Papal Resignation? After example of JPII? Hard to imagine.

The Italians love their sensationalism. Especially in journalism, where what is reported may or may not have a basis in anything beyond the journalist’s imagination.

I mean, come now: reality is something to be shaped through innuendo and suggestion rather than observed and recounted dispassionately, no? Isn’t that the modus operandi of “unnamed sources,” and “insiders,” and other real or imagined authorities cited in bombshell articles?

So we have a report in an Italian newspaper that Benedict XVI is thinking of retiring next April. Yawn.

Maybe it’s true, but most likely it’s a wished-for reality being peddled to sell copies and drive traffic to the Web site.

Besides, though Cardinal Ratzinger asked Pope John Paul II to let him leave Rome multiple times, Ratzinger is no longer just a cardinal theologian who could choose to go back to the university—he is now Peter. And he observed first hand the way in which his predecessor went to his cross, with full faith in God’s providence.

The article responding to the suggestion of retirement talk talks a lot about Benedict’s health and energy, etc. But that’s entirely unnecessary. The pope isn’t there to be a globe-trotting media personality who can only serve effectively as long as he is suitable for the camera. The pope is there simply to be there. The pope is the point and measure of Christian unity regardless of his health or vigor.

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger did write about the possibility of a papal resignation, but again, that was as Cardinal Ratzinger, speculating about the possibilities. No one presently living but he himself has any notion what impact becoming Peter has had upon his thoughts of the efficacy or practicality of papal resignation, but if the manner in which he accepted the office is any indication, coupled with his experience of the great blessing the suffering of Blessed John Paul II’s final months were for the Church, I cannot believe he is presently considering casting aside the work God has given him as pope.

I could be wrong and he may be considering it (my God, I pray I’m right and he is sticking around!). But at least I’m not being sensationalistic.



  • Franklin

    One faithful catholic that wishes him a quick, and long retirement.

    • Tom Crowe

      Ah, but there’s the rub, Franklin— it was God’s will that he be pope, be sure it is God’s will (and not your own) that guides whether it is appropriate for him to retire.

      • lucy

        And just how will we know that it was God’s will?

        • Tom Crowe

          The important thing is for Benedict to know, and for us to trust.

    • debrr

      I guess that the term “faithful” is in the eye of the beholder. I would never want to see my Papa leave before he is called home to the Father. His witness to us is powerful in his living and his death, just like
      Bl John Paul II was to us. He brought Christ’s suffering out in the open and joined it to his and everyone else in the world who was suffering. What a powerful, loving, and unselfish example for us all.

    • Slats

      Why in the world, as a faithful Catholic, would you wish that? He’s the best conceivable pope that we could possibly have both for this period in history and for the foreseeable future. It’s all very well and good to love Pope Benedict and want a nice cozy earthly rest for him (although I enormously disagree with it – although papal retirement is within the bounds of canonical possibility, the Church’s custom and precedent has established what a monumentally bad idea it is); it’s the hell-bent hatred for the Catholic Church entailed in desiring (or at least not minding) to lose him prematurely that I don’t understand. If he deserves a rest, he has all eternity to get it. In the meantime, the Church desperately needs him now, for as long as the Lord will leave him with us.

    • Everett

      If by quick and long retirement you mean Heaven, then yes, by all means. All of us should desire Heaven whenever God calls us.

      Otherwise, no.

  • imcatholic

    Sandra, you mean “Viva Il Papa.” And yes, we want B16 to stick around!

  • Sandra Gray

    Personally I wish the Holy Father would stop the Globe trotting and stay put, and think of his health and his age, we want him around as long as possible. Viva La Papa.

  • Slats

    Greg: “Everyone deserves a rest.” For popes, that rest is colloquially known as, “Heaven.”


    Dear Tom ~ The question of the health and wellbeing of our sheppards is currently in the forefront of our thinking here in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. As those here may have read, our Archbishop George Neiderour suffered a major heart attack requiring a double bypass last month.He is recovering but this reminds us that priests, bishops and…Yes… popes, are human. God does not, upon ordination or election to the papacy, endow men with super hero powers. With Pope John Paul II, his rugged constitution and lifelong healthy lifestyle gave us long and energetic leadership. That was a gift from God which we can’t presume will be here in every papacy. In the latter years of life, or in failing health, everyone, and surely our ordained leaders, deserve a rest. I pray that, should the Holy Father begin considering retirement, his advisors and others don’t lobby for him to continue on long after it’s humanly reasonable ~ Pax Tecum~ Greg

    • Tom Crowe

      Greg— I can’t help but think that the papacy is different. Yes, the pope is bishop of Rome, but the difference of the papacy is recognized immediately by the fact that, unlike every other diocesan ordinary, the pope does not have an age at which he must submit his resignation. The point I’m making is not that it is impossible for the pope to resign, or that the conditions may never arise, but that given the manner in which John Paul II lived his last few months—athletic history or no—and given the tremendous example his suffering was for all of us, I think health is a lesser reason to resign from the papacy than the speculators make it out to be. Being pope is undoubtedly more trying for the man’s health than being a professor, but he didn’t choose the job, the Holy Spirit chose him for it, thus also promising to give the requisite strength to perform the intended task in God’s providence. Since it was God’s will that the man who is pope became pope, then unless the man who is pope has some way of knowing that it becomes God’s will that he step down from the papacy, it seems like there would not be compelling reason.

    • Joe M

      Greg Smith. These concerns are fine. However, can we allow our pope the dignity of letting us know when it becomes a concern of his own?

      • Greg Smith

        Joe~ I’m sensitive to the problems with sensationalist journalists that Tom refers to. I’m also aware that as John Paul II’s health was failing, George Weigel was cheer leading for him to continue his global missions. I think we all agree that any decision is between the Holy Father, his medical providers and God. ~ Pax~ Greg

  • gb bilder winter

    Thank goodness some bloggers can still write. Thank you for this piece



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