Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI's Resignation, the News, and Good Advice

As one of the world's billion living Catholics, the Pope is important to me. But I 'follow the Pope' only because that's the person who holds authority my Lord gave to Peter. (Matthew 16:13-19) As I've said before:
"...That authority has been passed along to each of the Popes since Peter's day - and through the hierarchy to the parish priest, down the street from my house.1 Thanks to the 265 successors of Peter, I have a direct connection to my Lord, and the Last Supper. And Golgotha. In a way. (Catechism, 1326, 1330, 1545)..."
(June 15, 2011)
Pope Benedict XVI's resignation is still in the news, and probably will be for weeks. Describing how Catholics reacted to Monday's announcement, I've run into words like 'shocked,' stunned,' and 'dismayed.'

I'm pretty sure that some Catholics were shocked, stunned, and dismayed by the news. Some may even have been greatly surprised, stuck with terror, and rendered senseless.

I wasn't.

On the other hand, I was surprised, so maybe I was "shocked" a little.

Distressed, Disgusted, and Sandbagged?

I'm one of those people who read dictionaries for fun: and put together a short list of what "shock" and "stun" can mean. Feel free to skip this:
  • Shock
    • Noun
      • The feeling of
        • Distress
        • Disbelief
      • A reflex response to the passage of electric current through the body
      • Bodily collapse or near collapse caused by inadequate oxygen delivery to the cells
      • An unpleasant or disappointing surprise
    • Verb
      • Surprise greatly
      • Strike with
        • Disgust
        • Revulsion
        • Horror
        • Terror
    (Princeton's WordNet)
  • Stun
    • Verb
      • Make
        • Senseless
        • Dizzy
      • Hit, as if with a sandbag
      • Overcome as with astonishment or disbelief
    (Princeton's WordNet)

Popes, Church Law, and All That

Journalistic hyperbole aside, Benedict XVI's announcement was a surprise. Popes don't often resign, but it's been done: Gregory XII resigned, in 1415; so did St. Celestine V, in 1294; and St. Pontian, in 235.

Church law says it's okay, and that we don't have to like it:
"...If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone."
(Paragraph 2, Canon 332, Art. 1, Chapter I, Section I, Part II, of The Hierarchical Constitution)
Popes are elected, by the way: but not by folks at my end of the hierarchy. Cardinals elect the Pope: which is fine by me. I don't have nearly enough information to make a sensible choice: figuring out which political candidates are least likely to make a bigger mess is hard enough, and that's another topic.

The Catholic Church isn't 'democratic,' in the sense that we can impose term limits on Popes, or have a referendum on which parts of the Decalogue we like. I wouldn't want any part of a church where members could.

"...A Simple and Humble Labourer...."

Here's what Pope Benedict XVI said, when he became Pope:
"Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"After the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord.

"The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with inadequate instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers.

"Let us move forward in the joy of the Risen Lord, confident of his unfailing help. The Lord will help us and Mary, his Most Holy Mother, will be on our side. Thank you."
(Benedict XVI, Apostolic Blessing "Urbi et Orbi" Annuntio Vobis Gaudium Magnum Habemus Papam (April 19, 2005))
I think that's good advice: "...move forward in the joy of the Risen Lord, confident of his unfailing help...."

I put a few excerpts from the news1, and a list what a few words mean2 at the end of this post.

More:
Related posts:
1 Excerpts from the news:
"Pope: Pray for me and the future Pope, the Lord will guide us!"
Vatican Radio, via NEWS.VA (February 13, 2013)

"...As soon as the Holy Father emerged onto the stage from the side door the crowds erupted in greeting. 'Dear brothers and sisters, as you know I decided', he began only to be interrupted with prolonged applause. 'Thank you for your kindness' he responded and began again. 'I decided to resign from the ministry that the Lord had entrusted me on April 19, 2005. I did this in full freedom' the Pope added forcefully, 'for the good of the Church after having prayed at length and examined my conscience before God, well aware of the gravity of this act'.

"But continued Pope Benedict, 'I was also well aware that I was no longer able to fulfil the Petrine Ministry with that strength that it demands. What sustains and illuminates me is the certainty that the Church belongs to Christ whose care and guidance will never be lacking. I thank you all for the love and prayer with which you have accompanied me'.

"Again the Pope was interrupted by lengthy applause, and visibly moved he continued: 'I have felt, almost physically, your prayers in these days which are not easy for me, the strength which the love of the Church and your prayers brings to me. Continue to pray for me and for the future Pope, the Lord will guide us!'...."

[transcript of English translation follows]

"Knights of Columbus encourage prayers for next Pope"
CNA (February 13, 2013)

"A new prayer from the Knights of Columbus thanks Jesus for the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI and intercedes for the gift of a holy and faithful Pope after Benedict's retirement on Feb. 28.

