Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict stepping down, cites poor health

The decrepit Pope John Paul II symbolized the Catholic Church's unwillingness / inability to honestly confront  & deal with the child abuse scandals wracking the Church. One asked the question, "Is anyone in charge here?" The answer was, "Sort of." The person  in charge was the future Pope Benedict behind the scenes. He dealt with it no better after becoming Pope.  The situation requires outrage hitched to unquestioned moral integrity.  Would the younger, vibrant John Paul II, age 59 when he took office, have used his authority to expose the tragedy & deliver justice? We can never know.

Pope Benedict at least recognizes that he does not want to become like John Paul II in his final years; an ineffectual shell.  He wants to influence the election  of his successor. Benedict is a cerebral man, an intellectual.  He can live out his final years comfortably, with limited mobility. He won't be bored.

The next pope will likely share Benedict's conservative  views.  The voting Cardinals were all appointed  either by him or John Paul II.  Occasionally (meaning rarely) the Conclave anoints a complete surprise; a man they thought they knew but didn't really, a "miracle" like Angelo  Roncalli, Pope John XXIII, the "simple priest," or one who is radically changed by the office itself.  Every new pope brings new possibilities.

The main open question now concerns the future pope's nationality. Will the next pope be from Africa or Latin America? If not this one, probably the one after. Or will this pope be the last hurrah of the European popes? Perhaps even an Italian pope for old time's sake.

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