Greetings, Dear Reader(s),
Today is the feast of Pope St. Peter Celestine, a pope who actually was canonically elected to the throne of Peter and who validly abdicated the office thereof. As an aside, after abdicating he left Rome, re-assumed his life as a simple monk, did not wear white, did not wear a papal ring, and did not give his papal blessing. Just saying. I can never mark the day without thinking of the description of that holy soul by the great Dante Alighieri in Canto III of the Inferno, which is the title of this post. Wait, the Inferno, you say? Isn’t that the book about Dante’s journey through hell? Why would a saint be in hell?
Well, dear reader, you are correct. It is the portion of the Divine Comedy about hell. And St. Peter Celestine is portrayed by Dante as being there, among the lukewarm. You see, Dante had a huge problem with Pope Boniface VIII, who during his lifetime supported the political enemies of Dante and his political party in Florence, Italy.
In Dante’s defense, St. Peter Celestine was canonized in 1313, after Dante wrote the Divine Comedy. I can see why Dante was, ahem, “cheesed” at Pope Celestine, because his abdication led to the election of Boniface VIII. I don’t wish to speak ill of the dead, but it is possible that Pope Boniface was not a very kind man and who may have been ruthless in the realm of the political. I wasn’t there, of course. As an aside, this Pope promulgated the bull Unam Sanctam, which defined as infallible dogma that it is necessary for salvation to submit to the Roman Pontiff.
The Church’s decision to canonize a person a saint is considered, among the overwhelming majority of theologians, to be infallible. So it is that, innocent or otherwise, Dante’s placement of St. Peter Celestine in hell for cowardice and lukewarmness is one of the great calumnies of history.
Fast forward to the moment in April of 2009 when Pope Benedict left his pallium– the symbol of his metropolitan authority– on the tomb of St. Peter Celestine. Coincidence? A sign he would, too, abdicate? A feint?
Peter Seewald asked His Holiness whether his case was to considered as Celestine’s. The answer: “The situation of Celestine V was extremely peculiar and could in no way be invoked as (my) precedent.”
“In no way” could it be invoked as Benedict’s precedent. In no way. Celestine resigned the office of the papacy. If Benedict resigned the papal office, would not that be “one way” in which it is precedent? Is Benedict telling us something here? Can you not see the irony here, the interplay between Celestine, Boniface, submission to the Roman Pontiff, Benedict and Bergoglio?
Dante blamed St. Peter Celestine for cowardice. Some people blame Pope Benedict XVI for cowardice. Celestine’s abdication led to the papacy of Boniface the VIII. Pope Benedict’s action led to the papacy, or antipapacy, of Bergoglio. It is natural to be disappointed when one sees the disaster that follows upon a pope refusing to fulfill, to the end, his office given him by Our Lord. Bad things happen. It is natural to try to make sense of it all.
And yet good can come out of all such disasters, because God is sovereign. Unam Sanctam is a true and beautiful document, in which is defined dogma that can see us through these days of woe. Who cares if the person who wrote it is less than perfect, even by a lot? The probable usurpation by Bergoglio could lead one to wonder why Benedict would have done this. But hasn’t the event shaken the tree so much that we see who wants to “submit to the Roman Pontiff” and who does not? And by that I mean who really want to, regardless of accuracy of identifying who the person of the Pope really is. What if Pope Benedict XVI wasn’t a coward who fled “for fear of the wolves”? What if Our Lord or Lady told him to do this, as the Pope himself said?
What if Benedict is being calumniated– even by persons who mean well– just like St. Peter Celestine was by Dante? Celestine was a saint. Benedict is still on this earth…what is his fate?
We are being asked to remain faithful; the Church is going through a dark night. God’s plans are beyond us, and we need to trust Him. We can use our intellects to analyze the unprecedented events of the last nine years. God knows our hearts and our minds.
But use that intellect through the light of faith. God in no way wants our faith in Him, His Son, or His Son’s Mystical Body to be lost.
There is one pope. He is acting in a mysterious way about which we don’t know everything relevant. Let’s pray for him, and that his actions will serve to glorify God and His Holy Mother. The prophecy of Fatima has yet to fully play out, and her Immaculate Heart will triumph.
Final point. You may have noticed I’m blogging again. Didn’t I quit? Was it only a month? Yes, and yes. Why? I don’t know. As St. Paul says, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings.” (Romans 8:26). Well, I certainly don’t know what I should pray for as I ought. But just consider what you may read here, as often or seldom as you read them, as the unspeakable groanings of one Catholic in the (former) Rome of the (former) West. I expect I’ll eventually say something stupid and imprudent and will end up carted off to a camp for it. So pray for me by all means, if you are willing.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.