Here is the most official source I can find:
Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation at end of month on Vatican Radio. Also see Damian Thompson’s Pope resigns. This is unbelievable news, but evidence of Benedict XVI’s deep humility. I’m satisfied this is not a joke!
There are already people who believe there hasn’t been a Pope since October 1958 when Pius XII died. Others will dispute the possibility of abdication and the legitimate election of a Pope whilst his predecessor is still alive (even though canon law provides for the possibility).
Will Benedict XVI influence the choice of his successor, or is the pendulum going to swing back the other way now? Much as I feel for an ailing man who is one year older than my father who retired from his veterinary practice twenty-two years ago, I suspect this is going to banalise the Papacy – perhaps just what is needed.
We’ll see in March with the Conclave. Chi entra in conclave Papa ne esce cardinale.
I just learned today that Celestine V’s successor Boniface VIII (the great champion of extra ecclesiam nulla salus) put Celestine V in prison where he died of hunger and disease. Lovely, I really enjoy these stories of men of God!
My own fear is less for the banalisation of the Papacy than that it will fall into the hands of either someone utterly corrupt, or an incompetent, either political, intellectual or total. There simply isn’t any name that seems viable this time. God have mercy.
Addendum: By “political”, I mean both in the sense of navigating and controlling the Curia, and in terms of communicating successfully with the world.
Thanks for your comments. These are also my fears. A new Boniface VIII – God forbid! Perhaps the Ordinariate folk will be knocking on the door of the Orthodox Churches…
I’m hoping for an African liberal with absolutely no interest in nor concern for either liturgy, traditionalists or even official RC doctrine.
Such a hope might come true with the eventual transfer of the Vatican to Africa. Either that or some conservative in a replay of Boniface VIII. There are also the South Americans. My reflection in 2005 was that Benedict XVI was the last chance for Catholicism in Europe. Maybe that’s really finished now.
I can’t bring myself to react to this with too much cynicism or glee. But I would say that at last the Pope ceases to be a quasi-god as did the Emperor of China (cf. The Last Emperor) shortly before the Cultural Revolution. Louis XVI of France was trying to do something for his people in the way of social reforms, but it was too late when they took him to the guillotine!
It is the end of an era.
Perhaps also the beginning of something new and wonderful for all to behold. This Pope has shown wisdom and great courage in making this decision.
Be charitable and pray for us and our souls. Percutiam pastorem, et dispergentur oves gregis.
I agree with you. I have always had the greatest respect for Benedict XVI and his theological work. I am brought to think of this text:
I indeed pray for all his faithful, that none may be led astray by false beliefs, conspiracy theories, sedevacantism, etc.
It is the end of something. It does demystify the papacy somewhat, interrupting the ritual of the conclave being held in the immediate aftermath of a glorious public funeral. What can this mean? It is potentially progressive in some sense. If we look at his official statement, “in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith” …we can see he is acknowledging this is connected to the present political and social reality for the Church in the 21st century. It must mean that he is looking past the circus and show that remains the only thing intruiging about Roman Catholicism to most secular folk. One never hears anything about a Pope in the secular media unless he’s said something liberal minded people can be upset about, or he’s offering a chance for us to glimpse at the vestiges of a lost mode of society that we, in some partial sense, secretly long for in the banality of our own disenchantment. Is this, in some way, to elevate the evangelion over it’s incarnation and reification in customs and traditions?
I feel bad for him. I can imagine the weight of this decision and how it might come across as the feeling of a spell being lifted. Would it be wrong to hope for Cardinal Schonborn? Is he still “papable”?
I am going to disagree with some of the statements made here, somewhat anyway. I think that this might actually be a brilliant move on the part of Pope Benedict. This will give him some say in who is the next Pope and perhaps avoiding a raving, liberal lunatic being elected; and perhaps, at least liturgically, a continuation of a reform of the reform (if that is really possible).
On the more mundane issue of personal infallibility of the Pope, will there now be two infallible personages in the world?
“Peter, when you are converted, strenghthen your brethren.” – Jesus
Dale, I’m just not reading this as a strategy to continue his reforms. If anything, people will be right in saying this is the most radical thing he has done in keeping with the tendencies of the vision of the young “progressive” Ratzinger. John Paul II degenerated in the public eye and, bearing the burden of the office like a sort of martyr, only further united the office of pope and its person through the type of glory that comes from suffering for God. Benedict is now sending a sure sign to the 21st century Church, one that detracts from the cult of personality that has formed around the Roman pontiffs with all of its ultramontane implications: the pope is less so a mysterious pinnacle in a hierarchy that unites human society and heaven, a link so holy he has to die in order to be succeeded; instead he is more so an ordinary man who can cease being equipped to perform practical duties of governance. This is a profound shock to the Catholic mind shaped in the last two centuries, I think. Ultimately, it says that the Papacy is about service. It’s merely a gesture to be sure. In a way it could signal the end of the Papal monarchy, or represent a shift in the way the papacy is imagined. (But perhaps I shouldn’t jump ahead too far?).
As for infallibility, even though I don’t care for that type of thinking to begin with, I think the Catholic doctrine is that infallibility resides with the office and not with the person. Once Benedict’s resignation is effective, he will no longer hold that charism.
Jordan, perhaps you are correct, and it is only my wishful thinking that sees it another way. I really like the present Pope (Although I am not a Roman Catholic, and would never consider becoming one) and really wish that his attempt to restore, in liturgical issues, more respect for tradition might prevail. One issue that will be evident is how much the whole of the Roman Church is dependent upon the thinking and attitudes of a single individual.
Interestingly, you did state the following: “Catholic doctrine is that infallibility resides with the office and not with the person,” actually according to the Council the Pope’s infallibility is personal and does not reside specifically with the Church; it was/is considered a “personal charisma” of the Pope. What is very interesting is that the “New Catholic Encyclopedia” has a very, very different take on papal infallibility than the 1913 edition! The newer edition very much distances itself from the personal charisma line taken in the older editions, but the older editions are far closer to the actual pronouncement.
“It should be observed in conclusion that papal infallibility is a personal and incommunicable charisma, which is not shared by any pontifical tribunal” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07790a.htm).
Thanks Dale, I hadn’t read that. It’s certainly not an issue for me to sort out! I too like Benedict. I probably wouldn’t be a church-going Catholic today if he hadn’t kindled my interest in the Church through some of his writings. I also am disposed towards traditional liturgy. The problem, as I think Father Anthony has noted before, is that it’s no use recovering old traditions if they are done so at the expense of a peace-loving mind. The Pope is right to attempt a balance between recovery, conservation and progress. Whether such a balance can be achieved in these times is, of course, a different question.