Will the Secular Mass Media & Liberal Churchmen Try to Remove Benedict From Office?

April 2007By Cathy Caridi

Cathy Caridi is a licensed canon lawyer who practices law and teaches in the Washington, D.C., area. Her regular column on canonical issues is currently being syndicated by Real Presence Communications.

April 16, 2007, is Pope Benedict XVI's 80th birthday. One needn't be a prophet to predict that many in the secular mass media, and many liberal churchmen, will use the occasion to raise the question of whether it might be best for the Church if such an elderly man were to resign, paving the way for a younger, more energetic (and, they hope, more forward-thinking) man to take the reins.

It's easy to predict because in Pope John Paul II's declining years the press inundated the public with similar "concerns." The Pope was too old, too frail, too physically incapacitated to handle the rigorous demands of running the universal Church, they said, and he should step down. Furthermore, pundits repeatedly suggested that a more general procedural overhaul of the papacy might be in order, requiring a pope to resign at age 75 like other bishops, rather than rule until his death.

When John Paul II began to lose his faculty of speech in early 2005, the drumbeat grew louder, as journalists raised the specter of a Pope who might become completely unable to communicate and thus incapable of giving orders and making decisions to guide the Church on a daily basis. Under such circumstances, the media warned, the operations of the Church might grind to a standstill. The tactical question shifted from "should the pope resign?" to "can the pope be removed from office?" USA Today (May 11, 2003) quoted Notre Dame's Rev. Richard McBrien as saying, "You still have to raise the question, not cynically: Would any major global corporation think him fit to be its CEO?"

Given the media's track record on this issue, why should we expect them to address Benedict's advancing age any differently? If his voice cracks or he otherwise appears tired at a papal audience, they will declare solemnly that the Pope is very old; they will point out that other bishops are obliged to resign at age 75, and it would only be fair if the Pope agreed to a similar requirement; they will remind us that Benedict once had a fainting spell in his apartment, some years before being elected Pope, and the same thing might happen to him again in the future. John Paul II's death spared the Church the problem of dealing with a Pope who was so physically debilitated that he was unable to rule; nevertheless, the issue might very well come up again.

But both the secular press and liberal churchmen would do well to keep in mind that the Catholic Church is governed by her own body of law, the Code of Canon Law, and this very Code constitutes the procedural manual to be followed should the pope wish to resign, or become physically incapable of ruling the Church and of resigning from office. The question of what might happen to the Church would not be decided by either public opinion polls or the musings of talking heads on the nightly news. The Church has her own legal system, already in place! And if one wonders what would, or could, transpire if the pope became too feeble to rule, the answer can be found in the Code, Fr. McBrien's daydreams (which allegedly are non-cynical, remember!) notwithstanding.

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I have just finished reading The Devil's Final Battle (print version), edited and compiled by Fr. Paul Kramer, and I find that the evidence presented says that "many liberal churchmen" have the man they want in Peter's chair. This does not render the article moot because its real point is that there are no instructions or steps to follow should the Pope become incapacitated. However, it does raise the issue of Pope Benedict XVI's real stand on the Catholic Church and on Her current condition and position in the world today. If The Devil's Final Battle is correct - and it presents a lot of supportive factual evidence and well-founded and thoughtful arguments -, then we Traditional Catholics are in for an interesting papacy (as these first years of this papacy already indicate). Posted by: kenaydlott
April 04, 2007 12:25 PM EDT
It seems to me that it is necessary for the rest of us to carefully look at some examples before we could agree or disagree with the above. After all, we should not want to assume anything on such an important matter. Posted by: fallace@optonline.net
May 02, 2007 08:31 PM EDT
Regarding kenaydlott's comment above: it is beneficial to understand that extremist Traditionalists will *never* be happy with any Pope. Any Trad who believes that Pope Benedict is somehow a prime agent of "liberal churchmen" has to willfully disregard a lot of evidence to the contrary, and would be -- presumably -- unable to use his God-given faculties of reason. Alack, too many off-balance Trads are giving Catholic traditionalism a very bad name. Posted by: charing cross
May 03, 2007 10:37 AM EDT
Re: charingcross
Many recent comments and other activities of Pope Benedict certainly indicate that he is definitely not a prime agent of "liberal churchmen". This certainly gives me hope about the Tridentine Mass to be given "a general permission."
Posted by: kenaydlott
June 03, 2007 07:54 PM EDT
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