Today is the fifth anniversary of that fateful day, in which Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to abdicate at the end of the month and make way for a more vigorous Pope.
Benedict's Pontificate had been, Summa Summarum, more Catholic than JP II's, particularly because of the historic Summorum Pontificum. Therefore, I then believed in the honest, straight narrative of a Pope who feels that his strength is leaving him and, remembering the last sad tears of JP's Pontificate, decided to make way for a more energetic man, confident that the Conclave he was about to leave would lead to the election of a man continuing on his path, a Benedict XVII so to speak.
This reading still makes, if you ask me, the most sense. However, the past five years have not helped the man to rise in my, or many others', estimation. Actually, if I were the man I would now be rather scared for my salvation.
Benedict The Emeritus has disappointed in many ways. One can mention here:
1. The at least two interviews – two were really brutal and I have written about them; there were other minor occasions – in which Benedict approved of Francis' work and expressed himself in glowing terms concerning his Pontificate.
2. The failure to do what he said he would do: retire to a life of prayer and contemplation. It seems nowadays not even nonagenarian Popes can resist the temptation of frequent interviews and photo-ops, with or without Bierkrug.
3. The failure to condemn Pope Francis when it became clear that the pontificate was steering towards aggressive heresy. In particular, his silence concerning Amoris Laetitia and the many heresies and blasphemies therein contained – something a theologian like him must see with extreme clarity – is most shocking from one who claims to still keep the title of former Pope, and therefore maintains that he is still way more than just another bishop.
4. The strange neo-Catholic thinking and reference to his, apparently, imminent salvation (about which doubts are more than justified). That a Pope who decided to abdicate does not approach his impending death, at least publicly, with fear and trembling tells you all you need to know about V II and the massacre of sound Catholic thinking.
I certainly forget a lot.
In general, the man gives the impression of being not a leader, but a follower. In true German fashion, he has marched to the drum of V II without much regard for the ruins he saw around him. When it became clear to him that Francis' course was a much more brutal incarnation of V II that he could ever imagine, he decided to toe the party line and promote this new, inspired version of V II, instead of using his unique position to try to give witness for proper Catholicism.
Granted: countless bishops and Cardinals have done the same. But much fewer have given glowing interviews about Francis, and no one of them has insisted on being called Pontiff Emeritus.
Benedict is, I think, about to get into history as a tragic, pathetic figure. Too weak to be an effective Pope, too naive to see Francis coming as a result of his many disgraceful episcopal and cardinalatian appointments, too cowardly and gregarious to denounce the disaster unfolding under his eyes, and even praising Nero whilst Rome burns.
Now, in his last legs, the recent, disquieting public announcement of his own impending salvation; which is what V II does to you if you allow it to work on you for 60 years.
A horrible wannabe Catholic (I think) magazine reports from Archbishop Gaenswein, who said that Benedict is “very weak” but still “aware” of what happens around him.
If he is aware, it’s no surprise he is weak. Imagine knowing that your successor, whom you have praised in embarrassing tones, has been publicly condemned by dozen of theologians, lay scholars and even some priests and the occasional bishop. It would make stronger man want to seek the next chair.
If it is true that Benedict is too weak to celebrate Mass, it means that he is probably not long for this world. Pray for his soul, and that he may repent of the horrible, unjustifiable complicity with the FrancisRevolution; a movement, this one, which he has sanctioned in at least two horrible interviews out of sheer “going with the flow-itis”, a disease he had already abundantly showed during his papacy with countless horrible episcopal appointments amidst the occasional bout of real sanity (Summorum Pontificum comes to mind).
This Pope will be remembered as one of the most tragic figures in Church history: too weak to do what he wanted, too conformist to raise his voice when things started to go really south, so much poisoned by Vatican II that he decided to even speak for Francis instead of,. at the very, very least, keep his mouth shut as he had said he would do when he abdicated.
We see this in Burke, in Benedict, in Caffarra, in Brandmueller, in pretty much all of them: Vatican II mentality and the desire for a comfortable life poisons them in their very bones; so much so, that even when they see the evil with sufficient clarity they do not have the guts, or the forma mentis, to call a scandal a scandal and a heretical Pope a heretical Pope.
Pray for Pope Emeritus Benedict.
That he may, for once in his life, not flee for fear of the wolves.
It is a very sad anniversary, this day that marks 10 years of Summorum Pontificum.
