Why the Pope Retired

Bloggified by Jake on Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pope Benedict resigned from the papacy for health reasons, so the next time anyone tells you, "The Lord never gives you more than you can handle," point out that the Pope had to step down from serving God because it was too much for him to handle.

Or was there another reason for the Pope to retire? I suspect it was political.

After the death of Pope John Paul II, there was much debate during the ensuing selection process about the future direction of the church. Much had changed during the nearly 30 years of John Paul II and cardinals had to consider whether to select a Pope who might change church doctrine regarding homosexuality, birth control, women's rights, and other hot button issues, or more accurately, when they would select such a pope.

The selection of Cardinal Ratzinger allowed that decision to be put off for a few more years. The papacy was the equivalent of a lifetime achievement award for Ratzinger, who'd been Frank Nitti to John Paul's Al Capone. He was also very old, which meant he wouldn't be around long. Progressives within the Church were satisfied that Ratzinger deserved the spot the way Don Ameche deserved an Oscar for Cocoon, and in a few years, they'd be able to see significant change.

As age set in, Benedict knew his replacement would dealing with many of the same issues he was, but that the new Pope would very likely hold different opinions than he did. So he quit.

For the first time in centuries, the college of cardinals would have to go through the selection process while the last pope was ostensibly in the other room. The new pope would have to lead the church knowing the old pope was discussing and second guessing him with cardinals. When key decisions were to be made, he would either have to consult with the old pope or he'd have to make a point of not consulting with the old pope. In that environment, what are the odds of a younger, progressive pope being elected in the first place, much less making real and significant change?

About five seconds of research into the new pope shows Benedict's plan worked. Unlike eight years ago, there was little debate about progressive cardinals. Five seconds of research is all it takes to see Pope Francis nee Cardinal Bergoglio is a radical opponent of contraception and gay rights. In retirement, Pope Benedict ensured his legacy and conservatism will live well beyond himself.

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