This article is a mish-mash of various bits and pieces in order to, not so much to prove, but to infer that the Vatican was being disingenous when it said that very few people knew about when Pope Benedict XVI was going to resign.
Holes appear in story of pope's resignation
For an institution devoted to eternal light, the Vatican has shown itself to be a master of smokescreens since Pope Benedict XVI's shock resignation announcement.
On Thursday (local time), the Vatican spokesman acknowledged that Benedict hit his head and bled profusely while visiting Mexico in March. Two days earlier the same man acknowledged that Benedict has had a pacemaker for years, and underwent a secret operation to replace its battery three months ago.
And as the Catholic world reeled from shock over the abdication, it soon became clear that Benedict's post-papacy lodgings have been under construction since at least the fall. That in turn put holes in the Holy See's early claims that Benedict kept his decision to himself until he revealed it.
Vatican secrecy is legendary and can have tragic consequences - as the world learned through the church sex abuse scandal in which bishops quietly moved abusive priests without reporting their crimes.
And the secrecy is institutionalised from such weighty matters to the most trivial aspects of Vatican life.
"You have to understand that actually every Vatican employee and official takes an oath of secrecy when they assume their job," said John Thavis, author of the Vatican Diaries, an investigation into the workings of the Holy See. "And this isn't something that is taken lightly. They swear to keep secret any office matters and anything pertaining to the pope."
Oh, for goodness sakes. My father-in-law worked in communications (a special room in the Beehive) in the New Zealand Government a number of years back, and he could not reveal anything that he came across during his job, either. He said he he had to train himself to forget everything he saw. There was probably some pretty mundane stuff there mixed in with the ultra-serious stuff, but it wasn't his decision to make as to what was serious and what wasn't, and the same with anyone working with the pope. The pope is the world-wide leader of over one billion Catholics. The job is far more important than what my father-in-law did, yet the principle is the same. You can't blab if you are working for the state, or the pope, and I doubt you can blab if you are working directly for John Key either. His security people would undoubtedly get fired pretty quickly if they let on anything about him. Maybe the only difference between people like my father-in-law and John Key's security staff is that they may not (I don't know about this point) take an oath.
Then there's a whole lot of blather around how secret the Vatican keeps the health of popes, as if every single injury and health matter should be completely public. There's nothing sinister in protecting the privacy of a public and important person. They miss out the secrecy around assassination attempts, though, probably because it wouldn't suit the tone of the whole article, which is really trying to make a whole lot of something over nothing.
Moving on, we get to the purpose of the article, to cast doubt on what the Vatican said as to how many people knew the pope was going to retire.
Then there's the question of how many people knew of Benedict's decision to retire.It was a bolt from the blue. It woke me up completely when I heard it on the clock radio that normally eases me into wakefulness before another alarm goes off to get me out of bed. Yet, even I wasn't totally surprised that Pope Benedict XVI chose to step down, because of several, very important clues over the past few years that he might actually do this.
On the day of the announcement the Vatican cast it as a bolt from the blue, saying almost nobody knew but Benedict himself. Soon, however, prominent clergymen - one not even Catholic - began changing the tone and saying they were not surprised.
"Knowing the pope well, there was something in the air that this decision of the pope was possible," said Archbishop Piero Marini, master of papal ceremonies under Pope John Paul II. "So it was not a shock."
Even the retired Arcbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Rowan Williams, says that based on his last meeting with Benedict a year ago he was not surprise at the decision to step down.
"Because of our last conversation I was very conscious that he was recognising his own frailty and it did cross my mind to wonder whether this was a step he might think about," Williams told Vatican Radio.
Clue No 1: An interview in 2010, with Peter Seewald, published in the book, Light of the World:
Seewald: The great majority of these cases took place decades ago. Nevertheless they burden your pontificate now in particular. Have you thought of resigning?
Benedict XVI:When the danger is great one must not run away. For that reason, now is certainly not the time to resign. Precisely at a time like this one must stand fast and endure the difficult situation. That is my view. One can resign at a peaceful moment or when one simply cannot go on. But one must not run away from danger and say that someone else should do it.
Seewald: Is it possible then to imagine a situation in which you would consider a resignation by the Pope appropriate?
Benedict XVI: Yes. If a Pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.
Clue No 2: Visiting the body of Pope St. Celestine V, who abdicated the papacy after five months (after having been elected at age 84), and leaving his pallum there on one of those occasions.
|Pope Benedict XVI leaving his pallum on Pope St. Celestine V's tomb|
Fr. Z, last year, called this "an interesting gesture". The fifth commenter on that thread from last year said, "Let us pray he doesn't resign." Now, of course, the gesture is much more clear. As Scott Hahn says:
Back on April 29, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI did something rather striking, but which went largely unnoticed.
He stopped off in Aquila, Italy, and visited the tomb of an obscure medieval Pope named St. Celestine V (1215-1296). After a brief prayer, he left his pallium, the symbol of his own episcopal authority as Bishop of Rome, on top of Celestine's tomb!
Fifteen months later, on July 4, 2010, Benedict went out of his way again, this time to visit and pray in the cathedral of Sulmona, near Rome, before the relics of this same saint, Celestine V.
Few people, however, noticed at the time.
Only now, we may be gaining a better understanding of what it meant. These actions were probably more than pious acts. More likely, they were profound and symbolic gestures of a very personal nature, which conveyed a message that a Pope can hardly deliver any other way.
Related link: Holes appear in story of pope's resignation ~ Stuff