Ten years ago, I thought – albeit not yet introduced to Catholic blogging, much less with my own one – that Summorum Pontificum would one day be seen as the first meaningful step towards the recovery of sanity.
Today, I seem to notice that it was the pet project of a Pope not really interested in the recovery of the past, but rather more focused on giving a varnish of old to the new he was still promoting. This very man subsequently stunned the world with a resignation that I found, at the time, in perfect good faith and made in the confidence that his successor would more vigorously continue his program of very moderate conservatism; before two interviews gushing praise for Francis led me to suspect – the man not being gaga at all – that he is actually on board with everything that has happened after his abdication.
Ten years ago I saw a great offensive coming. Today I see us entrenched, albeit I must also say that the trenches have revealed and nurtured a fighting spirit that warms the heart.
Still, entrenched we are, and with the very sad prospective of going on this way for who knows how long, it being now clear that only the Blessed Virgin's intervention will save us from a spiral of decline made by obscene episcopal and cardinatial appointments,coupled with the most scandalous silence of the others.
Ten years after, we prepare ourselves for a half apocalypse.
When I think of all this, and reflect that some people are even happy with the faint meowing of the likes of Cardinal Meisner, I have no doubt at all why we are where we are.
The Pontiff Emeritus is about to release another book, and Repubblica (yes, that one) has some tasty bits of it, meant to awaken the reader’s appetite and to open their wallet.
However, these is not the usual pre-publication snippets. These declaration equate to a complete loss of face for the – we can now safely say – tragic and pathetic figure of the Emeritus.
Let us see the downfall in detail. Emphases are mine, and not made without pain.
“There were numerous commitments which I felt I was no longer able to carry through,” Ratzinger explained. “Notably, the World Youth Day which had been scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the summer of 2013. I was very certain of two things. After the experience of the trip to Mexico and Cuba, I no longer felt able to embark on another very demanding visit. Furthermore, according to the format of these gatherings, which had been established by John Paul II, the Pope’s physical presence there was paramount. A television link or any other such technological solution was out of the question. This was another reason why I saw it as my duty to resign.”
What an embarrassing statement to read.
I had always thought that Pope Benedict had decided to resign because he felt unable to gather the strength necessary to fight the long and brutal fight that announced itself after the famous report about sodomy within the Vatican. I can still understand he might have decided to be too weak for the job tout court (remember he was very frail at the time). But to read from a Pope that he decided to resign because he felt he was now unable to be the main attraction, the chief clown of a worldwide travelling circus is truly beyond the pale. Even more stupid, if possible, is the linked assertion that, since JP II had started the circus, Ratzinger felt it could not be stopped, and he the Pope. What a total lack of leadership. What a total lack of… manliness.
Embarrassing. I am ashamed for him. I am literally red in the face thinking of the way he has put shame on himself.
It goes to show: you scratch the V II Pope and what comes out can only be pus.
Alas, it goes on. Let us see what a Pope Emeritus has to say about an extremely cruel Communist bastard, a prime candidate for Hell and decades long friend of all the wrong causes:
I need scarcely remind you of how impressed I was in Cuba to see the way in which Raul Castro wishes to lead his country onto a new path, without breaking with the immediate past.
Seriously, what is this? A Pope (emeritus) lauding one of the Castro brothers for trying to keep Communism alive for as long as he can? Is this man on drugs? Drunken? Gaga? He can give interviews that become books, so one must infer he is decidedly “there” with his head.
I think the reality is far simpler: Ratzinger is, and always was, a gregarious type; an order-taker; one always ready to fall in line.
This interview will certainly mark the lowest point of Ratzinger’s public career. It is a complete denouement of a little yes-man. It is the embarrassing spectacle of a former Pope now towing the Francis line in a way inconceivable only a few years ago.
I never thought Benedict a hero of orthodoxy. I always thought Benedict was always V II, and Francis is V II on steroids. But this interview here is tantamount to Benedict taking the first dose of steroids himself, and saying to the world how much he likes it.
Let me say it again: a supporting rider, not a leader; an order-taker, not an order-giver.
What a tragic figure.
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.
In your mercy, please cut some slack for the Pontiff Emeritus.
We all remember the great weakness, the obvious frailty he showed during and after the time of his abdication. I have written here about why I think the abdication was wise, and as one who attributes at least some of the antics of JP II’s last papacy phase to his disease I hope I will never see a clearly non-functioning Pope at the head of the Church for a long time.
