Monday, February 11, 2013

Dr. Ed Peters, Canon Lawyer discusses the future of Pope Benedict.

Papa Emeritus
by Dr. Edward Peters
The resignation of Benedict XVI portends no problems for Church governance.

“We know exactly when the vacancy in the Apostolic See will occur (2 pm, Eastern time, Thursday, FEB 28) and we know what laws will govern the Church during said vacancy (ap. con. Universi Dominici Gregis). Up until then the pope is fully the pope (c. 331), and after that, he isn’t; most heads of Roman dicasteries will immediately cease functioning in their offices, and canonical clocks will start ticking, culminating in the next papal conclave in mid-March.

“What canon law does not, to my knowledge, treat of—and has not experienced for nearly 600 years—is the status of a former pope. I’m sure Vatican protocol experts are working on it, but my ruminations are as follows. These are, per force, first impressions.

“Resignation in canon law impacts only the offices actually resigned. Benedict XVI is resigning the distinguishable but inseparable offices of the papacy and the bishopric of Rome, so, effective the evening of February 28, he will hold neither office (nor of necessity the papal Lateran basilica).

“Now, prior to his election as pope in 2005, Joseph Ratzinger was a cardinal in the Roman Church and possessed certain rights and duties as a cardinal. I am not aware that he resigned that office (though he vacated his suburbicarian see of Velletri-Segni, which is now held by Cdl Arinze), so, I am thinking that, upon resigning the papacy, Benedict XVI simply resumes his place among the College of Cardinals, having never left it, and of course, would be a regular member of the College of Bishops (c. 336).

“If the pope simply resumes his status as cardinal, a number of sticky problems are avoided: for example, he automatically falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the next pope (c. 1405 § 1, 2º), and he would likewise enjoy faculties for sacramental confession everywhere (c. 967 § 1).

“Could we really imagine the alternative: a former pope being subjected to the jurisdiction of someone other than the next pope, or his needing faculties from an ordinary to hear confessions? Well, if Benedict is not a cardinal come the evening of Feb 28—well in advance of the arrival of new pope who could take whatever action he wished at that time—both of those scenarios would seem to apply.

“Also, upon acceptance of the office of Bishop of Rome, I think the pope became incardinated in that local Church (cc. 265 ff); now, I see no mechanism by which a bishop loses his incardination upon resigning his governing office, so it seems that Cdl. Ratzinger would remain a cleric of the Archdiocese of Rome, being generally bound the rules applying to all such clerics. He would be the emeritus bishop of that local Church (c. 185).

“An expert in Italian canon law could tell us whether retired prelates there are voting members of the Italian Episcopal Conference (c. 454 § 2), but, aside from his being accountable only to future pope, I think it is clear that Benendict intends a life of quiet prayer and study, so the question is interesting (I think!), but quite moot.

“It is customary in some places to refer to former presidents and former ambassadors as “President” or “Ambassador” after they have given up office. I see no problem in referring to “His Holiness, Joseph Ratzinger, Papa Emeritus and Cardinal of the H. R. C.”


Pope to Resign February 28

by Steve Ray on February 11, 2013

This comes as a huge surprise. Major news sources have passed on the Vatican’s announcement. The Vatican announcement is here. I am not going to speculate about “deeper motives” for his resignation. We should take him at his words since he is an honest man.

I watched my father decline in his later years. His mind was still sharp but his physical well-being was not cooperating. I think this is an act of great humility. He is a precise and exacting German who does not want to do anything if it is not done well. He knows his limitations and is stepping down in great humility and in his love for the Church. This is my take.

Canon Law 332, no. 2 states that a Pope can resign but no one can receive his resignation. “If it should happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that he makes the resignation freely and that it be duly manifested, but not that it be accepted by anyone.”

In his speech, Pope Benedict says: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”

Official Announcement here.

Resources about the upcoming conclave to elect a new pope

Jimmy Akin’s Initial Thoughts

CNN Uses Resignation to Trash Church and Pope

Excellent discussion between Mark Brumley (President of Ignatius Press) and Fr. Joseph Fessio SJ (student and friend of Card. Ratzinger)


Some of my favorite pictures of Benedict XVI

by Steve Ray on February 11, 2013

Some of my favorite pictures of Cardinal Ratzinger right before he became Pope :-)