Pope Benedict

Does God Pick the Pope? by Jimmy Akin

DoesGodPickthePope-e1520967085851“When Pope Benedict was elected in 2005, I was overjoyed.As much as I loved John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger spoke to me in a special way, and I was thrilled when he became pope.

I was puzzled, though, by the way people began announcing him as “God’s choice” and speaking as if—in every conclave—the Holy Spirit himself selects the pope.

It’s customary for people to speak that way in the jubilation that occurs whenever a new people is elected.

I knew that, but this was the first conclave I witnessed as an adult, and as a Catholic, and I hadn’t experienced it first hand.

That kind of language is understandable as a way of building confidence for the new pontificate, but is it literally true?

Does the Holy Spirit really select the best possible man for the job, or is it a form of pious hyperbole?

130227151945-01-pope-0227-horizontal-large-galleryCommon Sense

Common sense would suggest the latter. The cardinals in a conclave certainly invoke the Holy Spirit and seek his guidance, but he does not override their free will.

We’ve had some really bad popes in the history of the Church, and not just ones like Peter who made mistakes and then repented.

We’ve had some genuinely bad actors in the papacy (for example, Benedict IX, who reigned three different times between 1032 and 1048).

So in what sense can the election of a pope be said to be God’s will?

Divine Providence

Everything that happens in history takes place under God’s providential care.

By his omnipotence, God could stop any event from occurring, and so if something happens, it’s because God allows it.

The election of a pope thus can be said to be God’s will in the sense that any historical event can.

In this broad sense, however, the fact that something is God’s will does not guarantee that he approves of it.

It may be God’s will to allow a man to commit adultery, but that doesn’t mean he approves of the adultery.

Is the election of a pope in accord with God’s will only in this minimal sense or does it involve something greater?

Divine Guidance

While God does not override human free will, he does offer guidance. Jesus gave the Church certain promises in this regard, stating:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth (John 16:13).

And:

Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age (Matt. 28:20).

God has thus promised to give the Church his guidance. He has also promised it to individuals:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him (James 1:5).

If an individual man seeks God’s guidance, he can count on it being given. This does not mean it will be easy to hear or understand, or that the man will act on it, but it does mean that God will offer his assistance in some way.

Similarly, when the college of cardinals seeks God’s guidance in a conclave, they can be confident he will give it. Indeed, given the weightiness of the decision facing the cardinals and the implications it will have for the entire Church, they can expect he will provide even greater guidance.

This does not guarantee that the guidance will be easy to hear or understand, or that the cardinals will act on it, but it does mean that God’s assistance will be provided.

By presuming the discernment and good will of the cardinals, we may presume the man they elect was chosen in accord with God’s guidance and thus that his election was God’s will in a greater way than if God merely allowed it.

merlin_131618630_0d1d7ad7-0fa1-4021-bd20-1221f21ad866-master768A Marriage Analogy

We should be careful about assuming that there is only one correct choice for pope, for the process of selecting a pope is similar to the process of selecting a spouse.

Pop culture sometimes promotes the idea that everyone has a soul mate—a single, best individual that they should marry—but the reality is more complex.

Each marriage prospect has different strengths and weaknesses, and depending on who you choose, your marriage will unfold in different ways. But that doesn’t mean there is a single, best candidate you must find.

Even if there is, identifying that person with confidence cannot be humanly accomplished, given the number of factors and the number of unknowns in play.

Similarly, candidates for the papacy have different strengths and weaknesses. Depending on who the cardinals choose, the next papacy will unfold in different ways. But there may not be a single, best choice—or one that is humanly knowable.

463416006_wide-76d348e063e8cf373b6b6c1ffc284c7d62581e32-s900-c85After the Choice is Made

Once a selection has been made, however, a new mode of divine will comes into play.

In the case of a marriage, once you exchange vows, it is God’s will that you treat that person as your spouse.

The realm of possibilities that existed before has now reduced to a single person, and that person is your divinely ordained spouse. He ordained that you be spouses in the moment the vows were exchanged, and “what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matt. 19:6).

It’s now your job to make the marriage work, not to worry about what-ifs and might-have-beens.

Similarly, when a man accepts his election as pope, he becomes the divinely ordained pope, and it’s now everyone’s job in the Church to support him in the various ways that are appropriate to their station and to make the papacy work.

