Lenten retreat

Image by OSSERVATORE ROMANO / Reuters.
Image by OSSERVATORE ROMANO / Reuters.

Pope Benedict resigns

By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer

As a teen in high school, I was on the verge of converting to Catholicism. I would pray morning and night, before meals, and sometimes just because I felt like it. I’d study readings thoroughly and memorize Catechism questions like there was no tomorrow. But in spite of my strong feelings for the faith, there were always some things that tripped me up: Holy Eucharist was probably the main one, but one of my more difficult struggles was deciding just what was appropriate to give up for Lent. What was too much? What was too little? It’s a good thing that I’m no longer at that stage, because the bar was just set excessively high when Benedict XVI gave up being the Pope for Lent.

Admittedly, that last line is a stretch at best, but it’s just as absurd as the reality. Popes just don’t step down. It’s simply not done. Being Pope has always been viewed like marriage: “till death do us part.” In this marriage, however, the ideal is supposed to be upheld and divorce isn’t really an option. To emphasize that point, the last Pope to resign was Gregory XII almost 600 years ago in 1415. Gregory XII’s resignation was entirely different from Benedict XVI’s, though, since there were two anti-Popes at the time in addition to Gregory XII and all three needed to give up their positions in order for the Church to move forward. Before that, there were eight (there’s some disagreement over this number, but the figure is anywhere from four to 10) other Popes who left the papacy, but again, there were very different circumstances that necessitated their resignations including persecution, exile, and corruption.

Coming back to Benedict XVI himself, there are endless rumours swirling about why he’s throwing in the towel. Some suggest that there is an arrest warrant waiting for him due to the child rape atrocities. Others say that a recent report about homosexual affairs and fraud in the Vatican is what is driving Benedict XVI out. There are endless variations on these stories, but none of them are complimentary in the least. The Pope is consistently painted as a man running from his troubles. While there may be some truth to this, one must keep in mind that the world has a penchant for picking on Catholicism. With a history rich in scandal and corruption, the Church hasn’t exactly helped its case; nevertheless, when almost 20 per cent of the world is Catholic, the odds are quite good that there are more than a few bad apples in there, and there’s only so much one can do about it.

With that in mind, in Benedict XVI’s own (translated) words, he’s relinquishing the papacy because, “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.” When I first read his reason, I almost wished that some of the hearsay was true. Hanging it up because he doesn’t think he’s strong enough? Popes usually die on the job. Unless Benedict XVI passes away in the very near future, his excuse will look flimsy indeed.