Papal resignation sets right precedent for future
Posted February 13, 2013 at 9:39 pm in Opinion
German-born, 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI will be the first pope to voluntarily resign since Pope Celestine V in 1294 and the first to leave the papal office while still alive since Pope Gregory XII. Elected April 19, 2005, Benedict announced his resignation on Monday, and it will take effect on Feb. 28 ‚ÄĒ after almost eight years as pope.
Considered the leader of nearly 1.2 billion souls and named number five on Forbes‚Äô Most Powerful People list, the pope is obviously an important man and his resignation is obviously a noteworthy event. Throughout history, very few popes have resigned, setting the tradition of a pope‚Äôs reign to be from election until death.
In 2010, Benedict wrote that he would resign if he felt himself not able to ‚Äúphysically, psychologically and spiritually‚ÄĚ run the church.
‚ÄúStrength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,‚ÄĚ he said in his statement.
The pontiff‚Äôs main reason for departure is ill health, but it is quite possible that the reason could be connected to the scandals that developed during his term. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the pope‚Äôs decision should be respected in ‚Äúan age where life expectancy is longer than ever, and many people will understand that even the pope has to come to terms with the burdens of ageing.‚ÄĚ
Counting back to the year 1295, Pope Benedict XVI is on record as the fifth-oldest Pope at age of election at the age of 78 years and 3 days.
Nonetheless, his resignation will hopefully bring the election of a younger pontiff who can hopefully foster the needed growth in church attendance, as well as usher in better public relations for the Church.
And though the Church‚Äôs main concern should be growing said attendance, the scandals of the pope‚Äôs term likely got in the way. The Roman Catholic Church had a terrible year in 2009 because of missteps in speeches, poor international relations, declining public image and criticism for undoing some reforms that had modernized the church. A Roman Catholic Church insider then described his 4-year-old papacy as ‚Äúa disaster . . . He‚Äôs out of touch with the real world. On the condom issue, for example, there are priests . . . in Africa who accept that condoms are a key part of the fight against AIDS, and yet the pope adheres to this very conservative line that they encourage promiscuity. The Vatican is far removed from the reality on the ground.‚ÄĚ
Though it is said one gets wiser with age, it seems as if age has hindered the pope‚Äôs ability to make decisions in this rapidly changing world. It seems as if a new sex abuse scandal rocks the Church too often. And though the pope attempted to handle it to the best of his ability, stronger action is necessary. In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI released a statement saying that abusive priests had ‚Äúdisfigured their ministry‚ÄĚ and brought ‚Äúprofound shame and regret on the church.‚ÄĚ And though he issued new rules aimed at stopping abuse, it is imperative to note the Roman Catholic Church‚Äôs historical tendecy to cover up scandals instead of dealing with them.
The pope‚Äôs decision might even set a beneficial precedent, one in which future popes are encouraged to resign when their health deteriorates, thus ending the 600-year-old tradition of serving until death.
Benedict set up a YouTube channel, Twitter account and Facebook app, and he saw the environmental improvement of the Vatican City, but the church must continue to adapt to technological and societal changes. The Vatileaks scandal ‚ÄĒ the pontiff‚Äôs butler leaking documents alleging corruption in the Church‚Äôs business dealings ‚ÄĒ caused international furor. Yet, this shows that the world of media will not wait for the Vatican to slowly release information and the papacy must stay ahead of the curve in communication.
In one attempt to adapt to the times, the Pope made cleaning up the Vatican‚Äôs reputation for getting shady money one of his priorities, beefing up the city-state‚Äôs laws and hiring a top Swiss financial fighter to raise standards to international levels. But this still needs work and his resignation could leave this effort in limbo.
The pope‚Äôs resignation illustrates his maturity and willingness to take responsibility, allowing a more vivacious cardinal take the reins from here on out. One can only hope that the next pope will attempt to modernize the church and work with modernity ‚ÄĒ not fight it.
Kevin Cheberenchick, is a sophomore majoring in economics and mathmatics.