by Christopher A. Ferrara
April 13, 2017
Ever since Benedict XVI’s mysterious abdication from the papal throne — for which the faithful have received shifting and unsatisfactory explanations — we have heard again and again from Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, how “serene” and “peaceful” Benedict is concerning his unprecedented decision. So serene and peaceful, according to Gänswein, that he could not care less about the Bergoglian tumult that has divided the Church as she has never been divided before — concerning a matter of the moral law as basic as the Sixth Commandment.
As the redoubtable Edward Pentin reports, in an interview with La Repubblica — the umpteenth attempt to assure us that nothing at all was amiss with Benedict’s abdication — Gänswein reveals that Benedict “received a copy of Amoris Laetitia [AL] personally from Francis, in white and autographed” and that “He read it thoroughly, but he does not comment in any way on the content.”
No comment? That response could not be more telling. If the one and only “Pope Emeritus” in Church history — a novelty Benedict himself invented — will not defend the orthodoxy of AL, his unwillingness to do so cannot be seen as anything but an implicit recognition that its content, particularly the disastrous Chapter 8, is indefensible. Otherwise, why would the “Pope Emeritus” not simply declare that the teaching of his own successor is doctrinally sound? Answer: he will not declare it because he knows he cannot do so honestly.
Instead, just as Benedict retreated from the Chair of Peter so has he retreated from the chaos that followed in the wake of his abdication. As Pentin recounts, Gänswein “said the former pope is well aware of contrasts [!] made between him and Pope Francis, but does not let them provoke him, and has ‘no intention of entering controversies that feel far away from him.’”
Far away from him? But Benedict is living in what he himself called “the enclosure of Saint Peter” in his last General Audience on February 27, 2013, the day before his renunciation of “the ministry of the Bishop of Rome” became effective. So, according to Gänswein at least, Benedict has not only renounced the papacy but has also renounced any concern about the state of the Church under Francis! Instead, Gänswein is happy to report (as summarized by Pentin) that “the Pope Emeritus continues to watch the television news at 8pm, receives L’Osservatore Romano, and Avvenire, the Italian bishops’ newspaper, as well as Vatican press releases.”
So, if we are to believe Gänswein, Benedict is more interested in the evening news than in the ecclesial chaos Pope Bergoglio has provoked, which is “very far” from him, even though he lives in the Vatican as Bergoglio’s neighbor, whom Bergoglio trots out for public display on certain occasions.
Regarding that chaos, Gänswein will say only that “Certainly he [Benedict] is taking note of the discussion and the different forms in which it has been implemented.” Different forms? We now have a situation in which the reception of Holy Communion by people engaging in adulterous sexual relations they call “second marriages” is still considered a mortal sin in some dioceses, but is now characterized as “mercy” in others, thanks entirely to AL. But as Gänswein would have it, this disaster is “very far” from the Pope Emeritus, who nevertheless remains attentive to “the evening news at 8 pm.”
I’m not buying it. Something very fishy is going on with these repeated declarations of what Benedict thinks and feels while Benedict himself never speaks directly to the public. I detect the same fishy smell surrounding the whole event of Benedict’s abdication. Or rather, the smell of sulfur.
I believe we haven’t been told half the story of why we have a Pope Emeritus who abruptly abandoned his office only to be succeeded by a Pope for whom the term “Vicar of Christ” seems — let us be honest about this — spectacularly inapt. I suspect the full story is to be found in the Virgin’s explanation of the apocalyptic vision of the “Bishop dressed in White,” an explanation that surely exists and just as surely has been suppressed by those whose epochal malfeasance the Third Secret very probably indicts.