As everyone will know by now Pope Benedict XVI resigned from office yesterday. This move in itself was unprecedented and broke a 600 year long taboo. I had always understood that to be “called” to the highest office in the Roman Catholic Church was a job for life and that one could not just throw in the towel when one had enough. So, in some ways, I applaud the man for his sense of realism and for recognising that he was no longer equipped for the job. I know there are many Catholics out there who are having a hard time understanding his decision – it is like some of the fabric of their lives has been destroyed forever.
Pope Benedict XVI has been an easy target for the permanent critics of the Roman Catholic Church. Firstly he was German and as a man of a certain age and like all men of his age he served with the Hitler Youth. A Pope with a Nazi history – not the best public relations start.
In fact, my personal view is that public relations were this Pope’s nemesis.
Whilst in office, he had to deal with all the fallout from the world wide evidence of sexual abuse and the subsequent cover – ups by the officials and priesthood of his Church.
He took a hard line on homosexuality – one which was increasingly out of step with the rest of society – declaring that gay marriage underlined the future of humanity itself.
He condemned thousands to death around the world by his belief that the use of condoms “aggravated” the AIDS crisis.
Last week also saw the report on the part played by the state and the Catholic Church in the Magdalene Laundries scandal in Ireland published.
These are well known, well debated areas, of Roman Catholic Policy where he has been making his Church’s policy. These are areas of common doctrine.
What I will question after discussion with my partner is the timing.
Today is Festival Day in Catholic countries – Shrove Tuesday in England – i.e. the last day before the start of Lent tomorrow. Lent is the period of 40 days before Easter where Christians prepare for Easter – the most important day in the Christian and Roman Catholic calendar – the time where they celebrate the resurrection of Christ. It is a time of fasting, self-discipline and preparation for their holiest of days.
To my mind leaving the Roman Catholic Church without its leader at such a time is a very puzzling decision. To the Catholics I know it is at least bewildering and to some a betrayal. For them to lose the leader of their Church it is hard enough – to lose him at this time is a double blow.
The cynic in me thinks rat and sinking ship – too many revelations coming up – my partner is more kind and thinks the poor man is just failing fast. Maybe there is a middle line which is that he and his Church cannot cope with the modern age and the fact that with Facebook and Twitter and 24 hours news people have far more information far quicker than they have ever done before and that the Vatican is not yet equipped to deal with it.
Time will tell.
Disclaimer – I am not a Catholic, in fact I am not a member of any organised Church or religion. However, as these institutions are at the core of many culture’s governments and attitudes towards their people – including me , I feel I have some right to comment on such a momentous event. My current partner’s family are Catholic – the older generation, and deeply so.