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After Benedict, the deluge

For various reasons I’ve been digging around in my old blog posts from February 2013, and files and other things looking into the events that led up to the resignation of Pope Benedict and the election of his successor. I’ve had many, many (insert lots more “many’s”) conversations about the whole thing and still don’t really have solid answers. But one thing that still irritates me is the (probably) well-meaning Catholics, all desperate to take the press release version on face value.

Really? After all we’ve been through, you’re still doing that?

Inevitably it’s on Twittface or someone’s blog, and it’s some credulous housewife type who writes in something like, “Well, you people can chase your conspiracy theories all you like, but I for one believe what the pope tells me, and there’s no way Benedict could have been forced out, or that he would lie about it…”

Yeah, well virtue-signaled honey. I get it. You’re more loyal than us. Thanks for sharing.

But one thing this whole business has taught me is to trust my instincts. Shortly before the resignation was to come into effect, I was still floundering, trying to come up with something intelligble to write. I couldn’t.

What I was able to do was talk about my feelings, my instincts, my internal alarms, which were howling and wailing about the end of the world.

Imagine for a moment that you are a footsoldier in the British army and the Duke of Wellington, on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, just announced that he didn’t feel up to it any more and went home. How would the English soldiers at Agincourt have felt if, instead of hearing, “We band of brothers,” it had been, “I’m too tired. You’re on your own.” What do you imagine would the effect have been on those men? How would they have felt?

We’ve been looking to this man for leadership in our War for 30 years, since he first came to Rome to serve in the CDF. Then when the other pope died, he took the reigns in what we all thought was an appointment direct from heaven. Remember? Remember how you felt that day. It wasn’t just ordinary joy at a new pope, it was a feeling of hope that we’d not had in the Church for a long time, that, at last, things were going to start to turn around. The news when it came was perhaps the brightest light we had seen in this increasingly horrifying and darkening world since the Asteroid hit and started the War. I remember thinking that I didn’t dare hope it would be him because I was afraid to jinx it. I’ve been told many times by a lot of people that they were thinking the same thing.

We knew, in broad terms, what was coming, and we had a pretty good idea that only a man like Ratzinger was going to be equal to the task. And now, it ends like this? At the moment when the world seems ready to explode, he isn’t dead, he hasn’t been threatened (that we know), he isn’t incapacitated, he isn’t going mental. He’s just quitting. Walking away because it’s too hard? Because he’s tired?

What kind of idiot would ever believe that? When has this ever happened? What could possibly, conceiveably, be so horrible, so threatening, that he would do this? And if it was some horrifying threat to the Church, what could possibly be gained by this? How could quitting solve any problem, deflect any danger or resolve any crisis?

These questions will not leave me alone, have kept me awake into the wee hours the last couple of days, and I’m pretty sure will be asked by many people for a long time. I doubt, though, that we will ever have a satisfactory answer before the Parousia.

But perhaps worse are the repellent, oleagenous sycophants of the “current year,” who won’t stop writing about how “courageous” it was for Benedict to “step down”. Those are the ones that really make me feel punchy.

Here is the video of the last Angelus with Benedict XVI, in which he assures the crowd (in which I was standing) that he was not abandoning us. For all those who preemptively rule out the possibility that he would lie, just have a little think about that…

On February 13, a commenter left this at my blog:

I’m as nervous as you, but we must pray, pray, pray. And see who is chosen when the white smoke emerges from St. Peter’s. After all, there are more Ratzingerians in the College than there have been for a long time. Things might turn out all right, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Pray.

I’m afraid I had little to say about it that was helpful:

Now we have a few weeks or perhaps a few months to wait to see if what I think is happening is really happening. Part of me hopes it is, because in the last 14 years that I’ve been active I’ve swallowed all of this that I can choke down.

I was pretty nauseated at the time by all the chipper little messages going around about how nice it was going to be for him to just play his piano and talk to his cat.

What the everloving… What do you people think is happening??!!

February 12, 2013:

We like to forget that there are large supernatural realities behind our day-to-day lives, and most specifically behind the ecclesial realities we talk and write so much about. We like to keep that spooky stuff at bay and reduce it all to silly small talk on the internet. But that is the really Real behind all this and it is often not the sort of thing one makes polite table conversation about.

