Monday, February 11, 2013

Non habemus papam

Apparently the Pope is resigning.  Which is, well, earth-shattering.  It's been something like six centuries since a Pope has resigned at all, and two centuries more since a Pope has done so voluntarily.  (The 15th century occurrence was the resolution to a schism, so it's hard to call it voluntary.)

I respect Pope Benedict XVI's decision to step down.  Whatever the motivation, both inward and outward recognition that one is no longer able to fulfill a role in the way that one desires to fulfill it is incredibly difficult, and few people have the strength of character to do so, especially when it involves giving up that kind of power.  My respect for Pope Benedict's decision only deepens when I think about the way that Pope John Paul II carried on in failing health, and the cost that the church may have paid for not having a vigorous leader during his failing years.  Being willing to step down when no longer effective shows a love for the church over love for self, and that is something I can admire.

However, given the timing of his resignation, the Pope's decision to step down provides an opportunity for the church to heal some of the wounds of the abuse scandal.