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Pope Benedict, cats, and red shoes

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | May 02, 2013

The next time someone tells you that Benedict XVI was an authoritarian Pontiff, or that he lived in luxury in the papal apartments, remind him that the former Pope, a renowned cat-lover, didn’t keep a cat during his pontificate. Why not? Because he was told cats weren’t allowed in the apostolic palace.

Now that he’ll be living near the Vatican Gardens, Benedict will be close to the stray cats who roam there (and whom he reportedly fed when he escaped from the apostolic palace to walk there). But for 8 years he went without the simple pleasure of a pet.

Now think about it: The Pope is, among other things, the supreme ruler of the Vatican city-state. He is sovereign. If he says cats are allowed in the apostolic palace, by golly cats are allowed. Who could overrule him? If I were ever elected Pope (which is highly unlikely), and I wanted to keep a cat (which is even more unlikely), I’d tell the staff that the rules had changed: end of discussion.

But Benedict XVI didn’t. He meekly submitted to the rules set down by someone else—someone with lesser authority—who said it would be inappropriate for a Pope to have a cat. With that in mind, maybe we should all think again about why he wore red shoes. Was it because he was a slave to fashion? Or because he was told that's what a Roman Pontiff wears? This isn't a tough question.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Mar. 18, 2018 12:45 AM ET USA

    Unfortunately Pope Francis has not expressed any interest in accompanying the children of the divorced. One would think that the children of the second marriage might wonder about what might be their future.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - May. 04, 2013 10:33 AM ET USA

    Somehow, I suspect the "authority" was a sister who did not want to clean cat hair off the sofa.

  • Posted by: Contrary1995 - May. 02, 2013 6:24 PM ET USA

    A lame comparison. Are we to believe someone told him to wear red shoes? By the way, Pius X took all his meals with his cat at the table. I don't know what color shoes either of them may have worn.

  • Posted by: koinonia - May. 02, 2013 5:54 PM ET USA

    By and large Pope Benedict did all he could to do the right things for the right reasons during his pontificate. He was not afraid to say difficult things; he was not afraid to do difficult things. History will ultimately reflect this; and his pontificate provides much food for thought to those who have the humility and the honesty to learn from his example.