Quisque Faber Fortunae Suae

Increasingly more a tragic figure: Pope Benedict.

There has been some discussion about the behaviour of some Cardinals who might have conspired to deceive Pope Benedict into believing that, in case of abdication, a successor able to continue on his line would have been picked. Rorate has some reflection, but they are not the only ones.

It is, in my eyes, inconceivable that Benedict would choose to abdicate whilst still able to function, but without a funded hope that the Cardinals would pick a, say, Benedict XVII. No, of course he thought that his abdication would further, not thwart, his work. To think otherwise is to imagine a man so selfishly absorbed in his own desires that he does not care of what happens to the Church after him, provided he can write his books. This is, in my eyes, almost as absurd – and almost as offensive – as to think that Benedict could have been cowed into the abdication by any threat whatsoever.

Still, I would like to make a couple of consideration.

1. If Benedict was more or less assured that things were “fine” and decided to abdicate on the strength of this confidential knowledge, in what is this different from the “canvassing” so lamented when Cardinal Murphy O'Connor would be the one guilty of it? I am not talking of “pacts” or “agreements” here, but of several people observing with Benedict how sound, dependable, through and through papabile – say – Cardinal Scola is. Is, then, a Pope abdicating on the strength of such “canvassing” not guilty of the same behaviour? Mind, I do not think such “canvassing” is there in the first place. I merely say that if you condemn Murphy O'Connor, it's difficult to see how, in this scenario, you should not condemn Ratzinger.

2. If the scenario is true, then Benedict would prove a further disappointment. It would mean that he could be gulled into a false sense of security not only in the weeks or months preceding his abdication, but actually since his ascendancy to the Throne; because in order to commit a mistake of that magnitude Benedict must have been a bad judge of the character of many Cardinals for many years. He must, in other words, have been blind to the character of many trusted people in his entourage, and of many of the very Cardinals he has himself appointed.

I am not in the mind of the Pope Emeritus. I will never know whether he – without any suggestions from outside – simple made the decision that the time was right and the Cardinals sound enough; or whether he was perhaps thinking of waiting another Consistory or two – to be used wisely – before proceeding to his historical step, and was then reassured from the noises and hunches he heard around him that no, everything was fine and he could abdicate assured of a happy ending.

In both cases, Benedict must feel a horrible burden on his soul, because it must be clear to him that it was his “middle of the road” (or so he thought) appointments that made Bergoglio's election possible in the first place.

JPII's Conclave didn't pick Bergoglio. It picked Ratzinger. Cardinal Ratzinger was there, and was therefore very aware of the role played by the Bergoglio candidature. If he had appointed better Cardinals, he would now not be forced to witness the demolition of his work, and the utter shame in which Bergoglio is dragging the very institution of the Papacy. It must be very sad, for a Pope, to outlive his own mistakes, and have them stare at him in the face every day.

Pope Benedict was the tragic, if involuntary enabler of all that has happened since that dratted evening of the 13 March 2013. Without him, ithis mess would simply not have been possible. Bergoglio's election was made possible by his multiple mistakes in the appointment of Cardinals; mistakes which, frankly, are in tune with his very mediocre episcopal appointments.

Pope Benedict has made his own bed. Whether he was “helped” in so doing does not change the fundamental drama of the man, because there isn't a big difference between being simply gullible all the time and being, in addition, double gullible in the last months of his pontificate. Which leads us to another point that I think very important.


Pope Ratzinger's tragedy is the Church's tragedy. It is the fruit of the illusion that there be, somewhere, a viable “V II road” able to serve the Church well. There isn't. A Cardinal is either solidly and unashamedly Catholic, or he is a walking booby trap. A Conclave is either full of people who really believe in God and are afraid of gravely displeasing him, or there is no way of knowing what they could be able to do. Pope Benedict knew them personally, and therefore had to know what Conclave he would leave better than every Vaticanist, or gossiper, much less blogger. Half of the Cardinals were hand-picked by him, well knowing what their future task would be.

