Sunday, January 1, 2023


By Tim Rohr

Pope Benedict XVI ("B16) died yesterday, on the last day of 2022. But he also died in February 2013. 

As the National Catholic Register notes

"In a real sense, then, his papacy “died” with his resignation. To continue the analogy, while they normally happen at the same time, the death of a pontificate is distinct from the death of the man himself." 

B16 was only the second pope in two thousand years to resign the papacy, and the first pope in 600 years to do so. 

Why he resigned will long be debated. B16's own reason was that he was in frail health.

My thought was always "so?"

I know that sounds disrespectful, but he is Pope, i.e. "Papa" for a reason. Those of us who are fathers in the natural world don't get to resign as "father." And those that do ("deadbeat dads") are rightly questioned and usually punished.

While health may have been a factor, he still lived to an age which made him the longest-lived pope ever. 

So what was the real reason he resigned? 

Smarter heads point to a conspiracy* to oust him and replace him with a guy who liberals believed would get their Vatican II revolution back on track. 

*A now dead Cardinal, Godfried Danneels, was so proud of his role in said conspiracy, he wrote a book about it. See: Cardinal Danneels Admits to Being Part of 'Mafia' Club Opposed to Benedict XVI

And it appears they may be right given Francis' off-the-cuff-on-his-airplane-semi-doctrinal statements. But I'm not going there now. 

B16, aka Joseph Ratzinger, was a young thirty-something "periti" (theological expert) during the very heady days of Vatican II (1962-1965). 

And it can be said, that as a theologian, especially a German theologian,* that he had much to do with how Vatican II ("V2") was used (even hijacked) to radically depart from Church tradition in the name of better relating to the modern world - even though said "better relating" ultimately led to the mess we now see the Church in half a century later.

*Learn about the influence of the German bishops at Vatican II in "The Rhine flows into the Tiber." An online text version is available here.

Sometime in his later years, and before he became pope, B16 began leaving signals of regret throughout his many writings and especially once he was appointed John Paul 2's Prefect for the Sacred Congregation of the Faith - the most powerful Congregation in the Church, and essentially the pope's doctrinal "hammer." 

And hammer he did - taking on and dismantling liberals in the Church "en masse" even though - as a young periti at V2, B16 had been one of them. 

B16's ultimate "hammer" was when - as pope -  in his Moto Proprio Summorum Pontificum, B16 authoritatively promulgated that the Ancient Rite (the "Latin Mass") was "never abrogated,"* and ensured every priest's right to celebrate it without permission from a bishop.   

* The Latin Mass had wholly disappeared after the "new mass," the "Mass of Paul VI," aka "the Novus Ordo, was promulgated in 1969, leading most Catholics to believe for decades that the "Old Mass" had been banned. I remember always questioning as to exactly "where" it was banned. And, as B16, would make public in 2007, it wasn't, and it never was. It was just surreptitiously buried. Why it was buried is the topic for another post. 

However, even more than the content of Summorum, B16's accompanying letter to bishops appears to have sent B16's liberal enemies over the edge. 

They HATED the Ancient Rite - The Latin Mass - the pre-Novus Ordo Mass. And it was only a matter of time before said enemies coalesced to kick B16 out of the Chair of Peter and install a guy who would "condemn" what B16 said could never be condemned since "what was once sacred is always sacred." (Summorum)

On a personal note, I came face to face with this hatred on multiple occasions, the most memorable of which was when a certain deacon walked into my then Catholic bookstore and attacked me for carrying copies of "Sacred Then, Sacred Now," a book which backed B16's Summorum Pontificum. The dude was actually spitting on my cashier's counter in frothing-at-the-mouth-rabid-hatred of anything "Latin." And this was a Catholic Church Deacon.

Note: I happen to know that that deacon's hatred of B16 and anything Latin had nothing to do with B16 or Latin, but with a whole other matter that I will get to at some point, but not now. Meanwhile, back to B16.

B16's challenge, for many years, was how to reconcile his influence in shaping Vatican 2 with his later regret for what became of V2 while still maintaining the integrity of the Council...and his own role in it.

Normally, it would be easy to link to such stories of B16's conundrum, but with Google currently filled with stories of the pope's death and the usual junk reporting about his alleged failings relative to the clergy sex abuse scandal, those stories are hard to find at this point. 

So I'll link to one of my own stories as printed in the Umatuna (the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Agana) almost ten years ago:


In this story, B16, days before he took the historical step of stepping away from the Chair of Peter, reveals his strange and estranged relationship with Vatican II - a spiritual conundrum that B16 appears to never quite have come to grips with - at least not publicly. 

One last thought:

Many traditional Catholics, and even Catholics of every stripe loved B16. He was a "teddy bear" of a pope: soft-spoken, small, humble beyond humble...and quite nothing like the current occupant of the Chair of Peter. And so it is not odd that many Catholics would place the "teddy bear pope" immediately in Heaven. And he may be. 

However, pope or no pope, NONE of us know what GOD Only Knows, and it is wrong for us to play God in making our beloved deceased "angels." Continue to pray for the eternal rest of B16...and everyone you know and love who has passed before you. 

You and I will probably very much need the same. 

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