Consequences of Vatican II
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Hermit in Poland

Atila Sinke Guimarães

The rumors are growing in Rome about an upcoming resignation of John Paul II. From various sources, news of this type is being circulated. Here are excerpts from an interview of Giancarlo Zizola with the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de São Paulo (June 27, 2000). Zizola is one of the most renowned Vatican specialists in Italy. His pieces are published in Italian and international papers. Further, he is the author of ten books on contemporary religious subjects, among them his recently released work titled The Reform of the Papacy, and The Successor (1995).

“The debate about the choice of a new Pope began at least five years ago, precisely when I published my book [The Successor],” commented Zizola in the June interview. “Everyone is speaking openly about this in the corridors of the Vatican and in meetings of ecclesiastical authorities. It is the topic of the moment.”

Resignation of the pope

A farewell on the horizon?
The Vatican specialist then enters into the question of what would lead John Paul II to retire: “Conscious of his own impotence in face of a great [future] transformation, he is doing what he can do. For example, after having written an encyclical that deals with the subject of the reform of the Papacy, and after having inserted regulations for the election of a Pope into the electoral laws on a Church conclave, he created a new clause. From now on, the election of a Pope can be carried out not only when a Pope dies, but also in the case of the resignation of a Pontiff. For me, the inclusion of this clause is an important sign. During his last trip to his homeland, Poland, John Paul II decided to make a spiritual retreat. Doing this, he tried to send a message that …. he could retire to live in an old and simple monastery. I think that with this gesture he wanted to warn us about what will take place after the Jubilee: his resignation. He wrote this regulation and I believe that he will be the one who will probably apply it for the first time. In case this happens, it will be a great opening, a first step for the reform of the Papacy.”

It does not seem superfluous to raise some questions here that the text suggests, which could help us to understand the future possibilities.
  • Would the next Pope be designated by John Paul II while the latter is still in possession of the papal powers? In this case, what would be the juridical standing of the new delegated Pope? Would he have the fullness of papal powers? In turn, would the resigning Pope continue to possess the powers so that he could re-enter the picture, should it be necessary? Or would he renounce all the powers? It was always taught that the Papacy is a lifelong office. What would be the situation of the Catholic Church with two Popes: a delegated Pope and a retired Pope? If it is possible to have two Popes, why wouldn’t it be possible to have three or four? The perspective is that of growing confusion.

  • The resignation of a Pope who judges himself incapable of continuing to govern the Church in itself contains a contradictory element. In effect, resignation would be necessary if the incapacity is notorious, as in the case of St. Celestine V, who obviously was unable as he showed in the five months he governed the Church. However, nowadays it would be John Paul II himself, who has directed the Church for more than 20 years, who would be attesting to his incapacity. Now, if he can judge who would no longer be capable, he is in full possession of his mental capacities. Only in this case would his act of resignation be valid. That is to say, his incapacity would not be proved. What would be proved is that he has judged it convenient to resign, even though he is still capable. In these conditions, one would have the establishment of resignation by personal convenience, and not for notorious incapacity. If this were accepted, it would mean the virtual establishment of a rotating Papacy, with a term of office that lasts for as long a time as a Pontiff would want to exercise his functions. This would open the door to a periodical Papacy, as many progressivists desire.
Posted August 31, 2000

Tradition in Action

Transitory Popes

Atila Sinke Guimarães
Published in The Remnant, January 31, 2001

During an October 19, 2000, interview to Reuters Agency, Brussels Cardinal Godfried Danneels was asked if the retirement age of 75 for Bishops should also apply to Popes. Danneels replied: “The question will inevitably be posed in some form to the next Popes. And it would not surprise me if the Pope [John Paul II] were to retire after 2000. He wanted at all costs to reach the Jubilee Year 2000, but I consider him capable of retiring afterward.” He added, “In the future, I think, it will have to be like this. One won’t be able to do otherwise.” The same day, the Vatican released a statement in response to Danneels’ remarks. “This is a personal opinion of Cardinal Danneels, which finds no confirmation,” said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Vals (National Catholic Reporter, October 27, 2000, p.8).

Personal opinion or not, Danneels is not considered a hothead. If he made such a statement, it is because he felt his back was well covered. Which seems to indicate that other highly placed people think like him. This could be heading toward a system of transitory Popes, who would be put out of the Chair of Peter after reaching the age of 75. A practical consequence: just as now we have retired Bishops and retired Cardinals, it seems that in the future we will have the retired Pope, or even more than one. A kind of Queen Mother with the “mission” of waving and smiling to the crowds...

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