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The Reason Benedict Resigned ^ | February 15, 2013 | William Fahey

Posted on 02/17/2013 7:06:13 PM PST by Salvation

The Reason Benedict Resigned

William Fahey

by William Fahey on February 15, 2013 · 

The Catholic world is largely shocked by the publication of Pope Benedict XVI’s letter of resignation this morning.  The secular world assumes the worst—no, it desires the worst, and by insinuation worms doubts into the minds of even the faithful.

The secular world will tear through the brief letter and fixate upon the line about a “world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith.”  It will weave from these deconstructed words an existential tale of despair, scandal, and an authority which realizes it is no longer in touch with reality.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Benedict’s resignation is utterly consistent with his character.  It is traditional—he brings from our history and our law a fact and feature of the Papal Office: one can and—under certain circumstance—should put aside that office.

His resignation demonstrates once again the firm mark of a father and a teacher.   A father knows that his role is to provide example, instruction, and discipline, and ultimately put himself aside for the good of his own. The Petrine ministry is not exercised for a man, or for bishops and priests, or even for Catholics alone.  It is a ministry exercised for all those seeking God and for all those towards whom God’s mercy is extended.  It is a demanding office.

As with every text published by Benedict, this letter of resignation has no imbalance, flab, impression, or vagueness.  Not a word goes astray.  It is shot through with paternal love and professorial clarity.

An honest reading of this document can only lead to profound gratitude and sympathy for a suffering father who must understand each act and decision he makes as having “great importance for the life the Church.”

No one could doubt that this Holy Father has meditated profoundly, and I expect repeatedly, on The Pastoral Rule of St. Gregory the Great—that sixth-century handbook for those who hold the highest spiritual authority, what Benedict and others have called the ars artium (“the art of arts”).  Much of the book is a warning against the wrong reasons for grasping or holding on to power, followed by an outline of the virtues needed to exercise leadership well.  In the first book of The Pastoral Rule we find this line, which I believe has quietly echoed for some weeks in the Holy Father’s thoughts:  “He must be a man whose aims are not thwarted by the frailty of his body.”  The office of Peter is not a spiritual thing which discounts human nature.  That sacred ministry resides with a person, but that person must have the nature to exercise its rigors.

Benedict XVI has marked his pontificate by humility.  If anything, he has tried to depersonalize the use of authority, even that uniquely personal authority, the Petrine Office.  Yet we must always remember that the “person” of the Papal ministry is St. Peter, who with his successors acts in the person of Christ.  The papacy is a lived authority and a living authority and one that must respond to the needs of the Age.  It is natural that we love the concrete that we know, and love the particular character of our popes.  And we must do our best to accept that like a humble and adored teacher, Benedict now forces on his students a hard lesson: that the teacher should never be the focus of our final attention and love.

Our age has become overly focused on a model of “leadership” which is nothing short of superficial, for whom the shallow gilt of charisma and “personality” have blinded everyone to questions of duty and responsibility.  Benedict’s resignation teaches us once again that leadership—while exercised by a person—is not about that person. Benedict has set before our eyes the old Roman sense of officium—duty, office, responsibility.  Benedict’s embrace of the Petrine office has always been a reluctant one, and that reluctance is born of clear self-knowledge and deep understanding of the history and purpose of papal authority.

The following words are taken from one of the Holy Father’s General Audience in 2008.  He spoke on St. Gregory the Great and his reluctance to sit on the throne of St. Peter, reluctance that gave way to grace, prayer, and action:

Recognizing the will of God in what had happened, the new Pontiff immediately and enthusiastically set to work. From the beginning he showed a singular enlightened vision of the reality with which he had to deal, an extra-ordinary capacity for work confronting both ecclesial and civil affairs, a constant and even balance in making decisions, at times with courage, imposed on him by his office.

These are not words set down in a theoretical fashion. They rise from the Holy Father’s lips with experience behind them.

More moving are Benedict’s closing words from the following day’s audience.  Again, speaking on St. Gregory and his lonely pontificate, he ends:

Gregory remained a simple monk in his heart and therefore was decidedly opposed to great titles.  He wanted to be—and this is his expression—servus servorum Dei. Coined by him, this phrase was not just a pious formula on his lips but a true manifestation of his way of living and acting. He was intimately struck by the humility of God, who in Christ made himself our servant. He washed and washes our dirty feet. Therefore, he was convinced that a Bishop, above all, should imitate this humility of God and follow Christ in this way.  His desire was to live truly as a monk, in permanent contact with the Word of God, but for love of God he knew how to make himself the servant of all in a time full of tribulation and suffering. He knew how to make himself the “servant of the servants.”  Precisely because he was this, he is great and also shows us the measure of true greatness.

The Holy Father’s reasons for resignation spring from a grave sense of office and a faithful belief in what that office truly is. He has remained through his pontificate faithful and true to his vocation of father and teacher. Both father and teacher must daily put aside themselves to be true to their calling.

