“The Primacy in its intimate essence is not an exercise of power”

COMMEMORATION MASS IN HONOUR
OF THE POPES PAUL VI AND JOHN PAUL I

HOMILY OF CARDINAL JOSEPH RATZINGER

Altar of the Chair, St Peter’s Basilica
Tuesday, 28 September 2004

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the Opening Prayer and in the Prayer after Communion, the liturgy offers us an interpretation of the Petrine Ministry that also appears as a spiritual portrait of the two Popes, Paul VI and John Paul I, in whose memory we are celebrating this Mass.

The Opening Prayer says that the Popes “in the love of Christ… presided over your Church”, and the Prayer after Communion asks the Lord to grant the Supreme Pontiffs, his servants, “to enter… into full possession of the truth, in which, with apostolic courage, they have strengthened their brethren”.

Love and truth thus appear as the two poles of the mission entrusted to the Successors of St Peter.

Presiding over the Church in the love of Christ: one recalls in the context of these words, “presiding in love”, St Ignatius’ letter to the Church of Rome, which the holy martyr who came from Antioch recognized as the principal Chair of St Peter. His letter continues by saying that the Church of Rome “is in the law of Christ”; here he mentions St Paul’s words in his Letter to the Galatians: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfil the law of Christ” (6: 2).

Presiding in charity means first and foremost to preside “in the love of Christ”.

Let us remember at this point the fact that the definitive conferral of the Primacy upon Peter after the Resurrection is linked to the question the Lord repeated three times: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (Jn 21: 15ff.). Tending Christ’s flock and loving the Lord are the same thing. It is Christ’s love that guides the sheep on the right path and builds the Church.

At this point we cannot but think of Paul VI’s momentous Discourse inaugurating the Second Session of the Second Vatican Council. “Te, Christe, solum novimus” were the determining words of this Homily.

The Pope spoke of the mosaic in St Paul-Outside-the-Walls, with the great figure of the Pantocrator and Pope Honorius III lying prostrate at his feet, a tiny figure, almost insignificant before the greatness of Christ.

The Pope continued: This scene is repeated here with its full impact at our gathering. This was his vision of the Council, and also of the Primacy: all of us at Christ’s feet, to be servants of Christ, to serve the Gospel: the essence of Christianity is Christ – not a doctrine, but a person – and evangelizing means guiding people to friendship with Christ, to the communion of love with the Lord who is the true light in our lives.

Presiding in charity means, let us repeat, presiding in the love of Christ. But love of Christ implies knowledge of Christ: bearing one another’s burdens, as St Paul says.

The Primacy in its intimate essence is not an exercise of power, but in “bearing the burdens of others”; it is a responsibility of love.

Love is exactly the opposite of indifference to the other person, it cannot admit that the flame of Christ’s love be extinguished in the other, that friendship and knowledge of the Lord should fade, lest “the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word” (Mt 13: 22).

And finally: Christ’s love is love for the poor and the suffering. We know well that our Popes were strongly committed to fighting against injustice and for the rights of the oppressed and the weak. Christ’s love is not something individualistic, solely spiritual: it concerns the flesh, it concerns the world, and it must transform the world.

Lastly, presiding in charity concerns the Eucharist, which is the real presence of love incarnate, the presence of the Body of Christ offered for us. The Eucharist builds the Church, it builds this great network of communion that is the Body of Christ and thereby creates charity.

It is in this spirit that with the living and the dead we are celebrating Holy Mass – the sacrifice of Christ from which the gift of charity derives.

Love would be blind without the truth. Consequently, the one who must preside in love receives from the Lord the promise: “Simon, Simon… I have prayed that your own faith may not fail” (Lk 22: 32).

The Lord sees that Satan wants to “sift all of you like wheat” (Lk 22: 31). While this trial involves all the disciples, Christ prays in a special way “for you”; for the faith of Peter and upon this prayer is founded the mission to “strengthen your brothers”.

Peter’s faith is not a result of his own efforts; the constancy of his faith is founded on the prayer of Jesus, the Son of God: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail”.

