Archbishop Gänswein: Francis as “affront” against Benedict

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, secretary to Pope Benedict and prefect of the papal household, suffers to this day in the change from Pope Benedict to Pope Francis, Zeit-Online reports. “I must be honest with myself about this,” Gänswein said. “It is an ache, finding my way with a new role. I have the impression that I live in two worlds.” He said of his relationship to Pope Francis, “I wait every day for another innovation, what will be different today.”

Gänswein candidly admits that at the beginning he found it “an affront” of Francis against his predecessor (Benedict) that the new pope did not move into the apostolic palace. Francis said that he found the papal living quarters “dreary” and he wished to live “with people.” Gänswein says that meanwhile, he and Francis have been able to joke about the controversy.

Gänswein says that for him, there is only one pope. But he still addresses Benedict as “Holy Father.” He continues in his service of Benedict because he promised to be faithful to him “in life and death.”


  1. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to translate it, “Gänswein candidly admits that at the beginning he found it ‘an affront’…” Otherwise it doesn’t make much sense that he and Francis now joke about it. The way it is translated here makes it sound as if it continues to be an affront to him (which may be the case, but that doesn’t seem to be what he’s saying here).

    1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #3:
      I’m trying to avoid uncharitableness and vitriol toward individuals . . . but “on earth peace to people of good will” isn’t accurate. “Until you come again” isn’t accurate. “As we celebrate the memorial of his death” isn’t accurate. “Be in your presence” isn’t accurate. “Even the heavenly powers sing the hymn of your glory” isn’t accurate. I don’t thank God for these renderings. I pray to God to have them taken away.
      I also pray to have superficially “accurate” translations taken away if they go against article 34 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. For curial officials and their followers to substitute their own judgment for the commands of an ecumenical council is abominable.

  2. I rather like the simple headline for Der Zeit‘s newest issue, “Die Welt liebt ihn, aber …” (“The world loves him, but …”) It’s clear that Pope Francis is still generating waves, but the “aber” suggests that the honeymoon has settled into a sometimes uneasy marriage.

    I suspect that the Church has entered into a period of diversity with regard to pontifices. It’s not inconceivable that a later pope will return to a more “high church” liturgical style akin to Pope Benedict’s reign. For centuries, the various archbishops of Canterbury have displayed a great variety of liturgical persuasions. In the last century, both Anglo-Catholic and evangelical clergy have served the see and have served as titular heads of the Communion.

    Pope Francis has wisely steered clear of liturgical issues, instead focusing on the moral and charitable renovation of the Church. This is why, I suspect, that Catholics of different liturgical persuasions support Pope Francis (okay, I certainly do. That makes at least one “high church” type). Still, he is but one bishop with a certain mission. His mission cannot be the exact mission of all popes henceforth.

    1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #6:
      Perhaps the man is in the mold of John XXIII and John Paul I. Then there was Paul VI. And we had two popes since Oct 1978. I suspect that the two or three successors to Francis will tell the tale more fully. We are still in the interim period after a major council. I don’t expect to live to see a final settling of the dust. And if we’re lucky, maybe we never will.

  3. This may sound uncharitable, but I am not sure why we need to hear from (or pay heed to) Archbishop Gaenswein at this point in time. Yes, he was in the limelight during the previous papacy, and will in all likelihood (after the Pope emeritus’s passing?) be rewarded with a prestigious bishopric in Germany, but until then, I for one can quite happily function without “gorgeous George” in the limelight and the newspapers. Apparently, so can Pope Francis.

  4. Helena Mirren could reprise her role as Mrs Wilson here:

    What gift do you think a good servant has that separates them from the others? Its the gift of anticipation. And I’m a good servant; I’m better than good, I’m the best; I’m the perfect servant. I know when they’ll be hungry, and the food is ready. I know when they’ll be tired, and the bed is turned down. I know it before they know it themselves.

    * * *

    I’m the perfect servant; I have no life.

  5. And I don’t mean that entirely ironically: to what extent to we tend to understand discipleship as theosis in terms of: getting out of our own way to let God illuminate our being more, or self-actualization. (In the Christian way of theosis, the latter is accomplished through the former, rather than in spite of it)

  6. Amen to Teresa Berger, to Rita Ferrone and Bill de Haas. I think its time for “Gorgeous Georg” to move on. Not a diocese in Germany, maybe Apostolic Nuncio to a former Soviet republic, or to the Pacific islands.

  7. Didn’t I hear talk that His Grace has always had an interest in the Carthusians? Which would indicate that he has more depth than he’s been given credit. The Charterhouse may very well be a possibility.

    1. @Brian Duffy – comment #16:
      I think many/most would be surprised (and perhaps disappointed) to learn that there is, indeed, substance to Ganswein. Academically and experience-wise, he is quite accomplished, and more than the pretty (and aging) face that many consider him to be. He may well prefer the abbey to the beach.

