Ten days ago, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation as the leader of the Catholic church. His resignation, the first Papal resignation in over some 600 years, sparked rumors and finger pointing about what led to such a decision. I have no doubt more information will continue to surface over time. But I have to ask…so what?
Having been a member of the Catholic Church for decades until I chose to leave and pursue more non-denominational Christian faith, there has always been a bit of awe and secrecy about what happens in the Vatican even among Catholics. Thousands of Christians flock to St. Peter’s Basilica yearly to get a glimpse of the “place where the pope resides”. There is little doubt in my mind, the Pope has enamored followers not atypical for any leader.
Granted, political leaders use technology to report every move from golfing with a celebrity, or choosing a pet to visiting a dignitary or calling a special session of Congress to let their constituents learn about their behaviors. The Vatican has always been less about public relations and constant exposure in the public eye.
Perhaps it has been that lack of transparency that has caused the rumors to swell about this Pope’s resignation. Some say his resignation came as a result of becoming aware some European countries were about to name the Pope in a lawsuit regarding the Catholic Church’s cover-up of long term sexual abuse in its ranks. He had already been named in a lawsuit in 2012, alleging he failed to take action with a cardinal accused of abusing deaf boys for decades. That lawsuit has been withdrawn. Some believe this Pope has failed to address other issues of mismanagement in the Church and needs to move on. Others say the Pope is suffering from a terminal illness,while still others believe the Pope has simply recognized his physical limitations and is stepping down as a result of age.
Whatever the reasons, every Christian should remember Christ’s words to those who were about to accuse Mary Magdalene of adultery. “Let him without sin cast the first stone.” Corruption, deceit, mismanagement of power and less than wise decisions have been apparent in all types of leaders, political, social, religious, educational and otherwise. Those who head those foundations are human and regardless of who or what they represent they are also sinners; perhaps even sinners with good intentions, but humans and sinners nevertheless.
Our world is far from perfect. Our leaders, our representatives, our families, colleagues, neighbors, friends and anyone who we do life with, sin. If they did not, they would be God. We have seen religious leaders, sports figures, political representatives, supporters for social justice, well known educators and activists fall from grace. While I am not saying the Pope may have been complicit in anything, I am saying nothing should surprise us or be above our need to forgive. People are ugly. God is not and while the Catholic Church designates the Pope as the representative of God, He is still man.
One of the beliefs of the Catholic Church is the Pope’s Infallabilty, simply meaning when he defines a doctine about faith or morals representing the Catholic Church, he is preserved from the possibility of error. This doctrine dates back to the 1870’s.There are many conditions for Infallability and outside of the Catholic doctrine, it does not mean the Pontiff has some magical power that makes every decision perfect.
I have huge reservations about the Doctrine of Infallability and never quite understood it when I was a member of the Catholic Church and perhaps it was one of many questions I could not reconcile that led me to leaving that type of faith. However, regardless of what I understood, I truly believe it is not up to man to judge man. I also believe that those who hold the Catholic faith have a deep respect for the Pope as those with other beliefs have for their church leaders,and I urge Christians to pray that a wise and effective leader will emerge for Catholics as those who believe in salvation can hardly achieve it without supporting our comrades in faith.
How many 85 year olds do you know with the stamina and energy to lead an entire
“nation” of believers? Perhaps the Pope recognized what God might have truly been calling him to do…rest!
Why the Pope chose to resign is not the issue. Continuing to follow Christ is.
The Pope is a touchstone for Catholics and they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
How do you think Christians should best support those in the Catholic Faith during this time of change and upheaval?
- Vatican feuds, fiefdoms, betrayals await next pope (news.yahoo.com)
- Joseph F. O’Callaghan: May a new pope throw open wide the windows of the Catholic Church (tcpalm.com)
- US Catholics launch petition to block disgraced LA Cardinal Mahony from Vatican conclave (irishcentral.com)