I was astonished as any—shocked and dismayed, in fact, if I am to be honest with myself—to hear that Pope Bendict XVI has decided to resign his throne at the end of the month, and in so doing be the first abidicating pontiff since Celestine V vacated the Vicarship way back in 1294, more than seven hundred years ago. I had previously assumed this to be utterly unthinkable, especially from such a deeply conservative pontiff as Benedict—much as I still believe it to be utterly unthinkable that the Queen would ever contemplate abdicating.
Progressives will no doubt laud this as a triumphant decision, and a step in the right direction. If they hope this announcement might lead to a more reformist type to take the reigns of spiritual and moral power, they shouldn't hold their breath. We traditionalists know that path is doomed, one that will inevitability undermine the indestructible magic of the Pope's office. That was the great understanding of this Pope; in the short time that he was there, His Holiness did much to shore up the faith and that most inspiring institution:
Benedict XVI's achievements as pontiff have been remarkable. He has renewed the worship of the Church, reconnecting it to the majesty and deep piety of the past. He has forged new links with non-Catholics, for example by bringing ex-Anglicans into the fold through the Ordinariate. He has promulgated teaching documents reconnecting the love and teaching of Christ to the structures of the Church – structures that, it would appear, he feels now unable to continue ruling.If there is to be a blessing from this news, it is assumed that Benedict XVI will have immense influence on who his successor will be, and therefore project his power on the future of the Church longer than if he stayed until his mortal end and heavenly beginning. If this is true, then we are dealing with one crafty Pope, and traditionalists have every reason to feel upbeat about today's astonishing decision.