Petrine Office: A Take
The recent uproar about Bishop Gänswein's utterings about the Petrine Office seems a tad exaggerated to me.
My understanding already was that Benedict kept dressing in white, and chose the title “Pontiff Emeritus” exactly for the reasons Gänswein says: because he sees himself as still a Pope, albeit one who does not work as such anymore. I repeat here examples already made in the past: a Professor Emeritus is still a Professor, but he does not teach anymore. Clearly, Benedict wanted to avoid the accusation of, so to speak, having “pulled a Celestine”. Once Pope, always Pope.
“I do not have the strength to be an effective Pope”, he says. “But I could not divest myself of the Papacy more than I could the priesthood”. Makes a lot of sense to me.
Now, Gänswein's remark might be meaning, in a very indirect, plausibly deniable way, that a good Catholic appalled by the Evil Clown can draw from strength from Benedict for an image of the Papacy that allows him to sleep at night, but this is already understood by everyone!
The word “extended” is, I think, what caused the ruckus. But Gänswein also made clear that there is only one Pope in charge. Therefore, the concrete exercise of what it is to be a Pope can only be his exclusive competence. Benedict does not rivendicate a concrete papal remit. He simply wants to avoid the accusation of dereliction of duty.
Finally, another element makes this discussion largely irrelevant: age. Benedict is very old and very frail, and chances are he will not be with us for long. It seems not probable that he may outlive Francis. Even if he did, he could not be re-elected Pope because he has officially resigned the office of Cardinal, and is more than 80 years old, and no one would be authorised to invite him to the next Conclave.
This “legitimate alternative spiritual papacy” dreamed by some can come to an end any day, and when it does the problems will remain exactly the same. Therefore, it can only be a pale palliative, and only for a short time, for the suffering of a Catholic. It would be no solution to anything even if it worked logically, which it doesn't.
I don't need for Pius X or Pius XII to be alive in order to see in them paragons of good, holy Papacies.
And I will rather look to them than to Benedict anyway.