February 12, 2013

Good for Benedict!

I have never been a fan of Pope Benedict XVI. Before he was elected, I considered the election of Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger as the next Pope my worst nightmare. He had already interfered in Anglican affairs, a practice he did not abandon once he became the supreme authority in the Roman Catholic Church. Benedict has been a reactionary, and his successor will likely be in the same mold.

I must applaud Benedict, however, for stepping down from the papacy because he feels he does not have the strength to carry on. His decision is a good one for him and for his church. We should hope that this courageous action—a radical action in its context—sets a precedent for his successors.

Lifetime appointments are intended to insulate office holders from undue influence, but they become dysfunctional if retirement based on reduced competency is prohibited or severely discouraged. Federal judges, and particularly Supreme Court justices, have lifetime tenure, but they sensibly retire when interest in their job flags or they believe themselves incapable of performing adequately. This is a good practice.

Even the Roman Catholic Church exhibits some suspicion of advanced age. The convocation that will elect the next pope limits the electorate to cardinals no older than 80 years. In light of Benedict’s retirement decision, perhaps the next pope will be younger and more vigorous, and perhaps he, too, will consider retirement rather than working, however poorly, to his dying day.


  1. How much his stepping down due to ill health and how much it is with the publication of how he was complicit in covering up the child abuse scandals will now only be speculated upon. I am suspecting he may be suffering from some kind of dementia that would make him uncontrollable by the Vatican power brokers.

  2. I’m not much inclined to speculate about all the factors that went into the decision. The best aspect of it is the precedent it sets. I have wondered if Benedict wants to have some influence over the decision about his successor. Just by being alive, he has some influence. The cardinals will be reluctant to choose anyone whose selection would seem to be a rebuke to Benedict.

  3. Oddly, I´ve mostly had a warm spot in my heart for some of the Bishops of Rome (even with a nasty start as black and white newsreels of Pius did scare me to death as a kid as he was hauled about on a litter)...it's just that I never warmed to Benedict in ANY way for some of his Episcopalian/Anglican anti-LGBT-letter-mischiefmaking at the start of Duncans ¨place to stand¨ daze of Dallas pontificating (I had to keep myself in check from going the other way and wishing +Ratzinger dread). Gone is fine, hopefully he will remain cloistered as promised...no more darting eyes/mind and tiresome/mean actions will be spiritually refreshing...a new start is encouraging.


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