probable he would have said something on the line that it is better to wait until she is sure of what she is doing, and it would not be good to convert out of a passing emotion and go back to being a Protestant afterwards. I wasn’t there, but it seems to me this is the kind of answer everyone would give to someone wanting to convert “in a time of crisis”. He must have sensed when the crisis is away, so is the conversion. Wonderfully emotional, the gentler sex.

I would also like to know the exact source of the statement. Did the lady truly use those very words? Did she quote Benedict? In which context? How long afterwards? By whom have these alleged words of her been reported to the Vatican Press?

How many people do you know who, after the fact, would initially imply or suggest, and at some point state it as fact, that something was said to them which in fact wasn’t? I know a couple of those. Nay, more. Women, actually, all of them; all of them looking for validation either for a controversial choice, or one about which they have lingering doubts. 

Furthermore: how often in your daily life are you ready to attribute some very bad words to someone, just because it is reported that someone else, now dead, would have said that he has said it? Really? If your standards are so low I prefer not to talk to you or to anyone you know, and thank you very much. 

The Pontiff Emeritus is still alive. I am sure this story is bound to make many suffer. Perhaps Benedict could be persuaded to say a word?

2. Why does the Vatican publish the story as it did?

Ah, that is easy. Because they want you to read Benedict through Francis, that’s why. They want you to think Benedict isn’t really different from Francis in his theology, merely more conservative in his sartorial choices. This is very much in tune with this Papacy; which, when it doesn’t allow Benedict to be insulted, allows him to be misrepresented. Yes, Benedict has never been a model of orthodoxy like the Pre-Conciliar Popes. But it certainly cannot be denied that this papacy is a brutal rupture even compared to the former one… Heck, it is a brutal rupture even compared to Paul VI’s…

Mind, I do agree that Francis is V II on steroids, and Benedict was still V II; with a foot on the brakes perhaps, but still V II. But to put the two in the same pan is the same as stating that Elvis Presley is in the end the same as Lady Gaga, because Elvis Presley was already different from Pat Boone. Feel free to pick different singers if you like, I think you know what I mean.

If Benedict had Catholic influenza, Francis has Catholic syphilis.

Benedict is being here, if you ask me, deliberately Francis-ised in order to let the latter appear less scandalous. The only result of this is, though, that such an exercise only makes the former appear more scandalous. If you are a sound Catholic, there is. If you aren’t, and most aren’t, this will probably work as another dose of tranquilliser, and the suitably and comfortably numbed nuCatholic will go to sleep with another dose of Catholic Valium, telling himself that all is well and the world is, actually, rather peaceful.

By all Benedict’s shortcomings, and the questionable and at times horrible things he has said and done before and after becoming Pope, I allow myself not to buy this one.

Let me end with a short, sad reflection:

Pius XII managed to covert the Chief Rabbi of Rome.

Benedict obviously didn’t manage to convert a Protestant quisque de populo.

Francis justifies fears he might be about to be converted to Judaism.


Posted on February 4, 2014, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 44 Comments.

  1. It doesn’t strike me as credible that the man who signed off on ‘Dominus Iesus’ would give such ‘advice’.

    I hope Benedict will provide us with his input.

  2. I believe you are spot on. I read Rorate yesterday and felt unsettled all day about the possibility of Benedict saying such a thing, but I had my doubts as to the veracity of the account. Today, on Mr. Verrechio’s site, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth with the revelation about Benedict and I began to doubt my instincts. Poor Benedict–I hope he refutes the account, but with his seeming vow to retire into obscurity, I don’t think it will happen. I suspect he is suffering so. It’s all so bizarre–something is afoot.

  3. I would truly hope this isn’t true, and the church hasn’t reached this low. While Cardinal Ratzinger had a modernist streak, In his later years he was pretty orthodox minded. Make no mistake about it, the enemy of tradition and orthodoxy is within the walls of the vatican.

  4. But it is that which the E&W Hierarchy and a proliferation of clergy have been advising for years – “stay where you are, you are doing good work there”!

    I was disturbed by the Rorate report.

