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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Did Pope Benedict Exercise "Conscious Uncoupling" from His Bride, the Church?

I admit it. I was seriously trouble when Pope Benedict stepped down from his responsibilities as pope. I recall saying to my husband that if we can't walk away from our responsibilities as spouses (You know, "in sickness and in health" etc.) how can it be right for the pope to resign? Pope John Paul II certainly had health reasons to quit, but he became a witness of suffering to a world that wants only pleasure without pain.

Well, columnist Peter Weber has a thoughtful article that puts into words what I couldn't and I'd be interested in what readers think. One of my favorite priests, Fr. John Hardon, continued in active ministry until he lay on his deathbed. Many of the saints did the same. What is the legacy left to us by Pope Benedict's decision to retire? Is Weber right?

How Pope Benedict unwittingly made the Catholic case for 'conscious uncoupling'


Dymphna said...

I didn't read the Weber piece but I admit I've been expecting someone to ask me this and I have no idea what how I should respond.

Alice Doyle said...

From what I understand, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger tried hard to "retire" under Pope John Paul II who apparently would not release him. Perhaps he was never the right man for the job.
Did he set the right precedent? He certainly set A precedent. But men who become Pope are hopefully seeking the will of God in their lives, not looking to stand on an example from the past. What Pope Benedict said in the article's quote is that a modern day pope needs to be sound in both mind and body to fulfill the Petrine role (paraphrased). I think the question we should ask is--could that be true? Is that something that God revealed to him in his discernment? The world certainly has changed in many important ways. I think Pope Francis could offer the best insight into all of this and perhaps he will at some point. In the meantime, I think it's important to remember that, just as Peter was both the Rock and an individual, very fallible human being, so our popes are individual men who will not always live up to our hopes or expectations.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

I think you are overreacting. Pope John Paul II was in no condition to lead during his last days, and some of his decisions (such as calling Maciel "efficatious guide to youth") were, to put it politely, circumspect. How does a Pope in such a condition help the Church? Besides, the Church is Christ's Bride, not the Pope's. That is perhaps the biggest fallacy in the article. The second biggest is equating Pope Benedict's resignation to Gwyneth Paltrow's "conscious uncoupling." Ms. Paltrow is in nowhere near the condition of the Pope Emeretus; neither does she have 1/1000th of the responsibility.

Alice Doyle said...

I've been thinking about this since I read the article this morning and wanted to add something to my previous comment. Before reading the article, I had no idea what the term "conscious uncoupling" meant. In fact, that was partly why I clicked on the link from Facebook. Gwyneth Paltrow borrowed and then "made famous" the term because she wanted to divorce her husband without calling it divorce. In other words, she did what many people do and used language as a smoke screen to hide the truth. "conscious uncoupling" is a non-thing. Or, at best, the same thing as divorce. Why then did the author give the term credence or question whether Pope Benedict unwittingly supported it?
I feel it is incredibly disrespectful to Pope Benedict to imply that he divorced the Church when he resigned as Pope--or even that his decision somehow makes it easier for married couples to divorce. I'm sure that he did not consider himself to be leaving the Church in any way, just changing his role. In fact, last year, there was a lot of information about the precedent for his decision, unusual as it was.
To me, all that the article did was raise awareness about "conscious uncoupling" and possibly taint the former Pope by linking him to it.

Ryan Haber said...

Analogy is the relationship between two things that are both similar and dissimilar. Catholics believe in, know it or not, a thing called the Analogy of Being, which states that every thing is analogous in some way to every other thing.

The key thing about a priest and his bride, the Church, is that it is a metaphor or an analogy. The relationship of a priest to the Church is analogous to the relationship of a husband to his wife or Christ to the Church in that it is a voluntary self-donation. But there are differences. The promises that a priest makes to his bishop are different to the vows that a man and woman make to each other at their marriage. For the Pope, this is more to the point because upon elevation to the See of Peter, a man makes no additional promises. It also differs because the Pope has numerous responsibilities toward the Church that a husband hasn't got toward his wife.

I do regret the loss of doctrinal precision that Holy Father Benedict gave us. I am very glad for the energy that Holy Father Francis is giving us, and that our Pope Emeritus believed he was no longer able to give the Church, and yet is so crucial to her adequate governance. I think history and reflection will show this decision by Holy Father Benedict to have been utterly prudent. Many of the terrible issues he had to deal with were left to him by our saintly Pope John Paul II, who in his latter years was unable to attend to the curia and to the transregional problems arising from individual dioceses with anything like the needed vigor and detail. Holy Father Benedict no doubt wished, among other things, to see that he did not do likewise.

We are in a crucial time now. We must all pray without ceasing that our faith will be strengthened, and that we strengthen the faith of our brethren. God has not forgotten us.

Anonymous said...

When did Pope Benedict make the vow to stay Pope "till death do us part" like married couples do?