On another post – just reblogged, but also here for ease of future reference – I have dealt with the conspiracy scenario, and explained why I think such a scenario is just plain absurd.
The fact is, though, there: the Pontiff Emeritus thrives.
Good for him, say I. I can’t imagine him such a good actor, and his doctors such a wonder of medicine, that they would transform a sane man in the very frail man we have seen just after his abdication, the forces obviously leaving him very fast. I was not the only one thinking he was not long for this world.
He is thriving, poor chap. It goes to show that the challenges of being a good Pope are big, and they take their toll; up to the point that the Pope thinks: “I will soon reduce myself to a larva, and be the next John Paul II. Nein, Danke!”
Already 83, and just out of just another bypass operation, he saw the end coming. Not the end of his life, probably; rather the end of the active papacy he thought necessary for the Church. If it comes to pass that the man, relieved from his burden, recovers and is now able to stand for more than one hour, can it be his fault?
In my eyes, Benedict was right to abdicate; but he was very wrong in thinking his successor would have walked in his shoes. As the man who appointed around half the Cardinals who elected Pope Joke The Humble he could have done better, actually much better. He was, in this as in many other matters, too much of a gradualist, and the system he wanted to quietly reform is now reforming itself from his papacy, and not even quietly.
In my eyes, the homo scandal ( the famous 300 page report now put under a ton of sand by Francis; who knows if he was mentioned therein…) persuaded him that the great purge he thought had to come needed a stronger man than himself; a gentle man who had never been a fighter in his strongest years, benedict felt he did not have the phtysical or spiritual energy for this battle. Hence, the abdication.
If a man had been elected who was able and willing to continue Benedict’s policy, no one would have noticed that he is well other than to briefly remark how well he looks and what a joy it is to see him in form. Actually, most would praise his sensible timing, his move able to make sure the Church has a stable and orthodox guide for many years to come without the risk of a crippling de facto interregnum as, say, in the years 2000 to 2005.
Alas, it did not happen. But this proves nothing.
We must pay attention to put the abdication of Benedict into doubt; because if we do so, the election of Francis is automatically thrown into the same pot. Sedevacantism – albeit of a moderate sort – is the result.
If Benedict was forced out, I can’t see how Francis can be said to be in. If Francis is legitimately in, Benedict was not forced out. I can’t see any other solution here.
I am very glad to hear about the good wealth of the Pontiff Emeritus. It would be good if he were to attend in a state of comparable good health the funeral of his successor, or the enthronement of his successor’s successor.
He would then, perhaps, wonder about a well-known German saying: totgesagte leben laenger.
As two of my favourite blogs (this one and this one) have mentioned the story about Benedict allegedly saying to the old lady she can be “more useful” if she remains a Proddie, I would like to offer my two very devalued liras. Bearing in mind, of course, that I wasn’t there. I would like to examine firstly whether Benedict would say that, and secondly why we now get to read such things from the Vatican press.
1. Did Benedict really say it?
I doubt it. I doubt it because it does not seem to me in line with the man; who, by all his deficits in issues of sound Catholicism, certainly knows the fundamental difference between a Catholic and a Protestant. It’s just not very credible to my ears that Benedict would have said to her “don’t get on board the Barque of Peter. You are better off swimming alone in the cold waters of rebellion”.
Rather, I think it far more probable he would have said something on the line that it is better to wait until she is sure of what she is doing, and it would not be good to convert out of a passing emotion and go back to being a Protestant afterwards. I wasn’t there, but it seems to me this is the kind of answer everyone would give to someone wanting to convert “in a time of crisis”. He must have sensed when the crisis is away, so is the conversion. Wonderfully emotional, the gentler sex.
I would also like to know the exact source of the statement. Did the lady truly use those very words? Did she quote Benedict? In which context? How long afterwards? By whom have these alleged words of her been reported to the Vatican Press?
How many people do you know who, after the fact, would initially imply or suggest, and at some point state it as fact, that something was said to them which in fact wasn’t? I know a couple of those. Nay, more. Women, actually, all of them; all of them looking for validation either for a controversial choice, or one about which they have lingering doubts.
Furthermore: how often in your daily life are you ready to attribute some very bad words to someone, just because it is reported that someone else, now dead, would have said that he has said it? Really? If your standards are so low I prefer not to talk to you or to anyone you know, and thank you very much.
