Feb 26, 2013
The world woke up to the news that on Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. the Throne of Peter will be vacant. The response was shock, and amazement. Indeed, the Pope is close to his 86th birthday, but his mind is still so brilliant that inevitably people ask themselves: why should he not only resign, but also renounce the title of Peter’s successor? His state of health is so much better than the one of John Paul II the last three years of his life. The rumor ran at the time that several bishops and cardinals (mostly Germans) urged him, to step down. He decided to remain in control until the very end. Did Benedict XVI consider this to be a mistake that he did not want to duplicate? The fact remains; very soon he will once again be Cardinal Ratzinger. We must trust that each one faithfully the particular call addressed to him.
For those of us who have met him personally, the decision might not be as surprising as it inevitably was to the man on the street.
Four times, I have been privileged to have an audience with this great Prince of the Church. Twice in the eighties when I was in Rome for a longer period of time; once in the mid nineties, and finally, in a blessed private audience on March 26, 2007. When I requested these audiences, I had a particular purpose. In the wake of Vatican II, the Church went through a period of such turmoil and confusion that talking to a top notch member of the Curia was a balm. I need not go into details: many nuns (whose glory for centuries had been to be the great educators of Catholic youth – both boys and girls) left their convents in droves. Clown masses were celebrated and the “silence” of many bishops was deafening.
One started hearing heretical sermons on Sundays. The Chaplain at Manhattanville College of Sacred Heart, prohibited the celebration of the Tridentine Mass on the ground that “he objected to the theology of that Mass” – a Mass that had been heard by the saints for centuries. Another priest referred to God “as the nice guy upstairs” – something which edges on blasphemy. I heard one referring to Christ being found in the Temple as “a nasty brat.” Some bishops declared that those who attended a Tridentine Mass on Sunday did not fulfill their Sunday obligation. The Angels must have cried.