Terra incognita: What are the known unknowns?
My mind has been racing all day about the papal resignation, and virtually every thought has been a question. As many seasoned observers have already noted, the Catholic Church is about to enter uncharted territory. Relatively few details of what comes next are known, and I’d like to open a thread here to discuss the “known unknowns.”
What specific questions do we have about what comes next? And when possible, perhaps our many brilliant contributors and commenters can offer informed responses.
For example: What will we call him? Will he have roughly equivalent security to what he has now? Will he preside at Masses open to the public? Will he be able to leave his dwelling in any normal way, or will every movement be charted as it is now?
Of all the musings I’ve had, for me the biggest question has been: after February 28, where physically will Pope Benedict — excuse me, I mean Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger — reside? And how will his physical presence affect those around him?
The official statement tells us the basics:
Pope Benedict XVI will move to the Papal residence in Castel Gandolfo when his resignation shall become effective. When renovation work on the monastery of cloistered nuns inside the Vatican is complete, the Holy Father will move there for a period of prayer and reflection.
One report calls this news “somewhat unexciting,” but I disagree.
Of the two-part plan, the initial move to the Papal retreat makes perfect sense. It’s hard to think of anywhere else he could go immediately upon stepping down from Peter’s Chair. But I wonder whether, once there, he will consider staying put at Castel Gandolfo. (I hear it’s pretty nice there.) If he is stepping down for the good of the Church — and I believe he is — it seems like the best thing for his successor would be not to have Cardinal Ratzinger living at the Vatican.
Even in lower-level cases of pastoral transition, it is typical for the departing pastor to leave the rectory and take up residence elsewhere. Isn’t that correct? And in those cases, there is not such auctoritas at stake on the part of the former pastor.
On the other side of things, one wonders if the nuns residing at Mater Ecclesiae were consulted about this decision. How will the moving-in of a former Pope affect their lives of ora et labora? I suppose if he remains truly cloistered, like them, the outside world might never find out.
What other questions do we have about this unexplored territory?