What Pope Benedict’s resignation means for the Church

By Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

Correspondent

February 12, 2013

BENEDICT-RESIGN; L'Osservatore Romano; 2/11/2013
L'Osservatore Romano, 2/11/2013

It was a totally unexpected news event and the ramifications took even a seasoned theologian like Dr. Mark Goodwin by surprise.

“I’ve been bombarded with phone calls,” admits the University of Dallas interim dean of the School of Ministry.

Popes embrace the pontificate till death. Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign from the papacy Feb. 28 threw a wrench into modern Church tradition. Pope Gregory XII resigned in 1415 to bring an end to the Great Western Schism, and the last pope before him to leave his post was Pope St. Celestine V in 1294, a contemplative, who preferred a solitary life and resigned after five months.

Papal resignation, an anomaly in the modern era, is producing a plethora of questions.

“What will we call a retired pope? I don’t know. I’m not a Canon lawyer but I’m sure they are rifling through documents to find out,” Goodwin speculates.

The theology expert says some analysts have suggested Pope Benedict’s retirement is a reply to his predecessor, John Paul II’s choice to suffer until the end of his papacy.

“I don’t agree with that,” he says asserting that John Paul II and Benedict are two very different popes. “Each had his own distinctive style and sense of vocation.”

John Paul II exemplified the dignity and value of suffering at the end of life. A scholar and prolific writer, Pope Benedict may reveal his personal mission in a book, Goodwin added.

“Announcing his resignation as we begin Lent is significant,” the profession continues. “The timing is interesting. There is a liturgical underpinning to this event. We’ll have to wait and see what happens at the end of 40 days.”

Marlon De La Torre, director of Catechist Formation and Children’s Catechesis in the Diocese of Fort Worth says Catholics are understandably saddened but should view the pope’s decision positively.

“We see the Holy Father’s prudence. Obviously he knows his health best and he sees the need to step down,” De La Torre explains. “He’s taking care of his Church and being a good father to his children. He’s preparing the Church for a new transition.”

Why the Holy Father chose to resign during the Year of Faith and before writing a document on the New Evangelization has led to some negative speculation, the director admits.

“This might be seen as bad timing but, ultimately, you can’t control that,” he says.

De La Torre also noted that while as prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, he submitted his resignation three times, and each time Blessed Pope John Paul II refused to accept it.

The secular media may also misperceive and misunderstand why the Holy Father would step down but there is provision in Canon Law allowing a pontiff to resign.

“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,” says the Code of Canon Law, Canon 332.2.

“So Pope Benedict is not doing something out of the ordinary. This has been done before,” De La Torre states. “What makes it significant is this is the first time it’s been done in quite a long time.”

BENEDICT-RESIGN; L'Osservatore Romano; 2/11/2013It was a totally unexpected news event and the ramifications took even a seasoned theologian like Dr. Mark Goodwin by surprise.

“I’ve been bombarded with phone calls,” admits the University of Dallas interim dean of the School of Ministry...

Published (until 12/31/2031)