Rorate Caeli

"No more nice words: The resignation is a catastrophe"
"Benedict XVI: why have you abandoned us?"

In the semi-official daily of the French Church, La Croix, two conservative Catholic thinkers express their dismay (note: the authors, as it can be noticed, are not Traditional Catholics; the declaration, "we are all Sedevacantists", is a mere statement of fact regarding the upcoming period of vacant see.)
La Croix

The Pope's abandonment is a catastrophe 
OP-ED Pierre Dulau & Martin Steffens, philosophy professors

In view of death, John Paul II addressed the world and told it: "Be not afraid". Reaching what seems to be the same position [in life], Benedict XVI resigns. One could see in these so diametrically opposed attitudes two complementary aspects of man: one, by which a supernatural courage pushes, to the very heart of unspeakable sufferings, to continue to fulfill his responsibility; the other, by which a very human weakness (in this sense a true inheritor to Saint Peter) leads to resignation.

Nevertheless, whatever may be the justifications we may give to this decision, the fact is there: this resignation by the pope is a catastrophe. It is an event that is rarely found in History, a fact that, in its symbolic violence, is a portrait of our time.

The Papacy is, in the West, the very last function of which it is commonly accepted by all that it engages the one who entered it "up until death". This "till death" means at least two things. First, that human life is not its own goal: our life has no meaning if not linked to a greater Life to which we may, in justice, sacrifice everything - exactly as the love of the spouses, "till death" as well, takes its meaning from beyond itself, in a promise that does not cease existing.

This "till death" recalls consequently that the pope, a "pontiff", is the arch that links Earth to Heaven, that is, by the threshold of death, finite life to infinite Life. A pope who resigns is a bridge that decides not to reach the other side where promise lies, [a destination] of which it is the assurance, and that leads there all those who left the point of departure.

To rupture this arch by way of a unilateral decision means as well to join hands with the global movement of non-commitment that strikes the entire Western symbolic order (and of which the mounting moral barbarity is the necessary flip side). Parenthood? Yes, but if we are in the mood for it, as long as we are in the mood for it. Marriage? Yes, if I can get divorced. To be in charge? Why not, if that does not deprive me of my right to happiness... There where a word is given that opens the door of life to something greater than itself, there also that word is broken, mocked, relegated as an old oddity. And even a pope should resign? A CEO or a president may resign. A pope is fired by death.

We hear everywhere, amidst the usual mockery and vulgar comments, that this decision by the pope is eminently respectable, that it shows great humility, a great interior freedom. That same individual freedom that the Pope himself never ceased denouncing, viewing it in the more generous perspective of rendered service? As for humility, does it not consist rather of accepting a responsibility that bothers our own immediate nature? The weight that he must carry is, undoubtedly, too heavy for him. But, if it were not, he would not be the pope.

What is the point, therefore, in order to justify this historic rupture, of alluding to changes that affect the world, the inhuman speed of a reality made technical even in its most intimate recesses? Christians are capable of following a sick, infirm, wounded leader, drained of his forces: they proved it in the past by following a guilty man according to the law. They proved that gentleness is invincible, and that pain is not eternal for the Just. They proved it, precisely because, at regular intervals, someone as frail as them would tell them: "Be not afraid".

What is the point of speaking of the need of having at the helm of the Church one who is in full possession of his powers? A person who can say this demonstrates by this very fact that he is in full possession of his own means and that, unless he takes medical predictions as oracles, he still enjoys full use of his own self.

Let us then brutally affirm, in other to render justice to the confusion that is that of a not small number of Catholics: today, in fact, we are all Sedevacantists. We say it in an unreasonable fashion in order to express this dismay that the polite comments of those who wish to keep up appearances wish to shut down: after February 11, the seat of the papacy is vacant, as if to give reason to those who are most extreme in the field occupied by the Society of Saint Pius X.

Of course, Christianity has never been more needed than at those times of its own impossibility. This religion welcomes crisis as Christ welcomed the Cross. Without a Pope, as incredible as it may seem, it is in frailty that Catholicism will have to reveal its strength. But it is still necessary that this ordeal be named and recognized by those affected by it. Hope cannot ignore this cry that, today, calls out for it strongly: our pope, why have you abandoned us?


  1. Anonymous12:05 PM

    I agree with the article. I love Pope Benedict XVI so much but this article is what I felt when he resigned. Not only did I felt abandoned but also crushed.


  2. Anonymous12:49 PM

    February 11, 2013 - the day the Pope announced his resignation - was also "The twenty-first world Day of the Sick".

    The Pope's message for the "The twenty-first world XXI Day of the Sick" stated (quoting from his first Encyclical):

    It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love” (Spe Salvi, 37).