Jesus’ prayer endures as the firm foundation of Peter’s role for ever and ever, and the Prayer after Communion can rightly say that the Supreme Pontiffs, Paul VI and John Paul I, strengthened their brethren “with apostolic courage”.

In a time when we are seeing how Satan “sifts” the disciples of Christ “like wheat”, the steadfast faith of the Popes has visibly been the rock on which the Church stands.

“For I know that my Redeemer lives”, are the words in the First Reading of our liturgy from the text of Job – he says them at a time of extreme trial; he says them while God is hiding and seems hostile to him. Veiled in suffering, knowing neither his name nor his face, Job “knows” that his Redeemer is alive, and this certainty is his great consolation in the darkness of trial.

Jesus Christ lifted the veil that for Job covered the face of God: Yes, our Redeemer lives, “and we all, with unveiled face, reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness”, says St Paul (cf. II Cor 3: 18).

Our Redeemer lives, he has a face and a name: Jesus Christ. And our “eyes will behold him”; we are assured of this by our late Popes, and thus they guide us “towards full possession of the truth”, strengthening us in faith in our Redeemer. Amen.

SOURCE

31 thoughts on ““The Primacy in its intimate essence is not an exercise of power”

  1. Just as surely as, “Our Redeemer lives, he has a face and a name: Jesus Christ. And our “eyes will behold him” so too we have a loving holder of the Papal Office and his name is Benedict XVI. He did NOT flee for fear of the wolves as some would have us believe nor abandon us as the worst. pope. ever. He keeps the Office as he always meant to do; thus purposefully and intentionally without error he lovingly retains the Keys. Whatever the usurper and his minions appear to do, they CAN NOT bind or loose–Jesus said so.

    1. Cam: That he did not flee for fear of the wolves is as likely a theory as the one that insists that he did. However, the theory that he did not flee is more in line with triumphant precedent: David and Goliath; the Machabees; Jesus’ crucifixion; St. John of the Cross; the Cure of Ars; St. Pio… Moreover, if he did flee, he sure didn’t do a very go job getting away from the wolves. He’s in the thick of the fight and it must gall them.

      1. He did not flee. Great way to put that. If he did, he didn’t do a very good job of hiding. No distant hermit cave or college classroom for him. He remains living closer to the beating heart of the Church than Bergoglio.

        What most people don’t understand is that government and edicts and levers of power and monarchical authority over billions is not true power.

        True power is the grace of God and the Angels of heaven who fight (always win) invisible spiritual battles that at times bleed over into physical battles (parting of the Red Sea, Walls Of Jericho, Israel and Elisha – II Kings 6:16,17).

        There is brave Pope Benedict XVI, *not* fleeing for fear of the wolves, but exercising true Papal power in prayerful communion with Our Lord and Our Lady. God works in mysterious ways. His ways are not our ways. Wait on the Lord. God reigns!

      2. Aqua: “He did not flee. Great way to put that. If he did, he didn’t do a very good job of hiding.”

        Are fleeing and hiding even the same thing? I don’t see why they are. The claim that Benedict fled, as I’ve understood it, means not that he’s hiding from us, but that he’s shirking his responsibilities.

      3. III: “That he did not flee for fear of the wolves is as likely a theory as the one that insists that he did.”

        But even if that’s true, it doesn’t justify your claim; in fact, it shows that you can’t possibly know what you’re asserting to know.

      4. Thank you, Cam. You are very right to correct my definitive statement as if I know that which only Pope Benedict knows. Thank you for your correction. I theorize that he did not flee just as much as those who theorize that he did flee. Perhaps you would grant that the physical evidence of his geographical choice to live and act seems to weigh in favor of my theory that he did not flee.

      5. Camroyer, I think there is a burden of proof on every devout Catholic to explain why Pope Benedict XVI still remains in the Vatican monastery, praying as Pope.

        In other words, how do *you* explain it? I have yet to see any adequate explanation. The *only* explanation I have ever heard is that Pope Benedict XVI is a crazy old man; a mistaken man; a deluded man; a play-acting man.

        That explanation doesn’t work for me. And the fact that the Cardinals that affirm Amoris Latetia adultery, and are soon giving us the Amazon Synod apostasy, also accept this explanation … does not make it true.

