Bishop Thomas John Paprocki [STL, JD, JCD] of Springfield in Illinois sent around the following canonical analysis on what to call Pope Benedict when he leaves office on February 28th. He has graciously allowed me to post them for those of us engaged in a different sort of March Madness.
Since Pope Benedict’s surprise announcement last week, there has been much discussion about what to call a Pope who steps down from office. The confusion is understandable since a Pope has not left office alive for almost 600 years. It might even be said that a Pope has never stepped down quite under these circumstances in the 2,000 year history of the Church.
What seems to have been overlooked so far in these discussions is that the word “Pope” does not appear in the Code of Canon Law. Canon 331 defines the office held by the Pope: “The bishop of the Roman Church, in whom continues the office given by the Lord uniquely to Peter, first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, is the head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the Pastor of the universal Church on earth. By virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely.” Read more here.