Pope Benedict announced that he will resign the papacy effective Feb. 28. A few thoughts:
1. Before he was elected to the papacy and after, Benedict was quite open about his belief that a pontiff could, and in some circumstances should, resign from the Petrine office. I'm still surprised by this because,
2. It brings the papacy "down to earth" so to speak. Much as I hate to admit it, Sullivan and Hans Kung have a point. It's too soon to tell of course, but I fear the long term consequences of this move will be to reinforce the notion that serving as pope is a job, not a vocation. This is a problem because,
3. The pope and the pope alone is the Vicar of Christ on earth. He alone can be said to be speaking for God when he exercises the fullness of his teaching and governing power. For that reason, George Weigel said that this is not so much a resignation as an abdication. A resignation implies a handing off to someone else, but the pope has no one to whom he can hand off the office. Which means,
4. Related to point number two, this means there will be pressure on all future popes to resign when they do anything the least bit controversial. Heathen rags like the New York Times have been doing this for years of course. But now forces within the Church will try to convince all future popes to resign when they attempt to enforce much needed strengthening of faith, morals, and discipline.
5. Of course this is just idle speculation by some dude on the internet. Even if the next pontiff tries to roll back everything Pope Benedict XVI tried to accomplish, that does not change Christ's promises to his people and his Church.
6. When he ultimately goes on to his eternal reward, I think the current pontiff deserves to be remembered as "Benedict the Great" solely for his writing the Emancipation Proclamation for the Traditional Latin Mass. Many of our bishops are still holding out with liturgical Jim Crow, so here's hoping Raymond Cardinal Burke is elected as Pope Pius XIII (that'll be the day, but hope springs eternal.)