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PopeWatch: Mystery

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One of the deeper mysteries currently in the Church is why the Pope Emeritus resigned.  Ostensibly for health reasons, more than two years later he is still with us, quite healthy for a man of 87.  If the resignation was not done for health reasons, why?  Pope Benedict has suggested that he had a mystical experience that caused him to resign.  If so, why didn’t he indicate that at the time?  Andrea Gagliarducci at Monday Vatican gives us the latest speculation:

According to Fr. Fausti, Cardinal Martini, already gravely sick, met with Benedict XVI on June 2, 2012, on the occasion of the World Day of Families in Milan (Cardinal Martini later died on August 31, 2012). When he met the Pope, he told him: “You cannot reform the Curia, you can’t do anything else than give up.”

Benedict XVI had come back very tired from the trip to Mexico and Cuba, at the end of the preceding March. During that summer he began speaking about the possibility of resigning with his closest collaborators who tried to discourage him from taking that decision. In December 2012, Benedict XVI called a consistory for the creation of six cardinals (no Italians, no Europeans, no curialists among them) in order to “re-balance” the College of Cardinals, and on February 11, 2013, he publicly declared his intention to resign from the active exercise of the Petrine ministry.

But according to Fr. Fausti, the resignation was already programmed from the beginning of the pontificate in case things did not to go as planned. And it was even planned since the conclave of 2005, when Cardinal Martini transferred his votes to Cardinal Ratzinger in order to avoid the “dirty games” of cardinals aiming at eliminating both of them as contenders so that they could elect instead “a man of the Curia, very shrewd, who could not make the cut,” Fr. Fausti revealed.

“Once he caught on to the trick, Cardinal Martini went to talk to Ratzinger in the evening, and he told him: ‘Accept your election as Pope tomorrow with my votes. You should accept, as you have been working in the Curia for 30 years and you are intelligent and honest. If you are able to reform the Curia, ok, if you cannot, you can leave office.’”

This narrative is certainly suggestive, and it reveals some aspects that are generally not taken in consideration. First, in 2005, the distinction between conservative and progressives had become outmoded. This development was certified by the longstanding Vatican-watcher Giuseppe De Carli, who announced in his book “Breviario del nuovo millennio” that the conservative-progressive dialectic was outdated.

Secondly and consequently, Cardinal Martini and Cardinal Ratzinger were not on different sides. Fr. Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office, proved this when he presented the third book on Jesus of Nazareth by Benedict XVI. Speaking at the beginning of the presentation, Fr. Lombardi read aloud some of Cardinal Martini’s statements, among them, “I wanted to write a book on Jesus, then Ratzinger did everything I would have done.” This from the cardinal loved by progressives.

However, this interpretation of the 2005 conclave has some holes in it. First, Fr. Fausti said that Cardinal Martini had a bigger number of votes than Ratzinger – a detail that all those involved at various level in the conclave and also the famous “Diary of the Conclave” dismiss. Ratzinger was always in first place in every poll, and Cardinal Martini was not even taken in consideration as a candidate, given that he was already suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

The identity of the “shrewd cardinal of the Curia” is also a mystery. If we lean toward accepting as valid the reconstructions of the “Diary of the Conclave”, there were no other curial cardinals on stage, and the only opponent to Benedict XVI’s election was Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Eight years later, the name of Bergoglio was proposed once again, from almost all the same old cardinals of the Curia who placed him among the “papabili” eight years earlier.

So, Pope Francis’ election conveyed the message that the pontificate of Benedict XVI was just an isolated parenthesis in the history of the Church, and that the cardinals had perhaps been mistaken in their earlier approach, while today, with Cardinal Bergoglio’s election, they were setting out on a more just path, closer to the spirit of the world.

Go here to read the rest.  Too often when considering the Pope, lay Catholics tend to forget the Vatican or assume that the Vatican is on the same page as the Pope.  Alas that is often not the case, and one wonders whether Pope Benedict, such an old hand at the Vatican, ever gained real control of it.  Was he elected with the thought that he would be a brief transitional figure, with a large group of cardinals in the background eager to gradually shift the course of the Church back to where it had been prior to the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, a movement that has reached fruition in the current pontificate? Was pressure of some sort exerted on Pope Benedict to get him to resign?  Was blackmail involved?  One does not have to see conspiracies around every corner to suspect that not a fraction of the story behind the resignation has yet been revealed.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

10 Comments

  1. I was stuck in the Regnum Christi/Legionaries of Christ cult. When the Maciel thing came out, I remember there was hoopla surrounding how Pope Benedict was going to fix the problem. Sadly, he never was able to. I’m sure that also plays into the whole, “you can’t change the curia” thing, and him giving up trying.

