So. Big Catholic news today!
My initial response is that this action was perhaps motivated by Benedict’s experience under JPII during his long decline. From the outside, that looked to at least some of us like JPII witnessing to the worth and dignity of the elderly and frail, which was an importantly countercultural message to a world that worships youth and autonomy. But from the inside, it can’t have been easy for the rest of the crew to try to keep the bark of Peter on course when they couldn’t get to the wheel; and I think that Benedict’s resignation gives an equally important and valuable witness about acting responsibly and prudently in light of one’s own limitations. That’s a very creaturely, finite witness to give in a world that likes to pretend human limitations do not exist.
The timing seems extremely odd to me, however. Resignation effective in the middle of Lent? A conclave to elect a new pope by Easter?? It’s going to be a heck of a Lent.
Ecclesiologically, this is an extremely significant step. As both Fr. Joe Komonchak and Dr. Brian Flanagan observe, this act emphasizes the office of the papacy as primary, not the person of the pope. This is consistent with the understanding of the papacy in Lumen Gentium, and is at least a small step away from the monarchial or even imperial model of the papacy.
Other thoughts? Links? Reactions? Hopes, fears? Questions, especially from my non-Catholic readers? Prayers?