Monday, February 11, 2013

A Truly Historic Announcement

"Well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of St Peter ...
"As from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours (1900 GMT) the See of Rome, the See of St. Peter will be vacant and a conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is." 

Whatever one makes of the resignation of Pope Benedict, one has to admit this is historic. For the first time in forever I slept in this morning and when I turned on my computer and saw the headline on Yahoo I was stunned, and yet not that surprised, not really. When I look at the past year, there were signs this was coming. Pope Benedict reacted slowly and with confusion to the Vatileaks affair.  He called a consistory on very short notice which elevated some of his favorite sons to the College of Cardinals.  He promoted Georg Ganswein to Archbishop and I am sure will appoint him to Regensburg before February 28th. He forgave his butler.  He released a series of motu proprios.  He appointed another German in his image and likeness to head the CDF.  He seemed to be sweeping his desk clean, finishing his bucket list.  He had stated a number of years ago that he would consider resignation if the office got too difficult.  He is being true to his own vision of the papacy.

A number of comments on various blogs speculate that Benedict will meddle in the election of his successor.  I don't think he will because he's already appointed his successor to the one office he truly cared about, and that's the head of the CDF.  If the last fifty or so years have shown anything, it's that the real power behind the throne is the CDF.  It began with the meddling of Cardinal Ottaviani in the documents of Vatican II and continued through 28 years of Cardinal Ratzinger, then Cardinal Levada,  and now the strong arm tactics of Gerhard Mueller. Benedict has the man in place to protect the theological path of the Church--which has always been Benedict's first concern--and that was closely followed by how that theology played out in the liturgyOn these two tasks of asserting his conservative theology and having that theology play out in the liturgy, his work is done.  He can retire to write his own legacy

Part of that legacy, whether he intended this or not, is that he has made the point in spades that the office of Pope is just that, an office.  It's not an ascension to a semi divine all knowing ontologically different human state.  The Pope is not Jesus Christ with a private hotline to the Holy Spirit.  The Pope is just another man who can get old and tired and admit the office is too much.  It maybe this one act which will cement Benedict's legacy.  It maybe this one act for which the Holy Spirit had anything at all to do with his election to the Papacy.

The next Pope will have to deal with the mess in the curia.  Benedict's legacy will also include little things like a Vatican Bank without leadership, ATM's that have been shutdown because of the Vatican Bank, the demoralization in diplomatic corps, the overweaning influence of parallel churches like Opus Dei and the Neo Cats, the prevalence of corruption in high office, the Italian influence on how the curia does it's business and on and on and on.  But the first thing the new pope will have to deal with is Benedict's legacy of clerical abuse.

Benedict did not deal particularly well with clerical abuse as Pope, and did a dismal job as head of the CDF.  I always thought it was karmic that his papacy was so tainted by his own job performance as head of the CDF. If Benedict thinks retirement will protect him from the lawyers at the Hague, he may be mistaken.  In any event it is imperative the next pope have clean hands when it comes to clerical abuse.  That leaves out almost all American Cardinals.  Thank God.

This has been a stunning and historic day.  It seems I have had the privilege of living through a lot of stunning and historic days for Roman Catholicism.  As Benedict stated in his retirement announcement "today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith" is changing faster than anyone man can hope to keep up with, and in the end that may be his last and final message for his successor.  Collegiality was a good idea after all.  It's all just too much for one man.



  1. I agree with your assessment, Colleen. Benedict thought about this for months. So he's already laid the groundwork in lots of things he's done or not done.

    The man leaves... as sure as he can be that he's rolled back the reforms and put in place the scaffolding so that the church can continue on its path to rack and ruin. Or whatever they're calling it at the O-Piss.

  2. there was a rumor last fall that he would resign this spring, perhaps the airing of "Mea Copa" was enough to make this rumor come true. I hope so. It did expose the cracks of imperfection that Cohen Speaks about. "That is how the light gets in." What will now happen. Unlikely that the new man will be much better, but there is some hope! Some hope that now that the cracks are seen everywhere that this new MAN will have no choice.

  3. TheraP I flat burst out laughing at your very last word. I'm still laughing.

    Part of the scaffolding of course, is the number of bishops he and JPII appointed. Doesn't bode well for a progressive pope, but there is always the hope that some of them are beginning to see some other light than the one that has blinded them from Rome.

  4. Cohen's song is on target for this situation. That's my hope too Dennis, that the light coming from the cracks is so obvious the new MAN will have no choice but to deal with them.

  5. Laughter. What else is left at the moment?

  6. I very much agree with this analysis. I doubt he will interfere with his successor and don't believe, so far as I can see, there was any political motivation behind this.

