COMMENTARY: A deeper examination of Benedict’s reasons to resign can help us to see why it was courageous, not cowardly.
Pope Benedict XVI was the greatest theologian to occupy the Chair of Peter since at least Pope St. Leo the Great (440-461). The Catholic Church in future centuries may find Pope Benedict’s papal and pre-papal contributions even greater than the one whose writings on the Incarnation are still pondered every Christmas and whose Tome brought the Christological controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries to a close.
Unless, however, papal abdications become routine, future centuries may regard him less in the category of papal doctors of the Church like Leo and Gregory the Great and more in that of Celestine V and Gregory XII, who both resigned the papacy.
The former category is certainly one of great honor. The latter is normally treated as one of shame. Our culture normally equates resigning — unless done in principled protest against evil — with quitting or failing, both of which are generally accompanied by shame.
In Pope Benedict’s case, following St. John Paul II’s intrepid completion of his papacy, inspired, John Paul said, because Christ did not come down from the cross; Pope Benedict’s renunciation, in contrast, seems unfaithful and cowardly.
Due to the nature of the spiritual paternity associated with the papacy, to resign also seems akin to a father’s unholy abandonment of his familial vocation and commitment.
Moreover, some Catholics concerned by various developments in the pontificate of Pope Francis have expressed resentment toward — or even place the blame on — Pope Benedict because, they argue, if Benedict hadn’t resigned, and presumably had served what turned out to be almost another decade of life, those developments would never have materialized.
So Pope Benedict’s resignation has become a real obstacle to the assessment of his legacy, including among those who were convinced of his sanctity and historic importance prior to the events of early 2013.
But a deeper examination of Pope Benedict’s reasons given for his resignation can help us to see why it was courageous, not cowardly, faithful not fickle, and a confirmation rather than a contradiction of the character so many had rightly grown to esteem.
READ ON BELOW…Pope Benedict XVI Loved the Church Enough to Make a Difficult and Painful Decision| National Catholic Register