“Thy lightnings enlightened the world: the earth shook and trembled.” –Introit, Feast of the Transfiguration. (Ps 76:19)
Happy Feast! Reminds me of a certain sermon on the Transfiguration, directly comparing the Transfiguration to a pope who transfigures the nature of his papacy, morphing it into a service of quite suffering, yet while retaining the authority of the Office, allowing others to drag him where he does not wish to go, more and more allowing himself to be nailed to the cross. Those were the words of Cardinal Ratzinger, 41 years ago.
The sermon was posted by EWTN. But sometime after I published the following essay, they took it down; the link is now dead.
Have you heard about the mysterious case of Archbishop Ganswein and the obscure, “unpublished,” 41 year old sermon by Joseph Ratzinger, then Cardinal Archbishop of Munich-Freising, delivered at his Frauenkirche Cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady) on 10 August 1978? Well, pull up a chair!
First, here is an excerpt from +Ganswein’s infamous speech at the Greg, 20 May 2016, in which he mentions the mystery sermon:
Since the election of his successor Francis, on March 13, 2013, there are not therefore two popes, but de facto an expanded ministry — with an active member and a contemplative member. This is why Benedict XVI has not given up either his name, or the white cassock. This is why the correct name by which to address him even today is “Your Holiness”; and this is also why he has not retired to a secluded monastery, but within the Vatican — as if he had only taken a step to the side to make room for his successor and a new stage in the history of the papacy which he, by that step, enriched with the “power station” of his prayer and his compassion located in the Vatican Gardens.
It was “the least expected step in contemporary Catholicism,” Regoli writes, and yet a possibility which Cardinal Ratzinger had already pondered publicly on August 10, 1978 in Munich, in a homily on the occasion of the death of Paul VI. Thirty-five years later, he has not abandoned the Office of Peter — something which would have been entirely impossible for him after his irrevocable acceptance of the office in April 2005. By an act of extraordinary courage, he has instead renewed this office(even against the opinion of well-meaning and undoubtedly competent advisers), and with a final effort he has strengthened it (as I hope). Of course only history will prove this. But in the history of the Church it shall remain true that, in the year 2013, the famous theologian on the throne of Peter became history’s first “pope emeritus.” Since then, his role — allow me to repeat it once again — is entirely different from that, for example, of the holy Pope Celestine V, who after his resignation in 1294 would have liked to return to being a hermit, becoming instead a prisoner of his successor, Boniface VIII (to whom today in the Church we owe the establishment of jubilee years). To date, in fact, there has never been a step like that taken by Benedict XVI. So it is not surprising that it has been seen by some as revolutionary, or to the contrary as entirely consistent with the Gospel; while still others see the papacy in this way secularized as never before, and thus more collegial and functional or even simply more human and less sacred. And still others are of the opinion that Benedict XVI, with this step, has almost — speaking in theological and historical-critical terms — demythologized the papacy.
There is a lot to unpack just in this brief excerpt, starting with “demythologized the papacy.” This concept appears over and over in the +Miller book, which lays out the desired end result of transformating the nature of the papacy, dissolving the monarchy into a synodal ministry, that was being pushed around all the best German cocktail parties of the 60s and 70s. In particular, this idea was the pet project and lifetime work of Cardinal Walter Casper, antipope Bergoglio’s “favorite theologian” HERE . Are you telling me +Ganswein had no knowledge of this fact, and randomly pulled a fifty dollar word like “demythologized” out of thin air?
I’ve already written several posts on this speech that I won’t rehash here. Just read the plain words that the man spoke. Read the headline of this post. It’s right there in front of you.
Now, about that sermon he referenced; what exactly was the “possibility which Cardinal Ratzinger had already pondered publicly on August 10, 1978 in Munich…” What in the word was he talking about, and how would he have ever known about it or remembered it unless someone (cough) tipped him off that there was some stunning clue left there 41 years ago?
Guess what? Someone conveniently made it readily available, in the strangest way. Not only was I able to dig it up in five seconds, in English, but it also turns out that it had remained unpublished until… June of 2013, three months into the Bergoglian Antipapacy. That’s quite a coincidence, folks.
