Honour the promise and break the silence

Pope Benedict’s most monumental act was to issue a papal motu proprio in 2007 to normalise the pre-Vatican II liturgy.

Nov 03, 2017

By Robert Mickens
Pope Benedict’s most monumental act was to issue a papal motu proprio in 2007 to normalise the pre-Vatican II liturgy.

He said part of the reason he did so was to bring about “an interior reconciliation at the heart of the Church.” Francis has shown no attachment to the Old Mass, but he has done nothing to restrict it.

Members of these reconciled groups of Tridentine Mass enthusiasts, however, have betrayed Benedict’s intention to “regain reconciliation and unity” in a divided Church. And, instead, by their attacks on the current Pope, they have intensified the divisions.

Now, let’s be clear: there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Benedict XVI supports, or is in any way sympathetic to, the campaign his self-appointed apologists are waging against Pope Francis.

But it is discouraging that there are bishops and cardinals who have used the former pope’s words as a means to call into question the orthodoxy and legitimacy of the current pope’s teaching and leadership.

What can be done to put an end to this?

Just a few days after Benedict announced his resignation from the papacy in mid-February 2013, he told the clergy of Rome that he would “withdraw” to be “hidden from the world” and “secluded in prayer.”

But during these more than four years since he slipped into retirement, he has not been completely hidden or secluded.

Benedict routinely sees visitors at his residence in the Vatican Gardens. And many of them are priests, bishops, and laity — including journalists and writers — who have been prominent critics of Pope Francis.

The former pope has also sent about a dozen or so written messages (that we know of) to various religious gatherings and individuals. He’s given a book-length interview, provided a eulogy for the funeral of one of the cardinals that opposed Francis’ document on marriage (Amoris Laetitia) and has even written an introduction and an afterword for at least two books.

He has every right to do so since no one has imposed silence upon him or prohibited him from receiving visitors.

However, on the day he actually stepped down as Bishop of Rome —February 28th, 2013 — he gathered the cardinals together and told them to “be completely docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope.”
He also made this promise on that day:

“Among you, in the College of Cardinals, there is also the future pope to whom, today, I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience.”

Given the way some of Benedict’s most devoted friends, former co-workers and admirers have traded on their alliance with him to denigrate Pope Francis, and given the ugly tone and increasing hostility their opposition to the Pope has taken, perhaps it is time for Benedict to honour that promise and break his silence once more.

It probably would not deter the opponents of Pope Francis if he publicly told them to stop their dissent, but it would be a clear sign that their beloved Bishop-emeritus of Rome does not support them.--NCR (used with permission)

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