Benedict announces resignation and lightning strikes

On 11 February, the day Pope Benedict announced that he would resign, lightning struck St. Peter’s Basilica.

The photo from Agence France-Presse:

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  1. dmwallace says:

    “Benedicite fulgura et nubes Domino laudate et superexaltate eum in saecula” (Dan 3:73).

  2. Legisperitus says:

    I take it this doesn’t exactly happen every day?

  3. StJude says:

    beautiful in a spooky kinda way.

  4. Dr. Edward Peters says:


  5. acardnal says:

    May get a few pacemakers working in Vatican City so everyone is energized and fully charged for the Conclave. ;-)

  6. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    This is kind of a ridiculous occurrence.

  7. frjim4321 says:


    Thanks for the link!

  8. catholicmidwest says:


  9. acardnal says:

    frjim, AFP actually Tweeted it so it probably is legitimate and not fraudulent.

  10. frjim4321 says:

    thanks ac!

  11. dep says:

    It’s definitely a legitimate picture — others caught it from different angles.

    Oddly, there was terrible audio trouble with Raymond Arroyo’s show for the first half hour.

    The battle is joined, i fear.

  12. OrthodoxChick says:

    Yikes! I guess only Pope Benedict knows what that means.

  13. This can be interpreted positively– I see the symbolism of a jolt of the Holy Spirit setting the Church on fire as the new Pope’s reign approaches. It starts with the cardinals in the conclave. Maybe from there, it will spread throughout the Church as she fights some really big battles that lie ahead.

  14. It happened during the time of JPII while Patriarch Bartholomew was visiting during the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul: who was reported as saying: “I can hear now what the Monks of Mt. Athos are saying about that!”

  15. Stumbler but trying says:

    I love it! Let the fire fall, Lord Jesus!

  16. netokor says:

    “The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.'”

  17. Yes. Its a real photo and from today. I found a similar one and had already posted it to my Facebook page. No way to interpret this [though everyone will try].

    I’m tellin’ ya. SOMEthing is up. This is too weird. What’s next? Society in chaos, shootings, riots, wars [and rumors of wars]. Nature convulsing in floods, back and forth weather, earthquakes, tornadoes, magnetic disturbances, storms…
    Oh. Asteroid expected Friday don’t forget!

  18. Bea says:

    As symbolisms/omens go:
    Good or Bad?

    NOW the Holy Spirit will step in.


    NOW you will see the wrath of God.

  19. Prof. Basto says:

    I will use this opportunity to speak out.

    I know that everybody is saying “how wonderful this resignation is”, “how brave”, “how corageous”, “we gotta praise the wisdom of our Pope”, etc. I’m not a part of that chorus.

    “Thank you, Pope Benedict”, yes. He deserves thanks. For decades dedicated to the service of the Church. For a luminous pontificate. For Summorum Pontificum. For his speeches, his teachigs. But, boy, that abdication was one big of a mistake.

    I know, I know. You guys will rush to defend the act, and will say, “that’s the Pope’s sovereign decision”, “only Him, in His supreme authority, could decide what was best”, “we must respect the decision to abdicate, however unusual”, etc. And there is some truth in that line of argument.

    Indeed the Pope has no judge but God. Indeed from a purely juridical standpoint, he can always resign. Indeed, in the cold letter of Canon Law, the decision rests only on his free and sovereign will. But that does not make this abdication justifyed.

    And forgive me, but the “declining strength” reason stated, I don’t think it is a good enough reason to relinquish the office of Vicar of Jesus Christ on Earth. What about the confidence that the Lord would provide the means whereby the work could get done? Doesn’t the Lord that gives the task also bestows His Vicar on Earth with the means of fulfilling that task?

    What about us, the simple Catholics, the lay faithful and also the simple priests, who are spiritual sons of the Holy Father? We, who are not even mentioned in the Abdication Declaration? Our Holy Father is not dead, and yet he decides to abandon his mystical marriage to the Church of Rome. He dissolves that bond. He was to the simple Catholic folk a spiritual Father, and now will abandon that role. No longer the universal Father, but not dead.

    This abdication is something that is somehow at odds with the Divine Constitution of the Church. I don’t mean to say that the abdication is not valid. I just mean to say that the principle of leaving the Petrine Ministry because you are ill, of quitting the Chair of Peter due to physical difficulties, or lack of forces, is something foreign to the Monarchical nature of the Church. To such an extent that in an impressive line of more than a quarter of a thousand Popes, only a handful of them resigned, and a few not willingly.

    Why? Because, as the impressive succession of Popes that served for live demonstrates, The Papacy Is A Job For Life. It is desired by the Lord as a job for life. Otherwise, the Lord would have established that Peter would serve a term of years, and then be replaced by John, etc. But no, Peter served unto death, setting the example for his successors.

    Now, we now that there are those in the Church, the Thomas Reeses and others of her liberal wing, who are now singing the praises of the boldness of this present abdication, the first since Gregory XII’s in 1415, almost 600 years ago. Gregory’s abdication was more justified than Benedict’s, though. He abdicated to heal a terrible, grave and long schism, that was tearing Christiandom apart. Compared with that, Benedict’s abdications seems more and more like a “grand refusal”.

    And why are the liberals singing the praises of this abdication? Just because Benedict is a conservative and now he will be gone? No. They are exited because this resignation may set a precedent. And after two or three popes abdicate, soon a Pope will change Canon Law, and either Popes will serve a defined term of years, or Popes, will have a fixed retirement age. Popes emeriti will become as common as the novelty of Bishops emeriti.

