The Tablet hopes that Pope Benedict’s abdication will diminish the papacy

Last week’s special of The Tablet on Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation was full of praise for the Holy Father due to their expressed hope that his decision will diminish the status and role of the papacy. There was a palpable sense of rejoicing at Pope Benedict’s resignation from the pages of The Tablet written by the usual suspects:

The editorial states:

‘The papacy has become invested with a mysticism of its own, as if to become pope was to be elevated to a higher level of ordained ministry than that of bishop, like a unique fourth rank above the threefold sacramental ministry. By that logic, he had to die in office, precisely as his predecessor John Paul II had done so agonisingly in 2005. But if one can resign from it, it is not a sacramental status. Sacraments are indelible and irreversible.’

Eamon Duffyr writes:

But Benedict’s resignation speech carefully and all but explicitly distances him from a crucial aspect of John Paul II’s vision. Catholics have always believed the popes to be, by divine  institution, first among bishops, the visible centre of Catholic unity, and the court of final appeal in disputes about doctrine and morals.But since the mid nineteenth century the popes themselves have become the focus of heightened religious emotion and sometimes dubious doctrinal speculation. Papal infallibility has been (mistakenly) understood as a personal quality, giving the pope unique access  to the mind of God. The office of pope has been imagined as different in kind from that of all other bishops.’ [...]

‘That simple, rational and at one level unchallengeable statement is a momentous game-changer. In articulating it, Benedict has parted, tacitly but decisively, with two centuries of ultramontane spiritualisation of the papal office and its responsibilities. From this apparently most conservative of popes comes a radical insistence that the pope is a functionary, and when he ceases to be able to discharge his function, then he must consider his position.’

Robert Mickens writes:

His resignation has the possibility of demythologising an institution that has too often been conflated with quasidivine attributes. If it were to set a precedent,it could have all sorts of consequences that would unfold only over time.

Protect the Pope comment: Nowhere in The Tablet on the abdication of Pope Benedict do the contributors show any appreciation of the fact that for faithful and loyal Catholics the pope is first and foremost the ‘successor to St. Peter’.  This focus of Catholic devotion isn’t an invention of the past 200 years but has been a central element of the Catholic Church since the beginning.  As the bishops acclaimed at the Council of Chalcedon on hearing Pope Leo’s defense of Christ being  true God and true man,  ’”We believe, as Leo: Peter hath spoken by Leo”.  There is a profound spiritual dimension to the office of the Successor to St Peter that is not shared by any other bishop in the world. To reduce Pope Benedict to an ecclesial functionary shows a real lack of Catholic understanding.






9 comments to The Tablet hopes that Pope Benedict’s abdication will diminish the papacy

  • Mersey Mercy

    It would appear that the Tablet is following the MSM in completely failing to understand that the Church is NOT a political party and the Pope is NOT Cameron or Obama.

    • Karla

      It really is ridiculous. They believe it is like running for president, that the next Pope or the next Pope after will change doctrine on contraception, marriage, the priesthood. That is why I think dissidents stay in the Church, because they believe 1 day there will be serious changes and they in the stay in the Church hoping for that change to come. They are going to end up very disappointed

  • John Dare

    Can you enlarge on what you’ve said Nick? I can see that the pope is seen as a successor, and is seen as being invested with that saints authority. But are you saying that some actual part/element of Peter descends on each pope when he is elected?

    • Deacon Nick Donnelly

      John, each pope receives the Petrine charism, and like all charisms, the personality and receptivity of the individual determines the particular expression and exercise of the Petrine charism.

  • Andrzej

    Actually, the observation that by abdicating, B16 confirmed that the papacy is not a sacramental order is quite interesting. Perhaps this might serv Christian reunification, especially with the Orthodox church – something that has been very important for B16.

  • Fr Ray Blake

    Deacon Nick,
    I do not see much of a problem with what you report The Tablet saying. If we can speak about the Spirit of VII as being dangerous, so too the “Spirit of Vatican One”, in both cases we need to return to the documents.
    Papal Infallibility is at the service of the unity of the Church. Vatican I did not introduce any new doctrine, in many ways, as Newman considered, it moderated the extreme doctrines of Ultramontanism, Newman did not find the doctrine proclaimed by VI inconsistant with patristic understanding of the role of the Bishop of Rome, as the focus of unity, first amongst equals and final arbiter.
    The Pope of Christian Unity by his decision to resign has stated quite clearly that Infallibity belongs to the Office not the person of Pope, the assumption that it has been “personal” has been a problem for Orthodox, his resignation gives a way forward for discussing the Petrine role in ecumenical dialogue, which Blessed JPII called for in Unum Sint.

    His resignation is of theological significance.

    PS I don’t normally disagree with you, especially on the can of worms the Tablet but here I think they are right.

  • Rifleman819

    Deacon Nick,

    The faithful laity hope that parish abdication will diminish the Tablet.

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