Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the most sacred liturgies of the Catholic Church during Holy Week and remained stoically quiet as the Catholic Church was attacked by the secular media throughout the world regarding allegations of a cover-up of clergy sex abuses globally. While the Vicar of Christ celebrated the solemn liturgies that proclaim the mysteries of our Catholic faith, there were demands for the Pope’s resignation over the spreading scandal in the Church. While the possibility of a papal resignation exists, the likelihood is minuscule. However that has not stopped gamblers and bookmakers from offering odds in favor of a papal resignation. The online gambling site http://Paddypower.com last week was offering the odds of a papal resignation at 12/1, this week the odds have changed to a 3/1 bet.

While the possibility of resignation seems distant, there have been resignations of the papacy in the Church’s long history. Pope Benedict IX resigned in 1045, Pope Gregory VI in 1046 and Pope Celestine V in 1294. In order to solve the Great Western Schism and the convocation of the Council of Constance in 1414, Pope Gregory XII resigned along with the Avignon Pope Benedict XIII and the Anti-Pope John XXIII.

Canon law, the juridical collection of laws that govern the Church allows for the possibility of a papal resignation. The revised Code of Canon Law of 1983, Canon 332, section 2:

§ 2. Si contingat ut Romanus Pontifex muneri suo renuntiet, ad validitatem requiritur ut renuntiatio libere fiat et rite manifestetur, non vero ut a quopiam acceptetur.

§2. If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.

Despite the provisions made in Church Law, the last resignations made of a Pope were prior to the Council of Constance. In recent history, Popes have made contingency plans for their presumed resignations; the most recent were Pius XII during the Second World War, and John-Paul II in the later part of his papacy. Pius XII stipulated if he were captured by the Nazis, his resignation should be presumed by the College of Cardinals and they should make provisions to elect a new Pope. John-Paul II was said to have drawn up a resignation letter that was effective if he was unable to govern the Church due to physical infirmities. Despite his failing health and the affliction of Parkinson’s disease the directive was never implemented.

Despite the clamor of the global secular press for the Pope’s resignation, Pope Benedict remains quiet and continues to govern the Catholic Church. There are signs that the College of Cardinals and Archbishops and Bishops throughout the world are rallying around the Holy Father and voicing their support for Peter’s Successor. During Holy Week, influential Vatican Cardinals have publically made statements to support Benedict XVI, and the Vatican Press Office, back online after the Holy Week hiatus is coming to the Pope’s support.

The entire scandal in Benedict’s point of view is a period of purification and spiritual renewal for the Catholic Church. The Pope is optimistic that the Catholic Church will emerge stronger and holier after the scandal subsides and the Church continues to work towards a full disclosure of the details of the clergy sex scandal.

If indeed anyone were a betting person, they should stand with Peter for the best odds. While it indeed has been quite a few centuries since the last papal resignation, Benedict XVI is poised to lead the Church through the latest waves of the scandal that is spreading around the globe.

In reality, the years Pope Benedict XVI spent as the head of the Church’s doctrinal congregation, he has a keen and perceptive awareness of the difficulties plaguing the Catholic Church. Previously in other articles, this author has made reference to Benedict’s keen intellect as the best weapon against the sex scandals. Additionally, Benedict’s sweeping understanding of administrative policies and procedures within the Vatican Curia make him the most superlative individual to seek out, solve and destroy the afflictions in the Catholic Church through judicial processes and cooperation with civil authorities.

Pope Benedict XVI during his tenure at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was often called, The Panzer Cardinal & God’s Rottweiler. While these monikers were not the most complimentary to the former Cardinal Ratzinger, they conveyed a real sense of Joseph Ratzinger’s effectiveness and tenacity when solving doctrinal problems and applying solutions. Catholics throughout the world should expect the same attributes in Benedict’s handling of the clergy sex scandal in the coming days and months with the same effectiveness, with a more seasoned and paternal approach by the beleaguered Pope. Vatican observers can expect quick administrative changes to happen quickly as Pope Benedict delegates authority to the worlds Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops to effectively and pastorally settle these abuse issues once and for all.

Previously, Pope Benedict’s Pastoral Letter to the Catholic Church in Ireland offered a clue to the direction the Church is poised to take in dealing with the clergy sex abuse problem in that nation. Global Catholics should view this pastoral letter as the key directive in formulating the Church’s response to the problem globally and examine it closely for the Church’s spiritual and administrative path.

Finally, despite the polls taken by secular news agencies, Catholics everywhere need to rally around the Pope and his divinely instituted office. The ministry of the Bishop of Rome is emerging very strongly as a global conduit that addressed the needs of the oppressed all over the world. Benedict XVI and his curial administration are indeed undertaking perhaps the greatest reformation of the Catholic Church in its interactions with secular society since the initial Protestant Reformation. We need to continue to pray for the Pope’s success in effectively dealing with the Church’s human failures and shortcomings, while it continues its divine mission of offering hope and love to the global community.

The tasks of Pope Benedict XVI are reformation and renewal. The successful implementation of these tasks will take generations to implement. However, Pope Benedict XVI is indeed the one individual that can begin the acceptance  of the Church’s failures and facilitate the processes that will bring the Church to a new emergence of a Catholic springtime of faith.

Hugh J.McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist writing on Catholic topics and issues. He attended Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where he studied both philosophy and theology. He writes frequently at http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com & http://nothing-left-unsaid.blogspot.com . Hugh writes about his Irish Catholic upbringing and educational experiences at http://graysferrygrapevine.blogspot.com . He has contributed works to Catholic News Agency, Catholic Online, The Irish Catholic, Dublin, the British Broadcasting Company, London and the Philadelphia Bulletin, Catholic Exchange, Pewsitter.com, Blogger News Network & The Catholic Business Journal,CatholicMom.com. & Catholic.net Comments are always welcome at hjmn4566@gmail.com.


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