    A line of the serving and of the living former Popes, all Vicars of Christ for the duration of their respective mandates.

    And when that happens, subtly, the Divine Constitution of the Church will have changed, if not in the letter of the law, at least in its practical functioning. Instead of Popes elected to serve as Sovereigns for life, the “Sovereign Pontiff”, the Church will elect Popes to preside over the Church for a term of years, perhaps a term of years of a duration already known at the very moment of the beggining of a new Pontificate.

    Christ is King and his Dominion is called a Kingdom of Heaven, and we hail him as King of the Universe, but the Church will be like a republic with a president, the role of Peter, the role of the Rock, shifting among several living men according to a juridical formula, in a succession of living Popes totally foreign to the history of the Church.

    If we are real traditionalists, if we posit that the Divine Constitution of the Church cannot change, then such essential things as the Papacy must remain now as they were yesterday and always. With Popes, except for very very much exceptional reason (and the reason given in this present case is nothing exceptional), serving in the Petrine Office until the end of their lives.

    So I think I see this thunder as the thunder of the fury of the Lord over the refusal perpetrated by his servant, who, in his freedom, chose to relinquish his investiture before the time appointed by the Lord.

  20. netokor says:

    No matter what happens, we know the gates of hell will not prevail. And everything that God allows to happen is ultimately for good.

  21. kallman says:

    B16 never did say the Tridentine Mass publicly as Pope in the end

  22. TNCath says:

    All I can say is this: I’m certainly happy the Lord knows what He is doing.

  23. catholicmidwest says:

    Oh Prof Basto,

    Everything that happens sends those progressives into an orgy of precedent-spouting prognostication. They’re stodgier about their one-off “traditions” than the traditionalists ever thought of being. Sticks in the mud they are. But the great majority of their most clearly trumpeted “victories” come to naught simply because these things are their own fantasies, and no one else’s.

    There’s a principle in statistics called Pareto’s Principle that says that 80% of the defects are caused by 20% of the causes. The people that give the Church the most problem are very few in number. The rest of the waywards sorts are just confused, uneducated and misled.

  24. Bea says:

    Prof Basto
    I am with you in that thinking too.

    [8] For which thing thrice I besought the Lord, that it might depart from me. [9] And he said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee; for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. [10] For which cause I please myself in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ. For when I am weak, then am I powerful. 2Corinthians 12:8-10

    In his weakness was God’s strength. Abdication was not the answer.

  25. I sympathize with Prof. Basto’s views. I am sad that Pope Benedict has decided not to die in harness. But whatever is said in public, there may in fact be extraordinary reasons prompting him to take this extraordinary step. I think this Pope sees further and deeper than most. Perhaps he is doing this to avert or at least ameliorate some great evil of which we are as yet unaware.

  26. robtbrown says:

    Prof. Basto says:
    I know that everybody is saying “how wonderful this resignation is”, “how brave”, “how corageous”, “we gotta praise the wisdom of our Pope”, etc. I’m not a part of that chorus.

    Nor am I.

    No one in my lifetime has done so much for the Church. His contribution as Prefect of the SCDF was staggering–documents on every important topic. And the catechism was his. He also led the charge in speaking out about the present liturgical disaster and was the first member of the hierarchy to say the Vat II documents didn’t fall down from heaven.

    Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum Coetibus mark major changes in the direction of the Church.

    In fact, I wonder whether his almost unimaginable output is the source of his resignation. Perhaps he cannot see himself as incapacitated.

    Papal incapacitation, however, is Providential. When very little is being done, it serves to highlight the problems of the Church for the next conclave.

  27. Helier says:

    “This can be interpreted positively–”

    Ah, Yes, that would have been the distinctive viewpoint of the grounded rod atop St. Peter’s as the negatively charged cloud moved into position above…

    Sorry – couldn’t help myself (it’s not meant as a rebuttal or interpretation per se, just trying to add a little levity to help with this unsettling development today.)

  28. robtbrown says:

    One other point: BXVI saw first hand what happened when JPII was incapacitated. Decisions were made by Ratzinger, Ruini, Sodano, and Dziwisz.

  29. Michelle F says:

    Prof. Basto,

    I also agree with you. I find it ironic that the Holy Father just preached on Sunday the 10th about relying on the strength provided by God when we are not up to the task He has set before us – and the Holy Father gave that sermon in the context of vocations. (The article is somewhere on EWTN’s news headlines page.)

    I realize that what the Holy Father does and goes through every day is difficult. He is the target of the world’s wrath 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    Even so, the fact that he is giving up – surrendering – seems a bit cowardly to me. He is not setting a good example of perseverance. I think the Lord would have been happier with him had he cut back his schedule, quit taking things personally, and relied on the grace which I’m certain the Lord would have provided to him to keep going to the end.

    Personally, I’m going to add to my prayers the request that the Lord forgive Pope Benedict for running away because I’m fairly convinced that he is committing a big sin here. [? For your next examination of conscience, reflect on “rash judgment”.]

    And thank you, Prof. Basto, for having the courage to post your thoughts, and give the rest of us some courage.

  30. Gaetano says:

    Robtbrown may be on to something. Perhaps in light of the recent VatiLeaks scandal Pope Benedict doesn’t trust his lieutenants to runs things in his infirmity.

  31. Michelle F says: …I’m fairly convinced that he is committing a big sin here.

    Well, we don’t know this. We don’t know the whole story. Plus, I find it hard to believe that the Pope did not pray a great deal about this before making his final decision.

  32. benedictgal says:

    Prof Basto:

    How dare you levy such vile criticism on Pope Benedict? You nor I are in any position to act as judge and jury.

