Benedict Resigns

by Dave Schuler on February 11, 2013

Citing physical frailty Pope Benedict has resigned:

ROME (Reuters) – Pope Benedict surprised the world on Monday by saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to cope with the demands of his ministry, becoming the first pontiff to step down since the Middle Ages and leaving his aides “incredulous”.

The 85-year-old German-born Pope, hailed as a hero by conservative Catholics and viewed with suspicion by liberals, said he had noticed that his strength had deteriorated over recent months.

A Vatican spokesman said the Pope had not resigned because of “difficulties in the papacy” and the decision had been a surprise, indicating that even his closest aides were unaware that he was about to quit. The Pope does not fear schism in the Church after his resignation, the spokesman said.

The text of the announcement is here. This is the meat of it:

I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

The last pope to resign was Gregory XII in the 15th century, six hundred years ago. Although I’m inclined to take this resignation at face value, it comes at a time that the church is wracked with guilt over the scandal of child sexual abuse by priests and that was concealed by higher-ups that has come to light in the United States and Europe.

I hope that the conclave that is to come is an opportunity for a self-examination of conscience on the part of those in attendance. The article cited above points to the various scandals that have come to light during Benedict’s reign as pope. I believe that the church hierarchy is having difficulty coming to terms with the modern world and the openness of that world. Although I recognize that he is much-beloved by many, both Catholics and non-Catholics, I think that John Paul II, Benedict’s predecessor, did enormous damage to the church. Much of the abuse and the concealing of the abuse took place on his watch. He made Opus Dei into a personal prelature. He slammed the door on the ordination of women. He appointed or promoted extremely conservative bishops, including Joseph Ratzinger whom he named Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Dean of the College of Cardinals, setting the stage for Cardinal Ratzinger’s election to the papacy. Pope John Paul II may have seen that as a return to the faith but the effect of it in the United States has been to drive many Catholics out of the church.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve February 11, 2013 at 8:41 am

A real shocker. I expect that it is a combination of the scandals and his infirmities. If he is having troubles with memory and cognition, he will be less able to deal with all of these legal issues. Absent the scandals, I suspect he serves out his time as a beloved figurehead. (If other Popes/Cardinals would follow this example it would be good for the church. The power vacuum created by the top leader being incapacitated is toxic.)

Steve

Dave Schuler February 11, 2013 at 8:49 am

“God’s Rottweiler” doesn’t sound much like a term of endearment to me. I suspect he’s more likely to be the Jimmy Carter or LBJ of the Catholic Church—a figure shuffled off into the corner that you’re trying to forget.

TastyBits February 11, 2013 at 10:34 am


… He slammed the door on the ordination of women. …

The Catholic Church should not subject itself to the whims of the people. The Catholic Church should not involve itself in the affairs of man. The Catholic Church exists to spread the Word of God, minister to its members, and perform the Sacraments. If it was good enough 2,000 years ago, it is good enough today.

Also, I think Vatican II is an abomination.

michael reynolds February 11, 2013 at 10:52 am

My first instinct was to take the man at his word: I’m old, tired, I want to go find a rocking chair somewhere warm.

But the Catholic church has something of a sense of history and respect for precedent. (Wry understatement.) So it’s hard not to suspect that it took something more than weary bones to cause this.

Cstanley February 11, 2013 at 11:31 am

“God’s Rottweiler” doesn’t sound much like a term of endearment to me. I suspect he’s more likely to be the Jimmy Carter or LBJ of the Catholic Church—a figure shuffled off into the corner that you’re trying to forget.

As a practicing Catholic, I think that assessment is way off the mark. I feel he’s been an excellent and beloved pontiff, having served humbly (but fervently) during difficult times in a role that he absolutely dreaded.

Mary February 11, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Tasty Bits how in the world can you call Vatican II an abomination???? It was the doing of pope and cardinals just as much as anything else that came out of the vatican? It’s a blatantly stoopid statement.

I think this comes at an extremely convenient time. The LA archdiocese files have recently been released, and the horror is out there for anyone to see—and you should look; it’s horrible proof of an orchestrated cover-up that aided and abetted criminals. Pedophiles, who took every chance of forgiveness and redemption and promptly searched for more opportunities to victimize children and teens. Shameful. Australia has a national commission that just started a national investigation into the institutional response to their cases of abuse. I’m guessing that our [sarcastically, she said] beloved pontiff is getting out of Dodge to avoid possible prosecution. Mark my words, he’ll be too frail to interview for years and then he’ll die without ever having been made to account for his crimes. At this point, whatever good he has done is swept away by the enormity of this scandal. Oh and another thing–Jimmy Carter has done way more good than GW Bush ever did.

TastyBits February 12, 2013 at 3:04 am

@Mary

Vatican II was an attempt to modernize the Church. The Church needed no modernization, and it needs no modernization. For those who would like a more modern church, they should join the Episcopalians.

I parted with the Catholic Church a long time ago, but I still remember the first service I attended that had hippies with guitars.

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