Can someone really "ghostwrite" an encyclical for the Pope?

In an article I read in the National Catholic Register this morning, it said that the Pope’s encyclical on the environment is expected to “reaffirm the Church’s teaching on safeguarding the environment and controversially endorse the science of anthropogenic climate change.”

If the encyclical states that man caused climate change, am I bound to obey that teaching as being an aspect of faith and morals? Would such an encyclical be considered infallible?

Next, and more concerning, is the statement that suggests that there is a delay in publishing the encyclical because the Pope wasn’t happy with the work of his ghost writer: "Magister said the Pope feared the first draft — which had been ghostwritten by his theologian friend from Argentina, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández — would have been “demolished” by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “once it had gotten into his hands.”

Has it been common in the Church for someone other than the Pope to write an encyclical? I find this very disturbing.

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Why do you find that disturbing? There is a bizarre tendency for people to think that, simply because they know to construct a basic sentence, they are writers. It’s comparable to suggesting that someone who knows how to balance a checkbook is an accountant. I would expect the pope to rely on experts to assist him – and that includes having a professional writer work with him to express his thoughts clearly.

It’s doubtful the pope will make an ex cathedra teaching regarding climate issues, but as is so often pointed out on these boards, we do have a duty to take seriously the words of the pontiff and his teaching.

Whether or not “climate change” is a man-made or natural occurrence does not fall under the category of “faith and morals”. The Pope is free to have his opinion about the matter, but it is certainly not binding on Catholics to believe his conclusions.

You may be finding it “disturbing” because you’re neglecting a large part of the article. Why do you ignore the statements by Fr. Lombardi, taking instead the statements of a blogger as absolute truth?

The use of “ghost writers” should not be scandalous. Indeed, if you look at the output of writings and speeches that a Pope makes, it is difficult to imagine him managing that all by himself, unless writing was all that he did.

It is not as though he has some random person churn something out and them he signs off on it without even looking at it. He would be working with the person to make sure it says what he wants it to say. It is still much more his work than that of the ghost writer.

As for the content of the forthcoming encyclical, I think we would do well to suspend judgment until we actually read it. There’s a lot of conjecture and hearsay. But until we have the document in hand, there’s really nothing to think about except for how we plan to seriously consider what the pope will be trying to tell us.

**Convert 2000 **

Does President Obama personally, and all by himself, write every word of every piece of draft legislation that is sent to the Congress to be voted on? Does he get no input of any kind from the appropriate government department – State, the Treasury, whatever – or from any advisers? Does he allow no one but himself to set pen to paper, or finger to keyboard?

In other words, does President Obama share your abhorrence of ghost writers?

Is President Obama the Pope?

Do you really need my help to find the answer to that question?

My point being that comparing the President of the USA’s responsibilities regarding the drafting of legislation and the Supreme Pontiff’s responsibilities regarding the writing of an encyclical doesn’t present an accurate analogy.

Yes, this is pretty common. Of course, it varies by Pope–some write more themselves than others. It also usually gets reviewed by various people too. I don’t see why this is disturbing. Not all Popes are great writers or theologians. It’s good for them to get help in carrying out their ministry.

What matters is how the Pope promulgates it. If he promulgates it as his own, it is endowed with his authority and charisms.

I write advertising articles for local businesses - many steps down from the Pope’s ghostwriters! But it’s the same principle; the business owners know their business inside and out, but I’m the one who knows how to write. The owners get final say on content - I can’t just make things up. :slight_smile:

Even if the Pope is an excellent writer, he’s a very busy man. There is no reason he should waste his time slaving over drafts.

Thanks for your replies - maybe it was naive of me, but I thought that the Pope would only write an encyclical when he had something profound or significant the Lord had laid upon his heart to share with the faithful; isn’t there something “below” a papal encyclical for disseminating good, virtuous information that was not written by the pope? According to papal encyclical online, " A Papal Encyclical is the name typically given to a letter written by a Pope to a particular audience of Bishops. This audience of Bishops may be all of the Bishops in a specific country or all of the Bishops in all countries throughout the world" (italics are mine)

Exactly. We are to obey any instruction contained in an encyclical as authoritative but we don’t have to agree with the science. If the Pope says Catholics must do more to help conservation efforts then we must make that effort.

Of course as noted above, an encyclical’s “audience” is a body of Bishops. It is up to each ordinary to convey to his flock how those efforts should be formed based on where the diocese is, what challenges are also being faced locally, etc. For example, I don’t expect that the Bishops in Syria are going to put a lot of emphasis on climate with ISIS at the door. But Bishops in western countries will probably make it more of a priority.

Close enough to make my point.

One famous example: Pope Pius XI’s encyclical “Mit brennender Sorge” was written by the future Pope Pius XII, then Card. Eugenie Pacelli, who was eminently (pun intended) expert in German affairs and fluent in the German language.

If that is the case I wonder why the Pope offers an opinion on something not central to Catholic belief. If he is proven wrong it will harm the Church’s credibility.

I would suggest that it would only harm the Church’s credibility for people that do not understand that papal infallibility only pertains to faith and morals and not science, economy, ecology, etc. Nevertheless these topics can have consequences that may affect faith and morals (like using overpopulation to justify abortion and birth control).

So it is important to always consider the moral implications when looking at social and other issues.

The Pope is a person and is entitled to personal opinions. Every single thing he says does not have to be infallible teaching on faith and morals. He is very opinionated on soccer too but that’s not binding either.

This isn’t anything new. Remember (then) Pope John Paul II’s letter ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE? The letter proposed new ways to pray the Rosary as a private devotion. Some people liked it and adopted the new mysteries. Others stayed with the old 15. No biggie.

Pope Pius XII’s letter Humani Generis was more geared toward science as is the anticipated letter from Pope Francis and was also an encyclical. It doesn’t elevate science to the level of doctrine but rather proposes ways that we should view scientific information as Catholics. I expect Pope Francis’ encyclical will be very similar in structure even if different in tone or form.

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