      1. @Dismas Bede – comment #17:
        I would be happy to know there’s substance to the man. If he is a gifted priest, it’s an absolute mystery (if not a moral crime) why he would relegate himself to a job that could be easily performed by a lay person.

        It seems like a remnant of hierarchical narcissism, to surround oneself with comfortable people, preferably of one’s own class.

        As for the persuasive abilities of a pope, it is possible to say, “Holy Father, I was ordained to serve people like you and other priests, and *you* might be better served by a lay person who could order your schedule and work with equal or superior effectiveness. Here’s a short list of candidates.”

        Why isn’t an archbishop among the sheep? What’s wrong with this picture? And if Archbishop Gänswein is so accomplished, why does he stay in a dead-end job?

      2. @Todd Flowerday – comment #19:
        My (charitable) response to that is that it may simply be a case of one man (GG) truly and deeply loving another (JR), until death parts them.

      3. @Teresa Berger – comment #20:

        I see no need to be circumspect about the relationship of Msgr. Gaenswein and Pope emeritus Benedict. Loving and caring for another person, especially over many years, can be a beautiful demonstration of affection and charity. This is true regardless of the genders of the pair. This love can be romantic, but certainly does not need to be. The “paired saints” come to mind.

        I would not be surprised if Pope Francis knows that Msgr. Gaenswein and Pope emeritus Benedict are close. The fact that Pope Francis hasn’t done anything to impede this relationship suggests that it is not an issue for Francis. I wish Georg and Josef well.

      4. @Teresa Berger – comment #20:
        I can appreciate the closeness of some saints. But among the blessed, there are numerous examples of good friend being separated in order to serve a greater mission. In other words, serving Christ rather than serving the friendship. Francis Xavier going to Asia, for instance.

        It’s unseemly to comment on a private relationship that might be an impediment to one’s calling, except as a pastor or spiritual director. But a bishop is a public person in the Church, and the Church needs good, if not better bishops. I was thinking more along the lines of ecclesiastical coattails rather than love.

      5. @Todd Flowerday – comment #19:
        Isn’t Gaanswein, ex-SSPX? May explain why he doesn’t buy into expanding the role of the laity in the inner sanctum of the Vatican.

      6. @Andrew rex – comment #35:
        Supposedly, he had a *conversion* experience when his career began to take off. Not sure which one happened first – chicken and egg situation probably.

      7. @Dismas Bede – comment #18:

        I would not be surprised to learn that about Abp. Gänswein.

        I would, however, be surprised — and very much so — if he indeed prefers the cloistered life at the abbey. He seems to love being in the limelight a bit too much. Why else would he continue to talk to the reporters about, well, anything?

  8. As many parish and priest-secretaries will tell you it is always different when a new pastor, bishops, or more come to town. They’re different.

    You get used to one and have to adapt to another. If one was widely predictable and the next one tends to shoot from the hip, it will always be an uneasy transition. With men like these it’s extra tough because you just don’t work for them, you, eat, live, and do everything with them.

    In addition, no Master of the Papal Household has had to juggle both a new, impulsive, yet very good pope and an emeritus pope, in failing health together. Give this poor guy a break!

  9. This thread certainly shows Pray Tell commentators at their least attractive – though I guess it may be a relief to some that, whereas we have a Pope who likes to refrain from harsh statements and pontifications, we still have Mr Flowerday at comment 19 and on so many other occasions to tell us exactly what should happen.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #25:

        Todd, I don’t presume to know what Timothy was thinking, nor do I agree with everything he wrote about your post. I suspect that Timothy may have been reacting to something that struck me in the overall tenor of the thread (not your post) as I read through it – at times it seemed to veer into a little bit of tut-tutting and tsk-tsking.

        I think it is a fine line because on one hand, some people are public figures. That carries a certain accountability, and what they say/do does matter and affects other people. It is fair to call them out on those things. I think, for example, that it is a fair point to question whether the episcopacy should be conferred on people without direct pastoral responsibility.

        On the other hand, I think many people don’t know all the facets of GGs life (even the public ones) and there is some personal judgement involved, especially when a person’s character and its substance is in question. By its nature, it sometimes includes a fair amount of assumption, and can give a semblance of purist congratulation at the “correct” and “Gospel-faithful” vision of the Church that we espouse (and practice). Because it is a fine line between the two, I think sometimes one is understood where the other was intended.

  10. I think I share Timothy’s sentiment, to a degree, although not about Todd in particular.

    Wondering aloud why we need to hear from or pay attention to Abp. Gaenswein, wishing him well on a quick and distant exile, questioning his motives… not very uplifting fare. I thank the voices of sympathy in this thread.

    1. @Jeffrey Pinyan (@PrayingTheMass) – comment #27:

      What Abp. Gänswein said is anything but “very uplifting fare” either, is it? He has already said pretty much the same thing before (i.e., how hard and challenging it has been for him), and now, it looks like he’s done it all over again.

