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Pope Benedict’s Resignation

I was surprised by the news of Pope Benedict’s resignation, because papal resignations have so rarely happened. When it happened the last time, unless I’m mistaken, it served as mechanism for settling a long-running, embarrassing schism. There’s nothing like that happening in this case, of course, so it’s even more unusual while being less significant in its implications. So I can understand why the announcement would come as such a shock [1], especially to those that identify strongly with Pope Benedict and what he represents, but it seems to me that this is a good decision for both the outgoing Pope and for his church.

If Benedict believes that he is no longer able to serve effectively, I don’t see how he could have remained in good conscience. He wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors to try to continue serving when he no longer believed himself able to do so, and it wouldn’t do him or his church much good to hang on for as long as possible. Benedict was first and foremost a theologian and scholar, which is one reason why he is so well-liked by many orthodox (and Orthodox) Christians, but I suspect that his temperament and training remained those of a scholar rather than a pontiff. When he was elected, I recall that many people assumed that he would be acting mainly as a steward for a short time because of his advanced age, and so he has.

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5 Comments To "Pope Benedict’s Resignation"

#1 Comment By Frank OConnor On February 11, 2013 @ 10:05 am

It is also bracing to see someone voluntarily let slip the reins of power. So many, senators, supreme court justices, princes of the Church, etc, hang on far too long past their “sell by” date. That at his age and health, he is choosing to enter a monastery to lead a life of prayer and meditation speaks of an essential sanity of mind. May God go with him.

#2 Comment By collin On February 11, 2013 @ 11:14 am

It seems the responsible thing to do. I have always wondered if the transition from WW1 to the Roaring Twenties would have been smoother if Woodrow Wilson made the right decision and resigned his position due to health.

#3 Comment By Clint On February 11, 2013 @ 11:52 am

Pope Benedict was feared by The Media Brotherhood, as well as certain middle east agendists.

#4 Comment By Geoff Guth On February 11, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

If I were to hazard a guess, Pope Benedict was present as Pope John Paul II suffered his decline and lived through the difficulties the Vatican went through as John Paul became less and less able to fulfill his duties. I wouldn’t be surprised if the desire to follow a different path, and the spare the Church the consequences of his own decline weren’t foremost in his mind.

#5 Comment By norman ravitch On February 11, 2013 @ 7:26 pm

Before the First Vatican Council (1870) few Catholics took the Vatican all that seriously. Time to return to that.

A friend and colleague of mine (and a Catholic) once remarked that only the ITALIANS COULD HAVE INVENTED THE PAPACY!