Benedict and Malachy


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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89 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    This is interesting and a part of Church history I was unfamiliar with.

    I checked this morning and it has been 600 years since the last pope resigned. We are in very interesting waters here. I think the public is going to really get caught up in this over the next few weeks.

    I’m also hoping it sets a new precedent for pope’s leaving before they are too old to be effective. PJP II was like that at the end. Report

  2. Avatar North says:

    The current pope is alleged to have been connected to some of the Bishops who were entangled badly in the entire child mollestation coverup scandal. I wonder if he’s stepping down or being stepped down (after an appropriate span of time so as to lend deniability to the assertion that the two are connected). Or perhaps I’m being excessively cynical.Report

  3. Avatar RTod says:

    Popes can step down? Did not know that.

    I foresee a Hollywood RomCom where the Pope steps down for the love of a woman. She’ll be a firecracker atheist attorney suing the Church for hiding child abuse, and he’ll confound his Cardinals by insisting on making closing arguments himself. They’ll start off hating one another, but the audience will start asking, “will they or won’t they?”

    I see Ryan Reynolds as the Pope and Jennifer Aniston as the spitfire lawyer.Report

  4. Avatar Joe Shaw says:

    I want to know what Dan Brown and Tom Hanks think of all of this.Report

  5. Well first of all, thanks for this post. When I heard the news driving in to work this morning, the very first thing I thought was “But what has Saint Malachy said about all of this!!” So thanks for clearing that up.

    (Not really, of course. As is typical, the next thing I thought was “man, that driver from New Hampshire is a total asshole.”)

    Falsification of apocalyptic prophesies fills me with incredible glee. When the world didn’t collapse into a maelstrom of sulfur and ifrits after that one talk radio guy said it would recently, I wished I’d had the means to fly to where he lived and knock on his door, just so I could point and laugh.

    And you’re right about Rome. Everyone said I’d like Florence better before I visited Italy. Nope. Rome was my favorite.Report

  6. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I know, right? The temptation to point and laugh can be so strong. You must resist. Civility demands it. Allow the disillusioned to slink off into the background and rebuild new egos. Wait for the now objectively-disproven prophets to step forward and double down. Then you may point and laugh.Report

  7. Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

    You guys are all going to crap yourselves when the next Pope is some dude named Peter who has never left the city limits of Rome.Report

  8. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Will they wait until his resignation to choose the new Pope? Or will they start now?

    In college, I had a theology teacher who was a PJPII scholar. I was in his class when he died and CNN actually came to film our subsequent class, which we diverted from the normal agenda (Prophets and Peacemakers… one of the best courses I took) to discuss the papacy. He was ultimately pretty disappointed in the selection, as he hoped/predicted they’d go to a third world country, after choosing PJPII from a (then) second world country. He also thought this was a step toward more conservative Catholicism after PJPII opened up the Church quite a bit. I was very fortunate to have been in that class at that time. He was a layman, but was conveniently named “Pope” (surname), making it all the more special.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:

      From what I heard this morning there will be a brief period where there is no pope between his resignation and the election of his successor.

      As for Benedict’s selection he was always thought to be a caretaker pope. The question is if he has stacked the deck in favor of a successor just like himself or if he is onboard with a new third world pope.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Every pope is a caretaker pope. It’s a temporary office. That’s what the title “Vicar of Christ” means.

        Anyway, there’ve been about 265 popes in about 2000 years, so the average reign is about 8 years. We’ve just come off of a very long one, so Benedict’s time in office was bound to seem brief.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Pinky says:


          By ‘caretaker’ the thought was that Benedict was not meant to represent the longterm direction of the Church but to shore up the base and create a transition between the long reign of JPII and perhaps another younger pope from the third world.Report

    • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Kazzy says:

      Looks like they’ll do it in early March. But they don’t have to have a mourning period, since he isn’t dead, so they can just do it as soon as he steps down.

      The betting favorites are apparently Arinze and Peter Turkson at 7-2. I think you may just get a third world/non-white pope, although my understanding is that they tend to be very conservative.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

        ” I think you may just get a third world/non-white pope, although my understanding is that they tend to be very conservative.”

        That’s a really good point. It’s the European Catholics who are much more liberal. Put a Mexican Catholic in there and you may have lost any chance of women being priests for a generation.Report

        • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          It might be interesting to see how an African pope would think about condoms, I guess, especially given the door Ratzinger opened, but he would otherwise be very doctrinally conservative.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          The differences between the South American/Central American Catholics and the African/Middle East Catholics are pretty interesting.Report

        • Avatar Pinky in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          This analysis is so racist! As if cardinals with a Spanish accent have to think one way, and Italians another. And blacks, well, they all think the same, so pretty much any African pope would be interchangable.Report

          • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Pinky says:

            They”re drawn from, and to a certain extent represent, a specific community with discernible attitudes. It’s like saying that a senator from Texas will be more conservative than a senator from Hawaii.Report

            • Avatar Pinky in reply to Don Zeko says:

              And because black popes would favor condoms because, you know, they have large penises and are more promiscuous.

              Defend it if you want to; these aren’t groups. They’re individuals who are fairly well-known to their colleagues, and no one’s going to pick “The Italian” or “The Third-Worlder”.Report

            • Avatar Pinky in reply to Don Zeko says:

              Actually, I realize that I didn’t make fun of your statement enough. Senators are elected based on the beliefs of the voters. Cardinals aren’t. A South American cardinal doesn’t “represent” his people in the same way. The only way that you can think of him as being typical of South Americans is by racist assumptions.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Pinky says:

                You are really incredibly stupid.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                Well, I’m going to assume that you’re not stupid, and ask you to think about the dynamics of the areas that are lumped together as the Third World. South America – strong influence from colonial powers which established Catholicism in the area; encroached upon by evangelical Christianity; limited international conflict. Sub-Saharan Africa – wide array of cultures; Catholicism spreading more in recent post-colonial years; in direct conflict with Islam; continued deep poverty. Indian Subcontinent – old Catholic tradition; Anglican colonialism; home of Hinduism and Buddhism; recent prosperity affecting culture. China and East Asia – state oppression resulting in an underground church movement.

                Why would you think that the cardinals of these areas could be lumped together as having a lot in common? Even assuming that we’re severely limited to our own cultural experiences or race, what makes you think that a Nigerian = a Brazilian in any sense?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Pinky says:

                In the sense that they’re likely to be more doctrinally conservative than a European. This tends to be the case. It is well known among anyone who pays any attention to the politics within the Roman Catholic Church. I’m not sure why you get so upset and start ranting about black people having big penises, but that’s on you, dawg.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Pinky says:

                Pinky – your statement only makes sense if we assume that personal experience has no bearing at all. And of course that was completely proven when JPII spent zero time in his papacy worrying about communism in Poland. (insert rolling eyes here)Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Roll your eyes if you want to. The “average” Third-World cardinal has more points of belief in common with the average cardinal than with the average Third-Worlder.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Pinky says:

                Among Anglicans, the hierarchy in the Third World is measurably more conservative than in Europe or the US. Why is it invalid to suspect the same would be true of Catholics?Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Because Cqtholics believe in God, while Anglicans are children of Satan.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

      politicking never stops. but it’s in higher gear right now, one supposes.Report

  9. Avatar James Hanley says:

    the city of seven hills will be destroyed

    I’m sure gonna miss Cincinnati, but at least I’m upwind.Report

  10. Avatar Shazbot5 says:

    I was always surprised that they gave it to Ratzinger in the first place. He was pretty good on that show, but he never did much afterwards, and I’d have probably picked the guy who played Norm, though maybe he was too overweight for the job.

    Also, will it. be sad tomsee the retired pope walking around in his street clothes, sitting in coffee shops (old people ones that look more like diners) for hours on end? Its like if Gandalf retired and was hanging out by the pool without his magical staff and beard.Report

  11. Avatar greginak says:

    Starting next week the newest, edgiest reality series ever:
    Dorner and Benedict!!!!Report

  12. Avatar Shazbot5 says:

    Actually, I do think the concept of the pope retiring may harm the image of the church in some small way. I don’t think most people see the pope as a figure who has a lot of important jobs (overseeing meetings, writing speeches, writing political and philosophical documents, adjudicating disputes, acting as a judge) even he is such a figure, but rather as a figure who becomes imbued with some special quality: a connection to God, some special importance in his eyes, or something like that. Well you can give up a job because it is too hard, but it is really unclear if you can or should give up some magical quality. And if the special relationship with God exists and someone else can help you with the tasks of being Pope, isn’t it better to not resign. It’s not a big deal, but Ratzinger is making the office of Pope seem more like a job and less like some special life commitment or magical spiritual manifestation that matters more than the politics and day to day running of the Vatican.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      Yeah, I was kinda thinking something like this too.

      He said that he wasn’t able to keep up with his duties and, seriously, I totally appreciate that but the most important duty the Pope has is to just *BE*. The fact that he’s sitting there in that chair wearing that outfit accomplishes the majority (perhaps even the overwhelming majority) of his duties to us all (even the atheists).

      Dying in office is what Popes *DO*. And if he has entered his dotage? Show him waving to the people until he can no longer wave. When he can no longer wave, keep him in bed and explain that he is well but very tired. When he dies? *THEN* you get a new one.

      Retire. Pah.Report

  13. Avatar Matty says:

    There is clearly only one candidate for Pope who can unite the church and those outside it. I refer of course to Father Dougal McGuire.Report

  14. Avatar NewDealer says:

    Who likes toast with their Ex-Benedict?Report

  15. Avatar Fnord says:

    You dismiss the prophecy because Benedict doesn’t seem to fit it, as if there were only one Pope in the world. You forgot the Coptic Pope of Alexandria. Pope Shenouda III died less than a year ago. His skin was more olive-colored, and he was known for extending the olive branch of ecumenism.

    Coincidence? Fnord.Report

  16. Avatar Daniel says:

    I’ve read that people can look at the last line:

    “In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church…”

    and read ‘the final persecution’ not as during the 112th Pope. It could be interpreted that Malachy prophesied UP TO 112 but there could be many more after the 112th. And when the last pope does come around, in some unmentioned time in the future, long after the 112th pope, it would be “Peter The Roman.” This Peter could be the 113th pope, or the 213th pope.

    Of course, The cardinals who go to Rome to vote on the new Pope (called the papal conclave) have only one rule to follow when it comes to electing the new pope: the person must be a baptized male. I think there’s a fairly good chance of there being at least one Peter. He doesn’t have to be from Rome. If he’s elected, he’ll be Pope which also means “Bishop of Rome” – and that seems like enough to say it matches with “Peter the Roman”. Who’s to say there hasn’t been an on-going attempt to keep pope choices in line with the prophecies? The cardinals have access to the list and can use it to direct their choices. Isn’t that more probable than someone centuries ago predicting all this?Report

    • Avatar Fnord in reply to Daniel says:

      But most probable of all is that any relationship between actual elected popes and the list is purely coincidental (which can be spun into a narrative by a proponent of the prophecies, like any good superstition or conspiracy theory).

      Or at least, that’s what they want you to think. Fnord.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Daniel says:

      Well, any pope can be described as Peter of Rome.

      “In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Peter the Roman, who will feed his flock amid many tribulations, after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people.” That pretty much sums up the Church as it sees itself.Report

  17. Avatar Earnest1 says:

    Why is John Yoo, the “Torture Memo” attorney, sitting next to the Pope at his last public mass?Report