It’s not the first tell-all book titled Nothing but the Truth. Music producer Dieter Bohlen had already washed his dirty laundry under this title in 2002. Anyone expecting similarly spicy finds from the Vatican will be disappointed – at least for the most part. However, when Archbishop Gänswein comments on the pontiff emeritus’s bowel function at the end of the book (“He had no problems”), one wonders a bit if something of the sort could not have fit better in Bohlen’s book.
Three parts – one can be skipped
Gänswein’s book has three parts. Part three – and this is the interesting part – consists of a behind-the-scenes look at the Apostolic Palace. Why was Joseph Ratzinger wearing a black tunic on the day of his papal election? How was life in the papal family? Who pulled the strings and where? Gänswein, for example, does not leave a good hair of a nun who lived in the papal house until the end and, in his opinion, Benedict XVI. Boss about a lot. She is said to have instructed architects and masons when Benedict took office to exchange the study and bedroom in the papal apartment. These autobiographical visions are very interesting, although many of them are of interest only to people who deal extensively with the Church and the Vatican. When the author alludes to a German journalist who he believes is spreading disinformation, few will be sure of his identity.
The second third is a retelling of Joseph Ratzinger’s theological ideas and treatises, sometimes in long quotations (“This propaganda is in no way about the welfare of homosexuals, but about the conscious manipulation of existence and radical denial”). Of course, Gänswein wants to use the opportunity to bring the content and work of the former ruler and pope closer to his audience. Most readers interested in the topic are probably already aware of this. You can actually skip these sections and chapters without any problems.
Flatter Benedict fans?
The third part consists of justifications for his and his former boss’ actions. A lengthy segment addresses the outrage surrounding the publication in 2020 of Cardinal Sarah’s book on celibacy, in which Benedict XVI was involved. Perhaps against his will as co-author. Here (and elsewhere) there are either misunderstandings or willful misinterpretations, so that Ratzinger/Benedict is never to blame. In general, Gänswein likes to play down any criticism of Benedict XVI, especially in the media. was expressed. His favorite word here is “arguments”. There is certainly no other word used so frequently in this book. When it came to reactions to the Munich report on abuse, Benedict’s team made a simple mistake, and the reaction to it was this: Argumentative, argumentative, argumentative. in the media and in public places.
One could get the impression that Archbishop Gänswein’s book is an understatement of Benedict XVI. It is about his self-portrait. There are rumors around the Vatican that Gänswein wants to position himself as the new leader of the conservative Benedict fans. One cannot completely resist this impression when reading his book (“Without his work as a theologian, his brain’s pressure cooker would not have had a safety valve and it would not have exploded”).
It is partly about presenting himself and his own role in a good and meaningful light, and partly about presenting the best possible image of the former pope to Benedict’s friends. It goes so far as Georges Ganswein Benedict XVI. He describes himself personally as a “saint”, even if he is only in favor of addressing a formal beatification or process of canonization when the questions surrounding the Munich abuse investigation were clarified.
Conclusion: The book is worth a read for those who really care about the little things of the Vatican and the Curia and want the perspective of a person who was there at all the important moments in second grade. However, you can skip some classes without feeling guilty. And don’t expect big revelations. The revelations (“humiliation is self-helpful”) had already been widely discussed in the media (Francis told Ganswein). Nothing but the Truth is published by Herder Verlag, has 320 pages and costs €28.
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