Benedict XVI to Resign

I was raised in the Catholic Church, attended Sunday School, then attended a high school run by the Jesuit order. But even though I’ve studied a lot of church history, when I think of a pope, my mind goes Hollywood. I think of Anthony Quinn playing the fictional Pope Kiril in The Shoes of the Fisherman, or maybe Raymond Burr playing Bishop Angelo Roncalli saving Jewish refugees — many years before he was elected Pope John XXIII.

Even though Morris West probably based Kiril on the Ukrainian Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, I think many of us wanted John Paul II to be a realization of that kind, saintly sort of prelate. But though he was charismatic, Karol Wojtyla also turned out to be a very orthodox authoritarian — unlike John XXIII or his short-lived predecessor John Paul I.

Pope Benedict XVI has been far less appealing and even more authoritarian than John Paul II. As I recall one of his first moves was to remove an American Catholic official known for tolerance. Later he outraged members of other religions with his critical quotations of their faiths. He has been tainted by the Vatileaks scandal, and as described in the NY Times, he has also been dogged by the child abuse scandal that has engulfed the Church:

In 2010, as outrage built over clerical abuses, some secular and liberal Catholic voices called for his resignation, their demands fueled by reports that laid part of blame at his doorstep, citing his response both as a bishop long ago in Germany and as a cardinal heading the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles such cases.

In one disclosure, news emerged that in 1985, when Benedict was Cardinal Ratzinger, he signed a letter putting off efforts to defrock a convicted child-molesting priest. He cited the priest’s relative youth but also the good of the church. …

He went on to apologize for the abuse and met with victims, a first for the papacy. But he could not escape the reality that the church had shielded priests accused of molestation, minimized behavior it would have otherwise deemed immoral and kept it secret from the civil authorities, forestalling criminal prosecution.

The sad reality is that whenever you have people in power, there will be some that abuse that power. That is true of medical practitioners, educators, coaches, public officials, private employers and church officials at every level. What is also true is that the institutions too often conceal and protect their profligate members, as the case of Jerry Sandusky makes clear.

It will be interesting to see whether the College of Cardinals tries to elect a Pope willing to clean up the pedophilia scandal.

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