Rev. George W. Rutler, "Benedict’s Decision in the Light of Eternity" (Crisis Magazine, February 13, 2013). An excerpt:
What God knows is not necessarily what God wills. Each pope is guaranteed the protection of the Holy Spirit from fallible definitions of faith and morals, but to suppose that each pope is there because God wants him there, including the unworthy successors of Peter, comes close to the unforgivable blasphemy against the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. Twenty year old Benedict IX was at least as nightmarish as his successor Gregory VI who usually is counted with his predecessor among the popes who relinquished their office....[Hat tip to J.M.]
The Petrine office is not indelible like Holy Orders, and in 1415 Gregory XII nobly and efficiently made his resignation a kind of security for healing the Western Schism. Dante was so frustrated by what he considered dereliction of duty, that he put the abdicated Celestine V into the Inferno but that was his own Commedia, when the Church, not in fancy but in fact, knew he is in Heaven. In 2009 photographs were widely circulated showing Benedict XVI leaving his pallium at Celestine’s tomb, and many commentators then thought that this was more than a gesture of incidental piety.
As with the Spiritual Franciscans as a whole, almost in tandem with the earlier Montanists, Celestine V proved the utter impracticality of dovelike innocence without serpentine astuteness, and Boniface VIII was as right as was John XXII in condemning these “Fraticelli.” But Boniface also proved the desperate shortcoming of cleverness without innocence. Benedict XVI’s serene retreat to pray will not be like the last months of Pope Celestine who might nearly qualify as a martyr for the terrible treatment he endured for ten months until death when immured in the walls of the Fumone castle in Campagna. Celestine was confined to an unsanitary cell hardly large enough for a bed and an altar. We see in this the contempt that venal souls have for the motives of the humble, and Celestine was nothing if not humble. The role of Boniface in Celestine’s degradation has often been sanitized, but, as John Henry Newman wrote in the Historical Sketches: "glosses are put upon memorable acts, because they are thought not edifying, whereas of all scandals such omissions, such glosses, are the greatest.” ... Read more >>