…and he did it back in 2014. I had forgotten about this letter he wrote to La Stampa, because at the time, the theory that he had not truly abdicated was a quiet one. And it was before I started 1P5, so I don’t think we ever wrote about it here. It came up in the comment boxes this week, and I went back to go look for it. Sure enough, there was a statement from the man himself.
His words carry a note of irritation, and certainly finality. Here’s what he said:
On 16 February, the author of this article sent the Pope Emeritus a letter with some specific questions regarding these interpretations. A response came two days later. “There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry,” Ratzinger wrote in his letter of reply. The only condition for the validity of my resignation is the complete freedom of my decision. Speculations regarding its validity are simply absurd.” Those closest to Ratzinger had been aware of the possibility of his resignation for a long time and he himself confirmed it in a book-length interview with the German journalist Peter Seewald (“Light of the World”, 2010): “If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.”
I know that for people who believe he is being coerced, or somehow committed “substantial error” when he abdicated, this will not convince them – in the first case because they think he is lying under duress, in the second because they believe that it doesn’t matter what he thinks.
What is interesting to me is that here you have a pope saying the only condition for his resignation to be valid is that he did it with full freedom. He does not talk about the possibility of a failure of intention. This latter theory appears to be the invention of Catholic commentators, and it’s your choice whether to believe a widely beloved pope and respected theologian and former CDF prefect on this or people on the internet.
But at the very least – and whatever you think – his own words merit serious consideration in this matter.