Papacy – Current Event
Like many Catholics, I was both stunned and saddened to awake to the news that Pope Benedict XVI, heir of St. Peter, will abdicate his throne in just over two weeks. The first thought that entered my head was, “Heavens, what next?” That such a thought shows a lack of faith on my part is a point I won’t deny. In the age of mass media, Vatileaks, insider speculation, etc., it’s hard to see the work of the Holy Ghost in the Church, particularly when it comes to choosing the Vicar of Christ. Though I was a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church at the time of John Paul II’s death, I remember thinking that the next Pontiff of the Catholic Church would be a reformer — and no, not a “reformer of the reform” either. By God’s Grace, I was wrong. I certainly never expected B16 to push as hard as he did for a return to Catholic orthodoxy, nor do I imagine that he would fully liberate the Tridentine Mass and make substantial overtures toward the Society of St. Pius X. His two encyclicals, coupled with his willingness to call a spade a spade when it came to Islamic violence against Christians all over the world, deepened my respect of the man even before I rejoined Rome. Upon my return to Catholicism during Lent 2011, I entered with a great deal of comfort that a man of deep learning and even deeper faith was at the helm of a Church which was — and, sadly, still is — in deep crisis.
Mainstream media reports on the Pope’s resignation were, unsurprisingly, full of the usual invective concerning his (forced) membership in the Hitler Youth; his decision to lift the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson; his stance against secularism and Islamic violence; and his reaffirmation of Catholic orthodoxy concerning the priesthood and marriage. There have also been plenty of references to the sex abuse scandal, though I must credit a few outlets (including National Public Radio) for focusing on the fact B16 did far more than his predecessor to heal the wounds of the scandal and to rid the Church of such filth.
Was B16′s Pontificate perfect? Of course not. Like you and I, he is a man — a man charged with the care of over 1 billion Catholic Christians. Ideological camps of various stripes have their litany of gripes, some more justified than others. So be it. It would have been impossible for him to have fully righted a ship that had gone so wayward had he been blessed with 20 years in the Chair of St. Peter. What he accomplished in less than eight is, in my mind, nothing short of miraculous. There is much work to be done, and it will take many decades — maybe even many centuries (assuming the Second Coming doesn’t occur before then) — to fully renew the Church. I pray that the Conclave which will convene in mid-March will choose a worthy successor to the Holy Father, one with the strength and firmness of faith to lead God’s one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church through one of the darkest times in her history.