A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


One Vatican, two Popes...

Not awkward. Catholic Memes has the poster.John Thavis has the analysis:

None of this consultation should cause a crisis in the church. On the contrary, I think it will help the church better understand the papacy, more as an office and less as a sacred status. Benedict set that office aside and is no longer pope, and whatever advice or reflections he may offer today come from a private citizen, so to speak.So why Pope Benedicts insistence that he will be hidden from the world? Because I think he also understands that whatever his working relationship with Pope Francis, hell have to greatly limit his other encounters, his public statements and even, perhaps, his published writings.Benedict is keenly aware of how information travels through back channels at the Vatican and through electronic media around the world. Even an offhand remark by the retired pope say, to a group of German Catholics or to a cardinal over tea could echo within the hierarchy or across the blogosphere, and possibly be construed as criticism or divergence from the current pope.Allegiance to Benedict still runs strong in some church circles, and there are those who would not hesitate to invoke the retired popes supposed opinion to impede or slow the projects of Pope Francis. Precisely to cut off that possibility, I expect Benedict to be true to his word and maintain a prudent silence.Whats intriguing is that there is still no attempt to codify any of this, and no official job description for a retired pope. Benedict is doing it his way, but the next time may be quite different.

Yeah, interesting, as far as it goes. But Andy Borowitz has the inside scoop:

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

At least the ex-pope is not dressed in white in the poster. Now if Ratzinger would only ditch his white papal cassock.

I'm struck by the references I read about the former Pope's new home being "quite small". It's 4300 sf. (As a NYC apartment dweller, I'm always comparing everybody else's square footage to my own). I know he's got some people living with him, but that still seems pretty spacious.

Which would be wiser: for Pope Francis to seek Benedict's advice on how to handle the sex-abuse crisis, or for him to not seek Benedict's advice on this matter, and follow his own inclinations (and/or listen to his circle of advisers)?

Wow, B16 looks more and more feeble every time we get a glimpse of him when he steps from seclusion for a photo op. Given the sad state that the Vatican is in, it was probably a good idea that he abdicated when he did. B16 could never have stayed ahead of the pace of scandal and corruption. Let's pray that Francesco doesn't similarly succumb.I still don't think that this arrangement of two popes in the same Vatican at the same time is going to work with B16's erstwhile personal secretary and companion Arch. Ganswein - a.k.a. Bella Giorgio - still installed as the head of the papal household. Isn't it written that Jesus said: "No man can serve two masters"?Wouldn't it be a lot easier on everyone, including B16, if he were in retirement at a beautiful monastery like Monte Cassino, or Certosa in Tuscany, or at some place in the Bavarian Alps? I'm sure the monks would take care of him, shield him from the public. Isn't that what monasteries were always used for in medieval times?Why all the intense security around B16's movements? He still needs the protection of helicopter rides? It's all too "deus ex machina" for my tastes.Of course, I'm still not totally convinced that B16's choice of residence has nothing to do with protecting him and his retinue from all his, and the church's, enemies that might want to look him up now that he is not so omnipotent and/or infallible anymore?!?

Jim P - Given that Benedict totally mishandled the sex abuse crisis, Francis should perhaps bring in some new advisers - people like Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia, Fr. Thomas Doyle etc. for the clergy side, also lay people - including victims of sex abuse by priests, and also Catholics who are parents.

Benedict can be very tricky, as I see it. I thought it was in extremely poor taste when he undercut John Paul II's historic ecumenical prayer group in Assissi. Benedict might be tempted to do what Boniface VIII did to his predecessor; put him in jail. Ratzinger enjoyed the role of protagonist while he was not pope. But he barely could handle the hot seat itself. Hopefully, he will keep his promise and keep quiet.

4300 sf.? That's 4 times bigger than my small house. The Tablet says the renovations cost 680,250 ($1,058,126) ... .... your pew dollars at work :(

I think it's lovely that the ex-pope is given hospitality by the current pope. The day could come when there will be two or three ex-popes living in the little monastery.

