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The “retirement” of Benedict XVI—a year later—is tinged in mystery [“yellow”].* This is because of emerging “details” which compel us to seriously question its real canonical validity.
I start with that to which I myself have given testimony. In the summer of 2011, I received news from a reliable source: Benedict XVI has decided to resign and will do so after having completed 85 years, i.e., in April 2012.
I wrote everything in these columns, on September 25, 2011. I was buried by an avalanche of contemptuous responses from both the Vatican entourage and the Vaticanists. Arriving at Spring 2012, one of the Vaticanists noted repeatedly that my prediction had not come true.
I replied that it was in the middle of the storm of Vatileaks, and for that reason the Pope had not yet resigned. In fact, on February 11, 2012, with the Vatileaks case just closed, Benedict XVI announced his dramatic resignation (it was still in his 85th year).
Yet yesterday the gnawing critics [rosiconi]* at “Vatican Insider” wrote: “Over the years, in the Italian newspapers, Antonio Socci and Giuliano Ferrara spoke, for different reasons, of the hypothesis that Joseph Ratzinger would resign. No one, however, was able to predict the timing.”
Aside from the fact that mine was a news item, while the article by Ferrara, which was released months later, was a cultural reflection, in my article, the timing was very well defined.
Also yesterday, Cardinal Bertone, in an interview with Il Giornale, revealed: “The Pope had arrived at the decision some time ago; he had already spoken to me about it in mid-2012.”
Then he decided to delay the communication awhile on account of the many storms that were in progress. But the decision had been made by April of 2012. Just as I had written.
At this point, I wondered how my source already knew all of this for certain in the summer of 2011, two years before [the resignation]? Who and why was he in a position to know such a thing?
Or had someone close to the Pope, or some group of people, “negotiated” and obtained it? Well, in the summer of 2011, people close to the Pope did not know it. So, were there forces that wanted and pressed for that decision, even to the point of “extracting” a date from him?
I do not think it is a conspiratorialist exaggeration because, in addition to the very strong external attacks that have characterized his papacy, Benedict XVI has from the beginning been opposed in an extremely harsh way within the ecclesiastical world. This is evident from the document in which a group of anonymous cardinals, just after the conclave of 2005, broke their oath on the Gospel by circulating an alleged diary of the votes that de-legitimized Ratzinger and in practice broadcast the signal to quit. [This leaked conclave information] deviously prefigured the events that would then indeed be realized.
That public de-legitimization of a newly elected pope, on the part of perjured cardinals hidden behind anonymity, has no equal in the modern history of the Church.
And it is possible to think that from there was unfurled an entire hostile strategy that clearly led to the resignation of the Pope. In the book “Attack on Ratzinger” in 2010, Andrea Tornielli and Paolo Rodari reported the declaration of an important cardinal who, after the Conclave of 2005, said of Pope Benedict: “Two or three years; he will not last more than two or three years” (and “he accompanied the words with a gesture of his hands, indicating it would be very shortly”).
It should be mentioned also the disquieting “report” presented to Benedict XVI on December 30, 2011 by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, in which there are mentioned things that another Cardinal, Paolo Romeo, Archbishop of Palermo, is reported to have said to some people in November 2011 during conversations in Beijing.
Cardinal Romeo, according to the author of the report, “harshly criticized Pope Benedict XVI.” Finally, “with self-assurance, as if he knew with precision, Cardinal Romeo announced that the Holy Father would have only twelve months to live. During his conversations in China he prophesied the death of Pope Benedict XVI within the next 12 months.”
This document then went out in the press in February 2012 and caused a sensation, but was quickly forgotten, even by the media (always superficial). Downgraded to empty chatter by some absent-minded person who had misunderstood everything, imagining assassination attempts and the like.
Certain aspects of that report were strange, but in light of what really happened in the ensuing twelve months, can we say that it was just a coincidence that the disappearance of Ratzinger was foreseen with certainty?
Certainly, with all this dark turmoil in the Curia, today appear hardly credible statements like the one by Cardinal Sodano in the heat of the Pope’s resignation: “A bolt from the blue.”
Sodano—who was Secretary of State in 2005 and was replaced by Benedict XVI in 2006—is also the one who, as dean of the Sacred College, managed the new Conclave of 2013. And he remains the strong man in the Curia.
The story of the resignation of Pope Benedict is ever more mysterious. And embarrassing as well. Not coincidentally, on the anniversary of the withdrawal one read surreal things, such as the declaration by Cardinal Cottier, who told Avvenire: “With great clarity he measured his own strength and the work to be done. And he decided that you cannot force Providence.”
To remain at his post would have been to “force Providence”? And in what theology manual would such nonsense be written, offensive to Pope Benedict as well as to Providence, which is held to be incapable of guiding human lives? Perhaps the Conclave of 2005 went against Providence?
So here we are before the crucial question: that of the “resignation” of Benedict XVI. On February 11, 2013 he solemnly announced it, “well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom.”
It is not admissible to doubt his words; therefore his was a free act. However, to obtain a decision of this kind, one can apply pressure in many ways. It is not necessarily done by a direct imposition.
Some have suggested that the Pope had heard rumors being widely circulated that catastrophic events could befall the Church which, in his heart, he believed he would be able to avoid by stepping aside. In this case, he would have made his own free decision, but how valid would his resignation have been?
The problem of the canonical validity of his resignation is enormous. In fact, invalidity—according to some canonists—does not regard only the case of coercion, but arises in other cases as well.
For example, one may ask whether there was a contest of the will in his heart when the Pontiff made the decision—that is, if he retired interiorly as well as exteriorly.
It seems a speculative question, but in the things of God—the heart, which He alone sees, is determinative.
In fact, even for the sacraments this is requisite. The consecration of the Eucharist requires matter, form and intention: if it lacks even one of these elements, the sacrament is invalid.
For example, if there is no inner intention of the priest to consecrate, if he expresses the words, but has no intention of consecrating, the consecration is invalid.
Has Benedict XVI also retired interiorly?
In addition to the language of words there is that of actions. What we see is that he has chosen to remain “in the enclosure of Peter,” to dress in white, to be called “Pope emeritus” and to continue to be called Benedict XVI (signing thus).
He also refused to change his coat of arms back to that of cardinal, still retaining one with the keys of Peter. The Vatican has said that Benedict “prefers not to adopt a heraldic emblem expressive of the new situation created by his renunciation of the Petrine Ministry.”
We know that in the Church there is also a “tacit magisterium.” Perhaps this is the case. And of course Benedict is in agreement with Francis. A beautiful mystery.
I wish to emphasize, quoting them, the beautiful and meaningful tweet yesterday by Pope Francis: “Today I invite you to pray for HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI, a man of great courage and humility.”
From Il Libero, February 12, 2014
*Translator’s note: “Yellow” is an Italian idiom connoting a mystery novel. “Rosiconi” (literally “gnawers”) is an idiom connoting those who, out of envy or stubbornness, refuse to admit that another is right about a certain matter and continue to gnaw away at his position rather than admit that he was correct.