A Reflection on the Abdication of Pope Benedict XVI

An unusual post for an unusual day. I’m transcribing my notebook because I don’t have anything particularly structured to say about our Holy Father’s resignation:

He, the scholar by the window, braving a life of declarative sentences and scriptural exegesis, was swept up into ecstasy by the Holy Spirit to dwell in high places with Him.

On the day of his anointing he wore a sweater underneath his finery, for it was cold. “Pray for me,” he said to me, “that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”

But what a wolf-wrestler our sweatered German turned out to be. He taught me that the Dictator is best assassinated by silence. Silence and encyclicals.

I’m sure he missed his books, his window, and the sparrows fidgeting outside, but he was courageous. He was the second hundred and fifty sixth, the sixteenth and the first. He told my generation to “leave the dead-end streets of consumerism” and we haven’t listened yet.

I saw his cap fly off in the wind as he preached in a Spanish storm. His heart is as pure as his prose. He is a man of peace that cleaves like a sword.

He ruled with authority, motu proprio, applying salves to the schisms in the Skin, going about the business of waking a yawning Church with reminders of Her glory: See how the sparrows are clothed in surplices, stoles, cassocks, and frocks, the trees with their crosiers and capes. Do not ask what we will wear, the Bride of Christ is provided for. Just read the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

He played the piano because God is Beauty, and “it is in this – in truth, in goodness, and in beauty – that we find happiness and joy.”

Enemies crowned him, jewels of a love that makes declarative sentences, while he made American saints and prayed for the salvation of sinners. How unwitting the darkness that made his light shine brighter.

He leaves as he came, with a humilty that shocks the world.

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  • Sam

    Beautiful reflections.

  • http://profiles.google.com/gtbradshaw G Bradshaw

    best I’ve read on this today & I’ve read a lot.

  • Lauren Gulde

    Sometimes poetry can reflect our hearts better than an essay. This is beautiful. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicholas.escalona Nicholas Escalona

    Erm, Benedict XVII? Sure you got that right? Haha

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=788556061 Edward Carlin

      I think that the “first” bit was meant to be offset in the list of three numbers: the 256th pope, the 16th Benedict, and the first of his kind. :)

  • Claude

    “Pray for me,” he said to me, “that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”

    Instead he gave the wolves safe haven.

    • Melia

      Not sure if beautiful Franciscan-style analogy on forgiveness, or anti-Catholic remark.

      • Melia

        If the first, God bless, if the second, God bless.

      • Claude

        Though lapsed, I’m not anti-Catholic. I’m anti-conspiracy-to-protect-child-rapists. Mark 9:42.

        Though it was generous of you to speculate that I might be making a “beautiful Franciscan-style analogy on forgiveness.” I wish that were so!

        • TheodoreSeeber

          “I’m anti-conspiracy-to-protect-child-rapists”

          Well, since present Canon Law requires that the child rapists be handed over to local authorities, then shouldn’t you be going up against public schools next, where 8% of the teachers are child rapists who get moved between school districts to hide their tracks?

          • Claude

            So you’re willing to give the hierarchy a pass because other people do it too. Got it.

            By the way, source?

          • NBW

            If you were “anti-conspiracy-to-protect-child -rapists, perhaps you should be going up against the public school system and the BBC Jimmy Savile scandal. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20026910
            If you want to fight against stuff like this start with Hollywood.

          • Claude

            So “Hollywood” is your standard for the stewards of the Catholic faith? The brood of vipers infesting the church doesn’t trouble your sleep? Look over there in “Hollywood,” England! It’s the ghost of Jimmy Savile!

            The reflexive line of defense for church apologists is to 1) point to some other culprit and 2) imply that those who find the church’s conduct appalling are operating under a double standard. But I do understand. The scandal is hard to fathom.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            No it isn’t. The scandal is easy to fathom, and the cure has been implemented worldwide.

          • Claude

            OK, the scandal is easy for you to fathom. Noted.

          • NBW

            You are angry about the”broods of vipers” in the Church and yet you seem to take what Jimmy Savile did to 450 children lightly. I am simply pointing out that the pedophilia problem is in many places. At least the Church is making an effort to ensure that no more children get harmed. Perhaps we should pray for an end to pedophilia. God Bless you!

          • Claude

            NBW: I do not take what Jimmy Savile did lightly. I was trying to make a point.

