A couple of days ago Terry Mattingly, the bespoke scold of religion newswriting, took the press to task for claiming that Pope Benedict had resigned. No way, quoth tmatt.
Yes, “resign” is easier to fit into news headlines. The problem is that a pope has no one to resign to, other than God. The correct word is “abdicate.”
Almost immediately, GetReligion readers pointed out that the official English version of Canon 332 §2 uses the word “resign” to discuss a pope’s “resignation.” (The Latin verb is renuntiare–which is what Benedict’s initial announcement used.) It’s kind of hard to blame headline writers for employing Canon Law terminology.
So where did tmatt come up with the notion that a pope cannot resign? Not, I think, from veteran religion reporter Richard Ostling, whose blog he cites in seizing upon the subject for comment. Ostling uses “resign” and “abdicate” interchangeably, as does the dictionary. You can resign without resigning to someone.
Over at dotCommonweal, Mollie Wilson O’Reilly sleuthed out that the the fons et origo appears to be none other than George Weigel, the ultramontain Pooh-bah who has never gotten over the departure of his biographee and pal John Paul II, who hung on to the bitter end. Abdicate is what knaves and cowards do! Bah!
But a pope may resign his office whether George likes it or not. C’mon, Terry, confession is good for the soul. It isn’t that hard. “Resign” is the correct word. Admit it.