        I think the burden of proof is on those who accept the innovation to explain themselves, how this *innovation* fits with Tradition and the red words of Jesus Christ.

      6. Camroyer: “Shirking his responsibilities”? He is fulfilling his greatest, most essential responsibility. I think it is an understandable mistake, but a mistake, to see the Papacy in the government and in the visible power; but not in the communion, prayer, contemplation. We see one and are most affected visibly by it, but God primarily sees the other and is most particularly *moved* by it.

        The Papacy is first and foremost communion between God and His Vicar on earth, the (one) occupant of St. Peter’s Office. And *that* is specifically, clearly, firmly retained by Pope Benedict XVI. He ran away from nothing. He fulfills the duties of his Office, during these dire times when Satan is (obviously) loosed, in intercession for the suffering Church.

        Normally, at all other times, government and Office are combined. Now, by his clear Latin resignation text, *they are not*. And that must be explained by all those who reject the idea that Pope Benedict XVI is still reigning Pope in the eyes of God and Holy Mother Church (which transcends the living evil men who currently populate the hierarchy).

      7. III: “Perhaps you would grant that the physical evidence of his geographical choice to live and act seems to weigh in favor of my theory that he did not flee.”

        His residence strikes me at best as evidence that he did not flee physically. But the sense in which others would say he’s fled is not physical, but moral. For that reason, I don’t see his residence weighing in favor of the theory that he didn’t flee. The theory that he fled and his current residence strike me as perfectly compatible.

      8. Thank you for explaining how others think of and explain Pope Benedict’s choices. It is good to know how they process their perceptions. This difference in perceptions, however, does not impede the faithfuls’ reasonable request for an examination of the evidence of BiP, or does a division in the faithfuls’ perception of their one and only Holy Father cause an obstacle to their unity with him?

      9. Aqua: “I think there is a burden of proof on every devout Catholic to explain why Pope Benedict XVI still remains in the Vatican monastery, praying as Pope. In other words, how do *you* explain it?”

        I know this much: either (A) he’s there freely or (B) he’s not there freely. But A and B are both compatible with Barnhardt’s errory theory. That’s why I don’t think focusing on his Vatican residence is a sound method for defending a theory contrary to Barnhardt’s.

    2. Aqua: “He ran away from nothing. He fulfills the duties of his Office …”

      Bergoglio’s leading Catholics into grave error. Benedict can correct it and doesn’t. But you say he’s fulfilling the duties of his office?

      Aqua: “Normally, at all other times, government and Office are combined. Now, by his clear Latin resignation text, *they are not*.”

      But if, in reality, they are combined at all other times, then why would Benedict’s separating the two merely in word change that? Doesn’t ontology come before language?

      1. Cam, here are CCC 882 and 883 which pertain to the authority and power of the Papal Office in regards to governing and teaching powers as well as some thoughts/questions that I’ve had regarding the present situation in the Vatican based on historical precedent. It seems to me that they are pertinent to your point about governing and Office being “combined at all other times.”

        882 The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.”402 “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”403

        883 “The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head.” As such, this college has “supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff.”404

        (402, 403, and 404 are citations from Lumen Gentium 22 and 23 as well as Christus Dominus 2,9 and Canon 336)

        These are my thoughts in the form of questions. Since CCC 882 tells us that the Pope, by reason of his office>/i> as Vicar of Christ, can “always exercise his full, universal, and supreme power over the whole church without hinderance”, is it also not possible that he can choose to not exercise that same power or even be put into situations where he is hindered from exercising that power?

        In history we see instances that through no fault of their own, certain popes have not exercised the power of their office. For example, JPII when he was in a coma and even to some extent as he became progressively ill in later life; Pope Gregory VII when he went into exile first to St. Angelo, then Monte Cassino, and finally to Salerno where he died in exile; and Pope Pius VII who was held captive by Napoleon. Although they all had the right to exercise the power of their office unhindered, through no fault of their own, they were hindered in exercising their power.

