Monday, 11 February 2013

The Pope's resignation: setting a precedent?

First, they started electing Popes who weren't Italian. Now a Pope is resigning. Who says the Catholic church never moves with the times?

When Karol Wojtyła was elevated to the Papacy in 1978, he was the first non-Italian to become Pope since 1523. When Joseph Ratzinger announced that he intends to resign at the end of the month, he became the first Pope to stand down since 1415.

The Catholic church may not move quickly, but it does -- sometimes -- move.

There is surely a direct connection between the fact that John Paul II held the job for 27 years, and towards the end was clearly severely incapacitated by failing health, and Benedict XVI's decision to stand down of his own free will before he too became incapable of being an effective pontiff.

Just look at the comparisons: when John Paul was elected, he was a mere 58 years old and still a keen sportsman. When Benedict took over, he was already 78, which is old even for Popes.

As Cardinal Ratzinger, he had been one of the most powerful figures in the Vatican hierarchy, and he had seen at first hand the problems caused by a Pope no longer capable, either physically or mentally, to cope with the demands of the job.

But John Paul took the view that a job he had been given by God was not one he could decide to give up, even though the Code of Canon Law clearly lays down: "If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested …"

It was with that provision clearly in mind that Benedict said in his resignation statement that he had reached his decision to stand down "with full freedom ..."

An important precedent was set today. My hunch is that in future, it will become much more common for Popes to resign on grounds of age or failing health. The arguments of John Paul II are far less powerful in the light of Benedict's decision.

And who would argue with his conclusion that "in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark (boat) of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary"?


MacHaggis said...

Och, you are being awfy nice to the old Pontiff with his steel clad underthings. Way too retro for me and failed 'greatest good for greatest number test.'

quietoaktree said...

The Catholic church is in shambles and disrepute-- from child molesting, Irish ´slave labour´, money laundering and intrigues.

´Diminishing Strength: Weakness and Vatican Intrigues Plagued Pope´


(copy and paste links)

Gaye Berry said...

Perhaps we are in the end-times. I provide a good link to that which I refer, allowing readers to read as much as they will:
Watch for name chosen by new pope.

Gaye Berry said...

There is no clear rules for papal resignation. The rules allow a pope to step down or retire from his duties - without anyone's permission, except his own.
Papal resignations include:
1. Gregory XII, in 1415 as resolution to end Great Western Schism in which 2 rivals had separately declared themselves pope.
2. Celestine V in 1294, who had only been in the position for less than 6 months. He was 89; Celestine had set his resignation up by issuing THE DECREE that made it possible for a pope to resign.
(Pope Boniface VII woould not allow Celestine V to resign in peace; he had him captured and held prisoner in a castle outside of Rome until his death 18 mos. later.
In the 20th century, three popes are reported to have written letters of resignation.
1. Pius XII, who was pope from 1939 to 1958, wrote his after the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. Pius is reported to have signed a letter that stated that should he be kidnapped by the Nazis, he should be considered as having resigned his as pope.
2. Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) and
3. Pope John Paul II (1978-2005), with concerns that the Church could find itself with an incapacitated pontiff due to failing health.
Technically, a papal resignation leaves the church in the same state as it is after a pope has died: The post is vacant until a successor is chosen. There are also no precise rules as to how a new pope is to take over.
Under Canon 332 of the Code of Canon Law, the only conditions that need to be fulfilled for resignation are that the decision be made freely and that it be "manifested" properly.