The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI To Resign

Sad news for those of us who love Pope Benedict XVI. Today the Holy Father announced that he will resign the Petrine ministry as of February 28. While not unprecedented, papal resignations are certainly rare, with the last occurring in 1415 when Pope Gregory XII resigned in order to bring an end to the Great Schism. Below is a video of New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan as he responds to the Pope's announcement.

I expect we'll encounter many interesting but erroneous reports in the secular media as it covers the resignation, its causes, and its consequences.We should not, of course, be surprised by the often wild inaccuracies found in stories about the Catholic Church. The secular media might get the main thrust of a story correct, but when it comes to the details -- the motivations, causes and consequences  -- they haven't a clue. I suppose that's to be expected since those who write the stories usually view the Church from the same worldview from which they view all human organizations. They parse the Vatican's statements on world events solely from a geopolitical perspective, seemingly unaware that the Church teaches from its unique perspective of faith, morality, and eschatology. They assume the Church can alter its magisterial teachings or add to and subtract from the deposit of faith much the way a worldly government can change its laws. They identify popes, cardinals, bishops and theologians using the same comfortable terms they use to label politicians. One who accepts established Church teaching is conservative rather than orthodox, while one who rejects magisterial teachings is viewed as progressive rather than heretical.

For example, one often hears Blessed Pope John XXIII referred to as a liberal and Pope John Paul II as a conservative. And yet, from the Church's perspective, both were Catholic, both were orthodox. Both held fast to the deposit of faith with which they were entrusted and both were completely dedicated to fulfilling the Lord's command to "...make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you," accepting, too, Jesus' promise that "I am with you always, until the end of the age” [Mt 28-19-20]. Each pope is called to his ministry at a specific time in the life of the Church, and each responds differently, guided by the Holy Spirit and his own understanding of what is needed to fulfill the Church's overriding mission of evangelization. Today, Pope Benedict believes he is no longer physically able to carry out the heavy responsibilities of his office and that the Holy Spirit desires someone else to carry on as his successor during this challenging time in the Church's life.

As you might expect, already some in the secular media have responded in typical fashion. I heard one "expert" on TV this morning stating that Pope Benedict's likely reason for resigning was to avoid responsibility for the scandal resulting from the abuse of children by priests. Another (the UK's Guardian) implied that he was, in effect, forced from office because of his "conservative"and "divisive" papacy: "A deeply conservative pontiff, whose tenure has been overshadowed by sexual abuse scandals, Pope Benedict, 85, leaves with a chequered reputation after a papacy that was at times both conservative and divisive." Between now and next month's conclave we will no doubt be subjected to far worse than this. Most of the errors repeated by the media will stem from ignorance, but sadly some will be driven by hatred.

I'm certain we can take Pope Benedict at his word as he makes what for this holy, humble and brilliant man must have been an extremely difficult decision. So you will know exactly what the Holy Father said, here is the full text of his announcement:
Dear Brothers,
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.  I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects.  And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013


Now is the time for all Catholics, indeed, for all people of good will, to pray for the Church, for Pope Benedict XVI, and for the conclave that will elect his successor.

I've included below a video clip on what will happen after Pope Benedict's resignation takes effect on February 28.

One last photo...I couldn't resist. This is a photo of me and Pope Benedict XVI on the streets of Rome in February 2000. Okay, officially he wasn't pope yet, but that's just a technicality. His election took place about five years later. But it's still pretty cool. I simply ran into him on a street near the Vatican and accosted the poor man. But he was very gracious and let me talk and question him for five or ten minutes; then he posed for this photo in which I am, of course, giving instructions to the photographer, our Polish friend, Fr. Adam Domanski.

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