            Perhaps we should pray for an end to pedophilia.

            Yes, and work harder to protect children. Thank you for your kind words. God bless you, too!

          • TheodoreSeeber

            How much harder do we need to work to protect children than putting parents through a background check and anti-pedophile training to drop their children off at Sunday School? Or release the full personnel records of every accused priest? Or locking up accused priests in secular jails and removing them from service?

            What, exactly, Claude, are we not doing *right now*? Not 20 years ago, which all your information seems to be from, but today.

          • Claude

            How many child-abusing priests are serving time in US prisons as a result of action taken by the church?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            5 that I’m aware of, if you mean *secular* prisons in the United States. Another 50 if you include the equivalent religious prison (cloistered under a vow of silence with no contact with the outside world or any child under the age of 30) on United States soil inside of monasteries.

            And that’s just the Archdiocese of Portland- EVERY diocese has such prisons. EVERY diocese now turns such monsters over to the police.

          • pagansister

            “cloistered under a vow of silence with no contact with the outside world or any child under the age of 30, —–” Somehow I think that is more pleasant than the US Prison system. That is tough on the poor priests—NOT! There are monastery’s that men volunteer to join that have the no contact rule with outside world and silence as a rule. So how hard are those molesters actually having it? The 5 in the prison system are right where they should be and the 50 others you say are cloistered should be there too, IMO.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Using-Reason/100002489435714 Using Reason

            “Perhaps we should pray for an end to pedophilia.” Or you could try getting involved and actually doing something. Of course it’s much easier to pray and then claim it is making a difference while feeling superior.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            No, I’m willing to give the hierarchy a pass *because they started taking care of the problem 10 years *before* the Boston Globe ever heard about it, and because I can see the proof with my own eyes that they have. You would too had you ever bothered to take the current child protection training *required* in every diocese in the United States.

            Likewise, I am NOT willing to give the Boy Scouts, the public school system, the police, or any other organization that works with children a pass until they institute the same mandatory training. In fact, I believe that Called to Protect should be mandatory training for *every* organization and business in the United States.

            Especially the gay pride organizations, which also shelter pedophiles. And let us not forget the atheists.

          • Claude

            Let’s not forget Big Bird! Let’s not forget the Boys and Girls Clubs! Let’s not forget Little League! Let’s not forget to slur the liberals, the gays, the atheists!

            The Catholic hierarchy conspired to protect abusive priests at the expense of their child victims. They did not “take care of the problem.” They were part of the problem. Benedict revived the Latin Mass and writes beautifully. But he was complicit.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            You think the only pedophiles are in the Catholic hierarchy? You think the only hierarchy that has protected pedophiles is the Catholic Hierarchy?

            And YES, since 1990, they have taken care of the problem. Cardinal Ratzinger, before he became Pope, while head of the Inquisition, was involved in turning cases over to the secular authorities directly.

            Since you did not know this, I can only assume that you have absolutely no knowledge of the topic, nor what has been done since 1990 on this issue.

            We are a long way from “Father has been removed from his post for health reasons, so we’re going to send him on retreat and give him a new pastorship”. That hasn’t been done since the 1980s.

          • Claude

            Since you did not know this, I can only assume that you have absolutely no knowledge of the topic, blah blah blah…”

            You use this tactic so often we might as well dub it a Seeberism. Yes, I knew that Cardinal Ratzinger was the Grand Inquisitor. Of course it was in this role that he circulated his notorious directive to bishops to report miscreant priests not to the civil authorities, but to the church, and to otherwise observe a vow of secrecy under penalty of excommunication. Yes, that’s right. The prime offense was not endangering the innocence of children but exposing the church to scandal. While Benedict may well have been aghast at the criminals in his organization who preyed on vulnerable children, he did little to bring them to justice. This history has been exhaustively researched, documented and reported. It is a terrible legacy.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “Of course it was in this role that he circulated his notorious directive to bishops to report miscreant priests not to the civil authorities, but to the church, and to otherwise observe a vow of secrecy under penalty of excommunication. ”

            As did every other religion in the 1980s- including the Freedom From Religion Foundation. What happened *after* 1992? Do you even know?

            Do you know what happened in any specific cases after 1992? Or are you just talking out of your hat?