Spouses are not perfect, and neither are popes. Just as every marriage has challenges and requires work, so does every papacy.

Cardinal Ratzinger’s Views

When he was still a cardinal, Benedict XVI acknowledged the fact that cardinals can elect sub-optimal popes in an interview with German television back in 1997.

When asked whether the Holy Spirit is responsible for the election of a pope, he said:

I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the pope. . . . I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined (John Allen, The Rise of Benedict XVI, 6).

He continued:

There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!

Similarly, in his final address to the college of cardinals, Pope Benedict stated:

Before I say goodbye to each one of you personally, I would like to tell you that I shall continue to be close to you with my prayers, especially in these coming days, that you may be completely docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope. May the Lord show you the one whom he wants.

Benedict’s prayer that they will be docile to the Holy Spirit indicates the possibility that they will not be docile

GroupthinkImplications for the Future

Nobody knows when the next conclave will be, but we can draw several implications from all this.

First, we can be confident from the fact that the cardinals seek God’s guidance that he will give it to them, as he has promised.

Second, even if they make a sub-optimal choice, we can be confident that God will ultimately bring good out of it, for “in everything God works for good with those who love him” (Rom. 8:28; cf. CCC 311).

Third, we need to pray. We need to pray now that good cardinals will be chosen, and when they meet in conclave, we need to pray that they will earnestly seek and heed God’s guidance.”

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By Phil Lawler (bio – articles – email) | May 31, 2017

1951236_ArticoloIn his homily at Mass on Wednesday morning, commenting on St. Paul’s farewell to the Church at Ephesus, Pope Francis said:

A shepherd must be ready to step down completely from his church, rather than leave in a partial manner….

All shepherds have to step down. There comes a moment where the Lord says ‘go to another place, come here, go there, come to me.’ And it’s one of the steps that a shepherd must take; be prepared to step down in the correct way, not still hanging on to his position. The shepherd who doesn’t learn how to do this because he still has some links with his sheep that are not good, links that are not purified by the Cross of Jesus.

The homily as a whole focused on the role of a bishop, with the Pope insisting that a bishop must recognize that he is not “the center of history,” but a servant of his people and their Lord. Still those words about stepping down—and the emphasis on stepping down completely—caught the attention of many Vatican-watchers. Was Pope Francis speaking in general terms about the proper duties of bishops and pastors? Or did he have something more specific in mind?

If the latter, was he hinting that he might be considering resignation?

Or was he sending an oblique message to Benedict XVI, who seemed to be breaking his silence last week?

I don’t have the answers. But I am not alone in raising the questions.

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George is right, Georg is wrong

by Steve Ray on June 8, 2016

by Dr. Edward Peters

George Weigel has an excellent critique of Abp. Georg Gänswein’s weird theory of, of—of what, exactly?—a Janus-like, bifurcated, co-papacy featuring Francis as the ‘active’ member and Benedict XVI as the ‘contemplative’ member. It’s nonsense, of course, and I have little to add to Weigel’s call for firmly rejecting such malarkey.

But may I note, too, a passage from Bl. Pius IX: “Pax et unitas ipsius Ecclesiae in grave discrimen facile adducerentur, si, Apostolica Sede vacante, in electione novi Pontificis quidquam fieri contingeret, quod eam incertam ac dubium reddere posset.” Pius IX, const. Cum Romanis Pontifibus (4 dec 1869), Gasparri’s Fontes III: 39-41, at 39.

Granted, when writing these words Pius had in mind the dangers to ecclesial stability potentially arising from shenanigans during a papal vacancy and/or conclave but I suspect he would have offered the same sort of warning in the wake of a scenario he could scarcely have imagined: a pope resigning and then sitting quietly by while the man on earth probably closest to him provokes confusion about the finality and consequences of his resignation.

Francis is pope, God bless him. And us!

