Popes are human too
October 18, 2013 § 27 Comments
I was musing on Pope Benedict’s resignation recently and had a few “what if I was in his shoes” thoughts. They are worth what you paid for them, but I thought I’d blog them anyway because, well, why not?
The first thing to understand is that the conclave that elects the Pope doesn’t have the capacity to confer super powers on the new Pope. Popes put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us. Infallible proclamations are extraordinarily rare, and even invocations of fallible magisterial authority on matters of doctrine are not all that common. Denzinger isn’t the fattest book on my bookshelf, and it covers magisterial documents over the entire history of the Church over a huge range of topics.
My impression of Benedict is that his primary concern, above all others, was liturgical reform and in particular reconciliation with the SSPX. For those who don’t know, the SSPX is a traditionalist group which broke off from the Church over the changes to the Mass that happened in 1969. Benedict was, clearly, very sympathetic to their concerns.
However, in the end, the SSPX refused to re-enter into full communion with the Church. They got a Pope who was willing to work with them, but they ultimately just couldn’t bring themselves to submit to the authority of the Roman Pontiff — not even an extremely conciliatory Pontiff with deep sympathy for their cause. Too much time in the wilderness had taken its toll, and now the SSPX had become just a different kind of Protestant. I can only imagine how discouraging this was to Benedict, already an elderly and frail man with failing health.
So now we have a different kind of Pope. He is human too.
Salvation history tends to work that way. God is always offering us gifts we don’t deserve; and when we refuse there are consequences.