The Pontiff Emeritus is still alive. I am sure this story is bound to make many suffer. Perhaps Benedict could be persuaded to say a word?
2. Why does the Vatican publish the story as it did?
Ah, that is easy. Because they want you to read Benedict through Francis, that’s why. They want you to think Benedict isn’t really different from Francis in his theology, merely more conservative in his sartorial choices. This is very much in tune with this Papacy; which, when it doesn’t allow Benedict to be insulted, allows him to be misrepresented. Yes, Benedict has never been a model of orthodoxy like the Pre-Conciliar Popes. But it certainly cannot be denied that this papacy is a brutal rupture even compared to the former one… Heck, it is a brutal rupture even compared to Paul VI’s…
Mind, I do agree that Francis is V II on steroids, and Benedict was still V II; with a foot on the brakes perhaps, but still V II. But to put the two in the same pan is the same as stating that Elvis Presley is in the end the same as Lady Gaga, because Elvis Presley was already different from Pat Boone. Feel free to pick different singers if you like, I think you know what I mean.
If Benedict had Catholic influenza, Francis has Catholic syphilis.
Benedict is being here, if you ask me, deliberately Francis-ised in order to let the latter appear less scandalous. The only result of this is, though, that such an exercise only makes the former appear more scandalous. If you are a sound Catholic, there is. If you aren’t, and most aren’t, this will probably work as another dose of tranquilliser, and the suitably and comfortably numbed nuCatholic will go to sleep with another dose of Catholic Valium, telling himself that all is well and the world is, actually, rather peaceful.
By all Benedict’s shortcomings, and the questionable and at times horrible things he has said and done before and after becoming Pope, I allow myself not to buy this one.
Let me end with a short, sad reflection:
Pius XII managed to covert the Chief Rabbi of Rome.
Benedict obviously didn’t manage to convert a Protestant quisque de populo.
Francis justifies fears he might be about to be converted to Judaism.
I must think rather often of the Pontiff Emeritus these days; namely, every time the Bishop of Rome decides to impart to us another lesson in heretical thinking, revolutionary Christianity or abetting of sexual perversion.
Pope Benedict appointed almost half of the Cardinals going into the 2013 Conclave. Francis’ election is, to around half, literally the result of his own doing. It must, therefore, be rather bitter for the Pontiff Emeritus to see how his own successor – for whose election he himself, Benedict, is responsible – to mock, dismantle or threaten everything Pope Benedict has worked for.
This is, if you ask me, a fitting punishment; it is, the way I see it, as if the Lord would force him to see the consequences of his own mistakes, whilst still on this world.
Benedict always acted like the one who thinks he does not need to act, and a couple of symbolic gestures and sundry encouragements will be sufficient to steer the Barque in the right direction. Unfortunately it does not work that way, and he who is put in a position of power and responsibility but fails to exercise this power and shoulder this responsibility is an excellent candidate for failure and ridicule.
Pope Benedict liked the Tridentine Mass, but he did not have the guts to forcefully impose it to his bishops; he sincerely wanted sound, and orthodox bishops, but when the big conflict came (with Monsignor Wagner, in Austria) he refused to impose himself on the Austrian clergy and caved in in the most shameful way; he would have certainly wished a successor willing to continue on his path, but he obviously did not have the energy to appoint those sound, conservative, orthodox Cardinals who would have never dreamed of appointing a maverick like Bergoglio.
In this tragedy, I suspect the lack of teeth played only one part. We must reflect that Benedict is still a product of V II and one of the man who – admittedly, from the second row – shaped it. He does not have the “lio” madness of his disgraceful successor, but he was certainly “collegial” enough not to stem the tide of stupidity coming from his dioceses. He must have thought – at least in part – that whatever the instances and the flawed ideology of the local churches, they have a right for these instances and these ideologies to be reflected in the appointment of bishops, and even cardinals.
The result is plain to see: bishops waving their hand like disadvantaged kindergarten children in Rio, and cardinals able to appoint a Bergoglio to the top job.
Pope Benedict will live his last years in the bitter knowledge he is the ultimate responsible not only for his own humiliation and the dismounting, brick by brick – I use this expression on purpose – of his own Pontificate, but for the plunging of the Church in an abyss of populism he must, most certainly, abhor.