My sense of foreboding has deepened, if anything, as I’ve weighed in more of the many different things this act of Benedict’s will affect, the various possible reasons, the possible repercussions. Stuck between two impossible obstacles: what I think is true is horrifying and would not be accepted; what I think I can write that would be accepted is not true.

I can’t bring myself to do what everyone else seems to be doing, and put up cheery little stars and hearts notes on Facebook about how we’re all grateful for eight wonderful years and wish him well in all his future endeavours. The thought that keeps coming back to my mind again and again is that now things are going to start getting much, much worse.

Benedict’s was, perhaps, the lone voice on the world stage making a rational case for the Real in the face of an insane, murderous, global mass self-delusion. What was he holding at bay? What is now going to have even more freedom to act in the world? From the things I’ve written about for the last ten or twelve years, I think I’ve got an idea.

Maybe it would have been nice to have been wrong.

But we’ll never know.


And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

11 thoughts on “After Benedict, the deluge”

  1. Michael says:

    No Craig, you’re not a schismatic.

    Vatican I taught that the Church is a visible institution, and this visibility of the Church is based upon two visible bonds.

    The first and foundational bond is Faith. This means the outward profession and practice of the Faith, as taught by the Church. It does not refer to the invisible, supernatural/theological virtue of Faith we receive at Baptism.

    The second bond is called Social Charity. This is the peaceful communion that the members of the Church have amongst one another, and the submission of all to the legitimate hierarchy of the Church. Again, this does not refer to the supernatural/theological virtue of Charity we receive at Baptism.

    The bond of Faith is broken by public heresy – the visible/public rejection of the teaching of the Church by words or deeds.

    This bond is the foundation upon which the visible bond of Social Charity – a kind of edifice – is built. When this bond is broken, it is called schism.

    In order to be a schismatic, therefore, one has to sever the bond of Charity with one who does profess the Faith visibly.

    If someone breaks the visible bond of Faith via public heresy, he leaves the Church automatically, and therefore, one can neither submit to him nor break the bond of Charity with him. This is because the bond of Faith is the foundation, and the bond of Charity is the edifice upon which it is built.

    It is fruitless to have the bond of Faith, without the bond of Charity, but it is impossible to have the bond of Charity without the bond of Faith.

    In a comparison, it is fruitless to have a foundation with nothing built on it; it is absurd and impossible to have an edifice without a foundation.

    The Pope is the visible head of these two bonds.

    When Our Lord promised the Papacy to St Peter, he did so after Peter’s profession of Faith. “You are Peter…”

    When He actually bestowed the Papacy upon him after the Resurrection, He did so after Peter’s profession of Charity. “Feed my sheep…”

    So, you have recognised that Francis/Jorge Bergoglio does not profess the Faith, so to refuse him submission is just and right, because he is not a member of the Church.

    Only one of you is a member of the Church, according to Vatican I.

  2. Hilary White says:

    Yes, just because the game is rigged in favour of the good guys, doesn’t let us off continuing to play.

  3. c matt says:

    But one thing that still irritates me is the (probably) well-meaning Catholics, all desperate to take the press release version on face value.

    I know what you mean. The second most irritating is the “don’t worry, God is in charge” comments. Yes, He is. Yes He has won the war. But there are still a lot of battles being fought, and souls to be lost in the process. It is not unlike a chess match where all the next moves will map out giving God the victory, but that doesn’t mean Satan won’t take down a lot of rooks, Knights (of Columbus, Malta?) and yes – even Bishops – with him.

