Why did he do it?
3 years ago, Pope Benedict XVI resigned from the Papacy. His act was an Earth shaking event that very few people realize the gravity of this event and it's effect on everything else that has come since, both in the Church and the World. If we hold that the Church has a special place in the world, then what happens to the Church will effect the world. This resignation was the final sign that we are in dire times.
Unlike others, I will not attack Pope Benedict for this act - mostly because I think the decision was honorable. Unlike John Allen, who recently wrote in Crux Magazine (linked HERE), who thinks that his decision had everything to do with his self-awareness to know that he couldn't do the job anymore, I don't think that was the reason at all. Considering his good health the last 3 years, as well as my general cynicism toward anybody that needs to stay in the good graces of the Vatican, I think John Allen doesn't qualify as an unbiased reporter.
So why did he do it?
Many rumors have been floated, including the Vatican letters scandal, but I would suggest that one rumor is more interesting than the rest. And it has ramifications for the Church and the world on a massive scale.
If you take Austen Ivereigh at his word (and I do have some suspicions since he doesn't have a big enough sack to take my comments to him on Twitter), then there were a set of cardinals that were talking among themselves about who to support after Pope John Paul II died. And there are numerous sources indicating that Jorge Bergoglio's name was being floated during the conclave in 2005. For various reasons, and I would suggest listening to the Holy Spirit rather than the plotting of men, Joseph Ratzinger was selected and became Pope Benedict XVI.
The thwarting of their plans was bad enough. But they would just act as they did during John Paul's reign -- they would do what they wanted to do knowing that nobody would stop them, condemn them or remove them from office. But then one document was issued by Benedict that fundamentally changed the path of the Church -- Summorum Pontificum. Let me explain.
After Vatican II, Archbishop Bugnini and other progressive liturgists, under the cover of Vatican II, created the rules for the "new" Mass that was authorized by Vatican II. That was a lie. There are no documents of Vatican II that specifically authorized a new Mass to be created. However, very few bishops and priests read the Vatican II documents and so with the Imprimatur of the Vatican, many just assumed that Vatican II called for this. Of course, there were many older and traditional clerics who didn't agree with this and wouldn't perform the "new" Mass. But the vast majority did. Pope Paul VI "authorized" the Novus Ordo Mass in 1969 (though there is some debate whether or not, under Canon Law, he actually authorized the Novus Ordo. But that's another post for another day).
When the Novus Ordo was "approved", there was a concurrent position sent throughout the world that the Novus Ordo replaced the traditional Latin Mass and that the Latin Mass was no longer allowed to be said. Of course, this is ridiculous that the Mass of the last 1000 years was now verboten, but many believed it.
From that point, the Latin Mass was said less and less. Bishops told their priests to no longer say it and seminaries stopped teaching Latin to the seminarians to where the only priests who knew the Latin Mass were old priests who would retire soon. Then Pope John Paul, in 1984, issued a document that "allowed" for the limited use of the Latin Mass in special circumstances and with the consent of the Bishop. What is so unfortunate about this action is that it acknowledged the legitimacy of the previous "ban" on the Latin Mass. This is something that we should always be weary of -- never acknowledge the legitimacy of the assumptions of the other side. Pope John Paul II did.
So for 23 years, there was very limited use of the Latin Mass throughout the world. But then, the earthquake hit. Summorum Pontificum said, in basic terms, that the Latin Mass was the right of every Catholic, that it never should have been abrogated and forbidden, and that Vatican II never called for it's abrogation. It also said that the Bishop cannot block the use of the Latin Mass at any time.
Think, for a moment, at the shock waves that this action sent throughout the chanceries around the world and in the Vatican. The reestablishment of the Old Mass? A severe hit against Vatican II? What next? All the revolutionary work in the Church to make the Church acceptable to the world, gone?
Benedict became a marked man at this point. Though he was old, he was made of strong Bavarian stock. He could live for a dozen more years and do all sorts of damage to the agenda of the "Spirit of Vatican II" crowd.
I believe this is when the actions started that eventually led to Benedict's resignation 3 years ago. Various things, like "accusations" of child abuse by his priestly brother were shots across the bow. But what I would speculate on, is that knowledge of certain plans were found out by those serving Pope Benedict that would compromise the Church going forward.
And I believe that Pope Benedict XVI had a decision to make -- stay and assist in creating a situation that would lead to the Church's physical destruction or remove himself from the equation and thwart the plans placed against him. And he chose the later. He and his servants could never say what was really going on, but they knew that rumors would start flying and that many wouldn't accept the shallow argument that it was his health. Some also said that he just wanted to return to Bavaria, play the piano and be with his brother.
Instead, he has been, for lack of a better word, under house arrest in Mater Eccelisiae Monastery in the Vatican. He is unable to talk with anyone, unable to leave, unable to exert any influence on the path of the Church. For all intents and purposes, he is in prison till he dies.
Not a very dignified end to a former Pope, huh? Sounds familiar though.
Back in the day, another Pope resigned. In 1294, Pope Celestine V was both elected Pope and then resigned from the Papacy, under the direction of the future Pope Boniface VIII, his successor. Though he requested a monastery so he could pray and be silent, he was placed under house arrest by Boniface until he died a year and a half later.
He was a man that wanted nothing more than to pray and serve God and what he found in the Roman Curia was nothing but plotting, spiteful men with dubious morality and he quickly realized that he didn't have the skill set to perform the job for which he was selected around these jackals. But rather than succumb to their murderous plots, he removed himself from the equation. And though he suffered personally, it was far better that he resigned than allow another scandal to plague the medieval Church.
One of his standing legacies was his establishment of Gregory X's rules for papal conclaves -- the only policy that his successor kept that has stayed in Canon Law till the present day that was further supported by John Paul's rules for papal conclaves.
Funny how Ivereigh's book brings the whole question of the conclave of 2013 into question. If you take his book, and subsequent remarks by certain cardinals, most notoriously Cardinal McCarrick of Washington DC, several rules for conclaves were broken. The automatic penalty for those violations -- excommunication.
The path of humanity changed on February 11, 2013. The last pope of St. Malachy's vision was about to come on the throne of St. Peter. James Foley would be beheaded by ISIS on August 19, 2014 that would inaugurate the great Islamic war with the West.
The path of the Church changed. The path of the West changed. The path of the world changed. We are all in the midst of the aftershocks of Benedict's decision.
It's our responsibility to see the Church and the West through this. The burden is on our shoulders.