  5. I did not believe it. Either the heretic herself has misinterpreted reality (let’s face it she has form or she wouldn’t be a protestant), or Pope Benedict is stupid which he most certainly is not. Either way she’s not credible since a credible protestant would not obey the Pope which or whether. 🙂

  6. A very balanced article. The story – so far, from what (very) little I’ve read of it, is AFAICS a rumour. And the Net is full of those. No source is given – and if academics are keen on anything, they are keen on references & footnotes, because that allows independent verification. So many things on the Net, when checked against the sources alleged for them, turn out to be mangled – the likelihood of this being a mangling of what he actually said, seems to be very high.

  7. I agree with you, it sounds out of character for Benedict. My first thought on this story was like yours, that he was cautioning someone in crisis not to do something rash. The Catholic Church isn’t some cult that pounces on people when they’re emotionally upset and confused; you need to be sure that you really want to convert.

    Also, I remember that we’ve been lied to before in this way. Remember last summer, when it was reported that Benedict XVI had a vision from God that he should retire, to make way for the Chosen One, i.e. His Humbleness? That turned out to be a complete fabrication. And though Benedict didn’t himself issue a press release denying it, he has ways of getting a message out if he really wants to. So if people start making hay out of this, he can see to it that the truth is told, if that’s what he wants.

  8. I’m not saying you did it, Mundabor, but I ask others not to shoot the messenger.

    As for its believability or not, let us just recall the bizarre events surrounding the last few years (including the public Catholic communion) of Brother Roger of Taizé, who never joined the Church either. You will understand this report better (the wikipedia information on him and such events is trustworthy and verified).


    • Yes, as you said, I certainly did not shoot the messenger, but thought I would add my thoughts.

      As to Ratzinger, Assisi III would be sufficient to disqualify him as “orthodox Pope” forever; but I also recall horrible things said pretty much in… praise of Luther, and readign other very questionable statement in the “Introduction to Catholicism” he never recalled. It would be a mistake now to think Ratzinger was all good, and Francis is all bad (well, perhaps he is).

      The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree. Ratzinger has made half the tree out of which this poisoned apple has fallen.


    • Thank you. I stick to the Brother Roger example for obvious reasons. That is exactly the same kind of situation: a Protestant surrounded by Catholics, who remained a Protestant and never converted…etc.

      Additionally, Vatican Radio (and its German section) is not exactly known for making stories up out of nothing. It is very likely something that Spath spoke openly and probably proudly to all her certainly many acquaintancies in the German-speaking Vatican community – even I had heard this story before, told the same way, and not from the same source. The story has not been edited, corrected or altered by Vatican Radio in any way since it was posted.

  9. The poster of one of these blogs blocked me from his email when I wrote him suggesting it was bad form to jump on Benedict when even Cardinals are taking shots at him. And I thought crazy liberal, progressives where close-minded!

    This brings up something that sincerely puzzles me about some trads–how can they profess love for Christ’s Bride, and then publish really nasty stories about a retired but still living with us Vicar of Christ? Have they not heard about the natural law obligations of filial piety? When we know, for a fact, that the leadership of the Church is acting loony, well, call ’em on it. But when you have “heard” a “story” that happened years ago, you are rumor-mongering, and about Christ’s Vicar.

    As a post on one of these blogs said, Summorum Pontificum was the greatest gift to the Church in 50 years. We should show reverence for the Holy Father who gave it to us–even with all his faults and missteps he may have made while on the Chair of Peter.

    • Ah, I must disagree there.
      With this metre, one would shoot at me all day for criticising Francis.
      If one thinks that the truth and the malaise of the current church is better served by putting to light certain facts, than so be it. Nowhere have I read this as a fact, and it is constantly pointed out it might not be true.
      It, is though, disquieting that it still might be true – not very probable, I say, but possible – and that the Vatican press, of all people, would bounce this one.

  10. It didn’t strike me as credible either. Thank you for agreeing with me 🙂 and explaining the reasons much better than I ever could! God bless you.

  11. Im sorry here but I have to say it: milk two weeks after the expiration date and milk two months after the expiration date….one might taste more disgusting than the other, but they are both no good. Ratzinger sold the Church down the river, and he had a LOT more to do with the current state of it than Francis did. Francis is merely following the groundwork that Benedict (than Fr. Ratzinger) helped lay down decades ago.

    • I never read Ratzinger promote thi skind of senseless new age crap Francis is pushing like it’s going out to fashion.
      I refuse to make, as I have written, the one’s influenza responsible for the other’s syphilis.