    If anything, people will be right in saying this is the most radical thing he has done, and isn't it really in keeping with the tendencies of the vision of the young “progressive” Ratzinger? John Paul II degenerated in the public eye and, bearing the burden of the office like a sort of martyr, only further united the office of pope and its person through the type of glory that comes from suffering for God. Benedict is now sending a sure sign to the 21st century Church, one that detracts from the cult of personality that has formed around the Roman pontiffs with all of its ultramontane implications. Exactly as you said, Colleen, the pope is less so a mysterious pinnacle in a hierarchy that unites human society and heaven, a link so holy he has to die in order to be succeeded; instead he is more so an ordinary man who can cease being equipped to perform practical duties of governance. This is a profound shock to the Catholic mind shaped in the last two centuries. Ultimately, it says that the Papacy is about service. It’s merely a gesture to be sure, but it could represent a shift in the way the papacy is imagined.

    It saddens me to see him depart, but it also proves to me that a real spirituality and a true sense of duty lies behind this man. People who say he was just playing a game to ascend up the ranks should at least be left to pause here.

  7. I was never convinced he wanted to be pope to begin with. Who would, having to follow the theater that was JPII? I always thought it was a case of someone had to do it, so Benedict did it. I was another case of service.

    This next papacy will have to be different and Benedict's years have provided enough distance from JPII that maybe the next pope can continue to drive the church away from papal idolatory and all it's ultramontane you rightly put it.

  8. I will admit I have been praying for a new pope by Easter (I've been praying that for a year and a half. I just keep moving the date out as they pass. Kinda like Harold Camping.) But this is not what I anicipated, not at all. This is SO UNtraditional of an act for a pope. I would hope at this point in time there is the equivilant of the 25 amendment (President's succussor if he can't perform the job) set up for the pope. The last two -three years of JPII illness were cruel to useless to the office of the papecy and the church. Frankly, I've wondered if a theological argument can be made that much of the pope's decisions were so overinfluenced by his illness that they are invalid. Can we start with the women's ordination letter? And the Catechesim? My Theology prof called it a book of questions no one was asking about a theology no one had anymore. Thanks be to heaven the American cardinals have made such a PUBLIC mess of things that none will be looked at with a straight face. And lots of ugliness has been made public about the moneyed Opus crowd that may well weigh against them. I would have bet $100 bucks against a resignation if there was a pool about it last week. Strange days indeed.

  9. "And the Catechesim? My Theology prof called it a book of questions no one was asking about a theology no one had anymore." That's too funny.

    I'm not surprised he resigned. In fact I predicted it sometime last spring in some post on this blog. It just fit with his personality. Why in the world would he want to put up with the papacy in his old age when he is in fact an academic recluse?
    I think he's telling the truth, given his personality, he just doesn't have the energy to fake it anymore.

  10. I find my thoughts going toward a contrast between JPII and B16. In obviously failing health and some pretty extreme frailty, JPII 'soldiered on' for lack of a better description until his death. And the political 'story' was his suffering was a lesson against those who would allow euthanasia; that people are of inherent dignity from conception until a natural death and we shouldn't just throw them away. B16 seems willing to allow himself to be 'thrown away' according to the script JPII followed. Or just perhaps B16 sees another script for himself - one that allows for human frailty and a recognition that 'soldiering on' perhaps should be at an end before natural death of the individual for the common good. That there may be a time that comes when mother can no longer set the table and cook the dinner, that dad needs to give up his car keys; and parents need to let the children take care of them for a change. This was a lesson badly needed for certain members of my family. I see the work of the Holy Spirit in this, if the lessons passed reinforced are that to everything there there is a season.

  11. Quitting while in a coveted office? -- where have we seen this before? Is Ratzi borrowing a rogue page from the Quitter Queen herself for a Fox gig? Palin, like Ratzi, had mounting legal bills and quit to dodge scandal investigations and to cash in.

  12. Veronica you bring up a point I didn't think of, probably because both my parents had no issue with turning in the car keys and giving up the pretense of making dinner.

    My ex husbands family is a different story all together, and I do pray they get the lesson you point out in Benedict's resignation. It's OK to let go, for both the old folk and their kin. I also hope someday, the message gets across that it's perfectly fine to die. Holding onto life at all costs is somtimes synonymous with denying death. Death comes for all of us--even popes.


  14. Thanks recently saw his performance in LA. It was wonderful and I have been a fan for some time. dennis


    The birds they sang
    at the break of day
    Start again
    I heard them say
    Don't dwell on what
    has passed away
    or what is yet to be.
    Ah the wars they will
    be fought again
    The holy dove
    She will be caught again
    bought and sold
    and bought again
    the dove is never free.

    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That's how the light gets in.

