Some Brief Thoughts from Rome on Benedict's Resignation

Leonardo De Chirico
Pope Benedict XVI surprised the world by resigning from his office. This very traditional Pope made a very un-traditional decision. The Pope who was known to be a strong personality showed the world his frailty. His resignation can be also linked to the Vatican as being a "nest of crows." The tragic outcomes of the sexual abuses, the financial scandals of the Vatican bank, the Vatileaks, etc. they all contributed to undermine Ratzinger's strength. The "enforcer of faith" was "forced" to leave.

Vatican I (1870) sort of divinized the papacy by making the pope "infallible" when he exercises his teaching role. Now, Ratzinger's resignation "humanizes" it by showing that this office is like any other human responsibility, i.e. temporary and subject to human weakness. The hope is that this move will cause many Catholics to reflect on the nature of the Papacy beyond traditional dogmatic assertions. Is the Papacy a de iure divino (i.e. divine law) office or is it more of a historical institution? Is it a condition for Christian unity or rather an obstacle to it? And more radically: is it biblical at all?

Leonardo De Chirico is lecturer in theology at IFED (Istituto di Formazione Evangelica e Documentazione) in Padova, Italy, and editor of the theological journal Studi di teologia. After twelve years of church planting and then pastoring a Reformed Baptist church in Ferrara, since 2009 he is involved in a church planting work in central Rome. He has degrees in history (Bologna) and theology (ETCW, Bridgend, UK). His PhD was obtained from King's College, London, and subsequently published as Evangelical Theological Perspectives on post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism (Frankfurt-Oxford: Peter Lang 2003).