Saturday, March 27, 2010

Papal Resignations

All the news sources are saying the only two papal resignations in history were Celestine V in 1294 and Gregory XII in 1415.

This simply isn't true. Several Popes resigned during the Dark Ages. Well, history books often say they were "deposed," but deposition was only valid because the Popes in question consented. A Pope cannot actually be deposed against his will (as Popes, like John XII, who resisted attempted depositions prove). He can, however, give into heavy pressure (military or political) to resign.

Some examples of other Popes who have resigned besides the "famous two" include:

St. Pontian
Benedict V
Sylvester III
Gregory VI
Benedict IX (three separate times!)


Michael D said...

I've always loved the story of Pope St. Celestine V; if only because it reminds me of the Platonic dialogs. The reluctant man, who refused to reign until he was essentially given no other option. It evokes the notion of the selfless, philosopher-king ruler. Of course, in our modern age where a thousand politicians are always willing to stand up and take charge, such circumstances would never happen. Still, a person can dream.

A Sinner said...

Though, Dante hated him for resigning.

The one who made the "Great Refusal" in Canto 3 of the Inferno seems to have been deliberately left ambiguous as either Pontius Pilate or Celestine V (I bet Dante's glad he didn't make it explicit now, as Celestine became a Saint).

Dante felt that by resigning when he could have done a lot of good, Celestine was a coward, and paved the way for the corrupt Popes of the early 14th century.

Of course, the Church has judged otherwise. For one, because a Pope's incompetent administrative decisions (if made in good faith) don't mar their personal holiness.

sortacatholic said...

I find it preposterous how media outlets run polls such as "do you think Pope Benedict should resign?" What is this, American Idol? He's a friggin' monarch!

I understand what people are crying out for -- change. Deposing one Pope to bring up another that's probably just as competent won't make the problem go away quickly. Pope Benedict's idea to hold a synod to tackle the abuse problem is much more constructive.