    I think this says it all.

    I too felt like a sheep without a shepherd.

  3. Ma Tucker12:51 PM

    "Around 120,000 pilgrims heard Pope Benedict XVI deliver his last Angelus address, in which he said that “the Lord called me to ‘climb the mountain,’ to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation,” a change that does not mean he is “abandoning the Church.”"

    Things are not what they appear to be me thinks. Lord have mercy on us!

  4. hopeful12:51 PM

    I know there's spiritual hope always, but is there good human reason to think the pope will stay on? Can he be persuaded to? Can he be re-elected?

  5. Petrus12:58 PM

    Yes, this is all very well.

    People were bound to react to the news of the papal resignation with, shock, dismay, anger, incomprehension, etc. These are natural human emotions.

    However, this is not a matter of emotions. If Pope Benedict XVI is convinced that he is that he is no longer able to exercise the Petrine ministry, then it is logical for him to resign.

    True, it is almost without precedent for a pope to do this, but both Celestine V and his successor Boniface VIII confirmed that it is lawful for a pope to resign. He does not offer his resignation to any one. There is no one to accept it. He simply announces it.

    In announcing his resignation, Benedict XVI cannot hope to escape frailty, failing health and death. He will continue to carry this cross to the end of his days.

    What he is doing is to avoid a repeat of the rudderless last years of John Paul II, and providing the opportunity for a younger, fitter, more vigorous man to be elected pope, now when such a man is needed.

    Whether or not Pope Benedict's decision is a wise one, only time will tell.

  6. Belgian Catholic1:11 PM

    You could also argue:

    "Why do we need a pope if nobody listens to him. Even his own cardinals and bishops have abandoned him."

  7. Yes, very similar feelings. Therefore, most likely, Benedict XVI on February 13 reminded us that Church is Christ's not pope's. Difficult truth to accept, sometimes.

  8. c'mon1:18 PM

    FINALLY!! Someone has seen the real situation! Quitting is not, and has never been, an option. The world sees this resignation clearly, even if most papal-idolators cannot. If, this time, the pope can quit, next time, they (enemies) can remove him. The precedent has been set, and that is all that matters to them. Christ can still change Benedict's course. Quo Vadis, Peter?

  9. I was one who responded to his abdication with praise for his humility and I defended the action to the extent that I was equipped to do so and so this excellent piece is a welcome slap to my face that I not, so often as I do, judge so superficially.

    This piece illuminates this abdication like the welder's arc illuminates the object of the welder's target but also the arc reveals the detritus in the corners of the workshop.

    Thank you so much for this post,N.C.

  10. NIANTIC2:03 PM

    Like everyone else I was shocked and saddened by the Pope's announcement. Bewildered is probably a better word.I have been of two minds about this these past few weeks "pro and con". We just do not know what the reason for his decision is. However, since the Pope still has all his faculties should he not accept the responsibility our Lord laid upon his shoulders to the bitter end?

    I now have to agree with the article. The decision is ill advised and detrimental to the future of the papacy. It is one more "novelty" foisted upon the Church. Pope John Paul ll at least gave a powerful witness to the world during the last stages of his life that will not be forgotten soon.

    I am sorry Holy Father, I do wish you God's blessings and peace, but you are abandoning us and leaving us bewildered. Why? Petrus, quo vadis?

  11. Francis in Ma2:04 PM

    I have to agree with much of this. The enemies of the Catholic Church, both inside and out will use this abdication to indoctrinate ignorant Catholics and Non-Catholics alike about the Papacy, which to them has nothing to do about being the Chair of Peter and the Vicar of Christ on earth established by God incarnate himself, but as another man made office that can be changed by man. I know Pope Benedict XVI is old, tired and maybe sick, but he could've stayed to the end to help clean up the Church from these fag and modernist priests and bishops who have wreacked havoc upon the Church of Christ these last fifty or so years. Just my two cents.


  12. This is hogwash, pure and simple.

    Benedict XVI is not leaving the priesthood, not leaving any vow, he is stepping down from an office.

    This very much reminds me of Peggy Noonan, journalist for the Wall Street Journal: her "feelings" about an issue become, to her, as solid as a data point. Not surprisingly, she predicted victory for Gov. Romney.

    In light of the muck that is being uncovered in the Curia, Benedict's decision is likely to unsettle quite a few "traditions" that are not helpful for the Church. Benedict knows that the Church is Christ's, and we need to know that too--let this shake up clear the way for a stronger shepherd to clear out the filth. No more "business as usual"!