  12. I doubted this when I heard it, for all his short comings, there were plenty we are talking about the Pope who gave Anglicans a way to cross into the True Church of Christ. And if this lady was under duress as she says, any person would have given the same advice.

    I suspect your first part is what’s going on here. They are trying to make Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI look the same. The two are totally different, in style, and in substance even if they have their moments of convergence.

  13. My hat down in front of you Mundabor! You are a genius, writing openly and truthfully about this! I immediately felt the same way… Holy Spirit must guide you strongly, if even Rorate-caeli couldn’t misled your own spirit… Congratulation, you are NOT FOR SALE!!! This is extremely rare these days… Shining gold amongst the ashes… You are trustworthy in your opinions and points of view… THANKS!!!

    • Thanks, but just for clarity:

      1. I am not guided by the Holy Spirit. I am a wretched sinner who can write rather well. Period.
      2. Rorate has not misled me, nor have they tried. They have echoed news the Vatican press had published themselves and which, if confirmed, would be very disturbing.
      Don’t shoot on the pianist.
      Heavens, what is a poor blogger to do if every time he quotes a vatican source he is accused of being “misleading”…

    • It is comments like this that often make me want to give up blogging.

      There I was having a nice Sunday with my family, after beautiful Candlemas ceremonies and visiting my mother in the cemetery. Then hours later I read this news (which repeated an information which I once heard in Rome from an acquaintance who has no connection to Vatican Radio), and a couple of hours more a friend suggests I should post it.

      And there I go wasting my time to do the best possible translation from a language I really don’t translate as well as, for instance, French or Spanish or Italian.

      I even add a note, saying that conversion in a personal crisis is truly unadvisable.

      And I’m villified, by mail and for instance above, by merely translating a Vatican dispatch…

      Next Sunday I know I won’t be wasting my time.


  14. Don’t you see that there’s a real demolition plan, organised as if it were an advertising campaign ? Look at the big interview in all the Jesuit magazines published worldwide, then came the ‘Rolling Stone’ article, very lengthy too, and particularly hostile to Benedict XVI, now this « revelation » coming from « a Vatican source ». Those wolves inside the Vatican who had released the term of « Panzerkardidal », which was happily reproduced by the main stream media, are now directing the Panzer directly against Benedict in order to crush the man and his work.

    Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat !

  15. I actually think he could have said it. But I would not–at this point–have posted it. As for villifying anyone, wow, if suggesting a post isn’t a wise thing to do, imagine how Ratzinger feels, with all the “probably’s” and “likelys” just in this combox! Rumor is rumor, whether from a blog or a press office, and when it touches a person’s character and good name…well, that should be obvious to well-formed Catholics.

    • Rumours are also news, though, if the rumour has a message. Here the messages are at least two:
      1. You say yourself he could have said it. This says something. Pope Pius XII he ain’t.
      2. The Vatican outlet thought we needed to be informed. Again, this is a piece of factual news that goes beyond the rumour.

      I think New Catholic resented the adjective “misleading”, which implies Rorate is set upon putting his readers on a wrong route concerning Benedict’s thinking and papacy. I do not think at all this is the case, but I think the adjective was uncalled for, and have therefore commented on it. Again, I do not think malice was involved, merely an unfortunate choice of words.

      Note, though, that NC also refers to hostile emails, and as I receive comments of the sort he mentions I can easily imagine their content.

      Personally I adopt a Teflon approach: no email so everything is written is officially meant for publication, and the disturbers of (my) peace are trashed and immediately banned.

      Works a treat.


