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Observations On The Abdication

My profound admiration for the person of Pope Benedict XVI, appreciation for his eight years as pontiff, and esteem for the Petrine ministry are real, deep, and profound. I am grateful to this Pope for so many things. I do not question for a moment that he has made his decision with nothing but the best interests of the Church first and foremost in his mind. Even with all that, I wish to make some observations about this prudential decision, a decision I find very problematic.

These observations are not equal weight or merit, have they any weight or merit at all. They are merely some of my thoughts on the matter.

Accepting the Papacy is fundamentally different from accepting any other Episcopal function, there has been no expectation of retirement or replacement. That this is considered a lifetime appointment has been clear to every Pope for 600 years (and a better part of the 1400 that came before that) and similarly that lifetime tenure was the expectation of the cardinal-electors that chose him. Accepting it, with that understood tradition, should be done without any mental reservation. Accepting the Papacy with the unspoken idea that you can do this for a while and then hand it over to someone else, even if canonically licit is nonetheless a complete break with long-standing tradition and seems, at a minimum, to be rightly considered mental reservation.

Breaking the tradition that Popes die in office will have consequences. This is a truism. There is no way that Pope Benedict, no matter how wise, can see all the implications and effects of his decision. Within days of the resignation, he made statements criticizing factions and corruption within the Church as well as an admonition to the press to stop trying to influence the conclave. I ask you sincerely, with all these admitted pressures on the Pope, is it reasonable to surmise that adding the potential for Papal resignation to the mix will increase this strife among internal factions and external influences? I think the only honest answer is yes.

It seems to me that if the cardinal-electors thought that youth and vigor were the paramount prerequisites for the Petrine ministry, they would not have selected a 78 year old man. So why did the Pope, in his February 11th announcement say "in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary." So not only did he break precedent, he set a dangerous new one that seemingly rejects the wisdom of the conclave and the wisdom of his predecessors.

Does this precedent increase the likelihood that a future Pontiff will resign due to these pressures? I think so. Is that a benefit to the Church? I think not.

I must admit that seeing so many leaders of the world, the same leaders who routinely promote those things most repugnant to Christ and His Church as good, leaders who would like nothing more than the demise of the Church, offering such effusive praise of the Pope's decision as humble and free, only increases my apprehension.

Lastly, the Popes have remained Popes until death is great sign, counter to the culture, that God and his Church value something greater than what the world values. In a culture that already idolizes youth and vigor, a culture that increasingly devalues even to the point of death those who do not resemble this fleeting idol, being Pope til death was a great sign to the world. I worry that once again the Church is becoming more like the world than the other way around.

I love Pope Benedict dearly and I hope I am wrong on all counts, but I don't think I will be.

Note--Please feel free to disagree with me on any or all of what I say above. I hope you are right and I am wrong. But please refrain from telling me I have no right to say it. Comments to this effect may be deleted, so do not bother.

*subhead*A bad decision?*subhead*

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StarbucksMom... said...

I think we are spending too much time questioning the actions of a human being who (it would appear) has never made any decision in his life lightly. If the "precedent" didn't catch on 600 years ago, I am not sure we have anything to fear from it this time around. And lastly, I believe in the promise that the Church shall prevail and that the Holy Spirit was guiding the choice of the Cardinals to Benedict, that it will guide the conclave to the next Bishop of Rome as well.

StarbucksMom... said...

Oh, and I forgot... you have no right to say what you are saying. ;) LOL, sometimes I wonder what is wrong with people, Patrick! Keep on telling us what we need to hear!

Memom said...

I hope you are wrong. Only time will tell. As the full-time caregiver of my husband of 40 years, I realize that the Parkinson's that has been with us for a number of years, is progressing and I have to make adjustments so that he gets the care he needs and I don't burn out because, if I do, we will both need caregiving. It is not easy to change. We've had to a few times already. Each change is more difficult because each one is more limiting. If I choose to be in denial, our children and grandchildren will have no warning and will have to perform a crisis intervention - should they choose to accept what might seem like Mission Impossible in their already too busy lives. I view the decision of our Holy Father through this lens. I think he loves 'his family' too much to throw it into chaos. He is too logical. I hope you are wrong. No matter what happens, he knows that "all things work together for good to those who love God." He loves God. I guess he is trusting what He has told us. God bless him and all involved in electing his successor. God bless our new Pope. Jesus, we trust in You!

Pedro Erik said...

I disagree with you. Because:

1) Yes, we expect Popes to die, but Benedict XVI saw what happened during the last years of Pope John Paul II, you can imagine how factions dominate during this period without a strong mental voice inside the Vatican;

2)Benedict XVI is wise enough and he has been in Roma for 30 years to know all the factions (including the gay factions), also many cardinals know. The admonitions the Pope did in the last days seemed to me that he was trying to reinforce the need to a Pope strong enough to impose discipline in the Church, not a Pope young enough.

3) Pope Benedict XVI is the best pope I saw in my life, I would be a totally diferent (worst) person without him in these 8 years. The same for the world, so the Holy Spirit was wise again choosing him.

4) You do not know how deep is his sickness.

5) Benedict XVI worked in 8 years much more that the majority of the popes in the XX Century, because Pope John Paul II established a papacy that travels a lot and take part in many issues around the world. What is very good. Last March for Life, the Pope sent a message, for instance.