  13. Ivan K2:50 PM

    The only rationale that I can imagine that would justify the abdication is that Benedict XVI wanted to have some influence over the election of the next Pope because he feared the growing influence of the "wolves."

  14. Seraph2:53 PM

    He was what we thought he was.

  15. Barbara3:12 PM

    Yes, the abdication is shocking but I sense that something even more shocking is coming our way as we witness how events are unraveling before our very eyes...

    I choose to believe (until evidence to the contrary) that Pope Benedict has abdicated because of his love for the Church. He is far too smart and it would be ridiculous to think that he hadn't considered all that this article mentions before taking this tremendous decision. I am quite sure he is well aware of all of the above.

    Stunned and dismayed as I was 2 weeks ago, now I think, perhaps those who are currently saying that this abdication is partly a dramatic measure to clean up the filth in the higher levels of the Church might just be right. There is so much going on that we still don't know about. It may be that this will a master-stroke by the Holy Father to save the Church from a worse fate.

    This is where I am at the moment - as the Church stands at an awesome crossroads and things are happening at such a pace that it quite takes one's breath away...

  16. Too early to feel abandoned. Wait until the successor has been chosen. Then if justified to mourn, go ahead. Now is the time for prayer. It is Jesus's Church, lets ask Him to help us out!

  17. Travis3:56 PM

    That is a very uncharitable interpretation of the Pope's decision.

  18. The media focuses on the negative--that's how they make their money.

    We know there is a Lavender Mafia; get over it. My priest friends are holy and devout. That doesn't mean we shouldn't address the worst "love that has no name" since the Borgias.

    This is going to sound strange coming from a Traditionalist--who only goes to the TLM--but let priests marry (I know the arguments for and against; but I think the scale is tipped for after 19650.

  19. I'm sorry but I see this editorial as a ploy. How in the world does it follow that if a pope can resign then I can get divorced? That is childish logic in the extreme, in fact it is pushing the boat of thhethe liberal agenda out. Where is the rupture exactly in the practice of legal church doctrine? That is simply tarring benedix with his own brush of the hermeneutic of continuity. And unilateral decisions are precisely what strong popes make, so why criticize this strong hope for making one in the best interests of the church? I could go on, but this strikes me as a highly disingenuous bit of writing. Can anyone truly believe that anything supportive of Benedict would come out of a semi-official organ of the French bishops? I certainly don't. Most revealingly, the assertion of universal Sede-Vacantism in the light of Benedict's departure is, in my view, a pretext for objecting to Benedict's conservative successor. There in fact I believe we have the heart of the matter. Perhaps the Cardinals should plan for a very, very, very long conclave. Perhaps we all need a TV time out, but this letter is in no way the sincere work off some true believers scorned.

  20. God gave this important job to Pope Benedict for a reason. For us Catholics it was a long expected breath of fresh air. It is extremely sad that he is leaving this most important job in the Church and it is now time to pray for him and for the upcoming conclave, that they may elect a good shepherd for us. Praying the Rosary daily for these intentions should be most helpful in my opinion.

  21. Falconer4:48 PM

    I too agree. Age and health are not reasons for resignation. A shepherd lives and dies by his flock. And this is the way it has always been. Liberal dissident Catholics like Hans Kung are the ones who want term-limited Popes. It favors their democratic, sacrality-bereft, and nongraced vision of the Church. Why give these enemies a victory to crow about? How many centuries will it take to undo the damage to the image of the Papacy? If ever?

  22. A petitioner for Mercy5:40 PM

    CEASE THIS OUTCRY and have Confident Faith with increasing Charity !"Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith?" Matt 8:26

    Please prayerfully reflect upon this truth: "We are not victims of Providence but are to work with Holy Providence."

    Impelled interiorly by his awareness of his personal inablility to CALM the SEAS that THREATEN the Barque of Peter, the Sovereign Pontiff calls a HAULT to the CATHOLIC CHURCH'S tumult by TURNING TO CHRIST. "Lord, save us, we perish." Matt 8:25. In action he echos: "He must increase, but I must decrease." John 3:30

    ALL EYES OF THE WORLD ARE TURNED by this supreme act of humility - To CHRIST - for HELP to OVERCOME the CRISIS storm in the Catholic Church. ALL TRUE CATHOLICS ARE CALLED TO PRAYER by his act.

    The diabolical "inertia" speeding souls to damnation seemingly unchecked. . .is HAULTED by his humble act.

    What will happen next? The FUTURE is our HOPE. We can HUMBLY PLEAD for MERCY before OMNIPOTENT CHARITY that HE would guide HIS CHURCH despite our failings. "Lord, save us, we perish." but trust in your words: "the gates of hell shall not prevail" against YOUR Church.

