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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