The papacy is not a mere person, it is not a great man, it is certainly not a bloodline or earthly principality. It is the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter. It is a sacred office entrusted to the entire Church. It is an enduring stewardship through time.  Behind the Vicar stand the Kingship of Christ and the enduring nature of His Church, yesterday, today, and forever.

By the grace of the Holy Spirit, Pope Benedict XVI has resigned. His Holiness has resigned because he understands his office and he wishes with firm resolve to help us to understand this and deepen our faith by remembering him for what he is and by lifting up our hearts and minds to the eternal Father and His Son, Our Supreme Pastor and Lord, Jesus Christ.


This article was originally published  at Crisis.

TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; popebenedictxvi; poperesigns
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To: highpockets

I am of the Lutheran heritage. There have been doctrinal and behavioral differences with the Catholic church/faith during my lifetime. In all my years I still maintained a very friendly relationship with many Catholic friends. Of particular heart for me was my friends faith in their Catholic beliefs and the leadership of the Pope. I do not understand your attitude towards your church because the Pope recognizes the need for a more physically stronger person to carry on the enormous tasks for leading the Catholic Church.

41 posted on 02/17/2013 10:37:39 PM PST by noinfringers2
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To: highpockets
Benedict is a quitter

I think I understand that feeling. Even though I could understand and respect the decision from an intellectual standpoint, underneath it all my gut-level emotions for the first few days were still telling me that this was quitting.

Then I watched Benedict on Ash Wednesday. As I wiped my tears I had to admit a few things to myself. First, I've noticed for the past year or so that he seems to be having neurological difficulties. And on Ash Wednesday he looked much worse. So I had to admit that I've been in denial. Not wanting to acknowledge what I've observed for a long time: He's deteriorating. Quickly. I have such an affection for Benedict (won't bore you with the reasons). I just didn't want to admit to myself that we won't have him for decades as we did John Paul.

Second, I had to admit that I was still honestly disappointed. But in whom? It was easy to project my feelings onto Benedict. To see him as not fulfilling his role. But who was I to say that? Does he take direction from me? Or from the Holy Spirit? If it's the latter, then it really isn't Benedict I'm disappointed in. It's the Holy Spirit. It's God. Do you see how arrogant and judgmental I can be? To think I know what God should do in His Church? To think I know better than Benedict whether it's best to delegate his responsibilities or relinquish them altogether?

Third, I realized that if I have trusted that Benedict has followed the lead of the Holy Spirit all these years in exercising his role as Supreme Pontiff, then I have to trust that he's done so before, during, and after the announcement of his decision to step down. That's been very comforting to me.

I don't know if my experience is similar to yours in any way. I just thought I'd share with you the way I came to terms with the announcement. And tell you that you aren't alone in your reaction of disappointment. I hope you stay in the Church. I will pray for you :) Please pray for me too! May the Holy Spirit give you His comfort and His peace.

42 posted on 02/17/2013 10:55:31 PM PST by PeevedPatriot
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To: highpockets
"This is not a joke. I am no longer a Catholic."

Good, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

The sooner all those who don't really believe the Holy Spirit guides the One Holy,Catholic, and Apostolic Church Jesus Christ Himself founded, are all gone, the better. The Jews refuse to believe Christ because He didn't measure up to their expectations and people who think the Pope and/or the Church don't measure up to their expectations have a good example to follow, the Pharisees.

I'm sure those who don't mind the pews being full cafeteria food addicts feel differently.
Especially the folks who seem to think keeping foxes snug and warm in the hen house is an act of Charity.
43 posted on 02/17/2013 11:58:57 PM PST by Rashputin (Jesus Christ doesn't evacuate His troops, He leads them to victory.)
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To: BillyBoy

In theory, they could name me, a lay Catholic, as the next Pontiff.
= = = = = = = = = = ==
Since I don’t ‘know’ you I am not trying to ‘insult’ you


if the above were to happen, DON’T hold your breath waiting for the ‘puff of white smoke’. <: <:

44 posted on 02/18/2013 12:29:45 AM PST by xrmusn (6/98 "It is virtually impossible to clean the pond as long as the pigs are still crapping in it")
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To: highpockets

Why are you quiting?

Pope B16 is not quiting, he is simply coming to terms with the reality that he has to give thanks to God just to be able to put his two feet unto the floor each motning. When one is in one’s 80’s just being ALIVE each new day is a blessing. He could be dealing with health issues and seeing Blessed JP2 suffer from ill health while still Pope may very well has haunted him and wants peace and quit in what remains with his life.

45 posted on 02/18/2013 3:06:31 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: Salvation

I have a mother a few short years up from Pope B16 and just last has gotten a pacemaker herself.

46 posted on 02/18/2013 3:21:46 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: Salvation

I should have taken a hint late last year when having his most recent book coming out about the life and times of Jesus he said this would be his laste book. Those books about Jesus and the apostles are very intense books and must have taken a lot out of him to be able to wrtie them all.

47 posted on 02/18/2013 3:29:16 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: highpockets

Good grief. You’re the quitter — not the Pope. How shallow your faith must be.

