First, let me reiterate that I'm always happy to receive respectful reader feedback, which this missive definitely was, and this did cause me to reflect and pray a bit more about what has been posted here over the last 72 hours or so.
It should be remembered that my response was a delayed response to begin with. Due to an illness and then having to write a couple articles, I've had some distance from this news story, especially when it first broke. It was only on Tuesday of this week that I finally got around to reading what was available in the form of criticism and analysis. In a way this was a good thing because I was able to see more of the forest.
What I found was that there is generally an overwhelming majority of analysts and pundits that seem giddy with excitement over the abdication. I immediately felt uncomfortable with this approach because the body of my own work over the last few months has been a careful perusal of the words and actions of Pope Benedict XVI over the last three years, and what I've found are extremely troublesome theological opinions proffered by the Holy Father accompanied by an uncritical reception by mainstream “conservative” Catholic analysts and journalists. My gut instinct told me from the first that this abdication was yet another troublesome element of a pontificate that is at best an enigma, and what I've seen so far indicates that "conservative" Catholics are once again accepting without question something that in nowise is good for the papacy or the Church, and this simply for no other reason than it comes from Benedict XVI who in their eyes can do no wrong.
It should be extremely evident that I'm completely opposed to this recent move by the Holy Father. I understand the reasons Benedict XVI gave for surrendering his office of Holy Roman Pontiff, and I couldn't disagree with him more. By his admission Benedict's intellectual faculties are fully intact, and according to the Vatican Press Corps, his health is "generally good". The only reports about the Holy Father's health that are floating around reveal that he is an old man. Geriatrics problems have never stopped men from fulfilling their office of pope in the past (neither did prison or exile, for that matter). So what are we to make of his excuse that he is not physically or mentally up to the task of governing the Church?
I draw three possible conclusions, which are probably not all mutually exclusive, and none are good.
First, Joseph Ratzinger is a quitter. The Holy Ghost sustains and guides not only the Church in general, but individuals in the exercise of their offices, provided they cooperate with the workings of the Holy Ghost. Ratzinger's abdication of the Throne, therefore, when his health is generally good and his mentally faculties intact, is an indication that he is no longer willing to cooperate. This may seem harsh, but it is the Biblical standard set forth in 2 Cor 7:3. The Apostles died in their service to the Church. This first conclusion, though, is the one with which I'm generally inclined to disagree, though it certainly can give that bad impression.
Second, the state of the Church is ungovernable for a man of Joseph Ratzinger’s age. This very well could be the truth, but it says nothing in favor of his pontificate, and in addition the previous pontificate, that allowed the peace of the Church, and the Vatican in particular, to be so upset that the current pontiff must do what no other has done before him. There is, I strongly think, a lot of traction to this conclusion, especially in light of the recent rumors regarding the “Report of the three Cardinals”, which supposedly reveals a “homo-lobby” in the Vatican that approaches the degree of blackmail. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and it’s rather difficult to ignore all the signs of cultural Marxism having made significant in-roads in the Church during the 20th century. Can there be any doubt that we are reaping the rotten and poisonous fruits of that satanic infiltration?
As an aside, in regards to the possible ungovernable nature of the Vatican and the Church Militant, in general, I've often been frustrated with Benedict’s various distractions over the course of this pontificate. Were the “Jesus of Nazareth” books so critical that they needed to be penned by the Holy Roman Pontiff in such a time of grave crisis? If the “conservative” Catholic pundits are justified in defending this abdication in light of the ungovernable nature of the Vatican, they have to admit that Benedict, himself, is largely responsible by failing to prioritize governance above what can at best be described as a theological past-time. Herein lays the explanation of the “Ars Orandi official position”. Should a church leader, surrounded on all sides by corruption, dissension and detraction, something that he, himself, termed “filth”, allow himself to be distracted by something as puerile as “tweeting”? It’s absolutely comical when seen in this light, and that is point of my sarcasm.
Third conclusion: the Holy Father is once again giving a nod of approval to Neo-Modernists such as Hans Küng who are calling for term limits on ecclesiastical offices as part of a radical “reform” of the Church toward a more democratic model. Roberto di Mattei touches on this in his reaction to theabdication. Three years ago I would have opposed such a conclusion as impossible for Joseph Ratzinger. However, my research into Ratzinger, and especially considering the last three years of his pontificate, have opened my eyes to the possibility Benedict XVI is still very much a disciple of his Neo-Modernist mentors and early colleagues. I think that this is a move intended, at least at some level, to diminish the monarchial nature of the papacy. This fits very well into the goals of the Revolution that sought from its commencement centuries ago to destroy hierarchy, nobility, and ultimately the image and likeness of God in man.
If, as I suspect, the second and third conclusions are valid and sound, then the horizon of the Church Militant’s future is one of ever increasing struggle. We have seen a growing number of, and growth within, traditional Catholic communities, and this in large measure is due to certain policies of the Ratzinger Papacy. However, two things need to born in mind. First, Benedict XVI isn't the first cause of this growth. Rather, it is the nature of the Church to vivaciously grow when it is authentic. This is the case with Catholic traditionalism where authentic Catholicism is flourishing. It must grow, and will grow, and this no matter if the current policies from Rome are positive or negative to that growth. The only thing that these policies affects is the rate of that growth. Second, the policies themselves must be examined, and even criticized, in relation to their intent. In this regard, few traditionalists seem willing to do so, perhaps because they fear biting the hand that feeds them. If that is the case, however, then I fear traditionalists won’t be prepared for the fight that lies ahead.
In closing, a quote from St. Robert Bellarmine:
Just as it is licit to resist the Pontiff who aggresses the body, it is also licit to resist the one who aggresses the souls or who disturbs civil order, or, above all, who attempts to destroy the Church. I say that it is licit to resist him by not doing what he orders and preventing his will from being executed; it is not licit, however, to judge, punish or depose him, since these are acts proper to a superior. (De Romano Pontifice, lib. 2, chap. 29, Opera omnia, Paris: Pedone Lauriel, 1871, vol. 1, p. 418)