The news today of Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement of his resignation from the papacy at the end of this month was as much of a shock to me as it was to every other Catholic. It’s not my place to speculate here about the causes of this resignation, as my views – and those of every other guy posting on the interwebz – would remain nothing but idle and uninformed speculation.
Of course, that fact will do nothing to prevent the inevitable flood of hysteria and conspiracy theories.
Already, I’ve seen the ravings of those convinced an Evil Conspiracy is afoot in the Vatican, as well as criticisms of the Pope’s resignation (largely from “conservative”-leaning folks), who have more-or-less called the Pope cowardly for stepping down. Not to mention the usual words of barely-contained drooling anticipation in “mainstream” media reports that the next Vicar of Rome might be a “progressive” who will reverse the current Supreme Pontiff’s “conservative” teachings on matters such as abortion, contraceptives and wymyn priestesses. (I’ll have to check with the local rad fems to see if I spelled that right – it’s spelled sort of like Lynyrd Skynyrd, ain’t it?)
(Our friends in the liberal media never seem to get that these teachings are what the Church has always taught for 2000 years, regardless of who’s Pope, and that our current Holy Father is hardly a political right-winger.)
As for those critics who say that Pope Benedict needs to man up, tough it out and stay in office, none of us yammering on teh interwebz is in any position to judge the Pope’s decision, nor do we know the details of his health. While some criticize the Pope’s resignation for the chaos and confusion it will cause, much more could be caused in the situation of a Pope reigning for years in a seriously incapacitated state before dying. (Think of Ronald Reagan living completely incapacitated by Alzheimer’s for years before his death. I don’t know whether Benedict has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a similar condition, but it’s a possibility, and he may be resigning in order to avoid such a situation.) These are times of crisis in the Church, with virulent enemies both within and without, and will require vigorous and active leadership.
But this is not the time for idle speculation, but for prayers – for both our current Holy Father, and for his successor, whoever he may be.