Saturday, April 19, 2014
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Benedict resigns the papacy

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Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to retire Feb. 28, a well-kept secret announced Monday by the pontiff himself, took both the Roman Catholic Church and the wider world generally by surprise. But maybe it shouldn’t have.

In 2010, Benedict said that if a pope felt no longer physically, spiritually and psychologically capable of handling the demanding duties of the office, then he had a right, even an obligation, to resign.

But apparently few of the faithful took this to heart. After all, no pope had resigned since 1415, more than 70 years before Columbus first sighted the Americas. The papal deathwatch had become something of a tradition as aging pontiffs clung to life and office.

One wonders how much Benedict, 85, was influenced by his mentor and predecessor, John Paul II, who died a lingering death from Parkinson’s disease in 2005 but struggled, often in heartbreaking fashion, to carry on until the end. One had to admire John Paul’s strength of will, but still feel the pathos of the once-vigorous priest, who had weathered war and communism, shrunken within his robes and supported by attendants.

Benedict had contemplated a life in academe, as a theologian, but the church kept calling on his obvious organizational talents. He was bishop of Munich for only three months before being made a cardinal in 1977. Four years later, John Paul named him leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office that protects and preserves Catholic orthodoxy. Benedict was a tireless and sometimes blunt-spoken defender of traditional tenets. He fought off the ordination of women, and he was criticized as slow to react to the church’s sexual-abuse scandal.

The timing of Benedict’s decision indicates it was not arrived at casually. Lent begins this Wednesday, giving the College of Cardinals time to convene and elect a new pope by Easter, on March 31.

Benedict had barely announced his decision when he was criticized for not continuing the tradition of dying in office. But Benedict did what he thought was best for the church, “after having examined my conscience before God.”

Preliminary plans call for him to leave the Vatican upon his successor’s election, and then go to the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo, just southeast of Rome. From there, he can enter a cloistered monastery where, in privacy and peace, he can take up the academic life he had planned when he entered the priesthood 61 years ago.

Scripps Howard News Service

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Discussion | 4 comments

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  • CD BrooksFebruary 12, 2013 - 6:45 am

    The Pope is just a man that was chosen to lead a religious institution. He is a man that must try and prop up the beliefs and philosophy of a damaged brand attempting to redeem it. Along the way accusations, denials and admissions of reprehensible improprieties continue to rage with the only remedy moving offenders from church to church and paying huge awards that could bail out America. Who knows how deep into the ranks of the Catholic hierarchy this behavior has gone and whether or not the present Pope or future candidates participated? What have we learned about this wondrous institution over the past fifty years? Absolutely nothing other than lies and evil practices has prevailed and continue to be overtly ignored. Too much time and resources are wasted on this alleged great leader. The church should have lost their exemption long ago, and those still participating in the charade should be ashamed. I’m anxious to see if the Church turns their collective backs on this guy and deny his ridiculous “Saint” recommendation.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. PracticalFebruary 12, 2013 - 10:53 am

    I totally missed his Tweet about the resignation. #scam #quitter #48daystillbaseballstarts

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksFebruary 12, 2013 - 10:59 am

    “Thus, I must step down from the papacy,” he added. “But let me assure every member of the Church that the Vatican’s commitment to narrow-mindedness and social obstruction will long live on after my departure.” Yeah, ya know I’m not the brightest guy in the world, but I’m guessing running around playing bury the salami behind the pews doesn’t count as social obstruction…

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Danny BuntinFebruary 12, 2013 - 8:55 pm

    @CD: Actually he is one of the sharpest tools in the box they have, from what I have read. Me thinks something huge is about to blowup in this organization.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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