The end of a momentous day in the life of the Catholic Church; which saw the first resignation of a Pope in over 600 years.
I was up early this morning, and so was able to watch Benedict’s final meeting with the College of Cardinals, as Pontiff. As I watched the program, I was struck by how much Benedict XVI had aged, from the picture of him in 2005. The ministry of being Pope has definitely weighed heavy on him.
Now, Benedict is ensconced in Castel Gandolfo, those cardinals that are not in Rome yet, are probably on their way. The Bark of St. Peter is not entering uncharted waters, and many Vatican observers are saying that all bets are off, concerning a successor to Benedict. And there is those concerns about having both a Pope and a Pope emeritus, living in the Vatican. Having read Father Richard O’Brien’s Lives of the Popes; when the Church has more than one Pope, even if one is retired, mischief is possible.
Now about my feelings about Pope emeritus Benedict XVI; I have to say they have been ambivalent. As the Church’s doctrinal “enforcer,” I have always felt that his office was somewhat heavy handed in dealing with theologians who pushed the envelope in understanding and expressing the faith. This continued during his papacy, with I think, a lack of due process, dialogue, and transparency. While being hard on “liberal” theologians, Pope Benedict was making a mighty effort to bring ultra traditionalists, the Society of St. Pius X, back into the fold of the Church. The SSPX own intransigence about Vatican II, sabotage that effort. I was very uncomfortable with the Pope emeritus attempts to bring more traditional, even Pre-Vatican II elements back into the liturgy.
All that being said, I respected his attempts to deal with the child sexual abuse by clergy scandal, getting pedophile priests out of the Church. His meeting with survivors of clergy abuse was inspiring. Was there more he could have done? Quick answer, “Yes!” But he made more of attempt to deal with the crisis, than his predecessor. I have always enjoyed his books, found them both enlightening, and challenging.
He was a humble man, dedicated to the Church, and to its people. He placed concern for the well being of the Church, before all else. I hope he has a peaceful and fulfilling retirement.