Sede Vacante And Prescribed Behaviour
We have had sede vacante just for a few hours, and today strange rumours have reached the Italian press. Apparently, a group of Cardinals is forming who are ready to insist that the next Pope commits himself to die in office in order for them to give him their votes.
It is difficult to see how such a promise could be made in good conscience. If the Pope knows he is going to be put in a coma and might remain in that state for five or fifteen years, should there be no abdication? If the Pope knows he has dementia, should he leave the Church without his natural leaders perhaps for a decade or more? Whom would such a mentality help, if not the Curia and the local bishops’ conferences, free to enjoy a very large autonomy for many years at a time?
Besides, if confirmed this remark seems a very thinly veiled criticism of the former (heavens, how strange it is to write it…) Pontiff, and an attempt to prescribe to a Pope how to be Pope.
I have written already and repeat today that I do not think this is a fair assessment of Pope (emeritus) Benedict’s decision; but again this is more than criticism, this is ordering around…
How very Vatican II.
Personally, if I were to talk to any Cardinal entertaining such ideas I would suggest that he and his colleagues elect a very strong Pope. A strong Pope would be the best guarantee of having someone at the top who knows how to reign, and has the guts to abdicate if he think the step appropriate; but seriously, a prescribed behaviour – particularly in so important a matter – seems to me more than a tad out of line.