One last thing (really, because there are only so many ways you can say "We're doomed!"). I wasn't going to mention this because I was sure it was just my own imagination getting carried away. But lo and behold, here's the New York Times publishing a piece that actually outdoes me:
As Francis’ papacy lengthens, the reasons for Benedict’s eventual seclusion inside the Vatican become clearer.
It is, Vatican experts said, a solution that not only provides a secure environment for Benedict, but also effectively avoids setting up a power center rivaling the Vatican. And it discourages any following that could coalesce around the pope emeritus in a church mindful of painful schisms that have shaken it at important moments in its history.
Now that resignation from the papacy has been resuscitated as an option after 600 years, the Vatican is no doubt concerned about setting precedents, said Alberto Melloni, the director of the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies in Bologna.
“You couldn’t have the pope in a German convent where he could become a pole of attraction for those faithful reluctant to accept his resignation,” Mr. Melloni said.
I actually mentioned this to Dean, but as I said, I figured it was just a bit of exaggerated suspicion. In any case, these days it wouldn't be necessary for Benedict to be physically located someplace where a rival power base could form; the internet makes it possible for dissidents to coalesce even if they're scattered around the world. But even I didn't imagine what comes later in this article:
The Vatican has rejected any prospect of meddling by Benedict. But concern remains among some cardinals, Vatican officials and church experts.
“There is a duality, and even if the old pope says he will retire from the world, he will be an awkward presence,” said Roberto Rusconi, a church historian at Third University of Rome.
But he dismissed the possibility of a new schism like the one that occurred with the death of Pope Gregory XI in 1378. Afterward, one pope lived in Avignon, France, and another in Rome. Such divides were fomented by secular rulers, he said, with the dueling popes each claiming legitimacy.
Even so, he said, better to keep Benedict inside the Vatican — in its own way a prison of sorts, like any cloistered convent — because not everyone might resist asking the old pope’s opinion. Professor Rusconi added, “That just can’t happen.”Wow. Not just "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer" but a sort of Spandau confinement for the previous pope. If anything could galvanize opposition to the new regime, that would be it.