According to the AP’s Nicole Winfield, the Benedict XVI “has completely altered the concept of the papacy” by his abdication. The full quote:
Another topic facing the cardinals is the reason they’re here in the first place: Benedict’s resignation and its implications. His decision to end 600 years of tradition and retire rather than stay on the job until death has completely altered the concept of the papacy, and cardinals haven’t shied from weighing in about the implications for the next pope.
To alter the concept of the papacy completely would be to remove from the Petrine office one or more of its essential notes: such as, the “fullness of Apostolic power,” infallibility, universality of jurisdiction, the Pope’s being Bishop of Rome no mater where he may reside temporarily or even permanently (e.g. Avignon). None of these essential notes of the Petrine office have been altered by Pope Benedict’s abdication. Instead, something accidental to the papacy has been modified, namely, permanence in the same man until his death. While prudence and tradition would both argue very strongly for this custom to be maintained, the small handful of contrary examples in Church history show us both that it can be done and ought, if at all, to be done only rarely.
Did any of the former popes who abdicated completely alter the concept of the papacy? That conclusion — a strict deduction of logic — would lead Nicole Winfield to have a very fluid notion of the Supreme Pontificate. But the same journalists that posit this cannot, with integrity, anyway, speak of the Papacy as something so very “conservative,” “traditional,” and resistant to change.
It seems like a reporter of the news is engaging in an attempted manufacture of reality. No surprise here; her peers do this all the time.
On a related point, Rorate Caeli offers a worthwhile posting on how “Religious correspondents” and “Vaticanists” really don’t know much more about the Conclave than the rest of us. The editorial shows the unreliability of the media experts — including genuine experts — in forecasting the results of the last conclave, and claims that certain reporters are trying to influence the outcome in the very act of reporting.
Brother Francis used to repeat often that the intellect is a knowing faculty, not one that manufactures reality. If the intellect does its job, it knows truth; that is to say, it makes its knowledge correspond to reality.
Journalists are supposed to report on reality, but some of their number don’t even pretend to do that anymore.