Pope Emeritus? The invaluable Rocco Palmo examines the unprecedented options:
There is no established protocol whatsoever for the titles, status or prerogatives of a retired Pope.
But there were signs:
On Friday, Benedict raised some eyebrows by having a rare private audience with the Dean of the College of Cardinals, the 85 year-old Italian Angelo Sodano, the figure who would be responsible for the convoking of a papal election. The departing pontiff ostensibly communicated his plan to the Cardinal-Dean at that point.
What we do know about his new status as ex-Pope:
Pope Benedict XVI will not take part in the Conclave for the election of his successor.
Pope Benedict XVI will move to the Papal residence in Castel Gandolfo when his resignation shall become effective.
When renovation work on the monastery of cloistered nuns inside the Vatican is complete, the Holy Father will move there for a period of prayer and reflection.
What fascinates me is whether he can now be prosecuted for “crimes against humanity” for having enabled and concealed the rape of countless children in an institution under his direct authority – from the moment in 2001 when every single sex abuse case went to his office at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to his decision to leave Marcial Maciel alone to keep raping the innocent and continued cover-ups even after the reality had been so brutally exposed.
To put it more bluntly: now that he is no longer protected from legal accountability as a head of state, can lawsuits proceed?
(Photo: This file picture taken on July 4, 2010 shows Pope Benedict XVI looking on as he seats near the relics of one of his predecessors, St Celestine V, during a Holy mass on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of Celestine V’s birth in central Garibaldi square in Sulmona. Pope Benedict XVI announced on February 11, 2013 his resignation, while the last pope to have abdicated the papacy is Celestin V in 1294. By Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)