  23. OnEaglesWings5:42 PM

    When I heard the news, I was in shock. I still am. I am praying for Benedict XVI unceasingly; it is the only thing keeping me from trying to connect the dots on my own, because that is what is the only thing I can rely on with certainty. Yet, the more I pray the more I keep hearing the voice that something is being hidden from us about Benedict, the man.

    As things stand, without clear and total truth, this decision to remove himself makes no sense. And if this is truly all there is, this decision by Benedict is just plain wrong.

    The only consolation that I have is that in the end it really is not being done by his free will or with full faculties. He may have already lost his mind.

    May God have mercy on us all!

    With all that, I sure don't feel like a Sad...

    The One I know I can trust is God and he will make sense of all this to us. The Holy Spirit surely has not abandoned the Church.

  24. Prof. Basto5:51 PM

    The mood expressed in this article is similar to the tone of the considerations of Prof Roberto de Mattei (author of "The Second Vatican Council - an unwritten story"), published in several internet websites, including the webiste of the Lepanto Foundation (English translation by Michael J. Miller):

    I very much agree with the thoughts of Prof. de Mattei.

    And, in spite of the causic nature of the La Croix article by Pierre Dulau & Martin Steffens now reproduced by Rorate Caeli, I have to say that I too, see in this abdication a rupture with the praxis of the Church, and a concession to the criteria and ethos of the modern world. And I use the word modern in the worst possible sense.

  25. Lately I find myself feeling very sorry for our holy father, when I consider:

    > So many who have worked for him have failed him, even betrayed him.

    > There are so many who, instead of following his lead, instead fight him, fight with each other, and his efforts to lead the Church are bogged down.

    > And then I read this sort of thing, basically accusing and attacking the holy father--but manifesting not much trust in him at all.

    Our poor holy father: does have people around him he can truly trust?

    Does he not deserve to be loved and trusted?

    I do love our holy father, I do love him.

    When have had a pope who showed no weakness, never made a decision that could be faulted? When? Tell me, when?

    Others can berate the pope, but count me out!

    I trust Pope Benedict, but my faith is in Christ.

  26. Barbara8:14 PM

    Yes, yes, I agree with every word you said Father Fox!

    "Others can berate the pope, but count me out!"

    Count me out too!

  27. Judith8:43 PM

    It is almost impossible to form any solid opinion on the topic (one can only assume) of this essay because it is so poorly written.

    This is just one sample paragraph:
    "What is the point of speaking of the need of having at the helm of the Church one who is in full possession of his powers? A person who can say this demonstrates by this very fact that he is in full possession of his own means and that, unless he takes medical predictions as oracles, he still enjoys full use of his own self."

    As I read the essay, I questioned whether they just used a machine to translate the words.
    It is one of the most garbled, poorly constructed essays that I have ever read. I can only assume that the original was horribly written, or the interpreter has only a passing acquaintance with the English language.

    In either case, if the source can not express a clear thought on the issue under discussion, they don't really deserve a response.

  28. CatholicDad10:30 PM

    This article does not deserve the space it has been given. It relies heavily on emotion and symbolism that cannot be uniformly applied in this case. Usage of the terms "divorce" and "abandon(ment)" alluding to the pope's actions are scandalous. The Pope is the Bishop of Rome. Bishops have traditionally had the freedom to abdicate their office. Since when does resignation to a monastery constitute a discordant act with Holy Tradition? I'm sure men far more learned than I could produce a long list of bishops and patriarchs that have done just so. Do we have this same accusation of bishops who are forced to tender letters of resignation of their offices at age 80? In obedience to this directive are they coming down off the cross? Are they guilty of spiritual divorce? Are they abandoning their flocks? God forbid. Doesn't anyone think anymore? Can't we take our thoughts to their logical conclusions and see the weight of what we are saying? I will admit that I have not done this frequently enough in my own life. So I have no ill feelings for those who wrote this article. However, this article should not be given "air time."

    No man yet in the flesh can judge the Pope. The Pope both acted and TOLD US WHY HE ACTED. All of our attitudes should be "put a fork in me, I'm done." To question the veracity of the pope's stated motives to me smacks of very dangerous ground.

    Or do we not trust the will of God? The Pope has acted. That should be enough.

    Áve María, grátia pléna, Dóminus técum. Benedícta tu in muliéribus, et benedíctus frúctus véntris túi, Iésus. Sáncta María, Máter Déi, óra pro nóbis peccatóribus, nunc et in hóra mórtis nóstrae. Ámen.

    Θεοτόκε Παρθένε, χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη Μαρία, ὁ Κύριος μετὰ σοῦ. εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξί, καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου, ὅτι Σωτῆρα ἔτεκες τῶν ψυχῶν ἡμῶν.

