If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone. (1983 Code of Canon Law, Canon 332 §2)
Note well that two things are “required” in order for a papal resignation to be valid; it must be both “made freely” and “properly manifested.”
Let’s talk about the latter first.
How might a papal resignation be properly manifested?
First and foremost, it is manifested by way of declaration or published statement; i.e., some sort of pronouncement on the part of the pope-resignee that makes his intent known to the members of the Church.
That, however, is not all, and for a very good reason that we will consider momentarily.
A papal resignation is also properly manifested by way of outward signs that clearly indicate that the man in question is no longer the Roman Pontiff.
Common sense and the witness of history alone indicate that the antithesis of a papal resignation “properly manifested” on the part of a former pope includes such things as:
– Continuing to wear papal vestments
– Retaining one’s papal name as opposed to resuming the use of one’s former name
– Continuing to refer to oneself as “Pope” (albeit “Emeritus”) rather than one’s previous rank
– Allowing oneself to be addressed publicly as “Your Holiness” (and by his would-be successor, no less)
– Continuing to live within the enclosure of the Vatican
In the case of Benedict XVI, something is being manifested, and deliberately so!
In other words, it is the height of naivete to presume that such actions as those listed above are just innocent mistakes in judgment.
This brings me to the reason why the outward signs that accompany a declaration of intent to resign the Petrine ministry are so very important.
Commenting on the former requirement set forth in Canon 332 §2 (that the resignation be “made freely”), Cardinal Walter Brandmüller recently said:
The simple declaration of free resignation on the part of the person in question [the pope] is not enough, because depending on the circumstances that statement could easily be forced, and the resignation therefore invalid.
This, my friends, is really just common sense. Think about it:
If you answered your telephone while a burglar was holding a gun to your head, you may very well insist to the caller that all is well. The caller in his turn would then go about believing and behaving as if all truly is well, and no one may be the wiser.
That is, unless you were clever enough to hint that all is not as it appears to be in the hopes that your caller might have ears to hear.
For instance, you might raise a red flag by making statements that your caller would readily recognize as so entirely absurd and irrational that he’d be hard pressed not to inquire further. We’ll come back to this thought in a moment.
One wonders, is Cardinal Brandmüller suggesting that he harbors reservations about the freedom of Benedict’s resignation? Does he mean to imply that others in the Sacred College hold similar doubts?
In any case, I suspect that no small number of prelates sincerely believe that Benedict was forced to resign, and yet are unwilling to go public with their concerns.
While reticence on the part of our churchmen in such matters of importance is deplorable, one might understand why this is the case:
At a time in the Church when the “wolves” are powerful enough to cause a reigning pope to flee, it may come as little surprise that his underlings are guarding their tongues and watching their step for fear of retribution.
Returning to the analogy of a gun wielding burglar…
In addition to the aforementioned outward signs indicating something other than a valid resignation has taken place, Benedict has dropped any number of hints suggesting that all is not what it appears to be.
Readers may recall that Benedict, in a letter to Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, suggested that he continued wearing papal whites because no black cassocks were available at the time; even though his February 2013 announcement of intent to resign preceded his actual departure by some three weeks.
Given that there are probably more black cassocks available in Rome than anywhere else on the planet, this is more akin to a megaphone blast than a hint.
In early July of this year, as readers may also recall, Benedict was reported to have said (in his soon-to-be released book) that he was aware of a Vatican “gay lobby” that was made up of four or five people, but that he managed to break the group up during his pontificate.
A gay lobby of just four or five people? It was broken up?
For those of us operating on common sense alone, this raises a huge red flag. For those who worked, or are presently working, in the Roman Curia, no doubt this cried out for attention even more so.
Was it to these latter individuals in particular that Benedict was speaking? Is he perhaps suggesting that said lobby had a hand in forcing him to flee?
Finally, just last week in an interview published in the Italian journal La Repubblica, Benedict provided what I consider to be nothing less than a bombshell; one that thus far seems to have escaped notice.
Most of the attention being paid to this interview concerns the unsettlingly casual manner in which Benedict suggested that his decision to resign came about mainly because he was “no longer able to face the future in transoceanic flights due to the problem of the time difference.”
