February 14, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Since Pope Benedict’s shock announcement Monday, I have held off commenting. Time was needed to step back and consider just what this astounding action from the world's leading defender of life and family really meant. It was an earthquake announcement that had to have greater significance than the Pope merely being tired and worn out. The two lightning strikes onto the dome of St. Peter’s that evening added an uncanny emphasis that the Pope’s action demanded the world’s attention.
So, really, why did Pope Benedict suddenly announce that he would abdicate the ministry of Successor of St. Peter in only 17 days? It is nearly impossible for me to believe that the reasons are as simple as Benedict has stated (although I believe that he is indeed very tired and barely able to carry on which we saw on our last 2 visits to Rome). There are clues.
Robert Moynihan, a reliable, long-time Vatican observer and Founder of Inside the Vatican magazine, also finds himself unsettled about the Pope’s announcement and wrote in his Feb. 12 report:
“Are there facts the Pope has weighed in making this decision that we simply don't know about, or don't know fully? … Does the Pope have information about the possible course of events in the months ahead that led him to conclude that he needed to allow a younger, more energetic man to take over his office from him, so that the Church's highest authority could take action quickly and decisively as events unfold?”
Those are my same questions.
This great and yet exceptionally humble and gentle man’s fatigue has come about from much more than aging.
Reading other commentators and looking to our own LifeSiteNews experiences have revealed a ferocious battle going on within the Catholic Church and a notably rising tide of hatred towards authentic Christianity from outside. Moreover, a comment from Benedict yesterday, adds to the impression that resignation was decided for strategic reasons. A new pope had to be quickly chosen because of the pace of alarming events both within and outside the Church.
Yesterday, during his Ash Wednesday homily, Benedict stated:
“I am thinking in particular of the sins against the unity of the Church, of the divisions in the body of the Church.”
And then we should remember these words from his first Mass as Pope:
“Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”
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Is he fleeing from the wolves, especially those within the Church, who he knew would inevitably, incessantly attack him during his pontificate? Very doubtful. They have been even more ferocious than he anticipated in response to his determined rolling back of some of the chaos that followed Vatican II and his strong rebukes to all the elements of the Culture of Death. Benedict’s resignation should instead, in my opinion, be seen as a deeply humbling self-sacrifice to pave the way for an urgently needed stronger pope and stronger Church.
For nothing more than professionally reporting solid facts about controversial Church developments related to moral issues, LifeSiteNews has experienced unrelenting, ferocious assault from particular Church personalities and organizations over the past few years. We have been enduring a visceral hatred from some quarters as noted by LSN-friendly inside-the-church observers. It has been nearly beyond belief, shockingly unreasonable and entirely unchristian.
The more layers we have peeled away from hidden and long-standing situations needing exposure and correction, the more we have we been subjected to these unjust and hateful assaults on our integrity and credibility and to damaging whispers and other malicious actions. The secular pro-abortion and homosexual activist forces have been easier to manage in comparison to these enraged forces within the Church.
Now think how much more Benedict has had to endure for his heroic attempts to steer the entire, badly damaged, diminished, wayward Church back on course away from the errors and influence of the “progressives” and other dissidents. They have been howling with rage over his undoing of their five decades of control. He has spoiled their plans for a morally and theologically liberal church remade in their own image, rather than Christ’s.
Catholic commentator, George Neumayr, in his article The Reluctant Pope, lists some of Benedict’s notable accomplishments “trivialized and discredited” by many:
“his battles with the dictatorship of relativism,’ his promotion of wider use of the traditional Latin Mass, his reinstitution of the ban on the ordination of homosexuals to the priesthood, his historic overture to disaffected Anglicans, his voluminous stream of speeches and writings that aimed at repairing the catechetical collapse within the Church; his insistence on the ‘non-negotiable’ character of the natural moral law in shaping politics and culture.”
Benedict’s greatest and nearly-unbearable crosses have likely come from opposition to, hatred for, and outright rejection of his reforms - the opposition coming from many in influential positions within the Church – at all levels.
In his blog, Benedict XVI: Reason’s revolutionary, The Acton Institute’s Samuel Gregg explains some of the reasons for the animosity Benedict has experienced:
“Intellectually, Ratzinger far surpassed the usual suspects who want to turn Catholicism into something between the disaster otherwise known as the Church of England, and the rather sad leftist-activism of aging nuns stuck in 1968. But against the increasingly-absurd rants of a Hans Kung or Leonardo Boff, Ratzinger simply continued defending and explaining orthodox Christianity’s essential rationality with a modesty lacking in his opponents.”