Best regards,
Pedro Erik

the mysterious said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
WAFMC said...

Popes come and go, but the Office of Peter remains. That said, I will really miss Pope Benedict. He has given us no reason to doubt him, so I trust his decision. Even though I am a "pope-until-death" believer, who am I, really, to question the pope's decision?

And, while I am unwilling to claim knowledge of specifics, I think it is reasonable that certain precautions be taken during even the best of times. On at least a couple of notable occasions, the Holy Father has rejected careerism. The devil is prowling about the world seeking the ruin of souls. An interregnum would seem an opportune time for the devil to wreak havoc and sow discord.

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.

gothmog said...

I enjoy this blog, but I profoundly disagree with you on this point.

Personally, I am getting tired of the flak Pope Benedict has been forced to take over all this. He claims to be abdicating the office for health reasons, and this conflagration of debate has to be putting a lot of stress on an already old and frail man.

Pope John Paul II was beloved, but did anyone really enjoy watching him deteriorate to the point where he seemed to be barely a presence in the Vatican while factions vied with each other for power? Anyone? And there were few
people as close to that situation as Cardinal Ratzinger. I can forgive him wanting to spare the papacy and the Church a repeat of John Paul II's slow decline.

Furthermore, I seriously doubt that Benedict has chosen this course of action lightly. I am confident that he has prayed and meditated on this decision with the same thought and care which he has consistently tried to apply to the office of the papacy, and none of us know how serious his medical condition might be. He faced a very difficult papacy, and he accomplished much even at an already advanced age.

Will there be a lot of commotion within the Vatican and without as the Church prepares for a new pope? Of course, and if this were a secular institution I might even be worried. However, I believe in the promises of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. In the long run we can be sure of who is in charge.

Sophia's Favorite said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sophia's Favorite said...

Frankly, Pat, your last few posts on this topic have made you look like a whiny, petulant, entitled, brat—and your response to me calling you on it only reinforced that impression.

You're basically making the argument people make against giving babies up for adoption. If you're not in a condition to care for a thing properly, do you hang onto it anyway and destroy the both of you? Or do you give it to someone who is in a condition to care for it?

Patrick Archbold said...

My post was reasoned, calm, and polite. You can disagree, but I stated my case.

Your comments are rude and unchristian name calling because you don't care for my opinion.

You don't have the right to repeatedly call me names. You should rethink your behavior.

Anneg said...

Pat, I can see your point of view and pray you will be proven wrong. I'm always an optimist and am hopeful for the future. I greatly respect and love Pope Benedict. The prospect of factions encouraging resignation, retirement or renunciation, whatever you call it is chilling. One thing, though, with current medical technology we can intervene to keep people very much alive and functioning longer than even 30 years ago. What I see, though, is that every medical event or crisis, the patient recovers, but never to the same level as before the event. As I enter early old age, I try to keep that in mind.
I don't know if what you are writing is what will happen but I know we can pray together for the spiritual health of the Church and the Pope and his successor.

Mary Kay said...

I'm surprised at the tone so many are taking. Where is the arrogance or whining, in stating an opinion on the abdication of the Holy Father? He is a human being and can err, as we all can. Stating these thoughts is certainly not 'questioning God'. Papolatry is not required of Catholics---only filial devotion and prayers.

veneremurcernui said...

I very respectfully.......and totally agree with you. I share these concerns, and more. I think some of the hostility you are seeing is because many Catholics have adopted a sort of ultramontanist view of the Papacy, that nothing is to be criticized, ever. I don't know that for certain, it is impossible to ascertain, but I strongly suspect it. I also strongly suspect that as the months and years go by the carefully crafted initial narrative of this resignation as an act of brilliance and humility will become less and less tenable. For those who read the foreign press, there have been stinging condemnations of this resignation already in Italy and France. I would imagine that is just the beginning.

Sarah L said...

Ultimately, only God knows perfectly whether or not Pope Benedict XVI is doing the right thing by resigning. Honestly, I'd like to see him stay in the Chair of St. Peter until God permanently retires him. Some of the accolades he's been getting from people who have no love for the Catholic Church make me queasy. Sure there have been a few other popes since St. Peter who have resigned, but we shouldn't be encouraged to think of this as the "new normal." Ultimately, it's not just the pope's mental, physical and spiritual strength that enables him to do the job; it has always been God's love, God's strength and God's wisdom, though not all popes have fully recognized that. Only God knows how well the current (resigning) pope recognizes that or whether he's doing the right thing. I just don't like to hear people use Pope BXVI's example to disparage Pope John Paul II's. It doesn't help, either, that folks like Hans Kung were already talking about Pope Benedict XVI's resigning (and how neat that would be) before the pope actually did so. On the one hand, there are those who seem to think the pope is just another bishop, and bishops retire at 75, so "what's the big deal?" On the other hand there are those who seem to think the pope can do no wrong, which, of course, he (being human, certainly can.

Donald said...

Patrick, your observations are well taken and you are not alone in your concern with the abdication of Benedict XVI. I think it is very strange that the Pope has done this, equally so the clergy's apparent lack of surprise & concern over it.

I've noticed in a comment here & on other blogs a misconception of the Holy Ghost's role in papal elections. While the Cardinals may pray for guidance, they do the electing, not the Holy Ghost. They may or may not follow His inspiration.

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