Specifically, Benedict said that he “did not feel able to make such an intense trip as the World Youth Day of 2013 in Rio de Janeiro.”
He even went so far as to say that the looming prospect of this one event in particular “was a circumstance for which the resignation was a must for me.”
Lost amid the shock and outrage that these statements understandably invited, however, was something far more telling.
Asked whether or not he regrets leaving office before the Year of Faith had concluded, Benedict said:
In a crisis situation, the best attitude is to stand before God with a desire to regain faith in order to continue on the path of life.
Look, Benedict is many things; an alarmist isn’t one of them.
As such, are we really supposed to believe that World Youth Day and the potential for jet lag was what he considered a “crisis situation” that made resignation “a must”?
The very idea is absurd; so absurd, in fact, that one cannot help but believe that he is telling us something else – something far more important and far more believable.
That something, my friends, is that his resignation was brought about by a “crisis situation” that, for whatever reason, he is either unwilling, or feels unable, to reveal plainly.
This, to me, appears quite obvious.
One also does well to pay close attention to the second part of his statement; “the best attitude [in a crisis situation] is to stand before God with a desire to regain faith…”
Clearly, an unwillingness to endure yet another “transoceanic flight” isn’t tantamount to a loss of faith. So, what exactly gives rise to Benedict’s stated “desire to regain faith in order to continue on the path of life”?
Is he alluding to some personal transgression for which he feels guilty? It would seem so.
Could it simply be that he carries the burden of guilt for having fled for fear of the wolves? Could it be that something truly scandalous and deeply embarrassing is being held over his head, and it is this that both led to his resignation and gives rise to his contrition?
It is anyone’s guess, but I for one am hard pressed not to think of the Third Secret of Fatima and Benedict’s complicity in the Vatican cover-up; in particular as it was carried out in June 2000 as this would most certainly explain his need to “stand before God with a desire to regain faith.”
Earlier in the same interview, while speaking of the ways in which he found comfort amid the “more or less great difficulties” of his pontificate, Benedict said something else that I find rather interesting:
Then there was the Mother of God, the mother of hope that was a sure support in difficulties, and to whom I felt closer in the recitation of the holy Rosary and visits to Marian shrines.
Could it be that Benedict’s growing sense of closeness to Our Lady during his pontificate was forcing him to reconsider his public stance on Fatima, and perhaps even to revise the Vatican’s official position on the same?
At the very least, the enemies of Fatima in Rome had good reason to fear that this may have been the case.
Recall that the official Vatican position as made known in June 2000, the same that Cardinal Ratzinger affirmed at the time, is that the vision contained in the Third Secret of Fatima “belongs to the past.”
While en route to Fatima in 2010, however, Benedict offered a contradictory statement when he said:
As for the new things which we can find in this message today, there is also the fact that attacks on the Pope and the Church come not only from without, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from the sin existing within the Church. This too is something that we have always known, but today we are seeing it in a really terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church, and that the Church thus has a deep need to re-learn penance, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on the one hand, but also the need for justice.
A few days later while in Fatima before half-a-million people, the Holy Father reaffirmed the fact the Third Secret does indeed concern future events, saying:
“He deceives himself who thinks that the prophetic mission of Fatima is concluded.”
[NOTE: The preceding is an accurate translation of the original Italian: “Si illuderebbe chi pensasse che la missione profetica di Fatima sia conclusa.” See Fr. Nicholas Gruner, Crucial Truths to Save Your Soul]
These statements were immediately seized upon by the Apostle of Fatima, Fr. Nicholas Gruner, but one can be absolutely certain that the enemies of Fatima took notice as well.
With all of this in mind, it seems entirely reasonable to wonder if the “crisis situation” that moved Benedict to flee is intimately related to Fatima, and concerns precisely the sorts of things of which he spoke in 2010:
Attacks on the Pope and the Church that come from her enemies within the Church, from sin within the Church, manifesting themselves in a really terrifying way.
As I’ve written in the past, as it concerns the present crisis in the Church and its remedy, all roads lead to Fatima.
In conclusion, while the bombshell contained in Benedict’s most recent interview may give rise to more questions than answers, one is hard pressed to deny that the validity of his resignation is far from certain; if for no other reason than it has not been “properly manifested” in any number of noteworthy ways.