Quisque Faber Fortunae Suae
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.