            I would point out that before 1992, NOT putting these cases under vows of secrecy would have opened up the victims to bigotry. But of course you knew that right?

          • Claude

            Do you know what happened in any specific cases after 1992?

            Please. Read The Los Angeles Times lately?

  • http://backoftheworld.com/ Ryan M.

    Not the Shepherd we wanted, but the Shepherd we needed…

  • s_hartwick

    Thank you. This is a beautiful reflection. When I heard the news I felt like crying. I feel like a lost child knowing that Papa Benny is leaving. I don’t fully understand, and none of the speculation has made me feel better, but I trust that it is God’s will.

    • pagansister

      God’s will or the Pope’s doctor’s will? Benedict 16 apparently doesn’t want to “die in office.”

      • Rosemary

        The two are not opposed to each other. :)

      • David

        No farting in the elevator

        • pagansister

          Rats! :-)

  • Therese

    I want you to know, that when I read “He leaves as he came, with a humility that shocks the world.” over the article, It was like poetry to me. For a split second those few words rang in my head and I just want to thank you for that.

  • Anon

    And this is why Marc is one of the best Catholic writers.

  • http://rosenzweigshmuesn.blogspot.com/ daniel imburgia

    Thanks so much, a reflection worthy of Morris West.

    In a moment of reflection some cardinals in the movie “The shoes of the Fisherman” ask one another what they would do should they have their lives to live over. Now in their last years of life, it was a sober reflection. Cardinal Leone answered:

    “I’ve thought about it often,” said Leone heavily. “If I didn’t marry- and I’m, not sure but that’s what I needed to make me halfway human- I’d be a country priest with just enough theology to hear confession, and just enough Latin to get through Mass and the sacramental formulae. But with heart enough to know what griped in the guts of other men and made them cry into their pillows at night. I’d sit in front of my church on a summer evening and read my office and talk about the weather and the crops, and learn to be gentle to the poor and humble with the unhappy ones… You know what I am now? A walking encyclopaedia of dogma and theological controversy. I can smell out an error faster than a Dominican. And what does it mean? Nothing. Who cares about theology except the theologians? We are necessary, but less important than we think. The Church is Christ- Christ and the people. And all the people want to know is whether or not there is a God, and what is His relation with them, and how they can get back to Him when they stray.”

    KIRIL LAKOTA (New Russian Pope): “It costs so much to be a full human being… one has to abandon altogether the search for security, and reach out to the risk of living with both arms. One has to embrace the world like a lover, and yet demand no easy return of love. One has to accept pain as a condition of existence. One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying.”

    FR. DAVID TELEMOND (the character that plays Teilhard de Chardin ) You know even God has not spoken his last word about his own creation. I believe in a personal god, I believe in Christ, I believe in the spirit, but if by some perilous internal revolution, I lost my faith in god, in Christ and in the spirit, I think I still would believe in the world. Yes I do believe in the world. In the goodness of the world. In the values of the world. That in the final analysis is the first and the last thing in which I believe. This faith I live by, and it is to this faith that; at the moment of death, mastering all doubts, I shall surrender myself. The dying is easy, it is the living which defeats us.”

    George Faber: “Do you see any hope then for the day when Christian faith, or more specifically the Roman Catholic faith, may be practiced freely in Marxist countries?

    Kiril lakota (future Pope Kiril) “I have no inside information as to how the Kingdom of God is going to be established.”


  • http://www.facebook.com/josephjgoodwin Joey Goodwin

    Amazing. Thank you so much.

  • Korou

    Let’s hope the next Pope is an improvement.

    • Joyfully

      It will be difficult as B16 is so terrific but, yes, someone more terrific would be welcomed.

  • Catherine Edmund

    Thank you, Marc. This blog was the first place I went when I heard the news this morning. I am so glad you posted.

  • ben

    this is fantastic. yesterday shook me because i love ratzinger. this is the best reflection on this situation thus far, with few words and nuances of silent reflection.

  • Christie

    Marc, you’d be the person to ask: are there going to be any official novenas or projects for the resignation of the Holy Father and the upcoming conclave?

  • The Other Weirdo

    Congratulations. The first non-italicized paragraph is entirely devoid of meaningful content. It reminds me of a scene in Foundation, where the representative of the Empire made a speech on Terminus, and when analyzed for content, it turned out that he had absolutely nothing at all. Every single statement was effectively cancelled out by other statements.