    We asked for signs
    the signs were sent:
    the birth betrayed
    the marriage spent
    Yeah the widowhood
    of every government --
    signs for all to see.

    I can't run no more
    with that lawless crowd
    while the killers in high places
    say their prayers out loud.
    But they've summoned, they've summoned up
    a thundercloud
    and they're going to hear from me.

    Ring the bells that still can ring ...

    You can add up the parts
    but you won't have the sum
    You can strike up the march,
    there is no drum
    Every heart, every heart
    to love will come
    but like a refugee.

    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack, a crack in everything
    That's how the light gets in.

    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack, a crack in everything
    That's how the light gets in.
    That's how the light gets in.
    That's how the light gets in.

  15. Having just watched Mea Maxima Culpa, colkoch, I disagree with that
    assessment. I think what's more than likely sparked this is a
    realization that he's blown it completely. What's emerging in the
    pipeline is devastating for Catholicism — and he probably knows a lot
    more than any of us do. These (intelligently conservative) elements like
    Benedict still do believe in a final judgment — and they're probably
    beginning to fear what the result might be. I sincerely doubt any longer
    that he is trying to consolidate some "conservative theological line"
    for his "little people" and "simple people". As herbie wrote in a
    response to me yesterday in a post on our website Catholica, Benedict is an astute man. If Benedict has
    already seen Mea Maxima Culpa — and I should imagine a copy was
    airlifted to Rome as soon as it was screened in the US (the show has not yet been screened in Australia but we saw an advanced copy) — he'll now
    realize there is no wriggle room left. I think it is highly relevant
    that he is staying put in the Vatican and is not retiring to his
    homeland. The conservative elements will bleat all they like at what is
    coming down the pipeline but basically the show is just about over and
    the fat lady is about to sing! The bully boys are going to be left to
    clean up this mess — and they'll soon start deserting the ship because
    they believe in nothing and will very shortly realize all the prestige
    is going from their positions in society. I'd almost be prepared to bet
    that the "political machinations" leading up to the conclave vote now
    will not be primarily aimed at trying to find someone to lead the
    institution out of this mess but rather to be finding some "naive bunny"
    who will "carry the can" for all of them. After watching Mea Maxima
    Culpa most intelligent people in the world will come to the conclusion
    that the Holy Spirit left off trying to direct this show decades ago.
    Brian Coyne
    Editor & Publisher

  16. The interesting thing to watch for is whether Cardinal Mahony remains in Rome or returns to Los Angeles after the conclave.

  17. Brian your point about Benedict staying in the Vatican City States is really really interesting. Yes, I can easily see where Mea Maxima Culpa may have precipitated such a decision, or the criminal case in process at the Hague. Since the nuns left his soon to abode in November and weren't replaced, I think you are on to something here.

    My own take on the lead up to the conclave is which Cardinals take themselves out of the running through obvious politicking. Turkson is toast.
    As to what the Cardinals actually settle on will be interesting to see. I think there is hope if they choose a true mystic, and not a cardinal who substitutes piety for mysticism. Otherwise your scenario is true. With in thirty years the Church will be impotent no matter it's number of members.

    My vote is for Cardinal Tagle or maybe Schoenborn. People who know the real spiritual magic is bringing about a synthesis of the Spirit into Matter, which is what the Resurrection was really on about and what human consciousness is now finally primed for.

  18. God, if Mahony remains in Rome I will surely puke.

  19. I think it is a mistake to say, "The Catholic Church we've known is not going to be part of charting the future." The Catholic Church has existed for 2000 years and the Holy Spirit will guide us into the future. I do hope that we will have "a great healing" that you speak of.

  20. Yes, I think it does show a real spirituality and a true sense of duty. I have to say that I have seen a humility in Pope Benedict XVI. I think some of the things that have happened in the Church, the abuse crisis in particular, have been a cause of sorrow to him.

  21. Brian I meant to get back to you before this, but sometimes life intervenes. I have spent quite a bit of time researching some of the men we might expect to see wearing the white on Easter Sunday and was not overly thrilled with any of them, but then I read this:

    I have to laugh, for all my research, the man I think I shall be hoping and praying for was found on a very good blog linked to my side bar. Here's another link:

    There's one other thing I find very interesting about Dom Joao, he was shot at 36 and carries buckshot all through his torso. He also should have lost his left eye but he didn't. Rumor has it Pope Benedict is now blind in his left eye. Hmmmm....I digress.

    I really like what you wrote in your last paragraphs. Yes, the younger generations will be tasked with providing a new paradigm for spirituality which will synthesize the best of all religious spiritualities and our latest scientific research in neuro physiology and human consciousness. I like to say this will get a real boost when we finally meet Aliens. LOL