Gregg also mentions the pope’s “efforts to root out what Ratzinger once called the 'filth' of sexual deviancy” which I have repeatedly noted on this website is a job still far from completed. He has been able to complete this and his other priority tasks only to the extent that the difficult Church bureaucracies and the world’s bishops have followed his urging and well reasoned pleadings.
There has been much resistance, some of it astonishingly vicious and rebellious, especially from clergy and laity in the wealthy, developed nations. Benedict has been betrayed even by those closest to him within the Vatican itself.
Benedict’s exceptional appeals to reason, if accepted, writes, Gregg, translate “into changes in lifestyles that many people simply don’t want to make. But a pope’s job isn’t to tell people what they want to hear.”
But as we have noticed in recent years, reason is increasingly rejected, and changeable feelings and desires are given more emphasis in decision-making by persons and organizations. Anyone who dares to instruct them in what is best regarding their bodies, their sexuality, their theology or their ego, is increasingly seen as a hateful personal aggressor rather than a loving father or other teacher.
I wish that Benedict could have held on for at least several more months to complete more of his necessary reforms and to appoint more faithful bishops.
I wish he could have waited for some of his recent outstanding archbishop appointments to receive their red hats so that they could also vote in this conclave. I am thinking of persons such as Philadelphia’s Charles Chaput, Montreal’s Christian Lépine, Quebec City’s Gérald Cyprien Lacroix and the archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez – all some of the very best of Benedict’s recent placements or moves to major dioceses.
The Cardinal Mahony scandal that broke last week has shown how very entrenched the “filth” still is, and that those responsible have still not yet been fully accountable. The neglect was sickening. If the now revealed offences of actively protecting criminal sexual abusers of minors did not exceed the statute of limitations, we might today be seeing the archbishop of the largest diocese in the US up on criminal charges.
Even secular media are appalled that Cardinal Mahony has made it a point to announce to the media that he is looking forward to going to Rome to vote for Benedict’s replacement.
Mahony is an aggressive personality, some say, a bully. Considering all that has been revealed in recent weeks, it is a great scandal for the Church and to the world that this severely negligent prelate, considered by some to be the ring leader of “progressive” US bishops, should be allowed to have any influence whatever in the conclave. I hope at the very least that he will be shunned by the other cardinals.
It is perhaps more than coincidental that Benedict announced his resignation after the Los Angeles abuse files were made public last week. Archbishop Gomez publicly rebuked his predecessor (highly likely with papal approval) and then Cardinal Mahony arrogantly publicly challenged his rebuker’s admonition. This is a first since the sex abuse scandals broke.
Maybe the Mahony incident and other recent inappropriate outbursts by leading Church officials were the last straws for Benedict. That is, he knew that these and other worrisome developments needed quick and firm action from a strong pope, but that he could no longer muster the energy.
I suspect that Benedict knows the restoration and cleaning up of the filth and rebellion within the Church has to continue with haste because of an ominous, rapidly growing cloud of persecution on the horizon at a time when the wisdom and inspiration of the Church will be greatly needed. Perhaps he sees clearer than most what is coming and that there is no time to have an incapacitated pope leading the Church. His resignation was a proactive action.
There will be a conclave in only a few weeks. Who could have predicted such a thing would happen so quickly?
In that conclave the forces of good and evil will be in an unseen battle that we cannot imagine - pride, power and glory-seeking vs holiness, humility and willingness to embrace Christ’s cross.
The outcome of the conclave will to a very large extent depend on the intensity of the prayers and sacrifices of Christians around the world from now until the final decision and acceptance is reached.
May the Holy Spirit guide the cardinals and keep the powers of darkness that have infiltrated the church at bay during this historic time.
I have to agree with many commentators that Pope Benedict has likely performed a great act of humility and charity for the good of not just the Catholic Church, but for the whole world. Where I disagree with many is that there are graver reasons for his decision than are being surmised.
There is a growing sense that something evil is on its way and the greatest bulwark against the evil can only be a strong, unified and faithful Catholic Church working together with all other authentic believers of the loving triune God.
Benedict knows this. That is why he has suddenly stepped aside for the new pope, who will be called to do the necessary battle that Benedict is no longer capable of.
And he has done it at the very beginning of Lent, the Catholic season of special prayer and fasting that culminates in the full rememberance of the suffering and resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter. By then, the new pope should be in place. The timing could not be better.
The power of authentic faith, when unleashed, will always defeat any evil. It usually happens, however, by way of the cross. That was the example the Master gave.
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