  4. Evangeline says:

    The moments when the Holy Spirit moves, are moments we don’t forget. When BXVI was announced, I was alone in my house. I heard the name, and an exhilarating feeling of utter joy went through me. I’ll never forget it. I laughed, and while I do recall I was familiar with him and therefore happy about his election, the feeling was more than I expected and caught me a bit off-guard.
    I assumed he was dying, and of course, am glad he did not, but also of course, have all the same mystifying questions and half-conclusions you have.
    I believe he had a message. He said he did, and, I just don’t have the impression of him as a man who takes God lightly and would say such a thing. None of it makes sense. I do believe the St. Gallen mafia story is real, and that there are hard core men who would do anything to gain power, money, and influence. Anything. Do I think Cardinals can be scary dudes? You bet. I have no illusions anymore, about what clerical men are capable of and interested in.
    We probably got him wrong, to a degree. The wrong people wanted him to be seen as “God’s Rottweiler” because that meant he was resistance to their distorted vision of the faith, the vision they are implementing like men obsessed with their mission. I believe he was resistance, and an annoying, temporary blockade to their efforts at dismantling Catholicism, and I do believe that is the end game of these men, the goal. He restrained that, temporarily.
    He had a vision, or a dream. He was being threatened and harassed. Lightning struck the Vatican within hours. The “dove of peace” was viciously attacked by dark-feathered birds as this pope sent them aloft. We are witnessing a total downward spiral in all realms. It seems the end of days. And it is 2017.
    Come, Lord Jesus. Maranatha!

  5. Kathleen says:

    I knew Benedict was infected with modernism.

    But, what bishop today (canonically regular) isn’t. Even the very best of them.

    And as someone that had repented and returned to the faith I thought I saw something akin to that going on with him. That he was not the same man he had been in the 1960’s. That he had repented of much and was capable of repenting of more.

    And I believed given the horrifying state of faithful in general (can we say mass, not-so-silent apostasy) and that we get the priests we deserve that Benedict was way better than we deserved.

    Then the resignation. It still makes tears burn my eyes.

    At the time I was filled with breath stopping dread. On top of the feeling of abandonment.

    So yes, I had a reaction not unlike yours.

    I came back to the Church about 13 years ago because I became convinced that the Church was right about EVERYTHING and I had been wrong about everything.

    And that all the elements were being lined up for the enemies of the Church (Leftists, Muslims, Sodomites…) to make their big push to destroy Her.

    And that one had to choose a side. God or Satan. No middle ground. And that choosing God was very likely choosing a bad end in this realm.

    But that it was the only choice.

    And then Benedict gave us back THE Mass. And now I think THAT is what he was to do. Give us that food for our souls.

    We have become much stronger as a result. I know I have. What progress I have made is completely tied to the TLM. It’s not that I don’t put in effort on multiple fronts, but when I look at the stretch of years as a big picture the progress came when I gained access to the TLM.

    Benedict couldn’t and didn’t stop the march of the servants of the enemy.

    But we received THE critical defense. We much all do all we can to access it with souls prepared to accept torrents of grace.

    Because we are going to need it.

  6. Hilary White says:

    He certainly understood that there is a world of difference, or should be, between the speculations of an academic theologian, and the formal corrective pronouncements of the cardinal prefect of the CDF. As CDF, and even more as pope, his primary weakness was… well… weakness.

  7. Isabel says:

    In his defense, when commenting that he had been perceived as one of the more liberal of the periti at VII, Benedict did say that he had realized after VII that he was on the wrong course and that he had soon renounced many of his earlier speculations and opinions. Other intellectual contributors to VII, such as Jaques Maritain, did likewise. Maritin’s rather bitter book, The Peasant of the Garonne, written in the 1970s, tells of his realization that he and others of his set had been used by the radicals within the Church, who had been dug in and embedded and just waiting for a weakening of the defenses so that they could take over. Maritain, Ratzinger, de Lubac and others were all exploited by these people, who were for the most part leftist or Masonically influenced bishops (such as John XXIII himself), who used these rather naive intellectuals and philosophers as cover.

    That said, I think Ratzinger emerged as basically orthodoxy and even spent the most of the years of the pontificate of JPII trying to keep a rein on him. JPII, aside from being the developer of the Pope as cult of personality leader, had a tendency to wander doctrinally, either in his rather prolix, emotional writings or in his “gestures,” such as kissing the Koran, and Ratzinger was kept busy trying to explain and polish things up. JPII was a horrible administrator, who inexplicably protected corrupt and depraved clergy in the pederasty scandals, and never enforced any of the doctrinal or liturgical corrections that came from Ratzinger as head of the CDF.