  29. Matamoros1:10 AM

    Petrus said: "He does not offer his resignation to any one. There is no one to accept it. He simply announces it."

    What he announces is not so much a resignation as a renunciation. From a human point of view, it's hard to take seriously the explanation that he is old and not quick enough for modern times. As for being surrounded by wolves, all he has to do is remove them.

    At the Angelus today he looked confident, and fit enough to last till 2020 at least. If he has a plan, then so much the better. If not, then maybe the writers in La Croix are right.

  30. Veritas1:48 AM

    The pope is the spiritual father of the Church. Can a parent say to a child that they are no longer their parent? When a parent is frail, like our current pope, does that parent cease to be your parent? Can you resign parenthood for health reasons?

    When a parent is sick, the whole family should step up to help ease the burden of the parent but can a father cease to be a father?

    The implications of a papal resignation outside of extraordinary circumstances are deeply troubling and sets a dangerous precedent. I have no right to tell the Holy Father what to do, but I pray that the Holy Father will rescind his resignation.

    Oremus pro pontifice nostro Benedicto XVI.

  31. Fr Martin Fox said...
    Our poor holy father: does have people around him he can truly trust?

    But who knows better than him the Church and the Curia to remove the wolves? Why a young cardinal/new Pope would have better cleaning conditions? Why not to group around him a bunch of loyal cardinals and bishops, fight for one or two more years, supported by the prayers and unconditional love of so many people, and then give much better conditions to his sucessor, starting by a better College of Cardinals?

    If the Holy father has nobody to truly trust, why should I trust in the College of Cardinals election or that the new Pope will deserve our trust?

  32. I do love the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and Supreme Pontiff dearly. And I pray for him, as always.

    But in my scorecard:


  33. CatholicDad6:05 AM

    Veritas wrote: "The pope is the spiritual father of the Church. Can a parent say to a child that they are no longer their parent? When a parent is frail, like our current pope, does that parent cease to be your parent? Can you resign parenthood for health reasons?
    When a parent is sick, the whole family should step up to help ease the burden of the parent but can a father cease to be a father?"

    This is a great example of emotivism and taking a term beyond it's meaning. The pope is the spiritual father of the Church in so far as he is Peter. He is Peter in so far as he holds the Petrine office. This goes way too far.

    Then Veritas wrote: "The implications of a papal resignation outside of extraordinary circumstances are deeply troubling and sets a dangerous precedent."

    Says who? You? Well you are entitled to your private judgement. But insinuating that this move by the pope creates a dangerous precedent because...? Because you don't like it? You'll have to excuse me, but that's not nearly good enough now is it? What dogma or irreformable ancient tradition has been violated? Actually it may possibly be argued that these insinuations of "abandon(ment)" and "divorce" do violence to St. Celestine V who, according to the twisted logic in said argument could be said to be guilty of both terms. Did St. Celestine V do injustice to the Church? What a horrible thought for someone to think.

  34. Cyril6:40 AM

    There have been a couple of odd things that have happened in the last couple of years that don't seem Benedict-like. Among them were his statement re condoms to prevent Aids, almost the opposite to what he said on his trip to Africa. Another was the appointment of the liberal Muller. My gut feeling is that Pope Benedict realises he is not strong enough to stand up against those who are obviously pressuring him and he has taken this grave step of resignation in an attempt to get rid of this group. No ordinary man of 85 would have been able to fight back for as long as he has. Deo gratias for the gift of Pope Benedict. Long may he live and pray for the Church. Summorum Pontificam was his gift to the Church. Bishop Fellay should have forged ahead while he had the chance.

  35. Ralph Roister-Doister2:04 PM

    The fact of the matter is that the erstwhile "panzerkardinal" [surely one of the most laughable appellations in recent memory] has never been a forceful leader, against "homoheresy" or anything else. Maybe that is because the Church of V2 collegiality and ecumenism is a Church in a state of metastasis, wherein the parts of the ecclesial body no longer work, much less work together.

    Benedict's inspiration was Pope Lambertini -- Benedict XIV -- a scholar, a master politician, and a reformer. But Lambertini's skills, absent the power of the papacy, would have gone for naught. In the past fifty years, that power has largely dissipated. Somehow, it has to be restored before Lambertini's papacy can used as an inspirational template by any successor. Benedict XVI has been forced by circumstances to rely on "inspiration," and inspiration is a weapon of the weak.

    If Benedict now realizes this about himself, then by all means let him resign, the sooner the better, and let us pray that his successor is more on the order of Charles Martel than Dag Hammerskjold.


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