A fitting punishment, as I have already pointed out. Let him see what happens to the Church he certainly loves when absence of spine and adherence to conciliar values meet to create such an explosive result as Pope Gay The First.
If Benedict had only paid more attention in his appointments of cardinals, he could now relax and watch with satisfaction his predecessor continuing on his line with more energy and enthusiasm. If he had also refused to cave in to the local hierarchies and had appointed sound and orthodox bishops, he could now look with satisfaction at an increase in vocations – and the right ones – as the fabric of the Church in the Western countries is slowly repaired. But he did neither the first nor the second, and now even Summorum Pontificum, for which his own Pontificate will be most surely remembered, might be swept away the first morning Francis feel like a bit of “lio”.
This is what happens when those in whose power it is to act prefer to teach instead, and do not care that their pupils are riotous and only waiting for them to go away.
The single man who bears the most responsibility for Bergoglio’s appointment is the Pontiff Emeritus. No one else can say he played such a big role in his election as Ratzinger did.
He will have to live with the regrets and the humiliations for the rest of his life.
They are both of his own doing. Therefore, he deserves both.
The new four-hand encyclical letter, Lumen Fidei, will be released on Friday. It surely calls for a quiet evening with a glass of brandy, some good chocolate and Beethoven – if you have a “Renaissance Prince” moment – in the background. I can't wait.
It would be easy to make the obvious joke and say the periods with five or six subordinates are Benedict's, and those ending with “eh?” or “no?” are Francis' … I will certainly resist the temptation… If I can.
More seriously, I can't imagine the work has not been revised by some wise theologian's pen, to give it uniformity of style, disguise the obvious gap between the heavyweight and the featherweight and not make it possible to say what is the one's, or the other's. This, assuming the encyclical is exclusively the work of the two, which does not have to be the case.
For the moment, I register with some satisfaction that the official version appears to be in Latin. I had feared Spanish, or perhaps Esperanto.
We shall see. Prepare the brandy.
I always admired the quiet style and soft diplomacy of blogging priests, a feat of which I am entirely incapable. I actually suspect in seminary they are trained to face confrontations or thorny issues in a fitting way, as I seem to recognise a certain “style” through the board; as if there were rules they all follow, though they don’t write about them.
In the last three months, the traumatic transition from one Papacy to the other has put blogging priests in front of huge challenges because of the (now) conflicting duties between loyalty to the Pope – which is clearly more pronounced in a priest than in a layman, as it should be – and the loyalty to sound – at times, basic – Catholicism, both of them slapped in the face by the present Pontiff everytime the fancy takes him to say something he thinks smart, or pleasing to his audience.
Speaking here only of the blogs I like, up to now I have recognised three styles of reaction. They all have in common a soft, diplomatic, conciliatory approach, but differ visibly in the way they do it. In my eyes, they are the following.
1. Ignore the scandals. Whenever the Pope blunders, the blogging priest of type 1 just does not write on the matter, at all. “Bishop XYZ appointed to the archdiocese of ABC”, or “Conference on TLM in ABC” are the likely blog post issues. They seem to say – without saying it – “what is a poor blogging priest to do in a situation like this…”. My sympathy goes out to them.
2. Amplify the good news. This type of blogger will insist in wanting that we see Francis as a continuation of Benedict, and exhibit in a triple salto mortale to persuade us Francis is a perfectly suited Pope, if we just care to look at things from the right angle. Not bad, merely different. Again, I appreciate the spirit and admire the good will. As I see it, though, the problem with this approach is firstly that, if you allow the metaphor, a peasant has succeeded a professor, and the difference is so brutally evident no amount of good will can ever bridge it; secondly, that the new Pontiff talks nonsense with such alarming frequency – and, which is worse, with such indifference towards his own blunders; clearly the fruit of humility – that every comparison with his extremely guarded predecessor has been untenable for the last, erm, three months. Summa summarum, I would call strategy Nr 2 a very nice try, that would have great success if Pope Francis were not so … Pope Francis.
3. Criticise brutally with nice words. This third – and by far littlest – group will word the criticism in such a way that it is still clearly within the boundaries allowed to a blogging priest, but does not hide much of everything that is going wrong. Again, I have found only very few of these blogs, but when I do they are worth the reading. They find the way to make the messages very clear, but so nicely wrapped.