"Wouldnt it be a lot easier on everyone, including B16, if he were in retirement at a beautiful monastery like Monte Cassino, or Certosa in Tuscany, or at some place in the Bavarian Alps? Im sure the monks would take care of him, shield him from the public. Isnt that what monasteries were always used for in medieval times?"I think that there are still individuals/groups who would love to have B16 arrested for certain crimes (in the eyes of the beholders, of course). While he lives in Vatican territory (incl. Castelgandolfo) he remains untouchable.

Joseph J. --I agree with you about the white cassock == bad signal, if an unconscious one. If Benedict *really* believes he's not a pope anymore then he shouldn't be wearing the unique uniform of one. It's not as if he's a general who could immediately be called back into service if needed. I bet for Francis it's sort of like living with his mother-in-law -- who's going to run the house?

V Messori, papal interviewer, is scathing about the cohabitation:'s warning about a shadow pope should also be recalled.

A scary thought just occurred to me. I've long thought that Benedict has severe problems handling obvious contradictions in Church teaching, except, perhaps for the problem of the treatment of the Jews. I think that his theology of "continuity", even with its purported rejection of "rupture", is actually an attempt to heal rupture by not-rejecting both horns of the theological dilemmas. It's as if he feels that some truth will be lost if he rejects some old rejected teaching. So he talks in generalities and loudly reasserts "continuity" and castigates "rupture". But this is just a linguistic rear guard action against changed teachings. In other words he is a man who is strongly inclined to accept some contradictions.The scary thought is this: Does his de facto inclinations to accept dilemmas extend to his theology of the papacy? Does he accept an emeritus pope as not being *the* pope, yet at the same time he sees the emeritus pope somehow remaining as *a* pope?There is perhaps another little indication that this is the case. The cardinal who invented the coats-of-arms of JP II and Benedict himself recently wrote to Benedict offering to make a new coat-of-arms for him, given Benedict's change of status. However, Benedict is apparently of two minds about changing his coat-of-arms. Said the cardinal:"I allowed myself to send him a note with suggestions because the elements of jurisdiction in effect need to be removed, he stated."""The cardinal told how Benedict replied to him with a note stating that he felt very unsure and "does not dare."Hmmm.

It's time for Francis to call Bello Giorgio in and say: Georg, make a decision. Either be a full-time Prefect of the Papal Household and live like all of the rest of like-positioned clerics, or live with Benedict and resign your Prefecture. You can't do both; no man can serve 2 masters.

"The day could come when there will be two or three ex-popes living in the little monastery."But they'll still need a fourth for bridge.

They can always play cutthroat pinochle, the poor man's bridge.

Yes, he wants to be shadow pope, to protect his heritage and ensure continuity, ex-leaders everywhere try that unless there are firm laws against it. Georg Gaenswein is key to this strategy of remaining a power behind the throne, an eminence grise, a vampiric Titurel.Benedict may not reflect on all this with cold clear consciousness, he may just follow the instincts of a lifetime, entrenched by age.Not to do so would feel like dying.

@ Joseph O'Leary: I essentially agree with you about the troubling politics that underly B16's desire to keep a papal foot in the door.However, Francesco being apparently a smart Jesuit, may understand the wisdom of the Italian expression:Tieni i tuoi amici vicini ei nemici pi vicini. [Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.]Let's hope that Francesco is politically astute enough to keep the increasingly feeble Panzer Pope in check. The last thing Francesco wants is a B16 off by himself where he could freely orchestrate a serious counter-movement to any reform that Francesco would like to initiate.It's good to remember that these Roman hierarchs play a very twisted game of politics.

LBJ was a politically astute man, to put it mildly, so when he appointed one of his political enemies to a high position in his administration his friends were appalled. Johnson replied in his inimitable way, "No, it's better to have him inside the tent pissn' out than outside the tent pissin' in".What worries me is that the ex-Pope will probably just confirm Francis in his theological conservatism. It is my understanding that most South American Catholicism is very conservative (except in social matters), but I was hoping that Francis might listen to some new theological voices in Rome. Benedict, unfortunately, will be right there warning against them :-( But who knows what the Holy Spirit is up to.

Good photo-shop picture! I am comfortable with the arrangement Benedict and Francis have settled on.

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment