As a Roman Catholic, I have a deep respect for Pope Benedict XVI. He was a man who became caught in the crossroads of two epochs. He was a man formed in the old Roman Catholic church, that is in the pre – Vatican II church and he came of age and was ordained in that church. If we follow Cardinal Ratzinger career, we see him being influenced as a young priest by the Modernist elements of the 1950’s church but as he progresses towards his pontificate, we see him become more centrist in his ideas. He was never a “traditionalist” but he recognized the importance of tradition in the church and worked on reconciling the post – Vatican II church with the historical Roman Catholic church that preceded the Council. He never did achieve this but he will always be seen as the champion of the legitimate Roman Catholic church. Probably, in my opinion, his two significant achievements as Pope were the corrections he made to the wording of the Novus Ordo Mass and bringing the Liturgy somewhat back in line with the Latin Rite Roman Catholic Mass that preceded the “New Rite” and his lifting of the restrictions on the “Traditional Latin Mass” and making it available to the Catholic faithful once again.
Was Pope Benedict XVI a saint? I would say no to this question but I would also say no to the fact that Pope John XXIII and Paul VI are saints. Although John Paul II was a holy man I’m not sure he deserved to be canonized. Each of these men were greatly flawed and did and said things that should cancel out any thought of sainthood. It is very obvious why the “Post Conciliar Church” canonized these men and it wasn’t because of any holiness they exhibited. As I mentioned above, Pope Benedict XVI stood at a crossroad in the history of the church and just as Queen Elizabeth II was one of the last connections we had in this world to the greatness of Western Civilization in the secular world, Pope Benedict was our last connection to not only the greatness of Western Civilization but to the greatness of Christendom that was first forged in an alliance between Pope Sylvester I and the Emperor Constantine the Great in 313 A.D.. Is it significant that Pope Benedict died on December 31st, the feast day of St. Pope Sylvester?
Why did Pope Benedict resign? I can’t answer that question and we may never know why, at least not in the foreseeable future. But I would like to share some thoughts after a conversation I had with my son on Benedict’s role in his retirement within the papacy of Francis. First thought; Is it possible that while he was pope he could see that he was powerless to stop the corruption and the diabolical take over of the church by the forces of evil and being old chose to step down? In fact, John Paul II felt the same way during his own papacy but chose to use politics and missionary trips to fight the diabolical elements he saw. Second thought; Is it possible that in his retirement Joseph Ratzinger was engaged in spiritual warfare for the life of the Roman Catholic church and chose a more spiritual or mystical way to fight the darkness that is descending upon the church? Third thought; Is it possible that Joseph Ratzinger had a vision or message from Christ that told him to step aside in order to engage in spiritual warfare through his prayers and sacrifices? Fourth thought; There has been some talk that Benedict was the “katechon”, the restrainer St. Paul writes about who would restrain and prevent the anti-christ from being fully manifested in the world and only after this “restrainer” is removed the anti-christ will appear(2 Thessalonians 2:6–7). Is this a possibility? Was he the restrainer? Picture Pope Benedict in his cloister together with the holy nuns engaged in spiritual combat holding back the diabolical forces of Satan with his prayers and sacrifices to give the faithful remnant time to regroup, fortify their faith, and prepare themselves for battle. I know this is a romantic vision out of a myth or fantasy story but why couldn’t this be true? I think there is some truth in this. Pope Benedict XVI may very well be the greatest pope in the last thousand years. If he would have remained pope his duties would have prevented him from such an engagement. But by stepping down he was able to stand in the breach and hold back the enemy to give us time.
I returned to the Roman Catholic church in the Autumn of 2012 after a long-time sojourning in Eastern spiritualities. Part of the reason for my return was because of the person of Pope Benedict XVI. I saw in him a return to Catholic traditions, the traditions I grew up with as a child. I thought finally the church was going to get back on track and be the force in the world it was meant to be. How disappointed I was the following year when Benedict resigned and we got Francis. But I truly believe that he did not abandon us and that he continued the fight for the soul of the church. He gave us the time that we needed to prepare for the battle before us. May God have mercy upon his soul.