Amid the firefight, no entity has suffered as much of a crisis of legitimacy as the omnipotent Catholic Church. Throughout the reign of Pope Benedict XVI and before, voices from the Vatican have inspired little but sour tastes on the palates of the faithful and smug satisfaction on the faces of the skeptical. The Catholic Church faces catastrophe.
And the man just up and quit.
Citing a loss of the mental and physical strength needed to perform his papal duties, the 85 year-old Benedict resigned the papacy on February 11. For a man trusted to represent the will of God on Earth, it’s a surprisingly humble thing to do. Keep in mind that the last pope to voluntarily resign did so in 1294. After his resignation, the former Celestine V was imprisoned and ultimately executed, either to prevent his return to power or as divine retribution for his abandoning a Church in crisis. Either way, it’s hardly a precedent for Benedict to follow. What gives him the right?
As with any such issue, one may wisely look to the word of the Church. Century to century, the Vatican has held firm in battling the spread of homosexuality, contraception, evolution and other “very damnably sinful” things. Meanwhile, the Church spends more energy battling the ordination of women to priesthood than it does rooting out known sex offenders within those same ranks. Understandably, many in the Western world, where same-sex couples are treated as equals and pedophiles are violently cast out of society (instead of the other way around), grow tired of it. Meanwhile, Catholics in more impoverished regions of the world need a strong guiding voice of faith instead of a hapless old fraternity more troubled by handsy bishops than by disease and famine.
What’s a pope to do? Now dealing with allegations of homosexuality against the now-resigned Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Benedict has doubtlessly had it, and no one should blame him for it. To maintain some semblance of control, after all, seems the most taxing job ever created. If Benedict no longer feels up to the job, then the Catholic Church deserves capable authority that does.
God knows they need it.