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Understatement of the day

"This day is different from those that came before..."

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Meanwhile back at the ranch, what happens now? Do the cardinals talk only in the Congregations, or may they talk with each other informally outside of them? May they talk informally with non-cardinals about possible candidates? Where are the Congregations held? In the Congregations do they talk only about generalities? Or do they talk about particular candidates? Are the Congregations governed by law, tradition or do they wing it or some of all those ways? Who runs the Congregations? In the election process in the Sistine Chapel, do the cardinals only vote? Or is there discussion of candidates before voting?

Over at America Vincent J. Miller advises us to reflect on the Church in our own historical situation.He notes in passing three important events in Benedict's life: 1) in the troubles of '68 he quit the University of Tubingen when challenged by students, 2) he did not complete his awaited encyclical On Faith, and 3) he resigned as pope. Taking him as the representative of the reform of the reform par excellene, should we conclude that that worldview is simply not adequate to meet the current challenges of the teaching Church? More crudely, have the conservatives lost the war? Was today their de facto surrender? If so, what are the alternatives for the Church, if any?

I was suprised to hear that a retired pope can be referred to as the pope emeritus. That bothers me.You're either a pope or not a pope and being a pope is not just having a job of pope.Once no longer a pope then why allude to your former position ? Emeritus does not exist for popes.One does not fulfill or complete ones duties as pope and then steps aside. One steps aside because one chooses to.It is not the same as completing a term in office or graduating from school or retiring from a job.One is either a pope or not as popeness is confered upon a particular person at a particular time.A "retired "pope is a priest[or bishop or cardinal]-no more ,no less.Even the term retired is misleading. He did not reitire but stepped down or stepped aside and relinquished his position.What am I missing-is it just me?

I think it is quite unfair to characterize the pope as a quitter or frame his resignation as some kind of surrender. I think he is absolutely entitled to retire at age 85; I know I plan to.

Agree, Irene.Hanging on to a job when the mental and physical strength have waned is selfish and vainglorious.(And picking on an 85-year-old for retiring is . . . crude.)

I did not mean to imply he's a quitter. I have no issue with his resignation.If anything I admire it. I meant something else;that resigning from a role of pope-is not the same as retiring from a job. Something like that.There is no emeritus status to the role of pope because stepping aside is not really a retirement, a completed term of office, a graduation etc. It is stepping aside from a role-not a job.He's a priest and I'm sure has no problem with wanting to be perceived now as a humble priest.My issue is not with him but the term pope emeritus.Maybe I'm neither expressing or thinking correctly about this.But the term jarred me when first i heard of it and upon reflection it still jars me so it's more then just the fact tthat it has never been used before[in 600years anyway]. I was hoping to hear others express the same view. No one has so I brought it up because i can't quite just accept it as obviously the correct term to use.

Irene --I don't think that Benedict is a "quitter", i.e., someone whose hard decisions are determined by self-interest. I think he did his best, but it wore him out because in some important ways he was not able to succeed. So for the good of the Church he stepped down so that someone else might do better.This makes him a successful person, though not a successful pope in every respect. As a teacher of the basic truths of Christianity he was clearly great. But his presuppositions about allowable changes in doctrine and his inability to even discuss certain doctrines, those two mind-sets made him incapable of resolving contemporary debates within the Church. And, as everyone seems to agree, he wasn't much of an administrator.But his obvious holiness was, I think, a great gift to our sinful world. Today watching CNN I was struck by the reactions to him by non-Catholic reporters -- they also seemed to appreciate his obvious good will. (And I hope he continues publishing.)

Rose-Ellen: I don't think there's more of a problem with a pope's resigning than there is with a bishop's resigning, something that canon law requires a bishop to do upon reaching the age of 75. So I don't quite understand your question. The papacy is an office, an office assumed upon election, an office that can be surrendered. There is no sacrament of the papacy. So it is quite possible for a pope to step aside from the role he assumed when he was elected. Granted that it hasn't happened for centuries, so we're not used to the idea of an "ex-pope," but it's always been considered a possibility, and Benedict made it a reality.

I kmow it's not a sacrament-it's not separate from being a priest.That i guess is my point.As christians we're called to be thinking and seeing things from a spiritual perspective. As this pope obviously does when he says he wants to go back to being in the role of a humble priest. Why would we as christians not be in synch with that?If he's not a pope then why address him as a former pope?What difference does it make that he was a pope? .He's now not a pope but a humble priest which is his calling now. Refering to his previous pope role when he now has a new role-a humble monk like priest- smacks of an unnecessary and uncalled for clinging to a status which in true humility he has renounced.He has a new role ,a new calling. As spiritual people that should be accepted fully by us and his former role should not determine what we call him today.That would show that it is not status that matters to us-a pope is a pope till he rersigns,retires, whatever and then he's once again another humble priest and should be addressed as such.Let the world see that we are indeed spiritual people .He is making that point in resigning and we should make it too by dropping the pope emitus phrase.[i think].

