How can the Pope resign? It is the Year of Faith! He hasn't even finished his encyclical that was supposed to be released at the close of the year.
The Cardinals and Vatican staff were even shocked when Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement.
Before I give you my thoughts on the recent events, I want to briefly address a few things circling the media and internet:
Resignation means Scandal?
Naturally, in today's world full of scandals, the words "resign" has taken a more negative meaning. When we hear that word, we often think of scandal. President Richard Nixon resigned after the Watergate scandals. Cardinal Law of Boston resigned over his handling of the sex abuse scandals. A mere Google search of the words "resigned" or "resignation" will bring about many links, most which deal with corruption, scandal, or just criminal acts. I think this is the reason the media used the word in covering the story as opposed to using retiring. They wanted to get this negative attention and arouse/insinuate wrongdoing on the part of the Pope. If the Pope resigns, then he must be doing something bad or did something bad and is stepping down [media logic]. Since his election in 2005, the media has tried to label Ratzinger as a criminal who moved priests around and who commanded that sex abuse crimes not be reported to the authorities. They even tried to link him with Hitler and the Nazis. A close examination of the facts shows this is not the case at all.
The Pope is Gay
reports even surfaced that the Pope was homosexual because he happen to have Monsignor (now Archbishop) Georg Ganswein as his secretary. In the Italian media, Archbishop Ganswein is portrayed as a "sexy priest." He was even put on the front cover of the magazine Vanity Fair. Furthermore, the fact that he is moving in with the Pope after retirement is raising eyebrows in the liberal media and in homosexual circles. This of course is nonsense.
- What is wrong with having a secretary assist you?
- What is wrong with a male having a male secretary?
He knows the Pope well and is his right hand. Who else is more appropriate to be there assisting Pope Benedict XVI during his retirement? The Pope needs a familiar person around him to help him, speak for him and help him with whatever correspondence he encounters. The LGBT community wants to make everyone gay...
Pope is Escaping Criminal Charges
Rumors began to come out that the Pope requested immunity from Italy in order to avoid arrest. The claim is that the Pope received an arrest warrant and immediately sought immunity. The story is of course bogus.
- First, the Pope cannot be arrested period, anymore than the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom can arrest President Obama. Dawkins tried to have the Pope arrested when the Pope visited the United Kingdom but failed because it is legally impossible and no crimes were committed by the accused.
- Second, the Pope committed no crime.
- Third, the Pope will be living in Vatican city, so he has no need to get immunity from the Italian officials. Vatican City is a sovereign nation state.
- Moreover, any attempt to arrest the Pope will bring about billions of angry Catholics. I seriously do not believe politicians would risk doing this bad publicity stunt.
With the butler scandal, some speculate that the butler found out many things that eventually led to the resignation of the Pope. Again, this is not true. The Pope pardon him basically erasing his 18 month sentence. Moreover, the leaks did not contain anything out of the usual in regards to running an institution with different human personalities at hand. If the leaks mentioned that the Pope was homosexual or other damaging information, why would the Pope pardon him allowing him to walk free and be able to write books and talk to the media? This is again the media trying to find a story to publish.
The news of the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI brought a lot of sadness to me. I remember being at the Oratory in Toronto with other seminarians crowded around a sofa watching the "Habemus Papam" announcement and hearing the named "Josef Ratizinger" as the choice. We all erupted with shouts of joy. Within a few seconds, Ratzinger appeared out the Papal balcony with a humble smile, visibly nervous and obviously dressed in a rush since he still had black sleeves underneath the papal cassock and his mozzetta was a bit small for him and wrinkled. I still get goosebumps when I watch the video on youtube. Pope John Paul II was and is a strong presence in the Church. Who could have continued the Papacy after the mark that he left? Well, God doesn't let us down, he gave us "Papa Razi."
