Good Riddance

February 22, 2013 Op-Eds, Opinion

Pope Benedict XVI announced on Feb. 11 his plans to resign at the end of the month on Feb. 28. The last time a pope resigned was in 1415 during the Western Schism in the Catholic Church when two men both claimed to be the pope. Benedict cited his declining health as his reason for leaving the office.

One has to admire Benedict for having the courage to admit that he is no longer capable of handling papal responsibilities. For such a conservative pope, stepping down from the office is quite an unorthodox move. With that said, that is about all for which one should admire this pope. The invisible armor of religion that surrounded Benedict, with very few exceptions, offered protection from any true criticism that he deserved during his time as pope.

Benedict has made many pronouncements against the LGBT community during his eight-year tenure, with the most recent occurring on Christmas Eve when he proclaimed that same-sex marriage is “a crisis that threatens [the family] to its very foundations.” Earlier that week, he said same-sex marriage and abortions were threats to world peace. Apparently, they don’t teach international politics in the seminaries.

It’d be awesome if the next Pope was a young man of thirty who knew how to work Facebook and use hashtags on Twitter…

But Benedict has committed moral errors more severe than just disparaging an entire group of human beings or saying that condoms “aggravate” the AIDS crisis in Africa. Most notably, the Church’s handling of the child abuse scandals has been outrageous.

Before Benedict became pope, he was the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, the office in charge of sorting through all the abuse cases.

If there was anyone who could have helped put a stop to pedophilic priests being moved around from church to church, it was Benedict, or as he was then called, Joseph Ratzinger.

But instead of bringing these abuses to light, most scandals were quietly handled within the Church instead of through the legal system – as the Vatican document Crimen sollicitationis encourages. Norbert Denef, like many from Germany, was abused for six years by his local priest when he was a boy. Denef took the case to the bishop of Magdeburg. Denef was offered €25,000 (then £17,000) in return for a pledge of silence about the abuse. When Denef reported this to the Vatican, he received a letter from Pope John Paul II, saying that the pope would pray that he’d be able to forgive his molester.

As an ex-Catholic, I’m hoping for a more liberal pope, but I know such an idea is unlikely to manifest itself into reality. Right now, it is the most conservative, fundamentalist clergy members that are getting the most attention. But it would be nice to see a pope from Venezuela or Ghana instead of from the usual western European states.

And given how out of date the Church’s teachings are on same-sex marriage, it’d be wonderful if the new pope changed that, too, and allowed women to serve as priests. And it’d be awesome if the next pope was a young man of thirty who knew how to work Facebook and how to use hashtags on Twitter correctly and flew around the world in an invisible Pope-Mo-Bile building schools in impoverished countries with all the money the Vatican made from selling the trillions of dollars of art that it used to own.

This has now turned into a pope fan fiction. My apologies.

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