It will be interesting to see how this situation evolves as this Papacy unfolds. I find it very difficult to believe Francis will want to make his reign more similar to Pope Benedict’s as time goes by; actually, I suspect the contrary will be the case, with the new Pope introducing more and more his own style (or lack thereof) in the years to come, particularly after the not improbable death of the Pontiff Emeritus (may he have a long and happy retirement) during Pope Francis’ pontificate.
We shall see. Please cut some slack to your favourite blogging priests, whose situation is rather different from the one of a layman, and not easy at all.
If you have looked at the Video of Pope Francis visiting the Pontiff Emeritus yesterday, you could probably not avoid noticing how frail Benedict looked. If one thinks that only at the beginning of February he was still fully in charge, one begins to have a very clear picture of why his decision to abdicate was a wise one.
I never bought the story of the “Cross from which the Pope is not supposed to step down”. If the duty of a Pope had traditionally been to be frail and ineffective, the Popes would have been traditionally chosen among the oldest and sickest, in the hope their frailty goes on for as long as possible; after which, the next sick old man would have been picked up.
We all know this was never the case, and when it happened that old men were chosen for the office it was because a ” transition Pope” (that is: one of whom the Cardinals thought he would not occupy the position for very long) was considered preferable to a long impasse or a very public quarrel.
Please also consider the most famous Popes were men full of energy. Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, Urban II, or Pius IX (to mention just a few) were Popes who would have never thought it would be better for them to be old, frail, and ultimately factually irrelevant. Popes were meant to reign, not to be put in a shop window (or a “Popemobile”) for all the world to see Catholicism is de facto without its guide.
Pope Pius XII was a Pope I continue to go back to, because it seems to me in most cases if you want to know how a Pope did it right you only have to look at what this great Pope did. Pope Pacelli was a man of such strong energy and iron will, that in one of the most difficult periods in the history of the Church he united in himself the functions of Pope and Secretary of State. Nothing less than full control was enough for him. This, my friends, is a Pope who sees his role rather differently than being looked at behind the bullet proof glass of a vehicle. In fact, Pope Pius XII thought of resigning when it became clear to him he could not reign properly anymore; and we are talking of a time where the Church had things so much under control – though challenges are always there – that the Western societies of the Fifties seem to belong to a different age than the present ones.
What does this tell us? It tells us that a Pope is supposed to function as a Pope, rather than as a televised ad for Catholicism. The “shop window Pope” is very well for the Curia, who can easily manipulate him; or for the local hierarchies, who can do as they please; but it's not good at all for the Church, who needs to be led by Peter, not by a bunch of Cardinals no one ever made Pope and avoiding, at least on this earth, every accountability.
It is not surprising that weak or ill Popes cause the Curia to become inefficient, or corrupt. What is surprising is that the same people who lament the Curia's inefficiency (or corruption) are perfectly fine with years and years of impotent Popes, unable to reign or, alas, even to think properly. They don't see that weak Popes, like weak Kings or Emperors, unavoidably lead to the supremacy of the shrewdest manipulators, to a total lack of accountability, and to an environment of savage intrigue, whereas strong Popes will, for good or for bad, steer the Barque where they want to, and be clearly seen as responsible for what they do.
If we are honest with ourselves, Benedict wouldn't have gone down in history with the nickname “the iron Pope” if he had been in best health every day of his Papacy. Still, the exercise of power always needs a certain amount of energy, of inner fire, of will to demand and command that builds on a certain amount of strength. This strenght is needed to cope with the adrenalines, the difficult decisions, the opposition, the punishments if must be, that the exercise of power invariably demands. Seeing Benedict in yesterday's video, it is abundantly clear this fire isn't there any longer.
An intelligent man, and a man who loves the Church, Benedict must have seen it. He had also seen from very near the quasi-Sede Vacante situation created in the last five, or more, years of his predecessor's reign. He has, I am certain, correctly assessed such a situation as damaging for the Church; and he has decided to draw the consequences from his own situation for the good of the Church, irrespective of the criticism he knew would be levelled at him.
Pope Benedict wasn't an Iron Pope, but he understood the need for the Church to be guided by a Pope, not by an unelected small group of shrewd manipulators. He was intelligent enough to see the issue, and unselfish enough to take a step he knew would be criticised. It pains me, it truly pains me to see a man able to take such a selfless decision, and being criticised for it.
