Pope fight?


The new pope Francis has been getting great press. This has been almost entirely due to style, not substance. As far as we know, his opposition to same sex marriage, abortion, contraception, priestly celibacy, and ordination of women as clergy are no less reactionary than those of his predecessor. But the fact that he seems more informal, self-effacing, and at ease with ordinary people when compared with his austere predecessor seems to have enthralled followers and the media alike.

The interesting wild card that the new pope faces that no other pope has faced for 700 years is the fact that his predecessor is still around and that before he left office granted to himself many of the trappings associated with the papacy.

Further complicating an already novel situation is that Benedict, before he left office, decided that he would continue to wear white and he would take the title of “emeritus pope,” a position that never existed. He said he would continue to be called Benedict XVI, rather than reverting to his birth name, and he would be addressed as “Your Holiness,” a term previously reserved only for the reigning pope.

“I just cannot imagine anything so potentially divisive,” Michael Knowles wrote in a pointed essay in The Tablet of London, a leading Catholic periodical. “That is not resignation: that smacks of hanging on.” It will look, he added, “like we have two popes both living within the walls of the Vatican. The whole situation is simply intolerable.”

Even one of the church alsos leading canon lawyers in Rome, the Jesuit priest Gianfranco Ghirlanda, wrote in a prestigious, Vatican-approved journal that Benedict should not be called an “ex-pope” and that “the pope who has resigned is no longer pope.”

Ratzinger may be irked to be so quickly compared so unfavorably with Francis. The article goes on to say that there could be problems down the road with having a shadow pope. After all, Ratzinger was the consummate insider and he presumably would still exert considerable sway over the Curia that runs the Vatican.

One good thing about Ratzinger’s resignation is the precedent he has set. Before, however bad things got for a pope, people felt that they were pretty much stuck with him until he died. Now a discredited pope may face pressure to resign that is so strong that he cannot ignore it.

Comments

  1. Anthony K says

    It will look, he added, “like we have two popes both living within the walls of the Vatican. The whole situation is simply intolerable.”

    A few dollops of peanut butter smeared on some strategically placed, humane, catch-and-release traps should lure them out of there.

  2. Corvus illustris says

    [Benedict] decided that he would continue to wear white

    With a black cape over all, he could pass for a Dominican.

    and take the title of “emeritus pope,” a position that never existed.

    It’s more of a description than ta position. Consider the title “professor emeritus/a”, with which and $1.75 you can get a ride on the subway.

    He said he would continue to be called Benedict XVI, rather than reverting to his birth name, and he would be addressed as “Your Holiness,” a term previously reserved only for the reigning pope.

    Historically he will be known as B_{16} in any event. What title does Mr Knowles suggest: “Your Erstwhile Holiness”? (Sounds good to me.)

  3. Ulysses says

    What title does Mr Knowles suggest: “Your Erstwhile Holiness”? (Sounds good to me.)

    Your Ex-Holiness? Your Not-As-Holy-As-His-Holiness? Your Unholiness? Your Assholiness?

  4. Anthony K says

    Yeah, that last one, Ulysses. Spell it with one S for plausible deniability.

    “See, they’re just as holy as each other. Therefore, Asholiness.”

  5. says

    Arguably, Ratzinger has set himself up as an antipope. From everything I’ve ever heard about him, Ratzinger is not one to give up power easily, so it will be VERY interesting to see how things play out.

  6. Corvus illlustris says

    I don’t know how arguable this is. Typical antipopes resign after their antipopery, rather than before. It’s also the case that B_{16} and F_1 were cut from the same cloth by the same tailor JP_2. But it will be the best show since the Reformation if it happens.

    If my memory serves, there’s already been one antipope named Benedict but he has kept his subscript, so B_{16} is already arguably B_{15}. (Yes, Wikipedia, but then I lose the draft of this.)

  7. Didaktylos says

    I got the distinct impression that when Bergoglio thanked and blessed Ratzinger, he was politely making it clear to him that his tour of duty was well and truly over.

  8. rikitiki says

    If B-16 is now an anti-pope,
    And F-1 is a pope,
    When they shake hands will they
    Explode and cancel each other out?
    Wheee!

  9. DonDueed says

    After the selection of Bergoglio was announced, we were told that he was the “runner-up” eight years earlier when Ratzinger was elected. Say what? I thought those elections were super-duper top secret. How did anybody find out who placed and showed?

    Maybe Bergoglio got a condolence card from the Big Guy. “Sorry, but you were my second choice. Better luck next time!”

  10. Mano Singham says

    Even among the cardinals there are people who leak information. People just like to gossip, especially if they have insider information.

  11. MNb says

    “a position that never existed”
    Ha! We dumb atheists were wrong all the time! The RCC is capable of renewal!
    Michael Knowles also writes about style iso substance.

    “One good thing about Ratzinger’s resignation is the precedent”
    I don’t see the difference. Either we have an old, white, male, reactionary pope whose health is getting worse or we have an old, white, male, reactionary pope with a somewhat better health. But then I’m born in and living in another country where popes never had much influence.

    “a discredited pope may face”
    May. Or may not. Because you know, a discredited pope means a discredited church. I predict that things don’t get interesting at all. Oh, Ratzinger might meddle with Bergoglio’s business now and then, but I doubt very much if we will ever learn a lot about eventual shenanigans.

  12. Pierce R. Butler says

    … two popes both living within the walls of the Vatican.

    Except one is hanging out in Gandolfo. This would be sort of like having GW Bush still making use of Camp David – a genuine irritant to the incumbent President, but a quite trivial impedance to his job functionality.

    However, I suspect this does leave Ratzinger vulnerable to extradition from Italian territory, should any human-rights-minded foreign court wish to put him on the stand for some pointed questions…

    … Benedict should not be called an “ex-pope” and that “the pope who has resigned is no longer pope.”

    What – grammatically, semantically, or practically – is the difference between “ex-____” and “no longer ____”?

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