    But that still doesn’t explain the “resignation.” Remember that BXVI left his stole on the tomb of Celestine V a couple of years before he actually resigned, so he’d obviously been considering it for a long time. But why? I really have no idea, but his action most certainly did take away the last barrier that was holding back the deluge. Untold grief and misery has followed, the loss of faith of many, the desolation of those who had trusted in the Church and given Her their whole lives – only to be tormented by this evil mockery. Why? And why does BXVI not even seem to care? There is no way that he could be unaware of what is happening, no way he could not see the consequences of his action. Yet not a word.

  8. Hilary White says:

    Help me, Obi Wan Locution! You’re my only hope!

    Or here’s another possibility, less desperate: he never was what we thought him, and never held the same theology we do, never understood the Church or the papacy the way it has always been understood, was always a liberal-who-liked-lace, and was telling the plain truth when he said that at Vatican II he was considered among the “liberal” camp – as Cardinal Frings’ peritus this makes perfect sense – and that he simply stayed as he was – a 1950s/’60s liberal German Catholic theologian, while the rest of the world moved further away than he dared to go. Simply, it does him more justice to believe what he said of himself, to accept him at his word and follow the unpleasant reality to the conclusion that we were duped by a media determined to place him in the role of “God’s Rottweiler” and defender of traditional Catholic orthodoxy, an illusion, in other words, built on wishful thinking, our personal liking of him for his kindly personality, sadness at our many losses as Catholics and media-generated lies. It’s hard to admit that we were fooled, but at least he himself never claimed to be what we took him for. That mythology came from elsewhere.

  9. Tina says:

    I remember when I heard the announcement, I immediately thought that he was close to death with maybe three to six months to live. After all, I figured, my mother-in-law only lasted about two weeks after we got her into hospice and my father-in-law lasted four months after he broke his femur. He was 87. So I thought that Pope Benedict was resigning because, as he said, citing a “lack of strength of mind and body” due to his advanced age, he no longer had the physical well being to do the job. I was absolutely astonished to see him on his feet, unassisted, at his 65th ordination anniversary in 2016. He gave an extemporaneous speech that lasted five minutes. I’m 66 and I’d be hard pressed to be standing upright for five minutes (bad knees) and giving a speech without an obvious teleprompter.

    Today, after reading your article, I’m at a loss. I feel abandoned. I ask, why couldn’t he have said that he declined to travel anymore, would not be leaving the Vatican and would be restricting his duties while continuing in the pontificate as best he could. I honestly don’t understand the statements transmitted by Archbishop Georg Ganswein. If these are truly from the Pope Emeritus then, I submit, he still has the capacity to be Pope. I see the pictures of him at his 90th birthday and I’m happy he’s alive but I feel like the abandoned spouse seeing their ex enjoying a comfortable life without stress while I’m struggling with all the cognitive dissonance and spiritual drought that has happened during the last four years. I ask, does he even remotely understand what he did to the flock that was entrusted to him? Why did he accept the papacy in the first place if he really didn’t want it or was already ‘afraid of the wolves’? Why did he put the symbol of the bear carrying the pack on his coat of arms. This obviously had to be done at the beginning of his papacy. If he perceived the job as burdensome (bear carrying a pack), why not just decline? I never understood this. The only, the only possible thing that justifies this to me is that Jesus Himself, in an apparition or locution told him to resign. At this point, I know I’m grasping at straws.

    Hilary, I’m glad you wrote this piece. I was able to put down on ‘paper’ the thoughts that have been tumbling around in my head for the past four years. Thank you also for your other thoughtful articles.

  10. Mike says:

    For what it’s worth, I really think he got some kind of supernatural locution or something big from the Home Office that said step aside, it’s not going to be that long before the whole show is over.

    Hunch, that’s all.

  11. Craig Lehrmann says:

    I’ve had to admit to myself recently that I no longer have a moral certainly as regards the validity of the Francis papacy, heck I don’t know if I ever had one. I’ll admit that in my weakness this issue is one that I’ve avoided out of fear of what it means insofar as MY relationship to Holy Mother Church. Am I a schismatic, out of grace, barred from the Sacraments? I don’t know.

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