3 versions on the “Resignation” of Pope Benedict XVI. Which One Should We Believe?

by Christopher A. Ferrara February 4, 2015

For the first time in the history of the Church a Pope has resigned while retaining the papal name, the papal garb, and even the papal seal. Since the date of Pope Benedict XVI’s decision (on February 11, 2013) to “renounce the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter,” which he later qualified (during the audience of February 27, 2013) to mean “the active exercise of the ministry” while retaining “the service of prayer [and] remain[ing], so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter,” we have been given three different versions of this absolutely unprecedented development.

First we were told, in defense of the validity of the resignation, that Benedict had retained the papal garb only because he had nothing else to wear. No, I am not joking. To recall Benedict’s own statement in a purported letter from him, dated February 26, 2014 and written after questions about the resignation had already emerged: “I continue to wear the white cassock and kept the name Benedict for purely practical reasons. At the moment of my resignation there were no other clothes available.”

That ludicrous version did not last long. Two days to be exact. On February 28, 2014 was given version #2. rorate-caeli.blogspot.ro/2014_05_01_archive.html:

…two days after, February 28, the trusted Don Georg Gänswein, Ratinger’s secretary, in an interview to “Avvenire” [the newspaper of the Italians Bishops’ Conference] gave the real answer which Benedict could not or did not want to give in person. Here is how Don Georg explained why he had kept the title of Pope Emeritus: “He considers that this title corresponds to reality.”

As Socci concluded: “Anyone can understand that this statement is of exceptional importance: it means that Ratzinger dresses like a Pope because ‘he is’ Pope.
Indeed, it is undeniable that Benedict, having explained that his resignation pertains only to the “active ministry” of the papacy and “the power of office,” apparently still views himself as retaining the spiritual element of the papacy — hence the very title Pope Emeritus. It is here, notes the canonist Stefano Violi, that we encounter a doctrinal novelty: “A renunciation limited to the active exercise of the munus [office] constitutes the absolute novelty of the resignation of Benedict XVI.”

The question that must be answered is whether the Pope even has the power to resign without entirely losing the Petrine office; that is, whether the Pope has the power to invent a new doctrine concerning the nature of the papacy. The answer would appear to be in the negative, for the Pope has no power to invent new doctrines but only to safeguard what has been revealed to her by God. As the First Vatican Council solemnly declared:

For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by His revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by His assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.

But wait. We now have version #3. In August of 2014 we were told that during a conversation with a German journalist, Benedict revealed that he “would prefer to be known as ‘Father Benedict’ rather than ‘Pope emeritus’” but that “others opposed that suggestion and ‘I was too weak at that point to enforce it.’” There has never been any denial of this report by Benedict or anyone speaking on his behalf. So, according to version #3, Benedict was too weak to insist that he be known as simply “Father Benedict” and the title Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus, is not what he wanted at all.

Well which of three versions do we believe? The first version is patently incredible, the second version involves an absolute novelty in the history of the Church — raising the further question whether it is even possible — and the third version contradicts the first two, while indicating a Pope under intense pressure from others at the very moment of his resignation.

I pose these questions not to answer them but simply to note that they exist and cannot simply be ignored. Something is rotten in the state of the Vatican. We have not by any means been told the whole story about the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

With Pope Francis convulsing the Church almost daily with explosive utterances and sensational publicity stunts, and with his Synod of 2015 looming as a potential shipwreck, the faithful are entitled to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what is going on — really going on — behind the Vatican walls. May Our Lady of Fatima shine the light of truth on a Vatican that boasts of its new “transparency” but in reality is more opaque than ever in its history.