The title is Latin for the seat is vacant. It refers to the fact that the Pope is now the Pope Emeritus. The current issue of our local diocesan paper, the Arlington Catholic Herald is quite the hagiography of his reign - and reign is the operative terms as the Vatican and its bishops are run like a medieval organization. If you want their take on the Papacy of Benedict XVI, go to http://www.catholicherald.com/ and look at any article.
I have two points to make, which I have been raising in commentary on the National Catholic Reporter's blogs, which can be found at http://ncronline.org/ - and especially those by local blogger Michael Sean Winters, whose blog is Distinctly Catholic.
Much has been made of recent criticism of the Pope by conservatives. This is due to his rather liberal economic letter, Caritas in Veritate. That letter throws a strong lifeline to economic liberalism and links it to Catholic sexual teaching - which is the one thing I agree with him regarding contraception - no one, whether they be a U.S. Catholic family or someone receiving overseas aid should have to limit family size due to monetary consideration. Society should respond to fecundity, not the other way around. Someone needs to tell the President that it is members of his family that they want to limit the fertility of. Of course, people encouraged to use natural family planning for economic reasons are making the same moral statement. The radical nature of Benedict is that this is not a good Catholic choice if truly considered. Of course, if that were really stated with full throat, many Catholic organizations would be scrambling to pay their staffs better.
The second point is about his fear of the Tyranny of Relativism. Anyone who knows very much about the Vatican's approach to natural law reasoning has to chuckle a bit about that. In secular philosophy, natural law means that reason rules the argument - period. Even in an absolutist schema, whomever makes the better argument wins the discussion point. Vatican natural law reasoning is a bit different. The Vatican claims the authority to settle all discussions of natural law. It uses the Bark of Peter as its justification, however the fact that the Pope wears red shoes and a red cape originally at the sufferance of the Roman Emperor at Constantinople shows that the Petrine See is really at New Rome. I will say more at that in the next column.