By now you've all heard the news, and many of you messaged me either by email or on Facebook, asking me what I think of the resignation of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. Also, before all you modern church history scholars out there inundate me with angry emails, I am writing all this off of pure memory, as a response from people to offer my thoughts.
Those unfamiliar with Ratzinger would do well to recall that he was one of the many young priests who attended Vatican II as a conciliar peritus, i.e., as a priest and scholar-expert advising the many bishops, archbishops, and cardinals gathered at that council. For those even more in the know about that event, the council was "hijacked" early on - according to some interpretations - by a group of liberalizing bishops from southern Germany, and Austria. There was, shortly after the council, even a book about this hijacking by a Roman Catholic priest, called The Rhine Flows into the Tiber. The end result of this groups influence on the council - for it was all-pervasive - was effectively a Roman Catholicism that bears little outward resemblance to what had preceded it: the Tridentine mass was gone, and with it, the liturgical connection to the previous 1900 years' development of Christian ritual. Effectively, an entirely new ritual was promulgated - the plodding pedestrian, dull Novus Ordo Missae in use in Roman churches today. And, for those who really dig into the whole affair, the Novus Ordo was actually drawn up by a committee chaired by Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, who, it was later discovered, turned out to be a Freemason (somewhat of a Catholic no-no in those days). Pope Paul VI (Giovanni Cardinal Montini) who had succeeded Pope John XXIII (Angelo Cardinal Roncalli), had already promulgated the Novus Ordo, thereby entangling it with that marvellous aura of infallibility. Thus, all he could do was to exile Bugnini to be the Apostolic Nuncio - the Vatican ambassador - to the then Shah of Iran. Perhaps Paul VI knew something about Reza Pahlavi that we don't.
In any case, for some Roman Catholic clergy, the New Mass, besides being incredibly ugly to those familiar with the older tradition, caused something of a crisis of conscience for many clergy. The reason? Clergy ordained prior to The Big Change swore an Oath Against Modernism, part of which was that they would celebrate no other mass than that which had been delivered to them, namely the Tridentine Mass, under pain of excommunication. Some Roman clergy bolted altogether, entering the Anglican or Episcopal churches, which had not yet gutted their liturgy, some became Eastern Orthodox, and some joined a movement of emerging traditionalists intent upon maintaining the old ways. This latter movement became known as the Society of Pius X, and eventually French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre emerged as its leader, to become quite a thorn in the side of the reformists who had by then seized control of the Vatican.
Ratzinger was there, leading the charge for the change. Later, he would dress in the robes of a "conservative", becoming the head of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (the official name of the Roman Inquisition), and the close advisor to Pope John-Paul II (Karol Cardinal Woytila). In that role, when Archbishop Lefebvre, acting under what he claimed was canonical emergency authority, consecrated bishops for his traditionalist movement, it was Ratzinger who urged Pope John Paul II to excommunicate him, and, therewith, his followers. (There were other nasty rumors floating around the Catholic conspiracy mill in those days as well, one of which was that after the death of Pope Paul VI, it was really Cardinal Siri - a traditionalist - of Genoa that was elected Pope, but the election was "stolen" from him, and thus the "See is Vacant." This group, the Sede Vacantists, was never very large, and in any case, it's a whole other story).
I hope that the reader will see what, for the faithful or pious Catholic, is really going on. The Second Vatican Council was, for these traditionalists, a disaster. They wished to do nothing but maintain Catholic tradition. They changed no doctrine. There were, quite simply, Catholic.
Ratzinger had their leader excommunicated for his efforts.
The late Fr. Malachi Martin, with whom I had the privilege of conducting a private three year correspondence, in his last book, the novel Windswept House, begins the book with the presentation that, prior to Vatican II, not only was there a liberalizing group intent upon taking control of the Vatican, but that this group in turn was connected with secret occultists: people who practice sex magic, and human sacrifice. Beyond this, Fr. Martin did not say much, but he certainly implied.
Then, the nasty rumors of molestation began to start, quietly though perceptibly, during the early Pontificate of John Paul II. The rumor began as a trickle, and now is a flood. And there is already some suggestion out there that Ratzinger when a Cardinal Archbishop may have participated in the cover-up and the policy of clergy protection. Given the history of the man with respect to Roman Catholic traditionalists and the handling of the crises of conscience it represented for them, it would not, in my opinion, be surprising.
But there is, too, lurking in the background, all that papal prophecy stuff from the Roman Catholic St. Malachy (most decidedly not a saint for the Eastern Orthodox, nor, for that matter, the Anglicans). According to this, Malachy prophesied all the popes ahead of time by describing them in short mottos. Benedict XVI's motto, in the Malachy prophecy, was gloria olivae, the glory of the olive, a reference, in Roman Catholic tradition, to the Benedictines. Some, prior to the election of Ratzinger, expected a pope to be elected who was from the Benedictine religious order. No matter. Ratzinger dutifully obliged the prophecy by choosing the name Benedict for his papal name.
Interestingly enough, there is only one motto left, the "final Pope," who is called by Malachy Petrus Romanus who is supposed to feed his sheep amongst great tribulation. The apocalyptic overtones are obvious.
So why am I bothering you with a mediaeval Irish bishop's prophecy? Well, for one thing, Benedict's resignation, I strongly suspect, did not come about on its own, so to speak. In the Byzantine backstabbing ways of ecclesiastical politics, I strongly suspect, though I have no evidence, that Benedict was pressured - blackmailed - into resignation for his part in the "affair of the affairs" so to speak. That's one possibility...
The other possibility, lurking in the background, is it's easy to "fulfill" prophecy when (1) you create the prophecy and (2) control the interpretation of it, and (3) are on a timetable for the "clash of civilizations." If that's on the apocalypse menu, then having "Petrus Romanus" around might help set the stage a bit.
And that, really, is the final point: it's theater.... for the moment. But if the new pope chooses the name Peter, then it might be time to start worrying just a little....
See you on the flip side.