As an atheist, I heard a lot about Ratzinger as "God's rottweiler " He was supposed to be this mean old conservative dude who went after those who disagreed with the Church. As I got closer to the Church, I learned that this was not so. I saw Ratzinger as an intellectual who articulately wrote and spoke on God and the Catholic faith. My first book authored by him was, "Introduction to Christianity." I had to read chapters a few times over in order to understand because he is a very deep coherent thinker. He is a genius in every sense of the word. I continue to read his books and have his 3 book Jesus of Nazareth series which are a must have for every Christian and those interested in Jesus Christ for spiritual or academic reasons.
Ratzinger is a very humble man. I heard many stories of him as a Cardinal. He walked around Rome praying the Rosary and lived in a simple apartment. One thing I found in common with him is his love for books. St. Francis of Assisi for a while turned me off because he did not want friars owning books. To me this is a sin - shame on Francis. I love books and have thousands of them. Reading is extremely important and I stress this to my nephews and younger cousins today. Learning that Ratzinger wanted his personal library moved first into the Vatican brought a smile to my face because I requested the same thing when moving for my studies. So in him I found a fellow bookworm.
When elected Pope, Ratzinger - now Pope Benedict XVI said,
"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
After the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord."
He is indeed true to his words. His retirement shows this humility. He knows his limitations and knows that the Papacy and Church are bigger than the man representing them. Some Catholics and even anti-Catholics began quoting Philippians 4:13 against the Pope's decision which says:
" I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
The Pope felt that God wanted him to give the Papacy over to someone younger and with more physical strength. This was a decision he freely made via his prayer life. It shows extreme humility that he would give up this powerful position in order to live a life of prayer and service. How many of us would give up the prestige and power of the Papacy? The Pope is indeed the world's most powerful figure. No one gathers the attention of the global people and media than the Pope. To Ratzinger, this meant nothing. All he wanted to be was the "simple and humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord." This shows that Pope Benedict XVI wears the title "His Holiness" literally in his life.
Retiring is not something bad, nor does it mean that one lack's faith God's providence. It simply means that one knows his/her limitations and does not try to do more than he/she can which will lead to pride and vanity. His retirement shows humility. As Cardinal, Ratzinger always wanted to retire to live his days in prayer, study and writing. During an interview with EWTN's Raymond Arroyo, he says that he remained on-board at the Vatican because of Pope John Paul II. He felt he could not retire while the ailing Pope was deteriorating. He was loyal to him even to the point of sacrificing his own ambitions to retire. In a 2010 book, "Light of the World," he was asked about the Pope and the possibility for retirement, Pope Benedict had this to say:
"If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right, and under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign,"
In Scripture we read this about retirement:
The Lord said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.” - Numbers 8:23-26
God clearly states that Levites over 50 must retire and no longer work. The Levites were priests who assisted at the Tabernacle in the Temple. God continues stating that they can assist their brothers but not do the work. This is what the Pope Emeritus is doing now. He vowed obedience to the new Pope and will continue helping the Church without actually doing the work of the Papacy.
Moses himself passed his authority to Joshua after advancing in age (Numbers 27:18). As you may know, Moses had the staff from which he worked the miracles of God. He obviously could have continued, but he knew his limitations, and respected God's command to let someone else take the helm, so to speak.
In closing, yes Pope Benedict's retirement is one that is a bitter-sweet thing. During his papacy, he did much to weed out corruption and clean the Church of the infestation of sexual perversion. He has restored the correct interpretation of Vatican II, expanded the use of the Tridentine rite, cleaned up the Liturgy, and went after dissidents in seminaries and convents. He found a way to bring Anglicans home, and opened the doors wider for Christian unity. He is a legend in every sense of the word.
Some were claiming that he was a bad choice because of the popularity that Pope John Paul II had; however, God gives each person a particular charism. All Popes cannot be duplicates of Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict XVI had his own special charism via his introverted personality, intellectual demeanor and his humility.
He will truly be missed. I wish him the best and hope he will continue to write. I'm sure the new Pope will seek the advice of the Pope Emeritus.
Enjoy your rest Holy Father. Thank you for your service to the Church as Pope and now as Pope Emeritus.