48 posted on 02/18/2013 3:50:00 AM PST by WashingtonSource
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To: Salvation

This may have been posted on FR but I found this about Pope B16’s ailments:,0,589861.story

49 posted on 02/18/2013 3:50:44 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: Salvation

Great article. I love the humilty that radiated in his farewell letter. It was a refreshing sound of heaven, in barren desert.

May God Bless Pope Benedict, protect His church, and fill the hearts of His faithful.

50 posted on 02/18/2013 4:15:36 AM PST by mgist
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To: BillyBoy

“But Christ bore the cross for hours, and JP II bore the papacy under much greater physical detriment than Benedict. It is a testament to Popes who carried on this tradition.”

And who was really running things when JP II was dying? How much of the reason that JP II did not step down is because of the calls for him to do so?

Perhaps Pope Benedict XVI does not want the Church in that position again.

I have watched him and noticed how frail he has become in the past several months. Look at him, look closely. He will not be with us much longer.

51 posted on 02/18/2013 5:20:57 AM PST by Not gonna take it anymore (If Obama were twice as smart as he is, he would be a wit)
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To: Biggirl
" . . . may very well has haunted him and wants peace and quit in what remains with his life."

He also may have seen people trying take advantage of JP2 being ill and having protective people around him. I'm sure there are people would try to keep some things from reaching the Pope by arguing that there's no reason to upset him and so forth. Why give someone the opportunity to try and take negative advantage of the positive human inclination to be protective of someone who is ill?

52 posted on 02/18/2013 5:29:56 AM PST by Rashputin (Jesus Christ doesn't evacuate His troops, He leads them to victory.)
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To: Rashputin

Had taken a brief look and I see the word “quiet” misppelled. I sense that Pope Benedict wants to have that needed “peace and quiet” for what does remains of his life as well.

53 posted on 02/18/2013 5:53:56 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: Rashputin
people would try to keep some things from reaching the Pope

Or try to make things that belong to the Pope to reach us, like his butler did.

The critical question of our days is the same as has been prior to the abdication: who will the successor be? His Holiness made sure the Council will elect someone is this pope's mold; he wouldn't want some maneuver behind his back damage the composition of the conclave.

54 posted on 02/18/2013 5:57:13 AM PST by annalex (fear them not)
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To: nutmeg

I second it also.

55 posted on 02/18/2013 5:57:28 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: Salvation

I may not be a Catholic however I would never blame the Pope for stepping down now.
Gods will be done.

56 posted on 02/18/2013 6:02:19 AM PST by winodog (Thank you Jesus for the calm in my life)
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To: highpockets

I sincerely hope that you follow what you yourself have written on your profile page: “... everytime I have an understanding of a given problem another poster provides insight I had not considered. I am not always openminded, but the wealth of experience and knowledge shared helps to change or modify my positon(sic).”

Perhaps you should consider that the Holy Father, Benedict, was led by the Holy Spirit to make this decision. That is what many faithful Catholics believe. They believe that it was WISDOM that led to this decision.

PS. It is clear that he did NOT *quit* the Church. He loves the Church and has done much to help the Church.

57 posted on 02/18/2013 6:02:28 AM PST by SumProVita (Cogito, ergo....Sum Pro Vita - Modified Descartes)
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To: ReaganGeneration2

I’m curious - why quit Catholicism altogether, highp? I’m still confused by his leaving. But it seems Benedict isn’t quitting the Church, just the office.

When I quit something, the catalyst is rarely the only reason. It’s usually the “final straw”.

The final straw that caused my wife to leave the church was not the only reason she left. It just made the decision easier.

58 posted on 02/18/2013 6:43:06 AM PST by cuban leaf (Were doomed! Details at eleven.)
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To: annalex
I think this is an incredible act of humility and those who don't understand that don't understand the role of humility plays in our following Christ.

Such folks should read what Pope Benedict XVI has written over the years then maybe they'd get a clue.

People have bought into the lie that surrendering to Christ doesn't include surrendering their ego driven intellect and therefore apply the thought process to what they claim to believe as they apply to shopping for a new electronic toy. If it's popular they don't worry about rationalizing it and if it's not popular, they generate all sorts of exceptions to justify their doing what they want.

59 posted on 02/18/2013 7:00:56 AM PST by Rashputin (Jesus Christ doesn't evacuate His troops, He leads them to victory.)
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To: blackpacific
>> This is highly unusual to be sure, but not unprecedented. <<

A pope resigning the office is highly unusual but not unprecedented.

A pope resigning the office BECAUSE of advanced age or because he is physically weak IS unprecedented, and has NEVER been done in the 2000 year history of the papacy. I will repeat a third time: Popes is far worse physical condition than Benedict, and older, continued to reign.

If you disagree with my argument, show we any example in the last two millennium where a Pope "retired" because of his age of physical strength.

60 posted on 02/18/2013 8:19:13 AM PST by BillyBoy ( Impeach Obama? Yes We Can!)
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