    I am sad and I initially reacted selfishly, feeling betrayed that he left me and the Church. Yes. This decision does hurt; however, this decision was probably made after lots of prayer.

    The Petrine office carries with immense weight, especially in this day and age. One cannot give what he no longer has. The spirit and mind are willing, but the body can only take so much.

    I love the Holy Father. He took each one of us into his heart. Whatever decision he made was made with us in mind. He wanted to ensure that we had a spiritual father who could tend and feed us. Do you not think this was painful for him, just as it is wrenching for those of us who love him?

    Benedict or Joseph, whoever he will be on march 1st, will forever have a place in my heart.

  33. Gaetano says: Robtbrown may be on to something. Perhaps in light of the recent VatiLeaks scandal Pope Benedict doesn’t trust his lieutenants to runs things in his infirmity.

    I am thinking this too.

  34. Nan says:

    The Lord moves in mysterious ways. We have nothing to worry about. Although this resignation makes no sense to us, there’s a reason for it.

  35. NBW says:

    Thank you for the photo Fr.Z. It is cool and frightening at the same time. We can speculate all we want, but God is in control of the whole situation; as He is showing us in the photo.

  36. I am trying not to expend too much energy speculating on the reasons, and pros and cons for the resignation. Instead, I am hoping and praying that Pope Benedict’s successor will push even further in promoting and restoring the incomparable heritage of the traditional Mass. :)

  37. GodsGadfly says:

    As I keep noting around the net, lightning did *not* strike the Vatican.

    Lightning goes up not down.
    Therefore, lightning struck *from* the Vatican, and I think that’s highly symbolic.

  38. Gratias says:

    Dear Prof. Basto @9:30 pm: Verbum sapientae = wise words.

  39. OrthodoxChick says:

    Add to that the fact that his own butler seems to have betrayed him. Someone must have put the butler up to that. We know that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Catholic Church, but the Lord never said that the Enemy would stop trying to prevail. We have no idea about the depth of the evil that may be in the Church, trying to seize control at the highest levels. The Pope knows this all too well though and he is a wise and holy man. Perhaps when he referenced his declining strength, he also had in mind the enormous amount of strength needed to fight those who are cooperating with evil (knowingly and/or under the guise of “good intentions”) at the highest levels in the Vatican. Perhaps the Holy Father knows his own limits and after having consulted with the Holy Spirit in prayer, has decided that a pre-emptive strike before he becomes more infirmed and physically and mentally vulnerable, is the best way to protect the Church and his flock from another challenge on the inside by the Enemy.

    I’m speculating, I know. That’s all that any of us are doing since none of us is in the know. But I trust Pope Benedict to not take the coward’s path. He’s no coward. On last night’s World Over program on EWTN, Raymond Arroyo showed excerpts of a past interview with the Holy Father before he became Pope. Then Cardinal Ratzinger said he wanted to retire in the 1990’s, but he saw JPII working and Cardinal Ratzinger said something to the effect of, “How can I retire when he was not?” I think he feels the same way now. He knows that one is Pope until death unless there is a gravely serious reason otherwise. He would have stuck it out until death now just as he stuck it out when Blessed John Paul II asked him too. Pope Benedict is no coward. I can only assume that he knows some things that we do not. And we’re probably better off not knowing.

    I choose to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit and The Holy Father’s good sense to consult the Holy Spirit before doing something that has not been done in 600 years, knowing the impact this will have, and knowing the impact of doing nothing while continuing to grow weaker.

  40. acardnal says:

    Seems what I said facetiously at 6:57 pm was not too far off. The Pope has a pacemaker!

  41. robtbrown says:

    Gaetano says:
    Robtbrown may be on to something. Perhaps in light of the recent VatiLeaks scandal Pope Benedict doesn’t trust his lieutenants to runs things in his infirmity.

    I doubt the leaks had anything to do with it. When he was Prefect of the SCDF, someone broke into his office rifled through his files.

    When a pope is incapacitated, nothing gets done. The decisions that I referred to were as minimal as possible.

  42. robtbrown says:

    Michelle F says,

    Personally, I’m going to add to my prayers the request that the Lord forgive Pope Benedict for running away because I’m fairly convinced that he is committing a big sin here.

    Perhaps the above comment gives us insight into why Christ didn’t give the Church the faculty to ordain women.

  43. Darren says:

    I agree with the reaction of benedictgal to ProfBasto. Perhaps, it was the Holy Ghost telling him to do this. Do not question the decision of our Holy Father. He did not just suddenly decide to do this.

    I do my best to not criticize or condemn the actions of any priest or bishop – even when they have done some terrible things (which our Holy Father HAS NOT). Sometimes it is very hard, and sometimes I fail… …but do not criticize the pope publicly in a forum like this, but express these thoughts privately with those close to you in your life if you are really concerned. Even, talk to your priest.

    I am constantly reminded of the following words of the Cure of Ars:
    Detraction may easily become a mortal sin, and certainly is a mortal sin in important matters, where grave results are the consequence. St. Paul numbers it among those sins which close heaven against us. The Holy Ghost says the detractor is cursed by God, that he is an abomination before God and men. Detraction is great or small according to circumstances, or to the dignity of the person spoken of. It is a greater sin to make known the defects and faults of our superiors, our parents, of husband or wife, brothers, sisters, are relations, than those of strangers, because we should have more charity for our friends than for others. To speak badly of persons consecrated to God, of the servants of the church, is a much greater sin on account of the lamentable results to religion and of the detriment to their position. The Holy Ghost speaking by the mouth of the prophet says: “To abuse and revile His (the Holy Ghost’s) servants is to touch the apple of His eye”; that means, nothing can offend Him more. This sin consequently is a crime, the enormity of which surpasses all comprehension. Christ also said: “Whosoever despises you, despises me.”