Here is the intro to the homily as published by EWTN:
“Four days after Paul VI’s death, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, celebrated Mass in his Bavarian Cathedral on 10 August 1978 for the late Pope. His homily was printed in the archdiocesan bulletin, ‘Ordinariats-Korrespondenz’. For the 50th anniversary of Pope Montini’s election (21 June 1963), ‘L’Osservatore Romano’ translated and published the text in n.141 of the Daily and a synthesis was published in the English weekly edition, n. 26. The following, however, is an unabridged translation.”
Paul VI died on the Feast of the Transfiguration, 6 August 1978. Benedict crafted his homily to draw parallels between the Transfiguration and…wait for it…the possibility of the “transfiguration” or “metamorphosis” of a pope and his pontificate. Here is the relevant passage to latch onto, emphasis mine:
The transfiguration promised by faith as a metamorphosis of man is primarily a journey of purification, of suffering. Paul VI increasingly accepted his papal service as a metamorphosis of faith into suffering. The last words the Risen Lord spoke to Peter after making him the shepherd of his flock were: “when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21:18). It was a hint of the crucifixion that lay in store for Peter at the end of his journey. It was, in general, a hint of the nature of this service. Paul VI, increasingly, let himself be taken where, humanly, by himself, he did not wish to go. For him his pontificate meant more and more allowing another to clothe him and allowing himself to be nailed to the cross. We know that before his 75th birthday — and also before his 80th — he fought strenuously against the idea of retiring. Moreover, we can imagine how heavy the thought must be of no longer belonging to ourselves; of no longer having a single private moment; of being enchained to the very last, with our body giving up and with a task that day after day demands the total, vigorous use of a man’s energy.. “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord” (Rom 14:7-8). These words of today’s Reading word for word defined Paul VI’s life. By bearing it as a suffering he gave new meaning to authority as service.He took no pleasure in power, in position, in having had a successful career; andprecisely because he bore authority as a responsibility “another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go” — his authority became great and credible.
So we have references to bravely resisting retirement, being clothed by another, being taken you where you do not wish to go, becoming a prisoner/crucified, giving NEW meaning to authority as service, and bearing authority as a responsibility, presumably referencing the last years of Pope Paul’s life, when he clearly was no longer governing the Church himself, yet he still bore the authority as the holder of the Office. Moreover, Ratzinger thinks Pope Paul’s suffering actually increased the greatness and credibility of his authority,even though outwardly he was no longer governing.
He says of Pope Paul that he was enchained to the last, with his “body giving up and with a task that day after day demands the total, vigorous use of a man’s energy.” Compare this to the Latin Declaratio, where Benedict says a lack of vigor is to blame for his own inability to adequately fulfill all of the day to day demands: “in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength (literally “vigor” in the original Latin) of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry…”
He says of Pope Paul, “we can imagine how heavy the thought must be of no longer belonging to ourselves; of no longer having a single private moment…” That sounds an awful lot like what Benedict said about himself in the crucial passage from his last (so far) General Audience:
Here, allow me to go back once again to 19 April 2005. The real gravity of the decision was also due to the fact that from that moment on I was engaged always and forever by the Lord. Always – anyone who accepts the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and completely to everyone, to the whole Church. In a manner of speaking, the private dimension of his life is completely eliminated…
The “always” is also a “forever” – there can no longer be a return to the private sphere. My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences, and so on. I am not abandoning the cross, but remaining in a new way at the side of the crucified Lord. I no longer bear the power of office for the governance of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter. Saint Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be a great example for me in this. He showed us the way for a life which, whether active or passive, is completely given over to the work of God.
Was Benedict a prisoner as pope 2005-2013, being crucified by his tormentors? Is he a prisoner now, enchained to the last, 2013-present? Did he, with the step he took in February 2013, “give new meaning to authority as service?” Does he see himself as imprisoned, as if in exile, and yet remaining “in a new way, so to speak, in the enclosure of St. Peter?”
Ahem. Popes in prison and Popes in exile are still the pope. Capisci?
There are breadcrumbs everywhere, folks. Sometimes they show up out of nowhere after 41 years.