Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come!

No, it is not an “abdication”.
February 15, 2013, 6:13 pm
Filed under: Opinion

There are a couple of things really annoying me at the moment, regarding coverage of Pope Benedict. Actually, there are a lot more than a couple, but most of them are to do with the secular media’s inability to understand the Christian faith, or to understand that Christians are (at least some of the time) motivated by unworldly considerations. My two current gripes, though, are these.

First, the Holy Father’s decision should not be described as “abdication”, as if he were some secular monarch. The Queen may abdicate (I hope she won’t), but bishops merely resign. Under canon law, every Catholic bishop is required to offer his resignation to the Pope on reaching the age of seventy-five, but the Pope is not obliged to accept it. Obviously, the Pope cannot offer his resignation to himself and then decide whether or not to accept it. Instead, he must manifest his intention, freely, to resign his office as Bishop of Rome. No-one has to receive or accept this resignation. That is canon law.

Second, according to the speculation of the editor of that curious newspaper, “The Tablet”, Benedict is likely to be assigned to some obscure titular see. Why on earth? Retired bishops in general are nowadays simply referred to as “the bishop emeritus” of whatever their diocese was. Even though we have had no recent experience of a retired Pope, I can see no reason why we should not refer to him as “Pope emeritus”, or if we are pedantic, “bishop emeritus of Rome”. And if we are to draw any parallels with secular monarchs: Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands will continue to be styled “Queen Beatrix”, so why should not Benedict continue to be called “Pope Benedict”? The office-holder, of course, will be his successor, who will simply be “the Pope”.


3 Comments so far
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I completely agree with you on both points.

Comment by Paul

Or why not call him Josef Ratzinger? That is his name, after all.

Comment by Stephen

Up to a point. But if Maurice Micklewhite wants to be called Michael Caine, it is courteous to respect that. I am usually called by a name with which I was not actually baptised.

Comment by Fr Paul Spilsbury SSC

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