The Real Problem With Francis
I gather from some corners the impression that the problem with Francis’ legitimacy resides in the way Benedict resigned; or rather, following the argument, not resigned. I think this is a false problem.
There can be no doubt that Benedict himself: 1. Wanted another to be selected Pope and 2. Regards him as the guy in charge. Therefore, to claim that Francis is not Pope because of this is like saying that the man did not know what he was doing and we can decide for ourselves what his position is. You can as well maintain that Edward VIII never abdicated because, say, he was threatened with forced removal from office.
Those more in tune with Italian society, however, understand very well what Benedict – who has lived in Italy for many decades now, and knows the ins and outs of our cultural environment – wanted to do: avoid being called a Celestino. Which latter thing is, canonisation or not, an insulting concept many Italians are acquainted with from grade school, courtesy of our greatest poet (who, smartly, never called him by name; but as they say, intelligenti pauca ).
I simply take people at their words, and Benedict has given such support to Francis that there can be no doubt about his intentions.
Also, and perhaps more importantly in this matter, the way of Benedict’s abdication has no bearing on the way Francis behaves. There is no reason to believe that Francis pontificate would have been any different if the Conclave which elected him had been triggered not by Benedict’s resignation, but by his death, on exactly the same day. You would have had the same Cardinals and the same procedure. Conversely, you can rest assured that, had the Conclave resulted in the election of a perfectly orthodox, heroically Catholic Pope, absolutely no one would, now, be questioning his legitimacy.
Francis’ legitimacy problem is not a function of his election. It is a function of his behaviour. He is a legitimately elected Pope who has, through his innumerable heresies and scandals, deserved to be deprived of his office in the way Church tradition and common sense allow: with an imperfect Council triggered by either Bishops or Cardinals declaring the man self-deposed and electing a new one. And all this does not require in the least any questioning of the legitimacy of his election.
Benedict’s supposedly erroneously abdicated papacy is a false problem. The real problem is Francis’ very real scandals. We don’t need Benedict to remedy those; nor, very frankly, would he want to.