If you ask me, this, what Pope Benedict showed us, was the true courage and the true humility; not the iron cross, the black shoes, and the absence of Mozzetta.
May the Almighty grant Benedict serene days of prayer on earth, and reward this gentle man for this beautiful act of courage.
After the events of the last days, it might be good to refresh an elementary principle of logic that is, if you ask me, all too often forgotten: the principle of non-contradiction. The principle states that contradictory principles cannot be true in the same sense at the same time. It seems obvious, and it is, but one would be surprised at reflecting how often it is neglected.
Pope Francis, as we all know, refused to wear the Mozzetta and the golden cross. His new attitude found, we are informed, many friends among Catholics, to whom “simplicity” is suddenly so appealing, particularly now that a phenomenon completely unknown during the history of the Papacy (I am obviously referring to the poor) has appeared. Perhaps we should stop a moment and reflect on what is happening here.
As you all know, Catholicism is very rich in symbolism. It is, in fact, so densely populated with it, that a typical trait of Protestant denominations is either the toning down or the outright abandonment of the extremely rich Catholic traditions.
The sedia gestatoria wasn't the way the Church prevented a Pope from muddling his shoes. The Tiara wasn't conceived so that he Had to keep his head straight. The ermine Mozzetta isn't there because Popes are old and need to keep warm. They are symbols of Papal authority, a sensorial way (visual, in this case) to remind one in a simple but effective manner of a supernatural reality. Of course, it is not the Tiara that count, it's the Papacy; but every attack to the symbols of power symbolises, nay, it literally invites, a weakening of this power.
In past ages, everyone understood this, and this symbolism found application everywhere. When Kings had real power, they had real crowns, and real sceptres, symbolising their position; symbols of power whose use in real life has almost disappeared, together with their power. Similarly, when Priests wanted to be recognised as such they wore a cassock; when they started to be “one of us”, they started to wear priestly suits; and when they started to be ashamed of being priests, they started to wear plain clothes. You can think of further thirty examples of this elementary logic for yourselves. Symbols are powerful.
Some of the symbols of Papal authority are now – if we are honest with ourselves – under attack. After the sedia gestatoria and the mitra, the Mozzetta, golden cross and red shoes are now supposed to go. Make no mistake, this attack to the symbols of the Papacy is, whether willingly or not, a weakening and banalisation of the majesty of the Petrine Office.
Which leads us nicely to the initial argument: this abandonment of the traditional symbolism of the Papacy can find you in agreement or not, but not both at the same time.
It can't be that Benedict was right in recovering aspects of Catholic tradition, and Francis is right in demolishing them. One of them must be wrong, because they are at opposite poles of the way to understand the art the Papacy must be perceived. Again, this here is not about not liking red shoes, or thinking the Mozzetta is too warm; it is about wanting that the authority of the Papacy is clearly, immediately, unmistakably perceived. This desire, cultivated for centuries and so very typical of Catholicism, cannot be right and wrong at the same time. You either are with with Benedict and his predecessors, or with Francis.
Why, then, so many commenters around many blogs, who were all in favour of Benedict's red shoes, are now enthusiastic fans of Francis' black ones? Because they aren't thinking, they are merely emoting; which latter also avoids the embarrassment of having to think “the Pope is wrong”, apparently a taboo among so many that I begin to think the Protestant mockery of “Papolatry” certainly applies to a good many simple Catholics.
Imagine a new, young queen appearing in low-cut jeans and t-shirt, and the crowd saying “how beautiful! How simple! How humble! So long, useless pomp of the past! She is one of us, why shouldn't she dress like one of us?”. The answer obviously is that she shouldn't, because she isn't. But if she starts to dress like one, at some point she'll certainly be.
Thinking of which, why is the red Mozzetta not in order, but the white cassock is? Why should the “bishop of Rome” not dress like every other bishop? Everyone knows he is the Pope, right? And why a cassock? How many priests wear cassocks? Would not be more “humble” and “simple” to wear a simple priestly suit? What about trousers and sweaters? Why not jeans? He is one of us, right?
So long, shoes! Welcome, sandals!
“But, no, Mundabor, he isn't! He is the Pope! Successor of Peter! Vicar of Christ!”.
Exactly. He is the Pope, Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ, and out of respect for the Holy Office with which he was entrusted he should have the humility to dress accordingly and appropriately, whether he likes it or not.
I'd say this respect for one's office is fitting for everyone, but most of all for a Pope.
