Why The Pope Resigned
Wednesday, 13 February 2013
POPE JOHN PAUL II was charismatic, well-loved, and out-going. His almost 27 year-long papacy was outward looking, and that was a major problem for the Roman catholic church; it was falling apart both organisationally and doctrinally.
It’s difficult to put the view that John Paul II was bad for the church because he was so universally liked. I am arguing that here that Pope Benedict was needed because John Paul was bad for the church, and because of what happened with John Paul in terms of infirmity and decline, Benedict had no option but to resign this week.
Pope John Paul promoted a lot of the ‘wrong people’ into powerful positions, and one of his favourites was the Rev. Marcial Maciel of ‘The Legion of Christ’ — who grew utterly corrupt, and extremely powerful and wealthy under John Paul during his last years with Parkinson’s Disease.
The church’s finances were questionable, and behind the scenes was an ever-growing corruption of many types. Nothing had been done about increasing number of the sexual abuse allegations reported about in the papers, and no-one feared the Pope in his many long years of declining health and ability.
Under Karol Józef Wojtyła as John Paul II , the Roman Catholic church had shrunk considerably, it was falling apart, and it seemed to be never out of the press for all the wrong reasons.
If only John Paul II has resigned before things had got so bad.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had taken a job that no-one else wanted, in his own words, he was confronting ‘The Filth’ within the priesthood head-on. He brought control of all sexual abuse cases under his own office, ‘The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’. This was controversial, but it got priests defrocked and out of the field faster than ever before.
So when Cardinal Ratzinger took over as Pope Benedict XVI, the 265th Pope, it was all about fixing the internal Roman Catholic Church. This was considered far more important than appealing ‘nice’ to the “outside world” — or even to church-going Catholics.
Within his first two months as Pope, Benedict stopped Marcial Maciel in his tracks. Maciel was pulled from his public life in the church, silenced, and investigated in depth. Rev. Maciel was discovered to have manipulated church finances, he had many mistresses, he fathered six children and even sexually abuse two of them. He also was found to have sexually assaulted other children.
Some say that this initial momentum petered out, but that’s not to understand that a Pope has a limited power due to ‘collegiality’ — whereby Cardinals and Bishops posses authority and autonomy. The Pope can lead, set directives, guide, and promote into position like-minded individuals. Cleaning up corruption is a slow process. The church yet has figures of controversy — such as Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and the ogre of LA, Cardinal Roger Mahony, and it is well understood that Benedict’s Orders were often ‘misplaced’ by his top aides, and his personal butler was used as a spy against him. It seems, too, that Benedict had a pace-maker fitted, and his health was suffering. When you realise that Benedict was 78 when he was made Pope (that’s one of the oldest) he has achieved a great deal in under just eight years at the helm of a very sick and massive organisation.
It has also been suggested too, that the Pope has to deal in a world of media and PR, and that once the way has been set, once his directives had been given, the organisational structure created, and a few ring-leaders swiftly made an example-of, that Benedict had done enough, and further direct involvement would merely draw undue media focus on such dark matters.
Whatever the case, Benedict would be free to be able to try to sort the theological tears that had become of great concern within the church, from popular media issues such as abortion, contraception, homosexuality, women priests, same sex marriage, and Holocaust denial, to liberalising the Latin Mass and re-interpreting ‘Vatican II’ reforms.
Joseph Ratzinger was one of the experts that formed the radical reforms and break with tradition in the 1960s known as ‘VaticanII’ under Popes John XXIII and Paul VI. He was a liberal back then, trying to modernise the church to better suit modern men.
The way he, as Papa BENEDICTUS Sextus Decimus, went about reconciling doctrinal divisions 50 years later was inspired, but tricky to pull off; he imposed on all ‘Vatican II’ documents a special tool of interpretation he called ‘The Hermeneutic of Continuity’ and suggests that ‘Vatican II’ was not a break with Roman Catholic tradition after all!
Oddly enough, this has been a success. The traditionalists and progressives can now co-exist — and it paved the way for other Christians to begin a dialogue with the old Church — such as The Society of St. Pius X and even the Anglicans.
It remains an on-going process, but Pope Benedict has set the church on the new path, and one that needs strong leadership — a leader that is capable and strong.
Benedict’s fear has to be that all his work would be for nothing if his health and wits failed as they did his predecessor — that the corruption would return, or that the delicate doctrinal path he’d set out would be jeopardised through his failing wits.
With that in mind, he clearly had to resign in the hope that the next Pope will be able to pull together the doctrinal rifts and continue to clean house.
In closing, I would say here that I am not a Roman Catholic, nor even a Christian. I have put this article together using the Internet to find answers to the questions that came to mind when I heard the news about the resignation. I believe there are lessons here for all social structures, companies, co-operatives, gangs, to families.
In all cases, the leader has to be strong, the vision and direction has to be clearly communicated to all, but most of all, there comes a time when a leader has to quit — before hubris, before corruption, before becoming a dictator, and certainly before becoming a puppet or ineffective figurehead.
Benedict has to be congratulated on the bold step he took. He’s quitting while he’s ahead — and that takes guts.