You can call him Pope Emeritus or Pontiff Emeritus. He’ll wear the white cassock but not the red shoes. He’ll live out of view of the public in what used to be a cloistered convent.
These are some of the things that we know about Benedict XVI’s future as he “retires” from the papacy.
There are a lot more things about the future of the papacy and the Church that we do not know. But we shouldn’t be overly concerned about them.
There is no need to panic because the pope has decided to retire and a new pope will take the reins of the Church.
True, there have been some nasty and distasteful things written about the Church in the media these past weeks. As Catholics, we rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so we believe that things will work out for the best.
Some may be scandalized by the politicking that goes on among the hierarchy prior to the conclave. The truth is that it has always been thus. The Church is a human institution, and it resorts to human methods when having to get something done. It’s the way of the world, and the Spirit will use them to bring all things to fulfillment.
It certainly makes for good theater, and the Church will get a lot of publicity in the coming weeks. It’s important that we all keep our feet on the ground and our eyes on the prize.
This past week, one cardinal resigned his position and gave up his vote in the conclave because he was accused of acting inappropriately toward his fellow priests and seminarians. Exactly what transpired we’ll never know, but it apparently is serious enough that he would take such drastic steps.
The Vatican Secretariat of State has called “deplorable” the “widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories” intended to exert “pressures on the election of the pope.”
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, delivered an editorial on Vatican Radio lamenting “pressures and considerations that are foreign to the spirit with which the church would like to live this period of waiting and preparation.”
He denounced “those who seek to profit from the moment of surprise and disorientation of the spiritually naive to sow confusion and to discredit the Church and its governance,” and accused such people of using “old tools, such as gossip, misinformation and sometimes slander” to influence the cardinals who will be voting in the upcoming papal election.
Neither Vatican statement specified the news stories in question, but Father Lombardi’s editorial referred to distortions by “those who consider money, sex and power before all else and are used to reading diverse realities from these perspectives.”
The Italian press has been portraying the Vatican as divided among political factions, with some officials supposedly subject to blackmail for sexual misdeeds and suggesting a link between bureaucratic infighting and Pope Benedict’s historic decision to step down.
The Spirit will use even the nastiness and frailty of current events to purge the Church of its own sinfulness, and the life of the Body will go on. What’s important is that we not lose our own focus on what really matters in the life of the Church.
We thank Pope Benedict XVI for his yeoman work in guiding the Church these past eight years, and we look forward with great anticipation to the announcement of our next Holy Father.