It would appear that a new consistory is rather probable within the end of the year.
This is not entirely surprising as the vacancies are now numerous. By the end of the year there will be the possibility of appointing 15 Cardinals (if Pope Benedict wants to remain by the number of 120 elettori, that is). Now, this is at least one eighth of the next conclave, probably more – due to the system which sees Cardinals continuously losing electorate – and it is clear enough that every consistory can, in and of itself, radically change the situation at the next Conclave.
Pope Benedict is still in rather good health, but at 84 and with a past of heart problems I’m sure he is not planning for a reign of JP II’s duration. It is therefore rather important that this consistory injects the right energies into the next conclave.
Much is at stake, as both Summorum Pontificum and the relationship with the SSPX and the other traditionalist groups could be seriously compromised in case the next conclave results in a serious mistake. On the other hand, a careful but noticeable shifting of the centre of gravity towards the right wing would give everyone the serenity necessary for long-term hopes.
Ideally – if you ask me – Pope Benedict would appoint only one or two of the liberals to appease them (Nichols’ appointment is this time, alas, very probable) and choose for all other places men of undoubted liturgical and theological orthodoxy, possibly rather young so that they stay around for a long time.
I wish the Holy Father a long and healthy reign of course, but the demographic reality is what it is and it must be clear to us that this might be the last consistory of this pontificate.
Ad multos annos, Papa! But please, please conservative appointments!
If you go here at around 2:10:00 (make haste, because it might disappear in the next days) you’ll have a good example of what doesn’t work with the Church in England.
The BBC journalist insists in posing irritating, but actually very fitting questions to Archbishop Longley. Thankfully, the journalist has got it that the Pope was, during Condomgate, “not saying anything terribly new” and he therefore asks – understandably, from his ungodly perspective – whether the Church is going to “change” Her opinion about condoms and, more fittingly, whether the average English Catholics accepts “lock, stock and barrel” the Catholic doctrine.
This would be an ideal occasion to launch oneself on a passionate defence of Truth, on BBC’s “Today” programme, on Christmas Eve. Which is, I was told, what an Archbishop is supposed to do anyway.
Instead, Archbishop Langley’s answers oscillate between the inane, the cowardly and the pathetic. He goes on and on remembering the success of the Papal visit; talks about how much the church is looking for “dialogue”; insists on Cardinal Newman in a way clearly meant to avoid the show of “tough love” required of him; tries not to answer the journalist’s questions and even says that he thinks that Catholics in England accept “lock, stock and barrel” the Catholic teaching, “otherwise they wouldn’t be Catholic”. Good Lord; do we live on the same planet….
The buzz words, though, are all there. Dialogue is obviously there and change is also felt as appropriate. “The Church is constantly changing”, says he when he talks of the ways the Church talks to the people. This is meant to sound positive, I suppose, but the guts to say loud and clear that the Truth doesn’t change and everyone must come to terms with that is clearly more than he can muster. So we have on the one side the hurt feeling of perverts – explicitly and emphatically championed by the Beeb man – and on the other hand we have a man insisting with you that the Church “changes” because now the Pope talks to you on the radio. Brilliant.
Archbishop Longley (not one of the worst, for sure; for the English standard, I mean) has given a wonderful example of why the Church struggles in this country: because it is afraid to say it straight and prefers to hide behind successful visits, blessed Cardinals and easy slogans of “dialogue” and “change” instead.
You can read on Rorate Coeli (you’ll have to scroll down to the 21st December) the Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “on trivialization of sexuality” (American spelling, apparently. Fair enough…).
This is nothing less than an official statement about Condomgate. If you take the few minutes to read it, you’ll notice that the arguments it makes are not in the least different from the comment made on this and other orthodox blogs at the time of the controversy.
What one notices is that at least here in the UK the media have chosen to completely ignore this statement in the same way as they had – once it became clear that they had once again pissed outside of the pan – conveniently decided to move to other topics.
As a result the truth didn’t get one hundredth of the media attention given to the lie and untold non-churchgoer Catholics must be somewhat under the impression that after all the Church can change Her teaching and therefore, well, must change it in order to become, ehem, more similar to them.
This is further prove that the media landscape of this country – largely dominated by champagne liberals, liberals who can’t afford the champagne and socialists who think they’re liberals – is not interested in information, but in manipulation of the (license-paying) public.