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Shortly after he announced his retirement, I read Charles Coulombe's book: The Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict was a big favorite of Coulombe's, as he seemed to be an intellectual leader who was unafraid to tackle the world's problems head-on:
[T]he truth is that the soon-to-be-retired Pontiff (and, no doubt, his successor) inhabits an entirely different mental universe than those who seek to form current public opinion. Partly, of course, this is because Benedict and those who share his beliefs see reality as something immutable: regardless of how polite one may or may not wish to be, good is good, evil is evil, and we are all bound to seek out the unchanging Will of God and attempt to follow it. For their opponents, morality and indeed existence itself is a great cosmic marshmallow--moldable to one's feelings or convenience at this moment, for however long one needs them to be in this particular state.Indeed, the West's morality certainly seems squishy when measured up against any kind of rock-solid Christian standard. I wonder if men from today would even last a week in the pinnacle of Christendom's golden era. And Pope Benedict XVI seemed a hard-edged hope of restoration for a lot of us "triumphalist Traditionalists."
However, the pope was not quite successful. There were many reforms and house cleanings that simply never took place. For example, I can remember how disappointed I was to learn that the sexual deviancy problems within the Church would never be resolved under him. Also, there were many Freemasonic figures within the Church who were never outed or laicized. And finally, he never really seemed to hammer home the idea that Vatican II was rife with problems.
Coulombe shares these disappointments (emphasis is mine):
Of the four areas we have looked at--the internal reconciliation of the Church, her cleansing of the aberrations that have grown up within her, reunion with those Christian bodies closest to her, and warning the planet's powerful of the consequences of their actions--none have come to fruition. But they are seeds that have been planted--and, internally, at least, the Church is in far better shape than she was at the start of the Pontificate. That is most certainly Benedict's doing.
But it is important to remember that for Benedict, the institutional health of the Church is only a means whereby her spiritual Communion may be extended and made manifest to all. That Communion in itself is, for him, the way in which fallen man may be incorporated into Christ, the Savior alike of individuals and societies. That this has not been for him mere airy theory but the basis of effective and practical action may be his greatest legacy.So, Pope Benedict failed in most of his attempts, but at least he laid down the seeds for Catholics in the future. Internal seeds that would later come to fruition and bring the Church into a better state of being. Right?
But then, Pope Francis was elected as our new leader, and we are now quite the liberal NGO. We'd have thought that Pope Benedict would be aghast at the undoing of his work. We'd have thought that Pope Benedict would be outraged that the next in line would be raking up the seeds Benedict planted and ripping out every pro-Benedict Church official within his arm's reach.
And yet, Pope Benedict stated the following about Pope Francis in his book, Last Testament:
"When I first heard his name, I was unsure. But when I saw how he spoke with God and with people, I truly was content. And happy."
Possibly. Or, perhaps Pope Benedict was pro-modernism all along.
Last time I spoke on this subject, I entertained the notion that Pope Benedict was pushed out of the Chair of Peter and supplanted. Pope Benedict was the victim. He "fled for fear of the wolves." He ran off, under pressure, being the innocent Traditionalist intellectual that he was.
What if Pope Benedict was happy to free himself of the office? What if leaving the papacy (while holding onto the garments and the title) was a relief? What if he was just a temporary replacement for an even bigger, shinier, better change that was still yet to come for the Church? What if Pope Benedict is truly happy with what Pope Francis is doing?
What if Pope Benedict was a traitor all along? What if he was a wolf in sheep's clothing? What if "getting out of Dodge" was a part of the plan all along, and Pope Francis' job was to rush in and make changes to the Catholic Church within a 4-year timespan? Is it that outrageous? Even Church Militant TV blames Pope Benedict for failing Traditionalist Catholics.
So, this week, let's entertain an opposite notion from last month's post: Bergoglio Is Not The Pope...? In this month of March, let us consider the possibility that Pope Francis is the pontiff, after all (not an antipope)--and that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is lovin' it. I have permission from Hilary White to post the following excerpt from her awesome blog: What's Up With FrancisChurch? The article is titled, Hermeneutic of Whatity?
