Papal resignation: A lesson in "how and when to make a courageous exit"

Author: Heather Gary

Along with a number of other Notre Dame faculty members, Cushwa Center director Kathleen Sprows Cummings responded to today's announcement that Pope Benedict XVI intends to resign on February 28, 2013:

“Words such as ‘wow,’ ‘whoa!,’ and ‘stunning,’ have peppered my Facebook feed all morning,” said Kathleen Sprows Cummings, associate professor of American Studies and director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism. "But Pope Benedict’s announcement should not come as too much of a surprise. He himself said on a on a number of occasions that the pope has the right—and perhaps even the obligation—to resign should he feel unable to carry out the duties of his office.

“In light of his increasing frailty, the decision also reflects Benedict’s personality. For decades the world watched the long, slow decline of Pope John Paul II, who characteristically shared his suffering in a very public and poignant way. His successor, a scholar who has never been very comfortable in the limelight, has chosen to impart to the faithful a different lesson: how and when to make a courageous exit. Benedict’s announcement has sparked speculation as to a likely successor and prompted widespread debate over his legacy. Any assessment of the latter will require consideration of his singular achievements, as well as recognition that his papacy was marked by moments and actions far less grace-filled than the announcement of his departure.”

Contact: Kathleen Sprows Cummings, 574-631-8749,

Excerpted from "Notre Dame theologians react to resignation of Pope Benedict XVI" by Michael O. Garvey. Visit the ND Newswire for the full roundup.