Should we still call Ratzinger "pope" after February?

Bishop Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., is known as a Catholic culture warrior to many but he is also a Rome-trained canon lawyer. In a memo that Pia de Solenni passes along, with his nihil obstat, Paprocki gives his opinion on a number of interesting issues stemming from Pope Benedict XVI's unusual resignation -- one of his views being that the talk of "abdication" is silly and the best and proper word is "resignation." (Guess the bishop just doesn't "get" religion, eh tmatt?)(The bishop also shows himself to be in the dynamic equivalency rather than literal translation camp -- at least on this issue.)More intriguing, however, is his note that the word "pope" actually does not appear in canon law, and that Benedict never used it in his resignation address. Cool. But the lesson Paprocki draws from this may be a matter of debate -- that since it is a title, Benedict, even when he becomes Joseph Ratzinger on Feb. 28, should still be called "pope" and addressed as "Your Holiness." He writes:

How then are we to understand the word Pope? It is an honorific, even a term of endearment (Papa in Italian). It is not the title of an ecclesiastical office. We make this distinction all the time. We still call a priest by the honorific Father even after he has resigned from the office of Pastor. Having lived in Italy for three and a half years when I was studying canon law, and having a sense of the culture, I have a feeling the Italians will continue to call Pope BenedictPapa Benedetto even after he leaves office as the Bishop of Rome. So I dont think people will have a hard time wrapping their minds around having a Pope who is no longer the Roman Pontiff, Bishop of Rome, etc. Certainly, in direct address, one would never address him as anything but, Your Holiness.

Interesting, but to me a recipe for confusion, and maybe worse. And not necessary. Thoughts?

David Gibson is the director of Fordham’s Center on Religion & Culture.

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