  2. When Francis dies or steps down in a few years, I wonder whom the cardinals will elect. I shudder to think of what a string of popes as pathetic and embarrassing as the current one will do to Christianity in an age of such hostility to it, and such a mass social media (and in this I include listicles and dubious news sites) obsession, where every already embarrasisng detail will be contorted, exaggerated, broadcast and ever present to every Christian, especially the low information ones.

    We need a dynamic, evangelical, hard-working, intelligent, orthodox public figure to transform the Church and the world, or at least someone who knows he is not this, and will shut up so that other people who are can step forward.

  3. “Birds of the same feather flock together”
    Ben 16 and F 1 are both from the same camp and both have the same agenda.
    People open your eyes and see

  4. Benedict XVI always seemed ambivalent about becoming Pope. During John Paul II’s
    pontificate he had repeatedly asked to be allowed to retire, but his boss kept him in place
    as head of the CDF. When elected Pope, Benedict famously asked the faithful to pray
    for him, that he wouldn’t flee “for fear of the wolves”. And when he visited the relics of
    St. Pope Celestine V (the first Pope to abdicate) Benedict left the stole he’d been vested
    with at his inauguration atop the former Pope’s coffin. I suspect that for Benedict XVI,
    an abdication was always an option if he wasn’t able to make the changes he was
    hoping for.
    .
    John Paul II was ill in the final years of his pontificate, had mobility issues, and very
    little stamina. While he was sharp mentally, his body was betraying him, and he was
    unable to keep a firm hand on the rudder at the Vatican. And so, then-Cardinal
    Ratzinger saw what would happen in such a papacy, where the foxes would see their
    chance to run the chicken coop. Perhaps Benedict XVI thought that by leaving office
    before his own physical decline, he would avoid a repetition of that scenario.
    .
    Sadly, I think that if that was Benedict’s reason for abdicating, it was all for nothing.
    The foxes appear to be doing quite well in the new pontificate.

  5. If Benedict XVI lacked courage, he could have simply declined his election to
    the Chair of Peter. (He never made a secret of not wanting to become Pope).
    During his pontificate, he was physically assaulted twice that I can recall, but
    never demonstrated a lack of physical courage during or afterwards.
    .
    It’s just my opinion, but I see Benedict’s abdication as a calculated gamble on
    his part, and not due to a lack of courage. The task before him was immense–
    and allies were not thick on the ground. He wasn’t getting younger, yet his
    duties called for the vigor of a younger man. He saw what could happen if he
    became ill while in office. While he had the common sense and pragmatism
    essential for a politician, but he didn’t like the intrigue and theater of politics.
    It’s understandable that he would have thought it reasonable to get out and
    let someone else who was up to the task come in to do the job. It takes a
    certain courage (and humility) to admit that one can no longer do one’s duty,
    and see the need to step aside to make room for someone who can.
    .
    Sadly, we don’t seem to have ended up with the sort of replacement our
    former Pope had in mind.

  6. When he resigned he knew who some of the other potential candidates were. Being so smart and insightful and aware of the ” wolves” it must have been such an act of trust in God’s provision for the Church for him to relinquish the keys entrusted to him
    I hope he is still feeling that trust

  7. He’s healthy for an 87 year old man who isn’t pouring all the energy needed to keep him alive into his work.
    Especially if there was a lot of behind the scenes conflict, in which case he’d have been looking at “keep working, and fail, and die” or “retire, and maybe the next guy can do something– and with your help.”

  8. So, Pope Francis’ election conveyed the message that the pontificate of Benedict XVI was just an isolated parenthesis in the history of the Church, and that the cardinals had perhaps been mistaken in their earlier approach, while today, with Cardinal Bergoglio’s election, they were setting out on a more just path, closer to the spirit of the world.

    The Cardinals should have known to make that left turn in Albuquerque.

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