Pope Benedict’s resignation

This is a memorable moment. In fact it is quite historical. Benedict  XVI has resigned and has become Pope emeritus. In doing so he has   fundamentally redefined the Papacy. One way to characterize this, but  not necessarily the only way, is that he has destroyed, fragmented the pedestal of the Papacy.

To begin, he was above all a priest, with a black cassock, a theologian for  25 years, before he accepted a pastoral position. And eventually he  wore a red cassock. Through all his life sought the truth; no mean ambition. He central effort, beginning in the early sixties, was to re-centre the Church during Vatican II. The Church needed to be re-centered, aggiornamiento. His focus then and during his papacy was faith, based on revelation rather than dogma, which had been the   centre of the last several councils. This is a non-trivial ambition.

And while he is criticized for his particular understanding of the centre, nevertheless the centre was his ambition.

His particular devotion was to the Holy Spirit. He was particularly aware that reason is utterly compatible with faith. Indeed, one of his apparent wishes was that reason would be reintroduced into our thinking. In his dialogue with Habermas (e.g. Liberal Democracy: Culture Free? The Habermas-Ratzinger Debate and its Implications for Europe) this was his central argument. Some have suggested that he was trying to help liberalism to use reason. That it was compatible. His fundamental search was for the truth which he realized he could never attain because God is beyond our grasp. We live in a world, living owever only at its surface not in its depth. Only in eternity will this be revealed, will this open to us.

Loving must be undertaken, and to do so we have to take the risk,

Benedict took that risk.

His leaving is a prophetic act: he prayed, he analyzed in all liberty and concluded that “I do not have the necessary powers to fulfill this role.”

This is an act of free will (liberty), thus the Holy Spirit is there to support him in this act even as the Holy Spirit is in our free acts. The victory of freedom is wisdom. He acted as a priest that is he acted to nourish the people of the church, and not to be eaten by his calling, his role. He is now free to be a theologian. Free to be a priest. 


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