        My second thought/question extends from CCC 883 which says that “[t]he college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head.” As such, this college has “supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff.” My question, if that which has gone on in the last six years and eight months has not been conducted “united with the Roman Pontiff” or “without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff” what power has been exercised over the universal Church?

        Finally it is interesting to note (as can be found in the article at the following link) that there are details in Gregory VII’s life and ecclesial career that are strikingly similar to specifics in Pope Benedict XVI’s own life and experiences while serving the Church. Pope Gregory VII lived during and after the same time that St. Peter Damian lived, a time in which clerical simony and incontinence were rampant. Gregory VII’s statements and intent of executing reforms were not well met by the clerics in Germany, France, or Spain. Their obstinence and overt disobedience were the main reasons he voluntarily but under pressure went into exile. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06791c.htm

      2. III: “is it also not possible that he can choose to not exercise that same power . . .?”

        Physically, I suppose so, as long as he has free will. But, of course, that alone wouldn’t make it morally right.

        III: “III: “is it also not possible that he can . . . be put into situations where he is hindered from exercising that power?”

        I think so, e.g., any situation in which his free will is hindered.

        In any case, I think the case for BiP itself should be made as independently of Benedict’s thinking and motivations as possible, which I think can be done simply by emphasizing the objective evidence before us and the moral duties it creates. For example, given Benedict’s behavior and words (as in the above post), it is morally uncertain that he fully and thus validly abdicated. This in turn binds us morally to continue treating him as the Supreme Pontiff. (For me, the BiP case is very much a matter of ethics; it’s not just about the right thing to believe; it’s about the right thing to do.)

      3. Cam: You said, “I think the case for BiP itself should be made as independently of Benedict’s thinking and motivations as possible, which I think can be done simply by emphasizing the objective evidence before us and the moral duties it creates.” In total agreement with your statement, I suggest that we collectively agree that that there will be no more speculation about Pope Benedict’s thinking and motivations. Rather the focus will be on what he has said and done since April 2005 when he accepted the Papal Office. Is it possible to consider what others in the Vatican have done during that time? Would those grounds be agreeable to you?

        I hope that you would clarify another comment that you made. You said, “Physically, I suppose so, as long as he has free will. But, of course, that alone wouldn’t make it morally right.” What do you mean by morally right?

        I hope you might entertain one more speculation before I stop speculating. What is the moral corrective to mutiny? You see, not too long ago when speaking of BiP to a friend of mine, a retired Navy captain, I asked if he’d ever had to command a crew of mutineers. It turns out that once when he was put in command of a mine sweeper that was being recommissioned, it just happened that previous commands had allowed the power/authority dynamics of the vessel to rest in the hands of a six-member gang who were using the vessel to run drugs.

        Not knowing the specifics of what he had stepped into but knowing that he was in charge, he chose to wrest control from the gang as well as to drag into line those who were complicit by their willingness to just go along or stay ‘under the radar’ of the gang. Using somewhat unorthodox means he was successful in returning the ship to order under his command but only because he had the help of two crew members. When I put to him the likelihood of him being able to regain command without any help at all (especially having resorted to “unorthodox means”), he replied that without the initial help of only two out of thirty-eight crew members not only would he have NOT regained command, he would have most likely been kicked out of the Navy and perhaps even spent some time in a brig somewhere.

        My point in relaying this anecdote is to point out that based on the reign of destruction that the 2005 runner-up to Benedict is heading, the evidence would indicate that Pope Benedict’s reply to Bishop Fellay in 2005 that his authority stopped at his office door was due to the hierarchical mutiny that substantially existed at that time and has only felt itself free to openly manifest since March of 2013. What is the moral corrective for mutiny?

        Apparently capital punishment is now inadmissible. Lol

  2. I don’t get it. In your June 15, 2019 article you states that Benedict XVI did not delegate the active governance of the Church, but that is what he actually did do via his Declaratio. Please explain.

      1. “…..when he attempted to ‘resign’/delegate the active governance of the Church, but he did not. And since he did not…..”

        This is part of what you wrote on June 15, 2019. Benedict XVI not only attempted but did in fact delegate the active governance of the Church. You wrote that he did not.