    I am not accusing Prof Basto – or anyone else here – of detraction. That is not for me judge. I just ask that you please not be so critical of our Holy Father. I expect a lot more charity here than I am seeing from some.

  44. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Perhaps the above comment gives us insight into why Christ didn’t give the Church the faculty to ordain women.”

    That comment is a low blow. I’m sure a man could have made just the same statement.

    The Chicken

  45. chcrix says:

    Based on the thoughtfulness of his writings, I can’t think of an individual who I would trust more than Benedict XVI in making such a decision.
    I would trust him not to stay on too long.
    I would trust him not to bail too early.
    I don’t think that any man has fewer illusions about himself or the world. Carefully considered, this is probably the best decision that anyone could make under the circumstances.

  46. Imrahil says:

    While the thoughts of Prof. Basto were interesting to read, etc., I do not want to comment on the matter but do say one thing: To all outward appearance (i. e. to all we can say if we can say anything at all), the Pope committed no sin at all in his resignation. While the objective quality of the decision may be questioned (does not mean that I question it, if you get my drift), canon law allows him to act like this, and you can be quite sure the Pope thought and prayed a lot to see whether his reasons for resigning were immoral.

    Dear @netokor, that reminds me of a radio-news headline (they always give the headlines first, then ring a bell or so, and then give the more detailed infos) we heard in 2005– excuse the German —
    “Kardinal Ratzinger zu Papst Benedikt XVI. gewählt. Teufel zurückgetreten.”
    (Cardinal Ratzinger elected Pope Benedict XVI. Teufel, lit. Devil, resigned. Erwin Teufel was governor of Baden-Württemberg.)

  47. The Masked Chicken says:

    Just a little comment from God. Imagine how the Isrealites on Mt. Sinai must have felt.

    The Chicken

  48. LisaP. says:

    1. Beautiful picture. However, I’m sure there is a hefty lightening rod on that point, and my understanding is that large, tall buildings with lightening rods are struck all the time. We were just looking this time. Which, of course, can be taken symbolically, too.

    2. Again, generalizations vs. specifics. As a generalization, I think a pope should stick it out to the end and trust God to give him the strength to do what he must, like we all do. John Paul II’s infirmity was, possibly, the greatest thing about him; his continuing presence as one of the most powerful and important men to the secular world despite his great illness was a sign in a culture that looks away from its old and ill in shame. He refused to be looked away from. It was amazing.

    However, I can think of specific circumstances where Benedict would not be able to follow that path. An example (and I hesitate to sound speculative since it’s distasteful, but I will because it’s worth considering) would be a diagnosis of some form of dementia. Certainly, anyone here could sympathize with a circumstance where the Pope was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and foresaw a very medieval situation where the untrustworthy around him might attempt to speak in his name when he was unable to deny them but seemed healthy enough the world would believe he was speaking himself. Certainly you could have faith that God would “sort it out” and the true Faith would endure, but also figure the sorting and the enduring would be tragic. You could consider that John Paul II was the Pope that modeled remaining though suffering; and you were the Pope that modeled sacrifice. After all, while popes are not supposed to get big headed about things, surely giving up what is arguably the most impressive title on earth to those of many religions and even the secular is quite a feat.

    I don’t think the above scenario is probably the case. But it’s a scenario in which resignation might be potentially the right thing to do in any of our eyes — potentially. Certainly, an understandable decision made trying to follow the will of God. So there are likely many, many specific situations that are equally understandable. We may never know what Pope Benedict’s decision came from, so at the very least I think we can’t speculate on whether he did the right or wrong thing. Seems to me.

  49. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear OrthodoxChick,

    I completely agree with you, thank you for your comment!

    I feel like crying, I didn’t realize until Yesterday how dear the Holy Father is to me.

  50. nanetteclaret says:

    Prof. Basto –

    I generally agree with what you are saying, but with one exception: what if the Holy Father is really ill with some sort of progressive dementia? In that case, it seems to me that he should resign, knowing that he would soon be in a position to be unable to lead or make decisions. I think this is the one scenario which would very much justify his resigning, especially if he did not trust others to make the correct decisions or, even worse, make really bad policies and then pass them off as his. I can’t fathom the damage that could be done in that scenario. If the wolves are within the sheepfold – as well as outside – and the shepherd is incapacitated, then he is wise to ask for another, more able shepherd to protect the flock. Our Holy Father is thinking of us poor sheep and is not abandoning us to the wolves. He is asking Our Lord to provide another shepherd who can protect us and lead us.

  51. chantgirl says:

    We’re throwing stones when we should be praying and fasting for the college of Cardinals. I too, was saddened and shocked by the resignation, but it does no good to assume the worst of the Holy Father and throw around accusations of cowardice. We have persecution of the Church on the horizon in some places, and in some places it has already arrived. We’re bickering while the barbarians are at the gate. Time to shut up and pray!

