Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
Truth? What was my initial reaction upon hearing the news of the Pope's resignation? I was ticked.
While it is certainly possible for a Pope to resign, no Pope has done it for the last 600 years. The Papacy has a 'til death do us part' thing to it. We are supposed to bury Popes, not throw them retirement parties.
While my mind understands that this Pope must have a very good reason for resigning, my heart still breaks a bit. Maybe that is the reason I am so upset, I don't really understand the reason. The Pope's simple statement on the matter is that the Papacy requires "both strength 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 entrusted to me."
While this is undoubtedly true, it has been true of other Popes as well, none more so than his predecessor Pope John Paul II. But the simplicity and the vagueness of it leaves me with a 'it is not you, it is me" jilted feeling.
But thinking about how we witnessed Pope John Paul II suffering during the end of his pontificate got me to wondering. And what is wondering out loud if not speculation, so I speculate. I wonder if it was what Cardinal Ratzinger witnessed at the end of his predecessor's pontificate that led to this decision today?
While we all witnessed an enfeebled holy man suffer great infirmity in love and patience, Cardinal Ratzinger must have seen much more. He must have seen how during those years of decline the Vatican bureaucracy becomes de facto pope and how that de facto Pope can thwart and subvert the will of the legitimate Pope. I wonder if Pope Benedict made the decision early that he would not subject the Church to a papacy of bureaucrats? That when his time came, he would step aside. We may never know the answer to this question, for the Pope would never say it, but there it is.
So I am left wondering. I am left grieving. I am left worried.
Worried? Yes, worried. We don't know what comes next. This morning, amid my grief, I have endured pious scolding from those who remind me that the Holy Spirit is in charge. To worry, they say, just shows your lack of faith. Yes, the Holy Spirit protects the Church from error. However, the Holy Spirit does not protect the Church from disaster. If the last 50 years has taught us anything, it has taught us that. So yes, I worry.
Although I grew up in the John Paul generation (elected when I was 11 years old), for some reason Pope Benedict has always been my Pope. I want my Pope back. When a Pope leaves us via sarcophagus, you know that he left on God's time. When a Pope leaves us via commuter jet, we don't know if it is God's will or the will of man.
So, as usual, there is nothing to do but hope and pray. I pray for the Church, I pray for the new Pope, and I pray for Joseph Ratzinger. But mostly I pray that Pope Benedict knows what he is doing.