The other day, we got another glimpse into the mind of Pope Benedict. The comments attributed to him were read out by Abp. Ganswein at Cardinal Meisner’s Requiem, and the underlying message reinforces perfectly the “logic” behind Benedict’s failed partial abdication of the papacy.
Remember, Pope Benedict’s SUBSTANTIAL ERROR is the idea of a papal diarchy, with one “active” member controlling the worldly affairs of the ecclesiastical office (munus), and one “contemplative” member with an essentially spiritual role dedicated to prayer and suffering. Remember those words, “essentially spiritual role, prayer and suffering” – that was the actual phrasing he used in the Declaratio. We’ll come back to this later.
Also remember that it is absurd to think a mere man should or could alter the intrinsic nature of the divinely instituted Petrine Ministry out of, irony of ironies, some kind of Supplied Jurisdiction. We’ve covered this over and over again. Benedict did not, in reality, bifurcate the papacy. He only thinks he did, and thus in accordance with Canon 188 Benedict remains the only true living pope, his attempted abdication rendered invalid by means of substantial error.
Whatever his reasons for doing so, Benedict sought to maintain some level of control within the Petrine Ministry, not only by (falsely) expanding it, but also by giving himself the greater portion of the ministry, by “delegating” the temporal governance role to his successor while retaining the supernatural, contemplative, spiritual warfare role for himself.
Is there anything else that more accurately explains the observable evidence? What about the confidence, the serenity…the man seems truly at peace. Like he thinks he’s winning.
So now let’s have a look at what +Ganswein read out, supposedly from Benedict’s hand, supposedly regarding the mentality of Cardinal Meisner, in his final days:
“We know that this passionate shepherd and pastor found it difficult to leave his post, especially at a time in which the Church stands in need of convincing shepherds who can resist the dictatorship of the spirit of the age…However…he learned to let go and to live out of a deep conviction that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.”
Talk about patting yourself on the back.
Everyone is taking this as an attack specifically on Francis. You have to stop looking at Francis as the disease instead of merely a symptom of a long-term illness. To stay with the analogy, the boat was already in danger of shipwreck long before Francis, but the damage was below the waterline. Now that the waves are crashing over the bow, it’s just more visible to everyone.
Aside: There actually was a part of the address that specifically mentioned the Eucharist, Confession, Adoration, etc, and that’s the part where he seemed to be drawing distinctions regarding Francis Doctrine. That will be the topic of another post.
Pope Benedict knows exactly how bad – how systemic – the problem really is. He probably even realizes he himself is part of the problem, but at this point it’s too late for him to do anything about it, at least in the mortal realm. Imagine what a horrific moment of clarity that must have been. Maybe that would explain why he attempted to give up the governing office of the papacy, so that he could concentrate all of his strength toward a supernatural solution. He likely knows there is no earthly solution at this point, that if there is any solution at all short of the apocalypse, it will have to be supernatural in nature. And when we need a supernatural remedy, what are our most effective tools?
Prayer, fasting, offering suffering in reparation… an “ESSENTIALLY SPIRITUAL ROLE”.
Benedict chose to deploy this strategy, thinking it was the best way forward, even while knowing the identity of his likely (invalid) successor. Oh yes, Benedict was fully in attendance at the 2005 conclave which elected him, and he most assuredly knew full well who came in second. And since the forces behind Bergoglio only strengthened and multiplied during the Benedictine pontificate, it would have been no surprise to him when Francis was (invalidly) elected. Pressing this line further, it’s conceivable that knowledge of the inevitability of the Francis or someone like him may have not only hastened but also shaped Benedict’s attempted abdication, not the other way around. Think about it. This is why his decision looks like a strategy.
Because it IS a strategy, in the mind of Benedict, in SUBSTANTIAL ERROR, still reigning, in the thirteenth year of his pontificate.