Days like this make me so wish that I was independently wealthy so I could have blogged my reaction to the Pope’s resignation and not having to go to work. That reaction has been bubbling up through me all day.
I remember when he was elected and when I first heard the word “Joseph” I was already jumping up and down and screaming for joy. Whatever the exactly opposite reaction to this is what I experienced this morning. When I first saw a reference to this on Twitter I thought surely this is typical bad media coverage, but I soon found out this was not so. I felt that buzzed feeling you have when you come close to having an accident where both your mind and body reacts.
I am both shocked and yet not surprised. There has certainly been clues to this possibly happening and I thought that just perhaps at a later date this might just be an option he might choose. That he choose it now is what mostly surprised me. It is one thing to think about such a possibility and another to see it happen. Most of my reaction was quite selfish. I felt a disturbance in the force and thought “noooooooooooo” this can’t be! I so love pretty much everything about Pope Benedict XVI. I greedily soak up everything he says and writes and so it is like a blow to have this taken away. Still you also have to wonder about what he would have written if he not become Pope and was able to retire. Perhaps we will find some of this out. There has always been a tension in him in regards to serving the Church from the time he was first appointed bishop, his years as Prefect of the CDF, and then becoming Pope. His coat of arms with the bear of St. Corbinian has been an indicator of this and he has long carried the pack for his beloved Church. To carry and to go where he did not personally choose, but to live a life of service to the Church. Yet even St. Corbinian’s bear was finally loosed to return to the forests.
I certainly won’t be second-guessing his decision. If he thought this was the best for the Church then who am I to disagree? His decision will also certainly have some influence on future Pope’s as another possible route. The path of suffering that Blessed John Paul II took was a blessing for the world and perhaps even this act of humility by the current Pope will also be in its own way. So much of the world only see the office of Pope as a power and not the weight of the world the office holder assumes.
Now once his resignation takes effect what do you refer to him as? Is it like political office where you would still refer to him as “Pope” and “Holy Father”? Or would he simply become Cardinal Ratzinger again?
I am though annoyed by all the talk of who is “papabile.” Right now I just really don’t want to talk about it. It feels in some ways like he died and speaking of his successors feels to me like having your wife die and talking about possible girlfriends. This is a silly metaphor, yet it has some validity in my own reaction. Still the Church is not a personality cult and whoever fills the shoes of the fisherman will be Peter. When Blessed John Paul II died it was Cardinal Ratzinger that I most wanted to be pope. As a convert he was the one most familiar to me and the one I admired the most. This time around I don’t really have a favorite. The fact that we had Blessed John Paul II who is arguably the greatest philosopher to be Pope followed by Pope Benedict XVI arguably the greatest theologian to be Pope will certainly be a tough act to follow. That is if the papacy was an “act” or a historical competition against previous claimants.
It is hard to believe that when Easter does come that it is almost assured that it will be with a new Pope. His resignation has led me to that Lenten feeling of loss two days early and this Lent is going to be exceptionally penitential in one dimension. The media and the talking heads are the penitential aspect I am thinking about. The collective low IQ of the media will take a logarithmic downturn over the coming month or so in regards to the conclave.
No doubt we are already hearing and will be hearing constantly how the election of a new pope will change the Church. If they only pick the right guy then all those annoying doctrines well be shed like the skin of a snake and sloughed off with the shiny new skin of progress. There is a part of me that could almost with for the election of a Cardinal who would be described in political terms as a progressive and liberal. One that was a darling of dissenters. I could almost wish for this because of the fun that would ensue as the progressive pope would do no such thing. When Empress Theodora arranged the election of Pope Vigilius she thought she had a like-minded pope-in-the-pocket that she could control. When he subsequently defended orthodox theology she was not amused. Watching possible this aspect of the charism of infallibility in action might be fun as dissenter freak out over not getting what they want.
As a convert I remember feeling some jealousy before when some Catholics would be able describe the day of election of multiple popes. Now I don’t feel quite the same way that while I was glad to rack up one experience of white smoke and Habemus Papam, I would have preferred to delay by more than a decade the need of white smoke again.