  16. After reading the Rorate Caeli story, I ran a series of mental permutations about the probability of Benedict making such a statement, and I came out in the “I think he could have said it camp”.
    First of all, to assume Mrs. Spath lied or made this up, one has to assume malice. Why?
    Second, if Benedict could do Assisi III, not only breaking the First Commandment in the process, but more importantly REINFORCING HERETICS, HEATHENS AND JEWS IN THEIR ERROR, why would he have any reservations about advising a subordinate not to convert to Catholicism. If he really believed that there is no salvation outside the Church, he would have gathered all those wretched sinners at Assisi and ‘splained to them the consequences of their erroneous ways.
    Thirdly, so what if Mrs Spath was going through a crisis at the time. If Benedict took seriously the Church teaching that there is no salvation outside of the Church, then he would have taken the opportunity (what I would describe as a Godsend) that presented itself and saved poor Mrs Spaths soul from eternal …. you get my drift. Actually, if Benedict took his Catholicism seriously, he would have been reminding poor Mrs Spath at every opportunity he got. This silly argument about “not converting during a personal crisis” is ridiculous. Either you believe or you don’t that there is no salvation outside the Church. And if you believe that which the Church has taught for 1950 years, saving poor Mrs Spath’s soul would have been his top priority. What is the point of waiting for the crisis to pass, not converting, and then ending up in the shi’a, as the English would say.
    With respect to the enemies of the Church on the inside, there is nothing that these evil men can do to destroy the Bride of Christ. They can’t even interrupt the advance of the LTM and the restoration by a remnant of a remnant. How pathetic is that? At the end of the day, whatever one thinks of Benedict is irrelevant. And if this episode reflects badly on Benedict, then it reflects even more on the modernists who are by far worse than he was. On the other hand, anything bad that Benedict did, doesn’t change one iota of the good that he did and/or tried to do. No sense making a saint out of him. We will have two too many in the near future as it is.
    Anyways, those are my 2 cents.
    PS NC, you stay in on Sundays and break stories if they are there. You are one of the few credible sources out there as far as I’m concerned. It is time we all man up, (or grow a pair as the case may be) and take the fight to the enemy. I think He expects this of us.
    Viva Cristo Rey

    • First: to justify her not converting. “I wanted to, my friends, but benedict himself told me I can be more useful as a Protestant”. I heard this story more than a couple of times. All women. All German. I think I know the type.

      Second: because in his flawed way he might have thought Assisi is still a way to lead people to Catholicism. Stupid, I know, but thinkable; and still very different from saying “no, wait, you are more useful as a Proddie”.

      Third: I think the drift is wrong. Conversion must be seriously wanted, not the result of an emotional bout. If a whining Hindu woman came to me crying and saying “Oh Mundabor, I want to convert, my boyfriend just left me!”, I would say to her “when you really mean it, you’re welcome”. If we were to follow your train of thoughts we should go around baptising people at random, or getting them drunk to have them converted.

      You think like a man. Women don’t. Benedict knows it, methinks.

      In the end, everything is irrelevant and everything will go according to God’s plan. Me, you, this blog, the planet. But I write this blog, and you read it. So in our small ways, smalls ways are also relevant in the great scheme of things. That’s why every Hail Mary counts.


    • Your first point: fair enough. Could be that Mrs Spath is a lutheran chauvinist who found herself in a Kiplinigian „Great Game” and was just “doing her part” for the home team. Very credible explanation. Still no explanation for why Benedict didn’t address this issue when it was published and if it is a lie. From where I sit, his job depends on just such a denial. If for not other reason then to “not spread confusion” among the faithful.

      With respect to your second point, I think it is fair to say that on the surface, Assisi was designed to “reinforce” heretics, heathen and Jews in their error. Sure as hell wasn’t meant to reach out and “dialogue about converting” them to the one true Faith. If I was an animist, and thinking about converting to Catholicism, seeing Assisi, and seeing my witch doctor making a animal sacrifice in a Catholic Church, where the crucifix was removed or covered up in order not to offend said witch doctor (and by extension me) would definitely make me think twice. But that could be just me.

      With respect to your third point, I am not sure how to understand the point that conversion must be seriously wanted. The Poles have a saying that nothing bad happens that doesn’t turn out for the best. Maybe it’s just the Pole psyche coming out in me, but it would appear that any thought of conversion is nothing more than somebody’s conscience “crying out for help”. Could also be the moment when that person has to think rationally and logically to overcome said crisis. Logical and rational thinking are very conducive to “converting to Catholicism” if you ask me. And this could be the underlying process at work, maybe even with a supernatural element thrown in. However, reducing this process to the level of “get her drunk and sell her a lottery ticket” is not quite representative of this type of situation. But I will say this; being drunk can go a long way to help a prospective convert go through the modernist/liberal version of the RCAI. And staying drunk during this process could create serious liver ailments, since one would have to stay drunk for quite a long time.

      But I digress.

      And yes, every little Hail Mary counts.

      PS Great video from Michael Voris that goes a long way in debunking the “if we are nice and joyful, people will want to become nice and joyful Catholics just like us” meme.

