The Tablet Blog
Benedict's resignation looks more like a change of seat in the boardroomMichael Knowles, guest contributor
5 March 2013, 9:00
Right or wrong, the truth is I can barely contain my concern at one thing above all else that is going on in Rome: Benedict XVI's plans for the period of his retirement now that he has resigned. I find them incredibly insensitive and inconsiderate, even - let me say it - arrogant; and also wide open to being very harmfully divisive. I know we are not supposed to say such things, let alone publicise them, but the truth is, with every other Catholic I speak to about them, it is exactly the same. The Catholic Church is my Church as much as Benedict's.
Just look at what Benedict XVI has set up. It hardly reads like a resignation, more like a change as to where he sits on at the table of the board. He is now going to live next door to his successor. As a priest said to me, what curate, what new parish priest, wants his predecessor on the premises? Even if nothing at all is intended, the degree of insensitivity beggars belief. Incredibly, he has appointed Georg Gänswein not just to continue as his secretary but to be secretary to his successor.
In other words there is now a situation, whether true or not, where the suspicion has to be that whatever the new pope says or does even privately will be known in every detail to Benedict, and Benedict's views on everything, on every single reform which are now matters of extreme urgency, will be carried to the new Pope with all the regularity and speed of a conveyor belt.
Gänswein will even be living in the same building as Benedict and will be prefect of 'his household'. What household? Why should a person in retirement need a secretariat? What for? The mind boggles. Has he in mind, among other things, that Gänswein should be advanced in due course from being a 'mere' archbishop, as he has just made him, to the cardinalate? And then what?
Then it is all made far worse, unimaginably worse to be honest, by Benedict's decision to take the title 'emeritus pope' and continue to wear the white garments associated with the papacy. I just cannot imagine anything so potentially divisive. That is not resignation: that smacks of hanging on. And for anyone looking in who is not familiar with such matters - probably the majority of the whole Catholic population and 99 per cent of the rest of the world - it will look like we have two popes both living within the walls of the Vatican. The whole situation is simply intolerable. I only hope, and I am praying, that the new pope will address this matter very firmly and decisively. He will not be bound by any decisions on such matters by Benedict.
I am a Catholic. I am entitled to speak my mind, as much as anyone else no matter how high and mighty, on what is going on inside my Church. Benedict XVI should not be doing any of this. The sole considerate, the sole sensitive, the sole sensible and noble thing he should have done is retire well away from Rome, for example back to the region of his origins, Regensburg in Bavaria. There he can pray and meditate just as well as in a Vatican monastery. And, upon his death, his requiem and his burial can still take place in St Peter's, and he can be rightly buried with his predecessors. Nothing Pope Benedict XVI does in his final days should mar his taking leave of it.
Michael Knowles is a writer on biblical theology and church matters in the diocese of Shrewsbury
20 March 2013 21:14 (19 of 19)
Fortunately for the majority of commenters here and for the rest of the world, 'The Catholic Church is Pope Francis's Church as much as Benedict's.' I do not detect the actions of a marionette in the new man's wish to phone or dine with his predecessor with whom he has already crossed swords over a public speaking mishap. With no way of predicting his successor, Benedict naturally retained Mgr GÃ¤nswein with dual function after 28 February precisely so that he would not be included in the Curia personnel whose jobs are automatically on the line/lost when the Papacy changes. As every corporation and NGO knows, knowledge transfer is essential after a board reshuffle, merger or take-over. The new Pope could hardly hit the ground running if his aides didn't know where the light switches were, nor where the most sensitive files were stashed. The next Pope who, feeling utterly washed, wants to resign will find that all the groundwork has been done. The future is palatable. He just has to follow the new model. Benedict's resignation has been a great gift - it has given us Pope Francis, a great innovator and shaker of tails.
12 March 2013 23:47 (18 of 19)
I think the biggest issue that the cardinals have to address is relevancy . The last pope - BXVI - did a lot to make the papacy less relevant . I fear the next pope will plunge headlong a lot further in that direction . He will have a uphill battle to reverse the direction and the damage .
11 March 2013 16:27 (17 of 19)
This blog is appalling, I cant believe the animosity directed at Benedict. If he was so determined to cling to power why did he resign? He didn't have to! Being made Pope is sacramental, therefore, it cannot be taken away and so retired Pope (Pope Emeritus) would seem to be the best title. The same therefore goes for the white cassock and keeping the name Benedict. As for staying in the Vatican, surely just as a security issue it's easier for him to stay there, than go elsewhere and need numerous guards to protect him at vast expense. Granted he has kept a secretary, but the new Pope will be able to appoint someone else and Benedict will have no power to make Georg Ganswein a Cardinal.
8 March 2013 14:38 (16 of 19)
Right or wrong? Simply wrong. What a load of whinges and gripes!
Fr. Stephen Brown
7 March 2013 19:28 (15 of 19)
'Incredibly, he has appointed Georg GÃ¤nswein not just to continue as his secretary but to be secretary to his successor.' 'He [the new pope] will not be bound by any decisions on such matters by Benedict.' You can't have it both ways, sir. And Benedict never wanted the papacy - yet now his actions are supposed to 'smack of hanging on' ? I do not recognise Joseph Ratzinger's personality in this article.