Taken it on its face, however, and putting this together with what the former pope has said and written in the past, we can safely say that the more fun “conspiratorial” theory – that someone is writing his lines for him – gets rather remote on the list of possibilities. Occam, and all that. It is entirely possible that the man we used to call Pope Benedict does think this.
No, really… so what?
We have to ask seriously whether there’s a chance we simply fell for the media’s interpretation of him, that he was “Ratzinger the Vatican II liberal, peritus of Frings” all along. I don’t know. Throughout that time, we were being told what a “conservative” he was, along with the secular media who hated him, by people with the kind of theology degrees held by the author of this Crux piece. Not what theology degrees were, let’s say.
I didn’t read his scholarly theology. I read a few of his popular works after 2005. Before that, I read some of his CDF documents on new reproductive technologies. I read book-length interviews with him. He sounded pretty good to me, I guess, when I was first working things out. But I’ve also talked to people with serious, classical theological training – the kind that’s hard to get these days – and they have always been warning that “Ratzinger the Rottweiler” of the media and the Ratzinger of academia are not the same.
Or maybe the distinction between “conservative” and “liberal” is being shown to have been essentially meaningless all along. He had better manners, was more cultured, more soft-spoken, more likeable than most of the other neo-modernists. He certainly would never spend his pontificate being the bulldozing wrecking ball his successor has been. We liked him more.
What is clear is that the things we think we know about Benedict’s thoughts are entirely and exclusively being filtered through other people. If Georg Ganswein wants to tell us what he thinks the former-pope is thinking about things, fine, but let’s not imagine it means we know anything more than what Georg Ganswein thinks
But I do know two things with moral certainty: his resignation, though perfectly valid, was the opening of the gates to the orcs who are now in control of the citadel. Whatever comes of this long-term – and I maintain that it is part of a great “clarification” if not a “great purification” willed by God – I reserve judgement yet on whether it was cowardice, stupidity or laziness or lack of concern or flat-out collusion. But whatever does come to light, I also know that the next person who starts drooling on about what a “courageous” act it was, is going to get the back of my hand upside the head.
The theory that Benedict is still pope is simply not borne out by the evidence, either in Canon Law, by the theology or by any other metric the Church runs on. In answer to the many people who have asked me, yes. Ive heard it. (And heard it and heard it and heard it…) I have done some research that didn’t involve looking things up on the internet or just deciding for myself after a single glance at the ’83 Code of Canon Law. I’ve consulted with theology and Canon law people who are not neo-modernists, not ill-trained and not remotely fond of either Benedict or Francis, and the answers I’ve had have been pretty firm and unanimous.
And no, there’s no “conspiracy of silence.” The reason no one serious is addressing it is because it isn’t a serious question. I think at some point, as things get worse, and more and more ordinary people come to think this, someone responsible is going to have to address it publicly, just so we don’t have to keep hearing about it. (And hearing about it… and hearing about it…)
So, for the question about why Benedict resigned, more evidence will, I’m sure, come to light in the coming years, but right now I’m not really all that interested. I think we have more immediate things to think about. Indulging in fantasy, wish-fulfillment, lazy and half-baked “research,” or facile (“easy”) conclusions, is not helpful. I think it’s rapidly becoming irrelevant why he resigned. He resigned. It was valid. He’s not the pope.
The resignation was a terrible, terrible idea. It was damaging. It was selfish and incredibly hubristic, but it was valid. He might be deluded by his nominalism into thinking he cam make up new things with the power of his brain, and the Church of our time so confused that we haven’t figured it out yet, but let’s give him at least one benefit of the doubt: the man is smart enough to know what the words “I resign the papacy” mean. Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the pope. It sucks. It seems on the face of it to be something close to catastrophic. But it’s true.
But this leads me to the other thing I know: that the time for idolizing Ratzinger is well past. It’s not nice to think about, but our love was apparently misplaced. And I’m going to be giving a sharp smack on the nose with a rolled-up copy of Amoris Laeitia to all those who are still mooning about the internet, droopily sighing over how much they “miss” him.