For someone once bestowed with the luxury of infallibility, former Pope Benedict XVI is having a unique retirement. Two years after his unprecedented withdrawal from the papacy—well, unprecedented for the last 600 years at least—the erstwhile Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's resignation remains the subject of speculation.
Two years ago this week, Benedict's announcement that he was stepping down for health reasons shocked the Catholic Church and much of the world. It also loosed conspiracy theorists who believe Benedict was forced to resign. On Wednesday, one of the former pope's top lieutenants defended the 87-year-old's choice.
"Benedict XVI is convinced that the decision that he took and communicated was right," Monsignor Georg Gaenswein told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. "He has no doubts."
The statement, when read closely, could be meaningful for two reasons. That a surrogate of Benedict is still out protecting the pope emeritus in the press might speak to an inherent defensiveness (though a reporter's questions could easily have prompted it). Then, there is the theory of his "forced resignation," which would invalidate the election of Pope Francis. "Church law says a pope's resignation is valid only if he takes the decision in full freedom and without pressure from others," Reuters noted last year.