      2. I am not disagreeing with you that he retains the office. I am simply saying that you make it sound that he did not delegate his powers in one way or another.

      3. Because I don’t think he did delegate the governance. He makes absolutely clear in this homily that the power of governance is not an essential element of the papacy, which is a huge error. While it’s true that a pope can choose not to govern, or even out of incapacity, imprisonment, etc may be unable to govern, yet in each case the POWER to govern remain with the pope, as an essential element of the Office.

        However, for people who think he really did, legally, delegate the power, well then Canon 131.1 is sitting right there to say the he fully retained the office anyway.

  3. Islam_Is Islam,

    The Catechism citations you show seem to give the Pope unhindered authority to rule in any way he pleases: “a power which he can always exercise unhindered”.

    Is there nothing that connects and binds him to rule only in accord with Dogmatic Sacred Tradition and Holy Scripture?

    It appears, from these citations, that the Pope can literally rule any way he wants. And that by definition – if he says it, then it is true.

    I have a real problem with that. It appears this is the nut of the problem. The Pope is infallible, in everything, by definition. Communion for adulterers is justified, because the Pope has ruled it is so. And we must remain in union with him. Married Priests, female Priests, homosexual blessings/marriage – the Pope has spoken and it is so.

    According to these citations, if there is nothing else to limit them, he is not bound to Dogma, Scripture, Sacred Tradition, all that came before! He could even change the Lord’s Prayer if he chose to.

    Perhaps the problem is in the Catechism. I do not believe a Pope has unlimited unbounded authority. Yet, it appears he now does according to the modern Catechism. And he is acting unbound.

    I would expect language similar to “By reason of his Office of Vicar of Christ, bound in conformity to Dogma, Scripture and the entire corpus of Sacred Tradition …”.

    But it doesn’t say that. This appears to sanction spiritual anarchy. Thoughts?

    1. Aqua: You’ve done it again, by golly. I feel a little like Pooh Bear to your Eeyore–“Think, think, think…” As we know, “iron sharpens iron”; so here goes:

      In as much as what appears today as you say, “the Pope can literally rule anyway he wants. And that by definition–if he says it, then it is true,” and that perhaps the nut of the problem is in the CCC itself given to us by JPII, I did some further searching in that document. To be very clear I still have no surety on the matter of whether or not JPII’s CCC even meets the standard of “infallible”, nonetheless I found CCC 889 as a potential answer to your observations. CCC 889 says:
      In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a “supernatural sense of faith” the People of God, under the guidance of the Church’s living Magisterium, “unfailingly adheres to this faith.”417 (The citation here, 417, is from Lumen Gentium 12 with cross reference to Dei Verbum 10)

      From CCC 889 it seems to me that the foundation of 882 and 883 is the unfailing adherence to the Apostolic Faith that “purity of faith handed on by the apostles” and not that (as it appears today) “the Pope (or some bishop or priest) can literally rule anyway he wants”.

      Those are my thoughts…so far. : )

      1. On second thought, Aqua, perhaps you are more like Christopher Robin than Eeyore in that you ask relevant questions based on real-life observations with the faith of a child. Thank you for your thoughts and wonderment in God’s mysterious plans and ways of working things out for the good for those who love Him.

      2. Islam_Is Islam:

        Definitely eeyore. Oh, yeah. Not Christopher Robin.

        Actually, if I had to pick a character from children’s literature to describe me, it would be Puddleglum, from C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair. I always had a special affinity for that fellow.

      3. @ Uriel: Prepare for the worst. Hope for the best. Kind of a dark cloud on a sunny day. Big downer at parties. “Nice day for travel”! “Most likely rain and mud before night”.

        But, when the chips are down, and the Lady of the Green Kirtle is hypnotically sending you and your friends into a trance through soft, deceiving verbal magic and the lights are all going out – they will all be “man and marshwiggle pies” in a few moments …. Mr. Puddleglum is your man. He’ll pick up burning coals of fire just to remain conscious, regain sense and protect his friends from the witch.

        Everyone else is going under. Puddleglum, barely conscious, is going to war with the witch by himself. Yeah, I like that guy.

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