Thoughts on the Pope's Resignation
by: John Tyrrell
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Pope Benedict XVI has said he will resign on Feb. 28 due to his age (85) and his deteriorating strength. He is first pontiff to quit in almost 600 years - and the first to leave voluntarily in over 700.
He may have first signalled his intentions in the event he lived this long through a 2009 visit to the relics of Pope Celestine V who resigned in 1294 as he was overwhelmed by the demands of the office. And in 2010 he had stated that resignation was possible if his health did not permit him to continue. By resigning, he clearly rejected the example set by his predecessor who insisted on remaining in office to the end in spite of being quite incapacitated.
We could wish he had gone against Pope John Paul II in other ways, but he didn't.
Pope Benedict XVI's first papal encyclical was on love. That was a bit of a surprise at the time, and some observers felt that it might signal a return to some of the ideas of Vatican II in which Benedict, as a bishop, had played a significant part in promoting a liberal vision for the Church. But those were false hopes. Throughout his papacy, he continued the steady return of the Church to an autocratic conservatism.
I have criticized Benedict frequently in these articles and I regret none of it.
He failed to deal promptly with the child abuse scandals - and allowed the issue to fester.
He failed to deal promptly with the corruption in the Vatican and its financial institutions - and was embarrassed when his own butler, in an attempt to force the Pope to act, passed documents to the press. And still he did not act.
While it can be said these were inherited problems that his predecessor had failed to deal with, it should be noted that as Cardinal Ratzinger, he was John Paul II's right hand man.
Another failure - entirely of his own making - was the attempt to bring the renegade Society of Saint Pius X back into the fold. Perhaps he saw their opposition to the reforms of Vatican II as in line with his own current thinking. So he opened the door to an organization which provided a haven for Catholic holocaust deniers and anti-Semites. And for nearly four years of negotiations and concessions offered, it looks like they played him for a fool.
While these failures eroded the moral authority of the Catholic Church, he continued to agitate for governments to pass laws against birth control, abortion, and same sex relationships - pushing for the enforcing of Catholic morality on everyone.
Unfortunately, his resignation is probably not going to bring about needed change. While he has indicated he will not take part in the Papal conclave to elect his successor, the current group of cardinals - picked because they are yes-men fully aligned with Benedict's thinking - will not select someone with different views. They will not be brave enough to vote for change while Ratzinger lives.
They could at worst choose a Ratzinger clone in his 50s - another Pope Cartman demanding his authoritah be respected, yet incapable of effectively asserting that authority to clean up the inherited mess - and the Catholic Church could be stuck with him for another quarter century.
And the new Pope, even if he comes to see that changes are needed, will have difficulty in going against his predecessor while he remains alive enjoying his Vatican retirement.
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