" 'Until a new pope is elected, we encourage all members of the Knights of Columbus, their families and all Catholics to say this prayer daily for Pope Benedict, for the Church, and for our future Pope,' Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said Feb. 11.

"The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal charitable order with over 1.8 million members worldwide....

"...'Good Shepherd, who founded your Church on the rock of Peter’s faith and have never left your flock untended, look with love upon us now, and sustain your Church in faith, hope, and charity, the prayer reads...."

"Pope decided to resign after Cuba trip, Vatican advisor says"
CNA (February 13, 2013)

"Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to step down from his office was made soon after his trip to Mexico and Cuba in March 2012, according to a senior communications officer at the Vatican.

" 'What's interesting is how long ago this decision was made, shortly after the Pope's trip to Cuba, which was in March of last year,' said Vatican advisor Greg Burke.

"On Feb. 11, Pope Benedict XVI announced to a gathering of cardinals in Rome that he no longer has the strength to carry out the office of the papacy and will resign on Feb. 28. He is 85 years of age.

"Burke confirmed that the decision was made months ago, after a six-day trip during which the pontiff was described as visibly tired and speaking with a strained voice.

"Burke's comments countered media rumors that the decision to retire was tied to the scandal of Pope Benedict's one-time butler, Paolo Gabriele, who stole confidential Vatican documents and leaked them to the media. The decision in March 'was before the whole butler story even broke,' Burke observed.

"His statement echoed the comments of Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, who explained at a recent press conference that 'the trip to Cuba and Mexico, due to his fatigue, was another reason in the development of Benedict XVI's decision, but not its cause,' according to the Vatican Information Service.

" 'He did not resign the pontificate because he is ill, but because of the fragility that comes with old age,' Fr. Lombardi stressed.

"The Vatican spokesman also acknowledged that the Pope has had a pacemaker for years and recently underwent surgery to replace the batteries in the device, although he said that this procedure 'had no impact on his decision.'

"Father Georg Ratzinger, the brother of Pope Benedict, has told reporters that the pontiff was advised by his doctor months ago not to make further transatlantic trips.

"The decision has been a long-time coming, Burke noted.

" 'We should have all paid a lot more attention to the fact that the Pope prayed not once, but twice before the tomb of Celestine V. He obviously knew what Celestine was feeling when he stepped down,' the analyst observed...."

"Papal resignation is rare historical event"
David Uebbing, CNA/EWTN News (February 11, 2013)

"On Feb. 11, Pope Benedict made it public that he will step down from his role as head of the Catholic Church, raising a number of questions about how the process of resignation works.

"Only two other Pope’s have resigned their post in the history of the Church, with the last one being Gregory VII [! should read "Gregory XII"], in 1415.

"But in retrospect the idea was perhaps not so distant from the mind of Benedict XVI.

"The first clear hint of such a move being on the mind of Pope Benedict came in his 2010 interview with the German journalist Peter Seewald.

"That series of questions from Seewald later became the book 'Light of the World.'

"In that work the Pope responded to a question about whether a pontiff could resign: 'Yes. If a Pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.'

"The first Pope to resign in the history of the Church was St. Celestine V, who was elected to office in Dec. 1294 after a conclave that lasted two years and three months...."

"...The current Code of Canon Law, the regulations that govern the life of the Church, now makes it possible for a Pope to leave his office.

"Canon 332, Paragraph 2 says: 'Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is to be required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone.'..."

"Virtually unprecedented: papal resignation throughout history"
Vatican Radio, via NEWS.VA (February 11, 2013)

"No pope has resigned in almost 600 years. But Pope Benedict's surprise announcement is not entirely unprecedented. More than 260 men have reigned as Pope since Saint Peter was martyred in Rome in the third decade after the death of Christ, and at least four of them have resigned.

"We spoke to medieval historian Doctor Donald Prudlo, Associate Professor of History at Jacksonville State University in Alabama, about the history of papal resignations...."

[transcript of English translation follows]

2 More of what words mean:
  • Bible
    • Sacred Scripture
      • Old Testament
      • New Testament
    (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary)
  • Magisterium
    • The teaching function of the Church
      • The Bible
      • Tradition
    (Catechism, Glossary)
  • Petrine
    • Of or pertaining to the
      • Apostle Peter
      • Epistles bearing his name
      (Dictionary.com)
  • Pontiff
    • The head of the Roman Catholic Church
      (Princeton's WordNet)
  • Pontificate
    • Noun
      • The government of the Roman Catholic Church
      • Talk in a dogmatic and pompous manner
    • Verb
      • Administer a pontifical office
      (Princton's WordNet)
  • Tradition
    • The living transmission of faith
    • What the apostles learned from Jesus'
      • Teaching
      • Example
      (Catechism: 75-83; Glossary)
    • An inherited pattern of thought or action
    • A specific practice of long standing
      (Princton's WordNet)

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