Thursday, February 14, 2013

Why It's A Good Thing the Pope Resigned

Over the last couple days, I've had a number of people come to me and ask what I think about the Pope choosing to resign.   Frankly, I couldn't be happier.  Two main reasons:

1) John Paul II Didn't

John Paul II interpreted his own diminishment, suffering and death in terms of faithfulness. He would stay the course to show that he was 'faithful to the end', like Jesus.

It's a beautiful, personal expression of his faith and his understanding of his role as Pope.

And it's wrong.

Okay, not at first it wasn't.  At first, it was moving to see the Pope showing his fraility, his humanity.  It put our own futures up there for us to see. John Paul was involved in the theater earlier in his life, he understood the power of a spotlight and a stage.

But as months stretched into years, it became too much. While it waited for the Pope to pass, this key voice in the Church went silent. And in its place a hundred others worked their own agendas from the shadows. The Vatican is an immense bureaucracy, and when it doesn't have a strong hand at the top,  others slip into the vacuum and mischief ensues.

You can have no doubt that any number of important decisions that were made by Pope John Paul in his final years were not made by the Pope. And that's not a good thing for the Church.

2) It's A New Kind of Witness
Like Pope John Paul's choice, Pope Benedict's decision offers a great witness.  No matter who we are, what we've achieved, what we want, at some point we have to let it all go and cast ourselves into the hands of God. All those things by which define ourselves, those things which we think give us worth, in the end they all fade away.

And grasping to keep hold of them -- well, how many novels, how many plays have been written about that? And how do they end?

Benedict became Pope at 78. Think about that. He became leader of the Catholic church when he was nearly 80!  Give the Holy Spirit all the power to strengthen and encourage and still, that's not going to be easy, and it's not going to last long.  The fact he's gone 8 years in the job is amazing.  And the fact that having had this authority he's willing to let it go? Also amazing.

Think of how many church leaders in the last decade who have become a source of great scandal for the Church, and yet refuse to let go of their authority. How refreshing to see the leader of the Church show a different example.


Carol said...

Your first remark on other voices with other agendas swooping in to fill the leadership vacuum during Bl. JP II's final few years were very much on target here, and I think that observing those antics were probably a huge factor in Pope Benedict XVIs decision to renounce (retire? resign?) the papacy while he still has his faculties about him and can function for the most part. I've always wondered why bishops are required to submit their resignation at the age of 75, when the bishop of Rome is not. Surely, as we've seen through the centuries, popes are subject to the same diminishment as the rest of us as age progresses, and while there are many septegenarians and octogenarians who are active and vigorous, most of them do not have the demanding workload of the papacy, day after day. Playing eighteen holes of golf is one thing at the age of 80; being the Vicar of Christ is quite another thing.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit will inspire the College of Cardinals to consider amending the tradition of papal tenure by incorporating the same standard that other bishops must meet.

Jim McDermott, S.J. said...

" Playing eighteen holes of golf is one thing at the age of 80; being the Vicar of Christ is quite another thing." HA!

One can only hope, Carol. It'd be great if there were some sort of upper limit, or term for that matter.