  52. An American Mother says:

    You are correct. In part of my misspent youth I was an arson investigator, and of course you have to learn all about lightning strikes so that you can tell the difference and not prosecute some poor innocent soul.
    To put it simply, the lightning rod is intended to “attract” a strike and discharge it harmlessly to ground (it sends up a “streamer” of charged particles to meet the lightning, sometimes you can see that develop visibly right before the actual strike). It’s connected to a series of straps or wires to a good ground, and it provides an inviting path for the charges to equalize – and it may do so without much fanfare if there’s not a huge inequality. When it’s on top of something as tall and isolated as the dome of St. Peter’s, you can count on multiple discharges during a storm, some of which will be spectacular.
    Speculation about the meaning of this particular discharge of electrons is as pointless as speculation about the Holy Father’s reasons for resigning. But it’s worth noting that it did no damage (even a lightning rod system is not a guarantee that lightning won’t choose its own path to ground and tear things up along the way).
    Either you trust BXVI, or you don’t. But folks, quit calling this a sin and bad-mouthing him, that’s pretty low (I won’t call it a sin, or I’d be risking engaging in detraction too).

  53. LisaP. says:

    An American Mother —
    You were *what*?! O.k., at the risk of looking like a complete sycophant (that’s a sin, right?) I so want to be you when I grow up. I think I’m older than you, but still. . . .

  54. mcharris1 says:

    I cannot begin to imagine the weight the Pope must carry from day to day. He is, after all, personally responsible for the entire Church Militant. I initially felt hurt and wondered if this was a sinful act. I’ve seen commentators speak about how, after watching JPII suffer so long as his faculties failed, he (B16) is doing the right thing in not making the Church suffer with him as he ages. To me, JPII showed us how to give it all to God, even when you have little left to give. This could not have been a stronger statement to today’s society.

    After a whole day of considering this, I kept remembering that God is in charge of this. There are so many conspiracy theories and prophesies swirling around – the next pope will be the antichrist is the first one I received yesterday morning, St. Malachi mixed with Pope Pius X next, and finally Malachi and antichrist mixed together. The one thing we do know is that the Church is facing persecution world-wide and perhaps God’s will is that our Pope be an even stronger leader than Benedict can be in his advanced age. Bottom line is that God is in charge and His will be done.
    One thing is for sure, WE MUST PRAY for both our current Pope as well as his successor (Cardinal Burke!?).

  55. Prof Basto, thanks for saying what many won’t.
    Generally, a lightning strike is viewed as a sign of God’s displeasure.

    Judge what actions we see. For most of us, interpreting the appropriateness of the Pope’s abdication is way above our pay-grade. All we know is that abdication is rare, hasn’t been taken for 600 years, and is for extreme cases. There is no way anybody can judge the Pope’s interior intention, understand the real environment or the forces that may have brought him to this – whether its conspiratorial forces or truly his health or any other influences.

    Little today is as we see it – bad is good, good is bad. Evil transforms itself to appear as light. There is much more going on than we can imagine. Though I agree, it appears that the Pope could be running from the wolves, it is not a good idea to judge the Pope’s action as a ‘sin’ when none of us have anywhere near the complete information to make such a judgement.

    Although many are accused of loving conspiracy theories, many Popes have repeatedly and vehemently in great detail warned us about troubles to come. An example “…you must labor and diligently take care that the faith may be preserved amidst this great conspiracy of impious men who attempt to tear it down and destroy it.” -Mirari Vos, Encyclical of Pope Gregory XVI, August 15, 1832. And of course the ‘zillions’ of warnings of the takeover by secret societies – I am stunned by the plethora of documentation full of detailed warnings written by Popes. Equally stunning is the hierarchy’s veritable silence on the true nature of Church’s crises today while we suffer those very things described in the past.

    In short, while we must not pretend our much-loved Pope Benedict XVI is perfect, it is impossible to judge the true nature of his abdication. There is simply too much we don’t know.

    I love and pray for Pope Benedict – I hope he knows.

  56. pmullane says:

    I think mabye just now is not the best time to be commenting on the Holy Fathers motives for making his decision, when the emotions of shock and disappointment at the decision are still raw, as well as the fear of the unknown. Mabye it would be best to pause before passing further comment. It is the case, however, that there can be good reasons for good and Holy Men (St Celestine V) to abdicate the papacy before death. This is NOT a sin against the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Just as, against his will, Joseph Ratzinger chose to follow the Lord and take the shoes of the Fisherman at the 2005 Conclave, now he will follow the Holy Spirit by standing down. Nobody in the world knows the Papacy like Benedict, and nobody can be trusted to do what is right over and above what is popular, or indeed what is easy. the Holy Spirit entrusted to him the keys of the Kingdom of God, and if the Holy Spirit is now asking him to pass the keys to another, then his will be done.

    Thank you Holy Father.

  57. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    I have the privilege to know a very holy priest who taught at the Angelicum for many years. He was a friend to Mother Teresa, a spiritual director to many priests (even a Cardinal these days). My priest friend assisted Cardinal Ratzinger at Mass, just the two of them, in a small chapel. Years ago he told me our present Pope is a mystic. He insisted on the mystic part — he had never had mystical experiences himself, but said serving with the Cardinal he felt that. I wonder if Benedict, seeing the ‘big picture,’ has offered himself as a victim soul. He will retire to a monastic life. He will offer himself up for the Church. He will retreat into great silence. I suspect he will continue the battle he has fought as pope, only on a different plane.

  58. netokor says:

    Dear Imrahil, that’s a really funny anecdote. Thank you for sharing it. For what it’s worth I agree with all who say our dear Benedict XVI is no coward and that he is a special priest of God, as Mass. Catholic suggests. I am reminded of Charles I of Spain, who was also Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. His life was defined by his war against the French, the Turks and the Protestants. He was a warrior who never feared harm or death. But after so many years of travels and battle, sickness and exhaustion forced him to confront reality. He decided to abdicate so that a stronger and younger man could continue fighting. That is an act of humility and courage. We are indeed living in strange times and the battle is changing. I will always love and admire Benedict and pray for him. I know that Benedict loves us and will continue to pray for us and our Holy Mother the Church til the end of his days.

