A Momentous Day in Church History– To Say the Least

When I got up this morning, my wife told me the news about the Pope resigning. It was on New York 1. “That’s ridiculous,” I said, “what do they know about the Pope?’ Well, it turns out they were right. I went to the computer and read Cardinal Dolan’s statement, and then it started to sink in. Wow. It really happened. At the seminary where I teach, it was. as you might expect, the main subject of discussion. I asked one fo the Canon law professors if a pope could resign. Yes, he said, and no one has to approve it. The last time this happened, despite what the news says, was when Pope Celestine V resigned in 1294 due to poor health. Dante Alighieri called this “the great refusal” and sentenced Celestine to nether regions in his Divine Comedy. So the last time something like this happened was 818 years ago. That in itself is pretty amazing, isn’t it? Ironically, my class on the Reformation and I were discussing the “Great Refusal” a week or so ago. We didn’t expect it to haver any relevance then, although I’m pretty sure someone asked if a Pope could resign. None of us expected Church History to be so relevant when we got up this morning! Interestingly, one fo the most popular books on Church History written in the last few years is Jon M. Sweeney’s The Pope Who Quit, the story of Celestine V. I highly recommend Jon’s book for those interested in reading more about this phenomenon!


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About Pat McNamara