Looking at some of the retired pope’s recent comments and actions, The Boston Globe’s John Allen connects the dots:
It’s hard to imagine there isn’t some connection between the former pope’s willingness to step back into the public eye, and the tendency in some traditionalist circles towards nostalgia for Benedict as an expression of misgivings with Francis.
Conservative Italian writer Roberto de Mattei, for example, authored a Feb. 12 piece asserting that developments since the election of Francis amount to “a road that leads to schism and heresy.” (For his trouble, de Mattei was fired the next day by the Italian Catholic network Radio Maria.) A popular American traditionalist pundit, John Vennari, opined on Feb. 13 that Francis is a “theological train wreck” and said he’d never let such a man teach religion to his children. Around the same time, writer Antonio Socci floated the idea that if Benedict had his arm twisted to quit over the 2012 Vatican leaks affair, then it wasn’t a free act under church law and might not count.
At one level, it’s easy to shrug off such dissenting notes. When asked Feb. 26 if he ever had any doubt as to whether Benedict’s resignation was valid, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster in the U.K. told the Globe: “No … I think we can move on.”
On the other hand, Benedict apparently takes it seriously enough to not want his silence to be construed as consent.
The former pope pledged “unconditional obedience” to his successor in his final remarks to cardinals a year ago. For most of the past year, he’s honored that pledge by staying out of sight. Lately it seems he’s found another way to do it, injecting himself back into view just long enough to lend his blessing.