I have one friend who deems it his life mission to make sure everyone knows how evil the Catholic church is. When John walked over to the breakfast table this morning and told me the news about the Pope's resignation, after it sunk in, I wondered what the friend would have to say this time. Thankfully not too much, just another copy & pasted comment from someone who agreed with his views, and then a bunch of comments from his friends who support his opinion. Thankfully I was spared from too much in the peanut gallery on that end.
There have been many "Pope jokes" today, a lot of which I have laughed at, because I'm human and they were funny. I don't fail to see the humor just because I attend Mass every week. I have never been a big fan of this Pope and felt a bit of relief to hear the news.
I think he made a wise decision, likely based on his experiences at watching John Paul II's health deteriorate to the point of barely being able to move. If he recognized something similar in himself, then why not do what's best for the church and step down? The Catholic church needs a leader who is strong physically and mentally, and if he knows he is not up to the task, then it seems like the right decision not to continue. It's a lose-lose situation though: either he stays in office until he dies, potentially being ineffective and people will complain that he's useless, or he steps down and people call him a quitter. I think it takes a lot of faith and courage to recognize his human limitations, and he is brave to make this decision.
JPII always felt like a grandfather figure: lovely smile, warm, comforting, forgiving even to those who tried to assassinate him. Benedict XVI had a running gag comparing him to the Emperor from Star Wars. [I'll admit, I see the physical resemblance and have laughed at many a joke.] Benedict just never caught on with the people the way JPII did. I felt Benedict was dragging us backward instead of forward in our faith, trying desperately to preserve the old ways while allowing very precious few of the new in a time where Catholics needed some measure of modernization. One of the most surprising things about the resignation announcement was that his last day comes in the middle of Lent, which starts on Wednesday. Why then? I can only assume that his health has deteriorated more than we are aware and he does not think he will live much longer. But if that is the case, then why resign at all? The announcement has left us all with a lot of questions, but few answers.
I can't argue with the "red text" believers: nowhere does Jesus tell us to set up a church and take up a collection. He actually tells us not to do that. But we've ignored him and moved ahead with our greedy human ways. We close churches and vocations are down, but the guy in the funny hat still wears expensive clothes, holds a gold cross, and sits on a ton of money. Yeah, it's disheartening. Sometimes I just block out those facts and focus more on the local and what good we're doing as a church community. Other times I sit back and wonder why I'm still hanging in when so many others are long gone. In the end, I'm holding out hope that we will evolve and change to where we need to be eventually. I'd like to be around to see that.
I reviewed the articles today about the potential front runners for the next Pope. Hopefully Benedict will not have any influence whatsoever in the decision. Choosing a Pope who makes the previous Pope happy because their views are the same won't help us. I pray that the Cardinals will find someone who can help us start our slow climb to modernization. I don't expect the next Pope to throw away the rule book and start approving everything, but we need some forward progress if we hope to survive. Deep down, though, I fear we'll get a lot more of the same until the generation of Cardinals passes on and the next generation comes to the forefront. I hope I'm wrong.