7 March 2013 18:49 (14 of 19)
Medieval elected monarchies were managed in their succession by arranging the election of the next monarch while the king still lived. This involved a whole lot of horse trading - hence the ultimate failure of the Holy Roman Empire. Pre-conclave discussions look uncomfortably like horse trading. (Pope Tesco I?)
7 March 2013 16:42 (13 of 19)
The author of this piece has made a fundamental mistake is his premise , perhaps because this seems written in anger (always a mistake). Canon Law is clear that ' The Roman Pontiff obtains full and supreme power in the Church by his acceptance of legitimate election together with episcopal consecration.' (Can. 332 Â§1). Benedict has given up power and therefore has none to exercise. Influence is one thing, but even a dead Pope has influence.
7 March 2013 9:06 (12 of 19)
I agree wholeheartedly with this assessment of the situation. I am also unnerved by the muzzling of the US cardinals on the pre-conclave discussions while we seemed to receive daily and detailed bulletins about what Benedict would do and wear, even down to the colour of his shoes.
7 March 2013 5:45 (11 of 19)
Pope Benedict praises the work of Vatican11 Fathers in his address to the Roman clergy and he used to mingle with the principle reformers present but has presided over the attempts to stifle the aggiornamento in his time at the CDF and whilst in the chair of St.Peter.
6 March 2013 22:37 (10 of 19)
Michael Knowles: 'I am a Catholic. I am entitled to speak my mind, as much as anyone else no matter how high and mighty, on what is going on inside my Church. Benedict XVI should not be doing any of this.' Michael does not seem to have noticed the glaring contradiction inherent in his argument.
6 March 2013 21:53 (9 of 19)
I do not see why a power hungry pope would want to stop being pope to control the church through a puppet. There alsoseems to be little evidence to suggest he would take advantage of the close proximity he will be with the new pope - I just am not finding parallels of him with other power hungry leaders...
6 March 2013 19:37 (8 of 19)
Jesse: do you mean leave him alone as he did the LCWR in the US? As he left an unbroken liturgy alone? As he left RC priest who want to get married alone while he created the Ordinariate to allow ultraconservative married Anglican and Episcopalian priests in?
6 March 2013 9:12 (7 of 19)
I understand and appreciate Mr. Knowles consternation. Ratzinger was so addicted to the personality cult that it's hardly surprising that he should display withdrawal symptoms. Most of the cardinals owe him their jobs so we mustn't expect too much from them. I'd love to see mass dÃ©monstrations instead of the adoring crowds we've grown accustomed to in St Peter's Square. Best do it home for fear of the carabinieri being overcome with emotional fervour. I suggest a new dress code for popes, cardinals and bishops: what the brothers of TaizÃ© wear. Of course he should ride off into the sunset. Any number of monasteries would give him bed and board.
6 March 2013 2:16 (6 of 19)
Good grief! The self righteous tone of this blog is just too much. I am tired of people bashing up Benedict. A gentle good man - leave him alone!
5 March 2013 21:12 (5 of 19)
Ratzinger's arrogance was exemplified by the absurd claim in Summorum Pontificum that the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal was 'never juridically abrogated'. No one, least of all Benedict XVI has offered an explanation for this claim, a claim which seems at odds with the accepted norms of canon law. The feeble 'it's ancient and traditional' response simply does not hold water as by definition the book in question is from the early 1960s and, in 1970, clearly not subject to protection on a basis of either immemorial , or centennial, custom. Hopefully, the next pope will break up the Ratzinger -Gainswien relationship sending the latter to suitable employment and the former to an appropriate monastery far from Rome. If Benedict has nothing to hide then he has nothing to fear.
5 March 2013 17:21 (4 of 19)
It is high time that Ganswein earn his Archbishopy stripes! Send him out into the trenches and get him the kind of experience commensurate with his rank. His being an Archbishop is demeaning to those who have earned it in the trenches.
5 March 2013 16:45 (3 of 19)
As another Catholic who has a voice, I find this choice perfectly reasonable. First, you know where to find him. Second, the Vatican can control who comes and goes if they want. Should he go to Bavaria - he could set up a second seat of power. Third, he appears to be going blind and deaf, in addition to not being able to walk. As a Catholic, I support the notion that family should take care of their elders. Why should the Pope be denied of his helper. Gainswein probably knows the Pope better than almost anyone else. So, too the women who live and work with him. The issue of his job is the next Pope's to decide. Benedict probably knew this too when he assigned him the job. He probably assigned him the job to limit access to him at the end anyway. I suppose when people see Benedict as a power person, they can't relate to my way of thinking. I see him as a tired old man who obviously didn't know how to engage in court intrigues when he wasn't. Why do we assume he's somehow going to get involved now? And do we assume these other men are somehow powerless to deal with any issues that come up? I suppose I think the response to this is love. Just this Catholic's two cents.
Fr David Palmer
5 March 2013 16:40 (2 of 19)
Am amazed that the guest author of the blog hasn't thought through the security ramifications of having the previous pope living anywhere else but the Vatican. Benedict can no more safely go back to normal life in Bavaria than the Queen could set up home in a flat in Romford.
5 March 2013 16:01 (1 of 19)
There a lawsuits in progress in the USA which have tried to cite Benedict. In Germany he would be vulnerable to extradition. Pity one has to make such an observation.