."Hes now not a pope but a humble priest which is his calling now"rose-ellen --But he's not a "simple" priest anymore. Having been pope he brings his past into his present. Simple priests don't get a building to live in in the Vatican with an entourages to take care of them. He hasn't become a hermit. His influence will be felt, if only through his contacts in the Vatican.

Over at The Tablet Austen Ivereigh tells us about what goes on at the Congregations. http://www.thetablet.co.uk/article/163868

During Vatican II---with the presentations and debates being conducted in Latin, it was absolutely crucial for the Fathers of the Council to be able to speak to each other candidly. Blessed Pope John XXIII understood this and had two coffee bars established at both ends of the hall---so that the Fathers could gather and discuss in their own language or with fellow cardinals/bishops that they had befriended.And we cannot discount the importance of luncheons and dinners where national groups meet to discuss in a more relaxed manner what they perceive and see from their fellow cardinals. I have my own favorite from among the Cardinals---and he currently has a low profile---but he is a prefect of a Vatican Congregation. This would be a great time for him to step from the edges into the light. And I hope that he does.

Ann,thank you for the link to the always informative Ivereigh.I was amused by one of his lines:"deprived of access to the cardinals in press conferences and interviews, journalists began interviewing each other."I thought that was standard procedure.

Could it be Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, 65, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life? Before being appointed prefect three years ago, Cardinal Braz de Avis was archbishop of Brasilia.

rose-ellen caminer: I note the Joseph Ratzinger made a lot of decisions about himself post-pope before he resigned: what he'll be called; what he'll wear; what he won't wear; where he'll live; what to do with George Ganswein; etc. Talk about arrogant!If I were elected the next pope the first thing I would do would be to call GG in, thank him for his long and faithful service to JR, and assign him as Archbishop of Tumbuktu post haste. The idea that JR has decided that GG will be his as well as the new pope's secretary is about as hubristic as can be.

Maybe it is time ... and I think it is! ... that a non-cardinal be elected pope. The princely thrones are stacked with JPII and BXVI appointees. That brings a perspective to the college that is not representative of, nor imho, adequatly concerned for, the rest of the church.Diarmuid Martin is the kind of electee that I have in mind, and I'm sure that there are a lot of men (unfortunately, until things change ...) who are like him but haven't quite passed the abortion/contraception/same-sex marriage litmus test over these past decades, so they simply remain as good and effective pastors.If we don't get a pastoral pope this time, God help us all.

Jim: I think that if we get a good pope, the church will change by reforms, and if we get a bad pope, change will be forced by a revolution.

"I was suprised to hear that a retired pope can be referred to as the pope emeritus. That bothers me.Youre either a pope or not a pope and being a pope is not just having a job of pope.Once no longer a pope then why allude to your former position ? Emeritus does not exist for popes.One does not fulfill or complete ones duties as pope and then steps aside. One steps aside because one chooses to.It is not the same as completing a term in office or graduating from school or retiring from a job.One is either a pope or not as popeness is confered upon a particular person at a particular time.A retired pope is a priest[or bishop or cardinal]-no more ,no less.Even the term retired is misleading. He did not reitire but stepped down or stepped aside and relinquished his position.What am I missing-is it just me?"Rachel Maddow agrees. http://bilgrimage.blogspot.fr/2013/03/benedicts-final-day-unbearable-sad... All these post-retirement arrangements are indeed the ploys of a control freak; and they should be scrapped immediately by the new incumbent. Imagine how we would laugh if Rowan Williams dictated that he would stay on in Lambeth after resignation to guide his successor.

Archbishop Martin is very unpopular with his priests and his profile is largely a media creation. Caveat emptor.

" if we get a bad pope, change will be forced by a revolution." Congar wanted to see a really good bad pope. But we could just get another Ratzinger, or Ratzinger lite, who would be sufficiently adulated to pull the wool over the faithful's eyes.

A non-Cardinal would be good. It seems wrong to limit the candidate pool to only 100+ candidates when there are over a billion Catholics out there.

For the conclave junkies, back at the ranch again -- Robert Moynihan's newsletter brings us a lot of rumors about what the cardinals are up to. Among the rumors -- there will be tickets of pope-plus-secretaty of state (which would satisfy two factions), an over-80 cardinal curial cardinal might be chosen to clean out the Curia quickly and then resign, plus there is a list of current papabile according to LaStampa. And more. http://moynihanreport.itvworking.com/from-the-desk-of/letter-30-the-next...

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About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.