Pope Francis Is Going to Be 80 -- The Possibility of a Resignation
By Roberto de Mattei *
Pope Francis is crossing the threshold of 80: Ingravescentem aetatem (advanced age), as the motu proprio of 21 November 1970 by Paul VI declared, which, by reaching this age, requires all cardinals to put their tasks to an end, and deprives them of the right to participate in the conclave. Paul VI. established this rule to create a new "Montinian" curia. Moreover, he introduced a fundamental contradiction in the Church's more than a thousand years of practice.
If the advanced age is an impediment to the direction of a diocese or a dicastery, and even prevents a cardinal from choosing a pope, how can we imagine that a cardinal who has become a pope, even after the age of eighty? Can he bear the burden of the world church?
It was not, however, such considerations that urged Pope Francis on 12 March 2015 to say:
"I have the feeling that my pontificate will be short, 4, 5 years. Perhaps it is not so, but I have the feeling that the Lord has set me up for a brief cause. But it is a feeling, so I leave all possibilities open. "
The real reason for a possible abdication does not seem to be a decline in capability, but Pope Bergoglio's awareness, not two years after his election, to be penetrated into what Antonio Socci in the newspaper on November 20, 2016 Libero describes as the relentless "decline of a pontificate."
The project of Pope Francis to "reform" the Church with the help of the bishop's synod and various collaborators, is well in place, and the record of the Holy Year is more than disappointing. On November 21, 2016 Marco Politi wrote in the daily Il Fatto quotidiano :
"Pope Francis closed the Holy Door, but his message is accompanied by the rumbling of a subterranean crisis. There is a civil war in the Church. "
The dispute was whether consciously or unconsciously, unleashed by Pope Francis himself, especially after the Apostolic Letter Amoris laetitia, the Church no longer moves forward, but is sinking into a terrain riddled with deep crevices.
The failure of the pontificate of Pope Francis has already been compared to that of Barack Hussein Obama. In three years in Rome, what has taken place in Washington in eight years: the transition from an initial euphoria to a final depression, because the set goals were completely missed. It would be wrong, however, to read the pontificate of Pope Francis only from a political point of view. Pope Francis could never have pronounced Obama's "yes, we can".
For a pope, as opposed to a politician, everything is not possible. The Pope has a supreme, full, immediate, and universal authority, but can not alter the Divine Law that Jesus Christ gave to the Church, nor change the natural law which God has imprinted in the heart of every man. He is the vicar of Christ, but not his successor. The Pope can not alter either the Holy Scriptures or the tradition which form the far-reaching rule of the Church's faith, but must submit to them.
This is the impasse in which Pope Bergoglio is today. The Dubia that four cardinals (Brandmüller, Burke, Caffarra and Meisner) have laid before the CDF have forced him upon a dead track. The Cardinals expect a clear response from the Pope on the Apostolic Letter Amoris laetitia with a yes or a no to the following questions:
Can divorced persons who have once again married once and who do not want to give up their objectively sinful situation in which they find themselves, rightfully receive the sacrament of the Eucharist? And more generally: Do the Divine Law and Natural Law still have absolute validity, or do they tolerate exceptions in some cases?
The answer concerns the foundations of morality and the Catholic faith. If what was valid yesterday is no longer valid today, then what is valid today, will not be valid tomorrow. If, however, morality can change according to time and circumstances, the Church is destined to perish in the relativism of today's fluid society. If this is not the case, Cardinal Vallini must be exempted from his office, who stated in his speech at the pastoral meeting of the diocese of Rome last September 19 that newly married divorced persons may be admitted to the communion in accordance with an "assessment which is appropriate case by case." His position set out on 2 December in the daily newspaper Avvenire, a media organ of the Italian Bishops' Conference as his own, that according to the Amoris laetitia contains "very clear words" upon which "the Pope has set his imprimatur".
But can the Pope confer on the shepherds' "judgment" the authority to transcend the law of God and the right of nature, the preserve of which is the Church? When a pope tries to change the faith of the Church, he explicitly or implicitly renounces his mandate as vicar of Christ, and sooner or later he will be compelled to renounce his pontificate. The possibility of such an explosive result can not be ruled out in 2017. The self-imposed abdication would allow Pope Francis to abandon the field as a misunderstood reformer, and to attribute to the responsibility for his failure upon the "severity" of the curia. If this is to happen, it will be more likely to happen after the next consistory, which allows Pope Francis to once again plant a new group of cardinals near him to influence the Holy College, thereby influencing the choice of his successor. The other possibility is the fraternal reprimand by the Cardinals, which, as soon as it becomes publicly known, corresponds to a determination of errors and heresies.
Nothing is more erroneous than the sentence of Cardinal Hummes, in reference to the total number of cardinals: "They are only four, we are 200". Apart from not counting on numbers to demonstrate the fidelity to the Gospel, what are the 200 Cardinals, who are 227 to be exact, to whom Hummes has referred, who have distanced themselves from their four confreres. Have they actually distanced themselves by their silence from Pope Francis? The first observations in support of the Dubia by Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum , and Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Economic Secretariat, are meaningful. Some are beginning to break their silence. There are not 200, but certainly more than four.
* Roberto de Mattei , historian, father of five children, Professor of Modern History and History of Christianity at the European University of Rome, president of Lepanto Foundation, author of numerous books, most recently appeared: Vicario di Cristo. Il primato di Pietro tra normalità ed eccezione (Vicar of Christ. The Primacy of Peter Between Normality and Exception), Verona 2013; In German translation at last: The Second Vatican Council - a hitherto unwritten story, Ruppichteroth 2011.
Translation: Giuseppe Nardi
Image: MiL (Screenshot)