Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation on February 11, 2013. The reason he gave for reaching this decision is as follows:
in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of St Peter and proclaim the gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary. Strength which has in the past few months deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity adequately to fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.
This came as quite a surprise to me and to many other people across the world. It is commonly understood that once elected pope, the holder stays in office for life. While I am no longer a practicing Roman Catholic, I am interested in the Church, its history, doctrines and current theological discussions.
While Pope Benedict is generally seen as conservative, if not reactionary, I think in reaching this decision, he continues the effort of his predecessors since Pope John XXIII in trying to reconcile the Church with modernity. He is true to his faith in Christ and remains devoted to the institution of the Roman Catholic Church. However, at 85 years of age and in declining health, he is stepping down for the good of the Church. In the institution’s history, there has been no shortage of popes who were more concerned with their own power than the welfare of the Church. Pope Alexander VI, who reigned from 1492-1503, is likely the most notorious. Pope Alexander, who was really Rodrigo Borgia. Led a less-than-exemplary Christian life. This quote from J. Frater sums up his “character” very nicely:
Alexander VI had three sons in addition to his famous daughter Lucrezia. During his pontificate virtually everything he did was to further the position of his children and family in the world. In order to dominate the Sacred College of Cardinals more completely, Alexander, in a move that created much scandal, created twelve new cardinals, among them his own son Cesare, then only eighteen years old, and Alessandro Farnese (later Pope Paul III), the brother of one of the Pope’s mistresses, the beautiful Giulia Farnese.
In retirement, Pope Benedict will live out his days in solitude, maintaining his piety privately. He will refrain from involving himself in the affairs of the Church. To be honest, I really paid little attention during his reign. I was more concerned with him when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He first came to my attention in this capacity in publishing the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the pastoral care of homosexual persons in October 1986. The tone of the document is not overly hostile. Still, it maintains, “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” I was Confirmed in the Catholic Church just before the publication of this pastoral Letter at the Easter Vigil in Saint Thomas More Parish in Kingston, Ontario, in 1986. I was accepted as a young gay man into the Church and still coming to terms with my sexual orientation; this came as a slap in the face. Like many young gay people, I struggled to understand and accept my sexual orientation. I tried to ignore and suppress it to no avail.
That the thesis of this pastoral Letter is in error was pointed out immediately, and challenges from Roman Catholic moral theologians were soon published. The Vatican and homosexuality: reactions to the “Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on the pastoral care of homosexual persons” is an excellent source for those reading this post who are interested in learning more about these challenges. It was edited by Jeannine Gramick and Pat Furey and published by Crossroad in 1988. Despite these challenges, Cardinal Ratzinger never softened his position. On the contrary, he weighed in on the issue of same-sex marriage in 2003 in the publication of Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons. In this document, he concludes:
The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.
As with his prior pronouncement concerning the pastoral care of homosexual persons, the argument in this document was challenged by Roman Catholic moral theologians and lay Catholics. Paul Lakeland, a professor of religion and director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University, a Catholic university in Connecticut and Frederick Parrella, a professor of theology at Santa Clara University, a Catholic institution in California, are among those who dissent in arguing “as far as civil marriage is concerned, what the church should be saying is, ‘It’s none of our business.'” In addition, a Gallup poll undertaken in the United States in 2012 surveying attitudes toward same-sex marriage showed that 51% of Catholics think it should be legal, while 47% think it should not. Yet just as before, Cardinal Ratzinger remained unmoved by these challenges. His point of view did not change when he was elected Pope Benedict XVI following the death of his predecessor Pope John Paul II, in 2005.
As a gay man in a long-term relationship, I still feel the sting of his obstinance in perpetuating these egregious teachings concerning homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Mainly where the institutional Church adds its voice to those who vociferously oppose efforts on the part of governments to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Even in retirement, Benedict eggs me on in my effort to stand up for the civil rights of gay people in all societies. However, as Pope Benedict prepares to leave office and spend the twilight of his life away from Church politics, I wish him well.
Posted by Geoffrey
I think humanity as a whole is not capable of running religious sects created by other humans.
We are too narcissistic in our nature.
Spirituality however… will find you peace.
Your comment makes me think of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s parable of the Grand Inquisitor. You should look it up. It is a good story.
I personally do not care for any religious organization where you have this one person at the top who is treated as a God among men. It is a disgrace to Jesus and everything he stood for. In my opinion 🙂 But hey I am just one guy.
I don’t so much wish him well as wish him to have a hilariously fatal accident. Something like that may actually force me to re-evaluate the existence of a deity if that disgusting man is not only killed, but in the most humiliating way to be remembered for ever.
Pope Benedict has certainly made enemies in his lifetime and the Church over which he presides is reeling from sex scandals that involved the clergy across the world. He will have a great deal weighing him down on his conscience I daresay.
I too was raised in the Catholic Church and honestly I can’t understand many of their rules or thoughts on many things. I can only imagine how horrible you must have felt right after your confirmation. I did loose all my ties with the Catholic Church about 10 years ago. Still, being around other religions, such as Pentecostals, has made me realize that Catholics are far from being the worse of religions. Due to the large population of Catholics it is of great importance to get them to approve of gay marriage. I would personally say, that it should be none of their business and that civil gay marriage should be legal, but it would be unlikely to pass unless the majority of people were to vote for it. I do hope that one day, hopefully soon, gay marriage is not only accepted civilly, but through religion as well. Why? Although, I am not for religion, I do believe that religious freedom is important as one of our rights. Gays should be able to have this freedom as well.
While the Vatican may not be as crude as the Pentecostals you met in condemning homosexuality, it still hurts. I do not know enough about Pentecostalism, at least lay Pentacostals, to say whether or not there is support for gay people in their ranks, but it stands to reason that married couples who practice Pentacostalism give birth to gay children like any one else.