  59. poohbear says:

    With sheep like some of those here, the church doesn’t need any wolves. I am shocked at the accusations posted here. Who are any of us to accuse anyone of sin?

    If the Holy Father feels that this decision is best for the Church then our job is to support him and the Church and the new Pope. We are not privy to his personal health records or his prayer history. Do any of us know how difficult of a decision this must have been for him? Should we assume it was made lightly? I think we need to give him the benefit of the doubt and pray for him and ourselves instead of bashing him.

  60. catholicmidwest says:

    Robtbrown, you said, “One other point: BXVI saw first hand what happened when JPII was incapacitated. Decisions were made by Ratzinger, Ruini, Sodano, and Dziwisz.”

    Agreed. And I suspect there are some things about that we didn’t want to know then, and don’t want to know now. I think the church had a larger interregnum in 2004-5 than anyone wants to admit. Pope John Paul II was very, very sick for a very, very long time. He had Parkinson’s disease for years. The world is not going to stop while we have a piety party, and it’s not reasonable to expect it to. The way the world is going right now, we will not get as lucky as we were during PJPII’s sickness twice, and Pope Benedict XVI probably knows that.

    I am sad; I am a bit nervous, but not overly much. God will take it from here and we can count on that. I love this gentle wise man, Pope Benedict XVI, and wish him the best. I know he will be praying for us, and I, and many others, will be praying for him.

  61. catholicmidwest says:

    RE lightning goes up, not down.
    Partially right. Lightning happens when there’s an imbalance of static electrical charge between one place and another place. The charge is transmitted from the one place to the other to create a lower charge difference between the two places, and that’s what you see and hear.
    Lightning can occur between any 2 places that have a large enough charge difference. If you’ve ever flown in an airplane you may have seen lightning from cloud to cloud, which can also happen.

  62. catholicmidwest says:

    And actually, lightning strikes are generally seen in the popular culture as signs of God’s displeasure, as Tina says, and this is sometimes seen in Scripture too, but as only one of two ways it appears. In Scripture, lightning is also used a sign of God’s power and omnipotence over all other forces, which in the ancient world were worshipped as gods. In this sense, for the ancient Hebrews, lightning was understood to be a reminder of God’s power and providence. You can find it used this way in Job (38:24) and many times in the Psalms.

  63. kat says:

    I do not know the truth of this, but I heard on talk radio last night that whereas Americans are more accepting of the reason given, people in Italy and elsewhere are asking “what is the real reason?” People may scoff, and perhaps there is no other reason…but what if the Church’s enemies somehow caused it? Not saying I think that. Don’t know what to think , so won’t; will just pray. But even nonCatholics are seeing something odd about an occurrence that has not happened in six centuries. This is a big event. And I too am afraid it may lead the modern world to pressure future popes to resign.

  64. LisaP. says:

    What I like least about what may come in the days ahead is that the Pope may be praised for not wanting to drag the Church down with him in his infirmity — that’s the exact argument I get from folks who want to not “burden” their kids in their old age. It’s the argument that the old and infirm are of less value, and we know where that leads.

    Rather it be about Pope Benedict simply feeling too weak to take one more step than about him wanting to save us from having to walk with him. I really don’t think it’s about seeing John Paul II ill and feeling it hurt the Church, John Paul II’s illness brought greatness to his papacy and taught the world the meaning of suffering, no treatise or meeting with cardinals could ever have done as much as that.

  65. Imrahil says:

    Dear @kat,

    indeed while it is the plain truth that the Pope’s fitness, at such exceptional heights (for a then 78-year-old) when he entered office, has visibly declined and the Pope, may God bless him, is an old man now (I saw him on television),

    it is just a fact that “health reasons” are, just by the way they are spoken of, among the things classical moral theology (of the non-rigorist sort) classifies as non-statements (not obliging to be Confessed as lies if literally incorrect) much the same as “the boss is not present” when said by a secretary at a telephone.

    Besides, the Holy Father himself said that his declining physical and mental strength disqualified him for (no literal quote) “executing the office of Pope in the way the present times require it“. What is it that make the present times require a so strengthful Pope that an old man with a pacemaker, in honest self-assessment, sees himself incapable to this?

  66. LisaP. says:

    “it is just a fact that “health reasons” are, just by the way they are spoken of, among the things classical moral theology (of the non-rigorist sort) classifies as non-statements”

    Good point.

    It’s harder to imagine another reason that would be a valid one, but of course my lack of imagination doesn’t tell us anything about the Holy Father’s decision.

  67. AngelGuarded says:

    I find it interesting that some use the word “abdicate” instead of “resign.” I do not believe the words are interchangeable but am sure someone smarter than I will explain if they are. I heard a “news” reader use that term yesterday and I laughed out loud. I thought it was overly dramatic and was meant to be pejorative. I hope that is not the reason some post-ers here used it as well. I am a humble sinner who tries to faithfully follow my Lord’s commandments and my Church’s dogma. The Pope knows more than I do. The Pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth. I trust, admire, respect, and love Pope Benedict. I do not judge his decision – I leave that to Jesus Christ Who will judge the living and the dead. Personally I am sad to see him leave but am eagerly looking forward to him whom God has chosen to lead the Church Militant into the future. I am sad that some of my fellow Roman Catholics are wringing their hands and mumbling negatively and suspiciosly. I am praying for all. Even if something I read offended me, I hold no grudge. I forgive all. May God bless our beloved Pope Benedict XVI now and forever and may God continue to watch over His Church and keep us close to His Sacred Heart in the Glory of God the Father and in the Widsom of the Holy Spirit. Thank you Fr Z for this forum.

