The decision of our Holy Father not to respond to a formal request from four Cardinals to resolve formally some formal dubia, and thus to fulfil the Petrine mandate to confirm (sterizein) his brethren, is a striking event not easily paralleled. A refusal to respond to such a formal request, even if not published in the official records of the Holy See, can hardly not itself be a formal act. So I turned, as surely we in the Ordinariate instinctively do, to our beloved Patron Blessed John Henry Newman, quo quis doctior, quis sapientior?
" ... at one time the pope*, at other times a patriarchal, metropolitan, or other great see, at other times general councils*, said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth ... I say, that there was a temporary suspense of the functions of the Ecclesia docens. The body of bishops failed in their confession of the faith. They spoke variously, one against another; there was nothing, after Nicaea, of firm, unvarying, consistent testimony, for nearly sixty years ..."
I am therefore testing in my thoughts (doing what we colloquially call "sleeping on it" and at this moment "thinking aloud") the possibility that the current Roman Pontiff's recent decision may be seen as formally constituting the beginning of a period in which the functions of the Papal Magisterium are in "temporary suspense"; in a vacatio which will be ended at the moment when the same Petrine Magisterial organ as formally returns from dogmatic silence to the audible exercise of the functions rightly attributed to it in Catholic Tradition and Magisterial Conciliar definition; that is, devoutly to guard and faithfully to set forth the Tradition received through the Apostles; i.e. the Deposit of Faith.
I am very fallible and I may have got all this completely wrong. But in any case, we are, of course, all now very much in uncharted waters. As well as using our sextants to the best of our abilities, we are under a moral obligation to go very slowly and extremely carefully, tentatively casting the lead to check where the Ship is heading, and how safely. This is no time for wild impetuosity and no place for loose cannons.
And it is no time for running like frightened and panicking children to ridiculous non-solutions such as the various dippy theories which purport to show that Bergoglio is not pope. He most certainly is. Fully and every bit as much as any other pope ever has been or ever could be. But not in the sense disavowed by Blessed Pius IX and by Benedict XVI, of being an "absolute monarch" with the authority to "reveal new teaching".
Note: Newman is referring to Pope* Liberius; and, in referring to general councils*, he does not mean Ecumenical Councils. He explained later that he follows S Robert Bellarmine in distinguishing between Ecumenical Councils and councils which, even if large, do not count as Ecumenical. So ... not applicable to Vatican II!