Monday, February 11, 2013

Church law surrounding papal resignation "uncharted waters"

2013-02-11 Vatican Radio, Vatican News

The surprise announcement by Pope Benedict XVI that he will resign his office on February 28th has raised many questions about the laws surrounding the resignation of a Pope. There is no doubt he can do so: Canon 332 §2 of the Code of Canon Law states: “If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.”
But the Code does not elaborate. Before now, there was no need. Church law leaves many questions unanswered.
“We lack a law, so far, on the status of a former pope, of someone who resigned the papacy,” said Msgr. David-Maria Jaeger, OFM, a professor of canon law at Rome’s Pontifical University Antonianum. “It is possible either Benedict XVI in the next few days, or his successor, will make such a law, because many questions must be asked: What is the proper title by which to address a former pope? What are his immunities and prerogatives? There is a question of his international standing. All of this has to be settled…There was never any need to deal with it.”
It was announced by the Holy See Press Office that Pope Benedict XVI will not participate in the conclave to elect his successor. The ability of a Pope to do so has been debated for generations, but it had always previously been an academic point. In this case, too, there is no law.
“The idea that a former pope would participate in the conclave would be premised on a determination that a pope who resigned returns to being a Cardinal,” explained Msgr. Jaeger. “Far be it for me to express an opinion on this occasion, except to say that it is not obvious!”
The canonist said the Pope’s decision not to participate was “the most discreet and appropriate course,” and said other decisions on the many remaining unclear questions will likely be announced in the coming days.
“We are in uncharted waters, although we can be absolutely confident that Pope Benedict XVI will know how to chart them for us,” Msgr. Jaeger said. “And, of course, for himself.”
Listen to the full interview by Charles Collins with Msgr. David-Maria Jaeger: 00:09:54:72

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