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?
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.