Monday, February 11, 2013

Is The Pope Catholic?

Stop the presses! I was slow to write a blog entry for today but knew my subject. Well, that has changed with the surprise announcement by Pope Benedict that he is retiring. I suppose this is the reality of healthcare and longevity in our time. In the past popes died in office, but at a younger age. The pontiff is approaching his 86th birthday and despite what we might imagine about an easy life,  the role is very demanding.

Pope Benedict is a man of superior intellect and skills. He is an accomplished musician, as well as a rigorous and published theologian. I happen to think he has been a lousy pope for the twenty-first century. A United Church colleague, a former Roman Catholic priest, admitted that he was devastated when Benedict was elected in 2005 because he felt that this was a major step backward for the Roman Catholic church. During Pope John Paul II's papacy Benedict was Cardinal Ratzinger, and known as "God's Rottweiler" for his zealous and aggressive defense of Roman Catholic doctrine. as well as discipline of those in the church who stepped out of line.

I'm not sure what God had to do with his approach to be honest. I feel that Benedict did considerable harm to ecumenical relationships, characterizing Christians from other traditions as inferior. It was a colossal arrogance on his part that he didn't seem to recognize until the firestorm of reaction. He was steadfast in his resistance to an increasing role for women in the church, clamping down on "uppity" nuns in the United States who had the temerity to think they could speak for themselves. Imagine!

His greatest failure was the slow and ineffectual response to rampant sexual abuse by priests and the systemic cover-up through the decades. Yes, he eventually acknowledged the "shame" but his response never seemed enough. There appeared to be greater concern with protecting the church than the plight of victims. Bye the way, my own experience is of many priests as individuals who were devoted Christian servants.

I  could go on with my criticisms but instead will say that Benedict had an environmental consciousness not evident with his predecessors and he offered statements reconciling belief in a Creator God and evolution. He supported an interfaith forum, which was a step in the right direction.

Any reaction to the news that Benedict is the first pope to step down in nearly six hundred years? Your thoughts about relationships between Protestants and Catholics, as well as other traditions?

1 comment:

IanD said...

Talk about stopping the presses! I actually yelled out, "What?!" while driving when I heard the news this morning.

In following his tenure, I'd say your criticisms are both insightful, valid, and shared by many. It will be interesting to see who fills the role!