Quisque Faber Fortunae Suae. Pope Ratzinger has, entirely with his own hands, fabricated a nightmare retirement, as he must look in astonishment at what Humble Wolf is doing to his sheep. The longer the retirement, the longer the suffering, because it is not probable at all that he will outlive Francis and, God willing, see sanity restored.

Pope Benedict has, with his historic decision, also put himself in the position of the one who must repeat to himself, every day, “what have I done?!”

Not pretty. Not pretty at all.

But the bed he made.




Posted on December 3, 2014, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. It’s hard to believe he could have been that naive after all that he’d been through, but then again he was foolish and careless of souls enough to make those bad appointments, a fatal flaw which was his undoing and a great reversal for us on the battlefield. One day we in the trenches were told “Oh, and by the way, due to ill health, Commander Benedict has resigned and we’ve decided to appoint Sauron head of all the Catholic armies in the world. Let there be a general rejoicing!”

  2. Yes, the last scene of Bridge on the River Kwai comes to mind when Alec Guiness exclaims, “My God. What have I done?” just before blowing the bridge up.

  3. I can’t help but think he’s looking back on his entire career with deep regret. From his role at Vatican II through his pontificate, willing or unwilling, he assisted in causing massive damage to the Church. True, he became more “conservative” (that is to say, Catholic) as time went on; Summorum Pontificum was a great blessing. But he was never able to totally shake his progressive tendencies. Instead of admitting V II was a massive failure, he invented a new set of mental gymnastics called “the hermeneutic of reform in continuity.” I truly feel sorry for the man. It must be extremely painful and humiliating have such grand plans for the Church end in such spectacular failure, and view it all with a front-row seat.

    And then the fact that he consecrated Bruno Forte a Bishop . . . It makes one shudder to the foundations.

    • The “hermeneutic of reform in continuity” is the Perestroika of V II. It cannot save it more than the perestroika could save Communism. But Benedict thought he could have his reforming cake and eat it. As you say, his appointments are the fruit of the same mentality.

  4. Through prayer, penance, fasting and speaking up there is always reason for great hope for indeed we know how the story ends in that “the gates of hell will NOT prevail. In the meantime it will take the courage of a living Saint or a Pope to be honest and forthright in undoing the damage done during the VCII era. We must fight by example and encourage all that want to restore what has been lost to never loose faith. The result will be a much smaller Catholic church but Holy Mother Church will once again become a pious and faithful Church militant. If not Jesus will attend to matters.


  5. Benedict is a holy man, I’m certain. But he is also, certainly, naive.

    As a result, the Church suffers.

    For me, the moral of this and similar stories is that being nice or hospitable or in any way accommodating to evil and sin is a weakness which always leaves a tear rolling down Jesus’ cheek.

    • It must be a cultural thing here, but I someway can’t imagine Jesus weeping like a girl in heaven. Rather, I can picture him getting angry. But I had very rigid grandmothers… 😉


  6. I think that we shouldn’t forget Benedict’s not-so-humble roots. There is a distinct possibility that he thought himself above the possibility of such problems. He was certainly not always ‘conservative’, and the intellectuals, as they like to be known, often think themselves above the average level of humanity. One way or another, it’s got to be a saddening wake-up call, to realize that he could also be fooled by some of the characters he, himself, promoted. Hopefully he will become a traditional Catholic as a result of it…

  7. Actually I think he’s the White Witch offering the little ones all the Turkish Delight they can eat. Probably explains his recent visit to Turkey, to stock up on Delight.

  8. I wonder if the ghost of Cardinal Ottaviani, the man who predicted all the chaos that would follow if the original V2 schemas were rejected, ever visits him. Remember his motto on his coat of arms? “Semper Idem,” always the same.

    A sentiment sorely lacking in this freak show carnival of a papacy.

  9. I love Benedict, a mere mortal. He is the holiest man and his lucidity and intellect have awed me. His singular act of Summorum pontifucum will echo down the centuries. By this act on 7/07/07 he has saved Western civilisation and perhaps the world.

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