    As for the last, trust me, the only thing that shocks the world re his departure is, shouldn’t God have a chosen a less frail figure to guide his One True Church(tm)? JP2 had one foot in the grave and he was still pontificating.

    I’m a Jew–and an atheist–and I wish with all my heart that the position of Pope could be filled by any fool with a passing familiarity with the Bible and would leave no last effects on the wrold. Alas, that is not the world I live in. Now I have to wish that the next Pope would care more about the children in his organization’s care than the priests who abuse them.

  • NBW

    This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  • Kathleen

    YES! what a grace he has been to us. Let us pray that his work will continue in our next Shepherd

  • http://www.facebook.com/julieta424 Julieta Contreras

    This is so beautiful! <3

  • GK Student

    I think what shocked the world occupied under secularism, and quite possibly many of the faithful, is his leap of faith to trust in God. His humility and prayer life are what is shocking to the world of those who want men in place of God. He knows his own mind, heart, soul, and stamina; he declared so in his letter.
    Pope Benedict XVI is doing what Hezekiah did in his own time when Judah was surrounded by the Assyrians; he put ash on his head, wore sackcloth, and tore his garments (Pope Benedict is taking off the garments of the pope, he approaches lent for ash Wednesday, and is going to enter into a life of prayer bearing the dark cloth of priest wear) as a sign of humility and obedience. Pope Benedict as Hezekiah turned to the prophet Isaiah, turns to the faithful seeking prayers and support to ensure God’s grace retains the Church as she is the Divine insitution which Christ founded through the Holy Spirit as His bride on earth.
    As I write this, pray that I may, you may also, be filled with the Holy Spirit and God’s grace and life through Sacraments of His own Son so that the Church may grow in holiness and complete fidelity to her Bridegroom Christ himself, and enjoy all that Pope Benedict XVI will be praying for.
    I’d offer up all my sins to God for the Holy Father’s prayers, so that God and Pope Benedict XVI may take complete joy upon his renunciaiton of the chair of St. Peter. Pray all that Pope Benedict XVI prays for, for the good of all His Holy Church may find nothing at all, in the springtime of Evangelization, to promote nothing short of the grace of God in His Church.
    Pray for the conversion of souls so that God’s mercy, I hope, may be extended so that no soul, no matter how sinful, and how grave those sins are, will not find at the end of life any justification before God, and His throne, to have been despairing, helpless, nor distressed to which they chose hell over God.
    Pray, I ask, God’s mercy may extend over every soul so that no matter what the sin is, and the offense may be, the person is not lost to the throws of temptation and the snares of the devil, which in the last battle, is having no faith in God opposed to the wilfull expression of the Father’s love for his prodigal son, and his son who remained at home. May the springtime of evangelization be an evangelization of mercy and no less. People need to be secured in God’s love and mercy sustaining them.
    Humility is the correct cure against the sin of pride.

  • TheEpic95

    Marc. You dont post very often, but it is always a delight when you do. I was just telling my friend that I couldnt take anymore secular news, I couldnt stand the venom coming from antiCatholics and the speculating/hoping for docternal changes from liberals who wont take trsuth for an aswer. But this was beautiful! I cant stand it, the world need smore beautiful thoughts out there. Venom may make antidotes when used in a medical lab, but for the heart who longs for something sweet the spit of a snake is posion. God love you.

  • http://www.military-history.us/ Patrick Shrier

    Benedict’s decision to resign and his stated reasons for doing so convince me more than ever that he was the right man to succeed John Paul. He is a man that is not concerned with himself so much as the health of the Church and the strength of faith he can help foster. May his successor be as godly as he is.

  • Tom James

    Beautiful words for a beautiful man. We were truly blessed to have an amazing man like Benedict XVI as our Pope.

  • http://profiles.google.com/peggyapl Peggy Pilapil-Lasa

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful reflections

  • link

    Aparently he couldnt triforce

  • 4chan

    Newfags cant triforce.

  • Gordis85

    New to your blog and by the looks of things, I may hang around. Your words are beautiful and so in tune to the beauty that is the spirituality of Papa Benedict. May you be blessed for such prose. The days draw nearer…I am going to miss him very much.

  • James_Locke

    Ive always wanted to be a sedevancantist. Here is my chance for 2 weeks!