    • First point: methinks, the man is mentioned in countless books. I don’t think he indulges in such exercises as to correct everythign everyone says he woudl have said. I might be wrong, of course.

      On the second: I agree with you. But I do not think this was Benedict’s idea of the exercise. Which is why I made the point.

      On the third: conversion must be seriously wanted. An emotional person might just enjoy the “thinking” of “converting”. Heavens, one doesn’t need to be much around a woman to see this kind of emotionalism. In Italy we mention Catullus: what a woman says, you can write in the water and in the wind. Unless she is serious, of course.


  17. Ubi Maria, ibi Ecclesia

    It is the use of cognitive reframing. It is also called cognitive restructuring.

  18. In the 2007 book “Frauen im Vatikan” (Women in the Vatican) by Gudrun Sailer (a journalist at Radio Vatican), Mrs. Spath was one of the featured women working in the Vatican. On page 91 of the German version one can read the story about Cardinal Ratzinger telling her not to convert. This is probably the source for Radio Vatican’s article as it is a nearly identical quote. As the book was published at a time when Ratzinger was still the pope and the story has never been refuted, it is quite clear that the story is obviously true.

    • Interesting, but would Ratzinger read or care to deny any story circulating on any book? Particularly if the book does not appear to be a best seller? The book appear neo-feminist to me.

      Still: interesting.


    • Thank you. I received a second confirmation by mail of this content, by a reader who bought the book via a while ago, and considered both (along with my recollection from the time) sufficient to attribute the quote to Ms. Gudrun Sailer, the probable writer of the Vatican Radio piece.

    • Yes, so it appears Ms Sailer is the probable source. It would be interesting, if anyone knows her, to ask her for more details about this. If all she has is what the deceased lady said, we are on square one as far as the fact is concerned: the old lady might have “embellished” to justify her not converting. If ms Sailer can put more meat on the grill (say: Benedict said this in the presence of people who are still alive, and can confirm it to this day), then the stated facts might be true.


  19. Who can say? Except the Pope himself? Certainly the days of greatly encouraged conversions a things of the past, but I doubt Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, would give such advice anymore. Convert! Convert! before it’s too late.

    As for reading Benedict Francis through, one might as well read Christ through Nietzsche.

    not so incidentally “Pope Coming To Israel As ‘Che Guevera of Palestinians'”

    correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t sir Che a bloody, ruthless, commie, God hating nietzschean ‘superman’? So, no dissonance there.

    • I find the linked article rather exaggerated, but then the undertones of “the Pope of the oppressed” will be there, I am sure.

      I do not know about Nietzschean, but a bloody commie bastard he was without a doubt. Read his “diary in Bolivia” and see for yourself.


  20. Well, they knew each other for more than 30 years and she translated some of his writings long before he became pope. She even accompanied him, as well as JPII on trips abroad, I would assume he knew about the book. Furthermore – having read the book myself – to call it feminist would be laughable…it simply gives a rather unique perspective into a few of the women working in the Vactican – half of them are nuns. But that is beyond the point. I am still relatively amazed how much fuss this story is causing.

  21. There’s a good book, ‘Architects Of The Culture Of Death’ by Benjamin Wiker, a Catholic Ethic’s Professor. It takes a brief look at Nietzsche (could the man have a more cumbersome name to spell?) amongst other culture of deathites Icons, of the past couple of hundred years. People either love or hate his book (some call it ‘character assasination – not hard when the topical targets were indisputable flag wavers of the culture of death. But then people don’t really like seeing the nasties about their heroes. Whatever, his facts are right.

  22. To Mundabor

    Quote: “First: to justify her not converting. “I wanted to, my friends, but benedict himself told me I can be more useful as a Protestant”. I heard this story more than a couple of times. All women. All German. I think I know the type.”

    Do you count the German bishops amongst these women?

    Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat!

  23. I think the story ist true, but you have to remember the desaster converted Uta Ranke Heinemann, has caused in the german catholic church.
    There exist some converted catholic women which explain to have entered catholic church to change her or try to “reconcile” protestant and catholic church.
    Maybe Benedikt knew a conversion of Mrs, Spath would led to similar probelms, like the conversion of U. Heinemann and Maria von Welser (assistant leader of Unicef germany).

    • Yes, that would be another German trait. “I did it in order to improve you”.
      Or think of Magdi Allam, who has made scandalous statements after his “conversion”.

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