Monday, February 11, 2013
The First Time in Six Centuries
From the NYTimes:
"Pope Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who took office in 2005 following the death of his predecessor, said on Monday that he will resign on Feb. 28, the first pope to do so in six centuries."
"After examining his conscience “before God,” he said in a statement that reverberated around the world on the Internet and on social media, “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of his position as head of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics. A profoundly conservative figure whose papacy was overshadowed by clerical abuse scandals, Benedict, 85, was elected by fellow cardinals in 2005 after the death of John Paul II. "
"When he took office, Pope Benedict’s well-known stands included the assertion that Catholicism is “true” and other religions are “deficient”; that the modern, secular world, especially in Europe, is spiritually weak; and that Catholicism is in competition with Islam. He had also strongly opposed homosexuality, the ordination of female priests and stem cell research."
Many popes over the centuries have died in office. It is puzzling why this one is resigning over poor health or even imminent death. That is quite unusual, and raises questions about scandal, something the Vatican is no stranger to.
The Daily Beast reported last summer:
Vatileaks Scandal Exposes Secrets Of Pope’s Empire
Jul 9, 2012 1:00 AM EDT
A series of leaks have exposed chaos at the heart of the Pope’s empire.
For centuries one of the tightest organizations in the world, with a code of honor to rival that of the Sicilian Mafia, it has been turned inside out in the past six months. A gusher of highly confidential letters to the pope and his closest associates, many of them originally in code, has poured into the Italian media and into a book, Sua Santità by Gianluigi Nuzzi, which became an instant bestseller.
The leaks are just one in a string of scandals to rock the Vatican this year—the latest, in early June, involved the ouster of the head of the Vatican bank, who possessed documents that apparently showed the Church circumventing European money-laundering regulations. To combat the spate of bad publicity, the Vatican has gone as far as hiring a former Fox News reporter, who happens to be an Opus Dei numerary, to be one of its official PR flacks. But whether the pope and the Vatican establishment can recover their credibility is now a matter of serious doubt.
From the NYTimes:
"Benedict’s tenure was caught up in growing sexual abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church that crept ever closer to the Vatican itself. In 2010, as outrage built over clerical abuses, some secular and liberal Catholic voices called for his resignation, their demands fueled by reports that laid part of the blame at his doorstep, citing his response both as a bishop long ago in Germany and as a cardinal heading the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles such cases.
In one disclosure, news emerged that in 1985, when Benedict was Cardinal Ratzinger, he signed a letter putting off efforts to defrock a convicted child-molesting priest. He cited the priest’s relative youth but also the good of the church."
At this point, we can only speculate as to why this pope, the first in six centuries, has decided to abdicate the papacy rather than do as other popes have done in past centuries--pass away in office. Or perhaps the pope is just pooped.