Daily Archives: August 11, 2022

Pope Celestino Ratzinger, Explained

He was never a strong beer: Pontiff Emeritus Benedict.

As Benedicts approaches the grave, and after I received a comment on the other blog post from the reader Aqua, I would like to say two words on how I see the position in which Benedict has put himself with his abdication and his strange choice of title.

Benedict is a very well educated man. He is, also, very grounded in the Italian cultural environment. He knows that in Italy – other than in other Countries – to be a Celestino is another way of saying to be a coward. It really is a language usage well spread among the educated, who know their Dante.

Benedict knows his Dante, and he knows his Italians. He did not want to be a Celestino (though, let us be frank, he actually is). Being quite a cerebral guy, and wanting to abdicate without looking like a coward, he decided to keep the title Emeritus, using another language usage that every Italian knows from, say, university professors.

A Professor Emeritus does not have the job anymore. He is retired. But he has not run away. He is simply too old to keep doing his job, but he keeps the dignity of the office, which he does not want to be seen as simply discarding.

In Benedict’s very intellectual world, this makes him a guy who – like the Professor – does not cowardly retreats, but decides to simply pass the baton to a healthier, stronger Pontiff; who is then, clearly, the Pontiff, exactly in the same way as the Professor Emeritus does not have the job anymore, it’s the new guy who has it.

Why does Benedict does all this? Why does he just not abdicate, takes a title he already had (Bishop, Cardinal, Priest!), and asks a monastery of his choice to host him for the rest of his life? At the root of it all, I think the answer is: vanity, and concern for his legacy and reputation.

However, a guy like Benedict would have some excuses for his vanity. He likely reasoned that, upon becoming a Pope, he was not a cardinal anymore. He had the title of bishop, but without a diocese. He could have been Father Benedict, but again I think he was just too vain for that. Plus, all these titles, and the correspondent attire – purple, or black – would have reminded him every day that he has abandoned his post, for fear of the wolfs.

This is not what a Benedict does. A Benedict makes excuses for his lack of courage – like he did in his eight years as Pope: not going decisively against the homo lobby, allowing Summorum Pontificum to be largely neglected, and appointing horrible bishops all the way for the sake of a quiet life – and finds ways to justify his dereliction of duty. Hence the white tunic, the Emeritus title, and all the mess that ensued.

It must be said that, if the new Pope had been Pius XIII, nobody would be talking of Benedict now, unless to remember what improvement the conclave brought.

I have often made the comparison – known to everybody in Italy because of Manzoni – between crock vases and iron vases. Benedict is a crock vase all right. But he is a very intelligent, learned, cerebral crock vase, who will find one thousand excuses not to be the iron vase that is, actually, written in blood letters in the job description of a Pope.

Ultimately, Benedict failed in this as he failed in so many other things as a Pope.

He should know by now that he will forever remembered, in Italy and elsewhere, as a Celestino.

%d bloggers like this: