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Some distinctly non-canonical musings on the status of an ex-pope
canonlawblog ^ | February 26, 2013 | Edward Peters, JD, JCD, Ref. Sig. Ap.

Posted on 02/27/2013 11:16:20 AM PST by NYer

Aside from the resignation itself—the canonical legality of which is incontestable—Pope Benedict’s startling decision to leave office has occasioned much confusion in Rome and around the Catholic world. The simple fact is that the Catholic Church, at every level, has virtually no experience in dealing with ex-popes.

Beyond the barest of canonical points (c. 332 § 2), almost everything about Benedict’s future—his status under law (canonical and international), title(s), appropriate dress, relations with peers (assuming he has any), and so on and so on and so on—must be fashioned practically from scratch. One should not assume that any announcements being made about Benedict’s future are based on the authority of some arcane-but-accessible protocol tome for dealing with ex-popes, because there is no such tome. We’re making most of this up as we go.

We Catholics like order. We like knowing what the rules are (even Catholics who don’t like the rules still like knowing what the rules are, so they have a target for their ire); we like thinking that at least those in charge know what all the rules are, even if we don’t know and even if they are charmingly or irritatingly inept at announcing them.

Now, by and large, that Catholic nomian attitude is sound—the Church does have rules, Church leaders generally know what those rules are, and for the most part, other folks can find out what those rules are and impress still others with their discoveries.

But not this time. The rules say only, we can have an ex-pope. Period.

History’s not much help either. Setting aside some first millennium episodes that are almost too bizarre for words, the last pope to resign (Gregory XII) had been elected and tried to govern under conditions that would shock the conscience today. The only other pope to resign (Celestine V) was promptly arrested and died in prison. None of this is remotely useful for predicting Benedict’s future.

But that’s my point: if law says next to nothing about the status of an ex-pope, and if history teaches us little of value in regard to dealing with an ex-pope, then, pretty much everything about an ex-pope, right down to the color of his shoes, needs to be worked out, and likely enough, will need to be re-worked at least a couple of times till we get it right. Ish.

TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; History
Dr. Peters has held the Edmund Cdl. Szoka Chair at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit since 2005. He earned a J. D. from the Univ. of Missouri at Columbia (1982) and a J. C. D. from the Catholic Univ. of America (1991). In 2010, he was appointed a Referendary of the Apostolic Signatura by Pope Benedict XVI. For more infomation on Dr. Peters, see CanonLaw.Info.
1 posted on 02/27/2013 11:16:23 AM PST by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...

As the chinese proverb says: “May you live in interesting times!” You, dear friends, are experiencing history in the making!

2 posted on 02/27/2013 11:18:24 AM PST by NYer ("Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." --Jeremiah 1:5)
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To: NYer
Some distinctly non-canonical musings on the status of an ex-pope
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3 posted on 02/27/2013 2:50:02 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: NYer

I think this is pretty simple - even for a Catholic. :)

He will become, in effect though not title, a retired priest living in a monastery at the Vatican. He’s indicated his primary “duty” will be prayer.

Anything further will be unofficial and determined by his and other’s wishes.

That’s the way I see it anyway, FWIW.

Personally, I wish him a long life and hope his influence continues. If he wishes, I’d like him to write more also.

I miss him already.

4 posted on 02/27/2013 2:59:35 PM PST by D-fendr (Deus non alligatur sacramentis sed nos alligamur.)
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To: D-fendr

An excellent summation. I join my prayers and best wishes with yours. May his new commitment to prayer for the Church, rise like incense to the throne of our Lord. It takes great humility to make this decision. I also pray that his brother will be able to spend time with him at the monastery.

5 posted on 02/27/2013 3:22:17 PM PST by NYer (“Beware the man of a single book.” - St. Thomas Aquinas)
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To: NYer

I’d forgotten about his brother; that could be great comfort for them both.

I too respect his decision, and we do truly live in interesting times.

John Paul II choose to continue to the end, and, as a rapidly aging senior myself, he inspired me greatly.

Pope Benedict XVI gave up his position to better serve the Church and so that the Church would be better served. A model of humility.

These are wise and deeply spiritual men. Though their choices were not the same, both increased my faith and devotion to the Church of God.

We have a good home in this dangerous time; I hope I can show a fraction of a percent of their devotion to Christ in the time I have left here.

thanks for your post and reply.

6 posted on 02/27/2013 11:37:31 PM PST by D-fendr (Deus non alligatur sacramentis sed nos alligamur.)
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