So I woke up to find out that Pope Benedict, citing frail health, will resign the papacy at the end of the month. To be honest, people I know who have seen the pope in Rome, including our own Bishop here in Buffalo and our previous Bishop said that he looked a bit worn down and frail. The man is 85 after all, and I believe even when he started he was worried about the demands of the job on a man his age. He watched John Paul II die as Pope, nearly completely incapacitated, and I think that had a great effect on his decision.
He has hinted at this before, saying that a Pope may resign the Papacy and that for the good of the church that might not be a bad idea. I’m paraphrasing, here.
Tom Reese in NCR writes:
In Light of the World, Pope Benedict responded unambiguously to a question about whether a pope could resign: “Yes. If a Pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.”
But today his announcement came as a surprise to many and thus the larger questions remain.
Since the Pope is past the age of 80, if he were a Cardinal, he would be past the age limit to be in the conclave. The question I have now is how much influence does a sitting Pope have on the election of his successor, I would think he would have much influence, if not the ability to hand-pick and lobby for the election of the new Pope. So with that in mind, I would expect another doctrinal conservative to be elected, but who knows what happens in the conclave?
Michael Sean Winters wrote an excellent piece this morning including this snip:
Usually, the funeral rites for a deceased Pope allow the cardinals a time when the cardinals can assess the previous reign and what the Church needs. Publicly, this assessment is dominated by a fair amount of hagiography but privately the cardinals consider the limitations of the recently deceased pontiff. It is unclear how that assessment will happen when the Holy Father is still around. Again, this is why the Holy Father must absent himself from all proceedings and allow the cardinals to speak freely and candidly about what the Church needs. We all know that for some time, high ranking members of the Vatican have been distressed at the lack of effective management under Benedict. It is a safe bet that Cardinal Bertone, the Secretary of State, will not receive many votes.
So, what does an ex-Pope do after the election of a new Pope?
The pope made no mention of his future plans, other than to say, “I wish to also devotedly serve the holy church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.”
Where does he live? How much influence will he have on the current Pope once he is elected? What do you even call an ex-Pope? We have to go back 600 years to find any precedent! Even the Pope’s spokesperson didn’t know what he would be called!
I’m wondering what he even wears in formal ceremonies now? Does he still get to wear the whites of the Papacy? Or does he go back to a Cardinal’s outfit? It’s going to be rather strange, especially if you get to see two men in white.
As for the next Pope, my man John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter and the top expert has some sage thoughts in USA Today. Here are some thoughts from yours truly:
Cardinal Scola the Archbishop of Milan is probably the safe bet. He’s known by many and has been a Vatican diplomat for many years. He’s the “trusted candidate”. At the last conclave, many of the Cardinals said that the big question was “Who do we trust?” And in answering that question most felt the deposit of the faith rested with Cardinal Ratzinger who became Pope Benedict XVI.
With that it’s important to note that the Italians have about a quarter of the votes and they twice have elected Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco as the head of their own Bishop’s conference. He is strong doctrinally and a professor of Metaphysics. He’s also politically saavy and can deal with the media.
I would add a few more thoughts:
Cardinal Christophe Schoneborn: The current Archbishop of Vienna and a close friend and former student of Benedict XVI. He’s young, vastly intelligent and President of the Austrian Bishops Conference. He wrote a great piece on neo-Darwinism for the NY Times some time back stating that the church was not anti-evolution but rather that a new breed of atheism has developed that separates God from the scientific process and that was what the church was against. In short, the church is pro-Darwin and evolution and anti-Hitchens and Dawkins although he did say that Evolution was only a possibility and not a scientific fact, causing some to criticize.
He’s also been very strong on the sex abuse scandal saying “the days of
cover ups are over.” He likes both Karl Rahner and Hans Ur Van Balthazar two theological heavyweights and thinks they are closer in thought than most do, which is a sign of a moderate theologian, though he is known to be doctrinally conservative.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan: He’s probably too young, and an American, but many have said that Dolan is papabile. He’s affable and handles the media well. He’s a bit of a bully since taking over the Archdiocese of New York and often seems angry, though lately, he’s taken a back seat and become more accommodating in style. He ran the North American College and was elected President of the US Catholic Bishops in favor of the more progressive (much more) Bishop Gerry Kicanas. Some say he’s not able to be in this role and they’re probably right. His Italian isn’t great and I don’t think he speaks any other languages and some would consider an American outlandish. I would expect that either Dolan or another North American…
Cardinal Marc Oulette: He’s from Quebec and was the Archbishop there before being promoted to the high office of prefect of the Congregation of Bishops. He has a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the Gregorian and is no lightweight intellectually. Some say he was a huge supporter of Cardinal Ratzinger and garnered a lot of support for him from the electors.
IF we look to South America, I like …
Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, SDB who is the Archbishop of Honduras. He got minimal support in the last conclave and is a moderate. I’ve heard him speak and he is an outstanding pastoral leader. Taught science before and was the Vatican’s spokesperson with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, on the issue of Third World debt. With the Vatileaks scandal he could be a choice to help get things in order.
The Archbishop of Sao Paolo, Brazil, the largest population of Catholics, could also be a choice. Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, a conservative who is popular could garner some support.
And of course Africa and the Phillippines remain solid choices:
Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana is probably one of my favorites to gain a lot of support from his African Cardinals. He is the current President of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice and is the lone scripture scholar in the Pope’s advisors. When asked if the time was right for a Black Pope in 2009 he replied: ‘Why not?’ He argued that every man who agrees to be ordained a priest has to be willing to be a Pope, and is given training along the way as bishop and cardinal. ‘All of that is part of the package.’
Read more on Cardinal Turkson: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1218426/The-pope-black-says-prominent-African-cardinal.html#ixzz2KbMIL6dl
And Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle is a very popular Cardinal in the Phillipines. He’s very charismatic and has emphasized helping the poor while opposing atheism and abortion. He’s the Archbishop of Manilla and let’s not forget that the largest gathering of human people was when World Youth Day was in Manilla.
It’s going to be an interesting ride. Fasten your seat belts.