The Eminently Sensible Daniel McCarthy

argues for the eminent sensibility of Benedict’s decision to resign.

It’s impossible to predict the future, of course, but I think it’s quite on the cards other Pope’s in my lifetime will do the same rather than live past the age where they can fulfill their ministry. We’ll see, I guess.

  • vox borealis

    I agree with this prediction. But what interests me is the statement: rather than life past the age where they can fulfill their ministry. I wonder what, precisely, is the ministry of the papacy. I mean, I know that in practice the papacy has from a practical perspective into a very busy and demanding job, but I also wonder if much of the current “job” of the papacy is far in excess of the core ministry. I wonder, too, if on the balance this has been good development. It seems to me that the main job of the papacy to safeguard the Church against error, part of which is to offer, occasionally, dogmatic pronouncements. Everything else is extra. One the other side, I think there is a profound value (though not a necessary condition, of course) in viewing the papacy as a lifetime commitment, rather than a job that one retires from because he is too old. Maybe it would be better if the expectations of the papacy were scaled back (less travel, fewer meetings, even, frankly, fewer writings) so that men of less physical rigor will feel less pressure to do the extraneous. Or maybe I’ve got it wrong.

    • Subsistent

      The pope is a bishop. A bishop’s ministry, as I understand Aquinas, is indeed “to safeguard the Church against error”, but is also to sanctify (thru the sacraments), to govern, and — most specifically as bishop — to officially preach the kerygma and teach the didachē. For more on this, see Pope Pius XII’s *Humani generis* and Pope John XXIII’s *Mater et magistra*.

    • Subsistent

      Since the pope is a bishop, his ministry, as I understand Thomas Aquinas, is indeed “to safeguard the Church against error”, but is also to sanctify (thru the sacraments), to govern, and — most specifically as bishop — to officially preach the kerygma and teach the didachē in his jurisdiction, which is the city of Rome, and in consequence, the Church worldwide. For more on this, see Pope Pius XII’s *Humani generis* and Pope John XXIII’s *Mater et magistra*.

      • Subsistent

        I wish Mr. Shea would be more careful to proofread his posts before he submits them: his word *life*, for instance, should be *live*. And I wish I myself would be more careful to review the wording of my own comments before submitting them.

      • vox borealis

        I get that, to a degree. The pope is indeed bishop of Rome. But I have always understood the the *papacy* to be something much different from just another bishop. This is implicit in Canon Law, which (for example) does not mandate retirement for popes, and by historical precedent. As for preaching and teaching, surely this does not require globetrotting, or receiving endless visits by various groups and embassies both secular and religious. With the wonders of modern media, in fact, a pope can effectively communicate without leaving the confines of the Vatican, which is pretty much the way popes did business for a long time anyway. The globetrotting pope is, I think, very much a product of the late 20th century, and it is one that I increasingly question as a good development. I guess what I am really pondering, is if the papacy (and therefore the Church) would not be better off if there were fewer physical expectations on the office.

        • Subsistent

          Since a bishop is expected to visit churches in his jurisdiction, and since the Roman bishop’s jurisdiction includes the Church worldwide, it seems normal that he should — whether in person or, as in earlier centuries, by legates — be somewhat of a globetrotter, albeit not so as to detract from the ordinary jurisdiction of another bishop.

          • vox borealis

            or, as in earlier centuries, by legates

            That’s the ticket!

  • ivan_the_mad

    McCarthy makes sense, as usual. Of course, I have little difficulty in accepting the thesis that BXVI is a smart and good man who knows what he’s doing … and that’s infinitely more true for the Holy Spirit which guides the papacy.

  • Mike Harrison

    ” … other Pope’s in my lifetime … ”

    Other Pope’s what in your lifetime? Other Pope’s red shoes? Other Pope’s encyclicals? Other Pope’s grammar nazis?

    • Blog Goliard

      Thank you for saying this so others wouldn’t have to. The plural apostrophe has been a lifelong enemy of mine…I built a sizable graveyard of them once, cutting them out with my X-Acto knife at the paste-up table as I was helping prepare a daily newspaper to go to press. (The people who composed display ads were inveterate, impenitent, ineducable offenders.)

      Oh, and I’ve got my money on the Pope’s red shoes doing the resigning in future, myself. Shoes have it hard and can be forgiven for needing to take retirement.


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