  68. Jamin says:

    I too heard the media use Abdicate, and I was trying to figure out why they were using it. According to Canon Law it is a resignation (as I read it) and the Pope’s text does not refer to abdication. My best guess was someone hear the term Vacated as in On February 28 at 20:00 the Chair of Peter will be vacated, and changed that in their mind to abdicated. MSNBC was determined that this was abdication instead of resignation.

  69. chantgirl says:

    Well, noting the link to Lourdes in the Pope’s timing of resignation, I also note that Cardinal Burke will be meeting a group of pilgrims to say Mass at Lourdes early next month.

    Sorry, I couldn’t help indulging in a little coincidencery. I know my vote doesn’t count, but a girl can dream of the first American Pope, and one from St. Louis at that.

  70. MichaelJ says:

    While perhaps not a definitive source, according to Merriam-Webster, “Abdicate” seems to be the correct term to use. It means “to renounce a throne, high office, dignity, or function” and “to relinquish (as sovereign power) formally”. “Resign” is a synonym, but does not, in my mind, convey the fact that it is a Sovereign power that is being relinquished.

  71. catholicmidwest says:

    God is in charge and he will do as he wishes, of course, but personally I can’t think of anything more torturous and awful than having an American pope, any American pope. Our commonsense framework in the US is not up to it. Lord, please spare us this.

  72. boxerpaws1952 says:

    I was as shocked (and saddened)as anyone else .No matter what we think or say that’s where we are all at-i heard special announcement at the end of OLAM Dailiy Mass and turned to husband to say.He is going to announce the canonization of his predecessor John Paul. II. A guess. None of us had any idea a resignation was coming. In my last blog entry titled the Bucket List seeing Pope Benedict in the United States on his next papal visit was my no 1 hope. Only written a few days prior. Now it’s difficult to take all this in -sure everyone is struggling. I knew there would be commentary both supportive and detrimental. We also know the media is going to spend WEEKS speculating on who the next pope will be and what they think he should be(except for EWTN..thank God!)
    Then i started thinking back to Blessed John Paul II and his time of illness. He was so incapacitated he could hardly function or so it seemed. There were corners in the Church saying perhaps he should consider resigning. There were other corners in the Church wondering if the Church should not have a procedure in place for future popes who might become incapacitated. This went on for months. He stayed on until he breathed his last.
    Pope Benedict appeared very frail to me during the Armor of Light celebration with consecrated religious .I mentioned the concern to my husband saying that we may live long enough to see the election of another pope. Not because he resigned;but passed on. Now there are corners of the Church questioning his resignation.
    Maybe the difference is that John Paul II had a long pontificate ? Another difference we might want to take into consideration is that John Paul II was one of the youngest(if not THE youngest)to become Pope-and Cardinal Ratzinger was already what we consider elderly when he was elected. What struck me most though is remembering how ppl conjectured that perhaps John Paul should have resigned and now people are questioning the character of Pope Benedict because he IS.

  73. LaudemGloriae says:

    Prof. Basto, thank you for voicing the concerns in my heart so eloquently.

  74. MAJ Tony says:

    I find it remarkable that a Catholic would question the Pope, especially the Pope that gave us Summorum pontificum and Anglicanorum coetibus from his own authority.

  75. Helena Augusta says:

    robtbrown makes a good point. Pope Benedict was one of the decision makers during John Paul II’s long decline and I am sure that experience affected his choice. Hey may also have in mind that with advances in medical care, a contemporary Pontiff may remain alive but hopelessly incapacitated for many years to come. No matter how trustworthy and collegial one’s lieutenants, that is not a good leadership situation for the long term. He may wish to set a modern-day example for leaving in timely fashion when the duties of the office become too much.

  76. boxerpaws1952 says:

    Now that i’ve had a little time to take in all the comments and concerns one of the concerns most often mentioned and with good reason is Pope Benedict’s Encyclical on Faith. Unfinished. A great work to be sure and one we need. I began thinking what is it the Church needs most at the time of this shocking/sad news? FAITH.
    God teaches us in ways we may not expect. Then i asked myself;how should we treat Pope Benedict at this time especially? We call him Holy Father. I thought to myself how would we treat our father? if he were aging? Most of us know and some have had this experience.
    We are sad-let’s support one another :)

  77. I am shocked and saddened that some on here not only are questioning the judgement of the Holy Father in this situation – one of which we have practically no knowledge – but going so far as to even MENTION the idea that this may or may not be sinful! As if the commenters are the ones who should presume to be be the arbiter of such things.

    Medical technology has changed so drastically over the past three generations that people now have the ability to live long after their ability to function on a high (or even moderate) level physically or mentally. The Holy Father, and definitely his predecessor, would in all likelyhood have passed away long since were they living in the 11th century and not the 21st. The phenomenon of an elderly diseased and for all practical purposes non-functional leader is generally a new phenomenon, and it is not unreasonable to see that the practice of resignation or abdication should come into being as a practical way of dealing with the situation.

    The Holy Father was there and saw first hand how badly things degenerated as John Paul II deteriorated, and is doing the only responsible thing and making certain that the same doesn’t happen on his watch.

  78. robtbrown says:

    The Masked Chicken says:
    “Perhaps the above comment gives us insight into why Christ didn’t give the Church the faculty to ordain women.”

