Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Thoughts on Pope Benedict's Resignation

Like the rest of the world, I was shocked and saddened by the news that our beloved Pope Benedict will be resigning. It's shocking because the last time a Pope resigned from office was back before we had Protestants (Gregory XII in 1415; resigned to finally end the Great Schism). Saddened because I love Pope Benedict. He's been the Pope throughout the time I've been maturing in my faith, and he's the Pope I saw and heard in person when I was in Rome.

But more importantly than that, he's just an eminently lovable person. The press nicknamed him 'God's Rottweiler,' but his writings, speeches, and mannerisms are anything but ferocious.

Case in point: St. Peter, meet St. Bernard
On the contrary, he's a remarkably gentle man, remaining open-minded and respectful even when discussing heresies and viciously anti-Catholic philosophies. Among those who have met him, the unanimous consensus is that they're struck by how very humble and gracious he is. The anecdote that, to my mind, encapsulates him best is during a Eucharistic procession in St. Peter's square, while he was carrying the Blessed Sacrament, he saw a pilgrim waving at him, and he smiled and gestured to the monstrance. "Not me," he was telling her, "Him." The focus for Pope Benedict is never on himself, whether his own theological views or his own public persona. Rather, it is always upon God.

As for my opinion of his resignation, I honestly don't think it's my place to really have one. Popes can legally resign, and it has happened before (very few things that the Pope does are unprecedented, though this is less out of policy and more due to the fact that, 2000 years in, there aren't a whole lot of unprecedented actions left). Considering the fact that he's an 85 year-old man responsible for roughly 1/7 of the world's population, it doesn't take much effort to see why he would resign. He clearly considers this the best decision for the Church, which, knowing what we know of him, can only mean that it most likely is the best decision. In short it's his prerogative, and while I'm sad to see him go and will certainly miss his presence in the Church, I'm happy for him that he'll finally have the rest he so richly deserves after a long life of service.

Regarding what this does to the Papacy, I think it will have mixed effects. On the one hand, this will ease some pressure on future Popes who find themselves unable to carry out their duties by giving them the option of graceful retirement. On the other, you can bet that from now on the press will hardly let a day go by without saying that the Pope should resign in disgrace for something that some priest did somewhere in the world, or just because they feel like it. On the other hand, the fact that the Pope resigned of his own free will, without any suspicions or pressure from the press, should help to mitigate this.

More importantly, though, it's a wonderful show of humility and trust in God. Benedict is quietly acknowledging that, in effect, God doesn't need him. It's not vital that he remain on scene to dispense his massive store of wisdom (and I'm not being ironic in the least; he seriously does have a massive store of wisdom to share), because it's not about him, it's about Jesus. And if his health means that he can't be an effective messenger for Jesus, then he'll step aside and let someone else take his place. As always, Benedict's focus is on Jesus.

Now comes the really icky part: having to listen to MSNBC news anchors trying to squeeze the Church into categories of 'Right and Left' while struggling to wrap their heads around what 'Papability' means.

Lord Jesus, watch over and bless your servant, Pope Benedict, and his successor.

Here's the link to his official declaration

Vive Christus Rex! E Vive Papa Benedicto!


On a lighter note, I'd just like to point out that this is an incredibly badass photo!

No word yet on whether the Pope has developed superspeed.

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