St James Cathedral - Seattle, WA

Monday, February 11, 2013

Did the Pope Really Resign???

When the news broke out, I didn't believe it at first. 

History was made today. The world's one billion Catholics learned that Pope Benedict XVI will resign from the papacy effective February 28, 2013 at 8pm (Rome time).  Only a handful of the 265 successors to St Peter have done this, the last being Gregory XII in 1415. 

Once the news settled, it actually didn't surprise me that the Holy Father would resign- it seems to fit him and his style. I think it definitely surprised the world the way in which he did it, especially with most of the cardinals unaware of this announcement that was to come during the Consistory. Many Catholics who didn't even know the pope could resign now know it well with Canon 332 §2 of the Code of Canon Law making it's way through every social media outlet available. 

So what happens now? One thing is for sure, be careful of whom you listen to in the media. It became clear during my morning commute that the facts are quickly becoming mixed with fiction and hype, especially from journalists and reporters who don't really understand the papacy or the Catholic Church.  

According to the Vatican Press Office, here are the details as we know them. Pope Benedict XVI will not be participating in the conclave to elect the next pope in March. (I don't know if this is because he is over the voting age of 80 or because he does not want to.) When he leaves office at the time his resignation becomes effective, he will move to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo. He will eventually move to a former cloistered monastery within the Vatican. 

From there, it seems Benedict XVI will be setting a precedent since there really isn't one for having a former pope around. Based on what happens when bishops, abbots, and other religious superiors resign, it probably won't be all that different, at least I think. I suppose if he were able (and the new pope wanted) Benedict XVI could hold some sort of office or have duties within the Church. I just don't think that will happen since he cites his advanced age as one of the reasons for his resignation. Knowing him, he will most likely take on a quiet life of prayer and study away from the public eye, perhaps with an appearance every once in a while.  Like any other retired cardinal, he will be subject to the new pope, and would never  want to do anything that would take away from his successor's pontificate.  

One of my favorite pictures of Benedict XVI
I'm also wondering if he would continue to wear a white cassock. Scholars correct me if I'm wrong, but it doesn't say anywhere that the pope has to wear white, especially a former pope. When he was a cardinal, it was common to see him around the office wearing a simple black cassock with only his zuchetto being red; he only wore his more formal attire when the occasion called. Perhaps he will return to that, except with his zuchetto now white. 

While it's most likely he would stay at the Vatican, it would be possible for him to reside elsewhere. I'm just not sure if I'd want to the bishop of the diocese where he would move to...having your former boss living nearby might be a little awkward. 

One thing is for sure- I found Benedict XVI to be a good pope, and his resignation gives us the opportunity to express our gratitude to him for his pontificate. I had the privilege of a general audience at the Vatican in 2005, and that's when I learned how personable and sincere he is. He's an intelligent man of unwavering truth, and is able to convey it charitably yet without sacrificing its integrity. I'm a little taken because my children are so young, they will never really know him.

The Anglican Ordinariate, liturgical reforms, his Twitter account, I wonder what people will remember him most for?

The Collect from the Mass for the Election of a Pope:

O God, eternal shepherd,
who govern your flock with unfailing care,
grant in your boundless fatherly love
a pastor for your Church
who will please you by his holiness
and to us show watchful care.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Enough Is Enough, Cardinal Mahony!

I'm not one to publicly criticize bishops.  In fact, I usually detest it and encourage others to not do so.  Usually...but not this time; although it helps that Roger Cardinal Mahony is retired.

In case you're not familiar with what I'm eluding to, Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles has publicly announced that his predecessor Cardinal Mahony will "no longer have any administrative or public duties."  Abp Gomez has also announced that Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry (who was then Vicar for Clergy under Cardinal Mahony) has been granted his request "to be relieved of his responsibility" as Episcopal Vicar for the Archdiocese's Santa Barbara region.  This happened after the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was court ordered to release 30,000 pages of it's clergy sex-abuse files this past week.  As far as I know, a diocesan bishop publicly relieving his predecessor (who's a cardinal) and an auxiliary bishop at the same time are unprecedented.  You can read Archbishop Gomez's statement here.

Perhaps relieving is not the right term to use.  Since the announcement was made, I've been searching through Canon Law.  While it specifically doesn't address a bishop emeritus (fancy name for retired bishop), it seems that any duties that a titular bishop (a bishop who isn't the head of a diocese) has within the diocese are granted by the diocesan bishop and therefore can be removed by him, but only the pope alone has the ability to accept a bishop's resignation. It seems Abp Gomez has the ability to significantly limit Bp Curry's diocesan abilities until that happens, but can't relieve any of the auxiliary bishop's faculties in the way he can if he were a priest. Since Roger Mahony is a cardinal, Abp Gomez can only prohibit him from the archdiocesan duties that had previously asked him to do. Only the pope can prevent him from participating in a papal conclave, and only the pope can remove his faculties.  (Canon lawyers and other smart people, please correct me if I have any of that wrong.)  In fact, I just saw that Abp Gomez released this statement today which clarifies the canonical status of the two bishops.

Back to my point. As a devout Catholic and father of small children, the whole thing sickens me.  The sexual abuse of minors by clergy sickens me.  The fact that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has 30,000 pages of documentation on clergy sexual abuse sickens me.  The fact that Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Curry covered so much of it up sickens me.  The fact that Archbishop Gomez had to take action against two other bishops sickens me. 

Want to know what really sickens me?  That Cardinal Mahony released a public letter to Archbishop Gomez in response to the matter.  Seriously Cardinal?  The people have had enough! You've been relieved of any diocesan duty so, your eminence, please just go away quietly.  At the very least, you made some very bad decisions when you were Archbishop of Los Angeles; at the very most you should have been criminally charged and imprisoned.  Either way, a lot of people have been hurt by your actions, and the largest archdiocese in the United States that was entrusted to you for over 25 years will be cleaning up from your episcopacy for years to come.  The only reason you're still in good standing is because Abp Gomez doesn't have the authority to say otherwise.

Archbishop Gomez, thank you for your transparency and cooperating with exposing this evil.  Only by bringing our sins to the light can we begin to move forward.  

Bless our victims, forgive our sins, and help your Church, Lord.

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