    That comment is a low blow. I’m sure a man could have made just the same statement.

    The Chicken

    It seems you neglected to read that she had accused BXVI of committing a big sin. Why didn’t you try to defend the doctrine of the Church?

  79. One interpretation of this wrathful bolt of lightning, is that it is not directed at Pope Benedict, but at those who have caused his abdication.
    There’s a lot more going on right now than most of us know.

    Keep in mind that the Church is bigger than the sum of its parts, bigger than a single Papacy. The Church has even survived without a Pope before – There’s more to the Church than that. Stick with the Ark- with Mary- and keep the Faith.

  80. jesusthroughmary says:

    The word that His Holiness used was “renuntiare”. I also think that “abdicate” is more proper to describe his action because it connotes that he is voluntarily relinquishing a sovereign power. Abdication, I would say, is the word used to describe a resignation when said resignation is tendered specifically by a monarch. I don’t think there is a pejorative sense to it; rather, it is a more precise word to describe this particular act.

  81. Cafea Fruor says:

    There are plenty of comments here, so forgive me if I am reiterating what someone else has said.

    I think we need to stop speculating why His Holiness has chosen to resign, because I don’t think it’s for us to know the motives, and trying to probe into them strikes me as nosy. If Pope Benedict is a man of prayer, as he seems to be, then I am sure this decision comes as the fruit of much prayer and discernment. I am sure that he is doing this because he believes this is God’s will for him to do, and perhaps we just need to accept that this is what God wants and get over it. Perhaps it’s just as mysterious to the Holy Father why God might ask him to step down as it is to us. God’s ways are not ours.

  82. Panterina says:


    According to this Wikipedia article (, the term “abdication” is not used. See also English version of Canon Law 332, para 2

  83. Medjugorje Man 07 says:

    I wonder how it all plays out in the end? – OH Wait! I think I read somewhere that the good guys win…..

  84. bookworm says:

    “I know my vote doesn’t count, but a girl can dream of the first American Pope, and one from St. Louis at that.”

    Speaking of coincidencery, Cardinal Dolan was born and raised in St. Louis — more precisely, at Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin, Mo. — and was ordained a priest for the STL Archdiocese. So between him and Cardinal Burke (former Archbishop of STL), BOTH of the (only?) two American cardinals considered even remotely “papabile” have connections to the “Rome of the West” and the home of the (baseball) Cardinals :-)

  85. chantgirl says:

    bookworm, yes, I was hoping for Burke!

  86. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m hoping for an Italian, someone who can continue to reform the Church and improve Catholic identity.

  87. Michael_Thoma says:

    A sin to resign? Why is there a now “mandatory retirement age” for bishops at all?
    Some of these comments belie the lack of historicity and undue elevation of the way the Papal Throne is being perceived in some circles. First of all, His Holiness is Bishop of Rome; secondly Patriarch of the Latin Church – a position not understood by many Latin Rite Catholics in the US at all or even Europe some times; and Finally Pope of the Catholic (universal) Church, a role of Servant to the Servants of God.
    If Bishops must submit resignation, and Patriarchs have and may, why can the Pope not – freely and consciously? The Church is harmed when perceived in an incorrect and theologically deficient way, the Holy Father steers and corrects this misperception even with this honest and humble act!

  88. bookworm says:

    If I may indulge in one last blast of idle speculation before I give it up for Lent (grin), my money, if I were betting, would be on Card. Ouellet (Canada), Card. Scherer (Brazil), or Card. Scola (Italy). Not saying I’m necessarily ROOTING for any or all of them, but that these are the ones I THINK are most likely to be elected.

  89. The Masked Chicken says:

    “It seems you neglected to read that she had accused BXVI of committing a big sin. Why didn’t you try to defend the doctrine of the Church?”

    No, I think I read her remarks. My comment was in regards to the non sequitor remark that this comment of hers is why women or not ordained. A man could have made the same boneheaded statement. Would that be grounds to say that men should not be ordained?

    Now, it is possible that I misinterpreted what you said. If so, I apologize. I wasn’t commenting on the doctrine because it has been adequately covered, back and forth, in many comments in this post about Prof. Basto’s earlier remarks.

    The Chicken

  90. It is time to start thinking again before posting.

  91. Charivari Rob says:

    Staying a little closer to the original subject area of this post, I’d have to say that what comes to mind is that great Tony Isabella paraphrase of Archbishop Milo Sweetman:

    Justice, like lightning,
    must ever appear –
    to some men hope, and
    to some men fear.

  92. GregH says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Pope’s decision to resign. Can you imagine what would happen in your local parish if the pastor stayed on as pastor when his health was in decline and he couldn’t handle the day to day responsibilities? Or how about your local bishop? Can you imagine your local bishop at 85 having to deal with fundraising, parish assignments, school closings & openings, ordaining new priests, handling budget issues, flying to Rome, etc? It’s already too much for them to deal with even when they are younger.

    Great decision Pope Benedict!!!

  93. Stumbler but trying says:

    During morning prayer I came upon this and I for one, will take it to heart, especially after some of the negative and rash commentary I just read herein:
    “We must honor the pope as the visible Vicar of Christ. He is the Teacher of teachers, the Father of fathers, the Master of masters…To the sovereign pontiff therefore we owe sovereign honor and supreme respect.”
    Saint Peter Julian Eymard

    Amen to that!

  94. bookworm says:

    Speaking of “if I were betting,” it’s a good thing I’m not…. turns out Pope Gregory XIV in 1521 forbade under pain of excommunication all betting on papal elections, the duration of a pontificate, or the creation of new cardinals!

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