      Given the unique position he’s in, to “live in two worlds,” that is, and knowing full well how his every word would be splashed across the media for further nitpicking and speculation, he really should (or could) have been more cautious with his words.

      Being honest with oneself need not involve airing one’s grievances over and over again. There really is something to be said for bearing the cross in solitude and silence.

  11. Perhaps this thread is best retired. But I’m still concerned about the whiff of clericalism: how dare we pontificate on a bishop when there are heretics out there to be vilified.

    I think I’ve been clear in stating that Archbishop Gänswein’s personal life is his own business.

    That said, his public statements are troubling. They show something, perhaps, that is none of our business, that intrudes on church unity, and is not really a liturgical topic. It also plays up on the meme of disruption between two popes, so maybe we can ask: whose agenda is this? Maybe we’re not to be taken in by random stories from German media outlets.

    I wish the man well. I hope he finds a fruitful ministry leading a diocese as he’s been called and ordained to do.

    1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #29:
      Read the article I have linked on the post other half of implementing the Council that Pope Francis has in mind. It is the type of vitriolic conversation being had on all blog comments that denigrates people, whether clergy or laity that is pushing people away from the Church and making her unattractive to the world, or what Pope Francis calls, making the Church worldly!

      1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #31:
        How hypocritical…Todd has been very generous in his reply to you. Your blog and some of your comments on PTB reach the same level of hypocrisy, denigration, unattractiveness, and calumny that you now accuse others – how sad. You have repeatedly patted yourself on the back when you have been mentioned by Fr. Z on his and your dribble sites (talk about blog sites and no, that is not what Francis means by the other half of VII)……and Z hit a new low last week by copying/pasting Rush Limbaugh and the Acton Institute in a veiled attempt at *correcting* Francis.

        Let’s leave it at what three of us stated above – it is time for us & the church to move on from Ganswein. (not trying to be uncharitable – just stating a reality)

      2. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #31:
        The words I find in this blog here nourish, strengthen and give expression to faith – whether I agree with them or not.

        Unfortunately, I would suggest that what has made the church unattractive to the world isn’t blog comments – it is the church’s own deliberate, worldy actions which have lacked in accountability, transparency and fidelity to it’s avocation.

      3. @Steven Mummy – comment #38:
        The Church is we, clergy and laity together, wherever WE are uncharitable WE give poor witness especially on the parochial level. Of course some sins against charity are mortal sins but none are unforgivable!

      4. @Steven Mummy – comment #38:
        Well said, Mr. Mummy – you might enjoy this editorial:

        It points out that Allan is like the pot calling the kettle black. Some significant opinions:
        – “It is time to put aside such weak attempts to fashion a papacy after one’s own wishes. “Continuity” and “discontinuity” are now the equivalent of an ecclesial sound bite. As is often the case with sound bites that aspire to capture complex realities, they end up conveying very little meaning”
        (see Allan’s comment and *conveying very little meaning*)
        – “Whatever magnificence of thought and action John Paul and Benedict brought to the modern papacy, it was also obvious that serious flaws and deep corruption had taken over significant areas of the church and its governing apparatus. The assembled cardinals recognized the need for deep change. They voted for it”
        – “The fact is, they knew things needed to change, change radically and change quickly. Under the previous two papacies, the church had lost an enormous amount of moral credibility. Each time a new wave of abuse was unearthed in another country and the patterns played out with a numbing familiarity, the world became more convinced that the church was corrupt and that its leadership was beyond accountability.”

  12. It should now be noted Msgr. Gänswein has denied that he made these statements as was reported in La Stampa and Radio Vaticana. See the recent report from

    1. @Scott Smith – comment #42:

      Actually, according to the report at he didn’t deny saying this. Rather, he said: “I don’t know any [more] what I said. I spoke some months ago with a journalist, but it was no interview.” {“Ich weiß nicht [mehr], was ich sagte. Ich sprach vor einigen Monaten mit einem Journalisten, aber es war kein Interview.”} See
      He also says it is “nonsense” {Quatsch} that he is opposed to Francis.

  13. If Archbishop Ganswein made these comments, I think they are inappropriate. They suggest a disgruntled co-worker and employee. In his delicate position, he should have far more discretion. Perhaps as much to the point, why does a retired Pope require an archbishop as his private secretary? Why does the Archbishop not have a pastoral charge in line with his rank? The fact he was made an archbishop just before Benedict’s retirement speaks to me of patronage and everything that is wrong with a kingly court at the heart of the church militant. I find the whole business of this archbishop acting as a liason between two popes inappropriate.

  14. I think this bishop can learn to act more like Jesus. He needs to have a church he can pastor and know the realities of serving God’s people, their life ‘s and faith challenges and their difficulties with adherence to what the church teaches. I believe he will get transformed by directly serving God’s people instead of remaining as a caretaker to the pope emeritus. Let us see what God’s plans are for him. I hope it includes making him a servant of the poor and a personal spiritual transformation.

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