Phil Lawler comments: https://shar.es/1JsEYt

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Pope Emeritus Benedict: Interreligious Dialogue No Substitute for Spreading the Gospel

November 17, 2014

Less than a month ago, from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:  Retired Pope Benedict XVI said dialogue with other religions is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures, and warned against relativistic ideas of religious truth as “lethal to faith.” He also said the true motivation for missionary work is not to increase the […]

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Pope Benedict Vindicated in his Lecture on Islam

September 23, 2014

 Excerpt from George Weigel’s article in First Things Magazine. “Benedict XVI, I am sure, takes no pleasure in history’s vindication of his Regensburg Lecture. But his critics in 2006 might well examine their consciences about the opprobrium they heaped on him eight years ago. “Admitting that they got it wrong in 2006 would be a useful […]

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Pope Francis’ Homily to Close the Year of Faith

November 24, 2013

This Year of Faith was a great year and inspired many to take their faith seriously. I admire Pope Benedict for instituting the Year of Faith and Pope Francis for closing it out with class. What was the Year of Faith? It is very simple: 1) Learn you faith; 2) Live your faith; 3) Share […]

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Pope Benedict’s “First Convert” – and a Jewish Convert at that

April 20, 2013

Groucho Marx once said, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have a guy like me as a member.”  So began my witness testimony at the Easter Vigil on April 7, 2007, when my wife Barbara and I entered the Catholic Church. For a New York Jew, who’d detested the name “Jesus” […]

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Pope Meets Pope Emeritus – a First in Catholic History

March 26, 2013

At this link, there are the first videos of the historic meeting. The first shows the helicopter landing and the first embarce of the two men:  http://video.repubblica.it/dossier/il-nuovo-papa/a-castel-gandolfo-lo-storico-incontro-tra-i-due-papi/123281/121771 (The first embrace of Pope Francis and Emeritus Pope Benedict, shortly after noon today in the Vatican Gardens at Castel Gandolfo, about 20 miles outside of Rome. Pope […]

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Are Popes Bound to Serve for Life? Popes Who Resigned (a new e-book)

February 26, 2013

E-mail I received from St. Benedict Press: “Dear Steve: “As you know, questions regarding the process, history and meaning of papal resignations are of burning interest to Catholics right now. Popular author Thomas Craughwell addresses these questions in Popes Who Resigned, a fascinating new ebook from TAN. Craughwell spans 20 centuries to unveil fourteen unique […]

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Can You Wager or Bet on the Conclave?

February 26, 2013

New post on “In the Light of the Law“ Betting on the conclave? by Dr. Edward Peters According to the (Old) Catholic Encyclopedia , in his bullum Cogit nos (21 March 1591), Pope Gregory XIV forbade under pain of excommunication all bets concerning the election of a pope, the duration of a pontificate, or the […]

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Pope’s Farewell at Sunday’s Angelus; Changes Conclave’s Rules for Election of New Pope

February 24, 2013

He explains his continuing service to the Church: Dear brothers and sisters, I hear this Word of God addressed to me in a special way during this moment of my life. Thank you! The Lord is calling me to “scale the mountain,” to dedicate myself still more to prayer and to meditation. But this does […]

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Check Out the New World Youth Day Facebook Page – Share it with a Young Person

February 21, 2013

World Youth Day Gets Global Facebook Page Communications Director Eager to Make Pope’s Message Accessible RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL, February 21, 2013 (Zenit.org) – Facebook users who access the World Youth Day Rio ’13 page will now benefit from the global setting supplied by that social network. The page is available in 21 profiles, and […]

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20 Quick Questions & 20 Brief Answers about the Pope’s Resignation …

February 21, 2013

20 Brief Answers to 20 Questions ROME, February 20, 2013 (Zenit.org) – Benedict XVI’s renunciation has raised many questions, and not only in the Catholic world. Some of the questions are of a practical nature, while others regard more far-reaching doubts. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, has given several press […]

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Before He Was Pope

February 17, 2013

I just pulled this out of our family archives…our family had the honor of speaking with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the Year of Jubilee.  

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I Just Discovered this Video of our Family’s Meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict)

February 17, 2013

This brings back fond memories of our morning meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger in Rome after he celebrated Mass at the German College in the Vatican. I was giving him my book and he signed a copy of his book for me. I was telling him that my endorsement was on the back of one of […]

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The Conclave: What the Pope Can Do, Can’t Do & Won’t Do

February 16, 2013

New post by Dr. Ed Peters: What the pope can do, can’t do, might do, won’t do… Benedict XVI’s startling decision to act under a canonical norm (c. 332 § 2) that has been invoked only twice in its 700+ year lifetime (once in 1296 by Celestine V who wrote the law, and apparently by […]

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