Rope a Pope
Well, it happened. An event that hasn’t taken place for over five hundred years happened and it has had an immediate impact on millions of people. Most of them journalists.
Pope Benedict the somethingth (I don’t know – it’s more than ten) has abdicated his position. He’s stepping down. For almost every pope that preceded him, the papacy was a death sentence. They literally worked themselves to death. Not this pope, though. He’d like some time to enjoy his final years in a way that is just a little less infallible.
Lots of pressure goes with infallibility, I would imagine. Many popes before Benedict the VIIVXth have felt that pressure and they never had the guts to just give it up. They were probably too attached to the colorful robes that were definitely NOT GAY and the golden jewelry that was also NOT GAY and living in the one country in the world almost entirely populated by men, who are all NOT GAY.
As their health began to fail in whatever you call the post twilight years (because Benedict the 1101011th left the twilight years behind a while ago), they were too cowardly to move into the old pope’s home. Man, I’ll bet the church wishes they hadn’t wasted money on that place! One resident every 500 years is not what I’d call a high occupancy rate.
Even as Benedict the 10 < x< 20 steps aside, hope springs eternal among many of the faithful in Rome and around the world. They hope that the next pope will be better than this one. Maybe he’ll actually talk to women! Maybe he hasn’t shielded abusive priests from prosecution! Perhaps he’ll let people use condoms so they don’t bear children they don’t want and can’t afford! He might even be Latino or Black!
I’m sure it hasn’t escaped the attention of the cardinals in Rome that we actually elected a Black President in America. Twice. It looks like it worked out OK for us (aside from the fact that he’s a foreign born muslim communist) so they could totally give it a go themselves. Especially given that the largest growing Catholic Populations are in Africa and South America. What have they got to lose (aside from breaking the longest white guy streak ever)?
Then again, what difference will it make? A black pope will still speak out against homosexuality and birth control. A Latino pope will still work to ensure that the voices of women are all but silenced in his church. There is no radical reformer waiting to claim the papacy. Even if there was one, there are not enough Cardinals to elect him. White, black or latino, the pope will not drag his church into the modern age.
As Benedict the whatever finally gets a chance to check out Vatican City without the weight of being pope on his head (“I never noticed those paintings on the Sistine chapel ceiling before – they’re nice”), he can be confident that the Church will boldly continue to go nowhere.
When I was in Rome a few years ago, I visited St. Peter’s cathedral. It is a gaudy spectacle filled with amazing art and constant reminders that while the Catholic Church is no longer the power it once was, it is not irrelevant.
In one corner of the basilica, we found this enormous plaque:
On the plaque is listed the name of every pope since St. Peter. Because they keep electing old guys, there are a shitload of them.
What I found exciting, however, is the fact that they will – eventually – run out of room. At some point, these guys will crowd themselves out of a job. When that happens, their church will be a great deal better for it.
So while the replacement for Benedict the Cumberbatch will be no better than he was, I take comfort knowing that by stepping down early, Benedict has ensured that plaque gets filled up just a little bit faster.
Just another 500 years (give or take a few) to go.