I'm very surprised. I'm not sorry. I don't expect his successor to be any improvement. He could even be worse.
Pope Pius XIII anyone?
I'm not expecting much, if anything, to change. If there is dramatic change, then I expect it to be in an even more sharply rightward direction. We could get a later-day Caraffa, a fanatic who excommunicates everyone and puts up barbed wire around the Vatican. Not likely, but it is possible. I think that alternative is much more possible than even the most tentative gesture to soften church pronouncements on women, gays, or sexuality. I expect those very hard and unyielding views to continue to undercut the moral credibility of the church's otherwise commendable views on global capitalism, the impending environmental crisis, and especially on human rights.
I don't think JP II's or Benedict's policies concerning all the scandal and criminality in the church will change either. I expect to see a continuation of policies that are more about institutional preservation and face-saving than about any kind of real reckoning with the harm done, and any real reform in the direction of openess and making shepherds more accountable to their flocks and to civil and criminal law.
I hear that Benedict plans to retire to an unnamed cloister immediately after his resignation takes effect on February 28th. Dramatic certainly, though maybe not quite as dramatic as Emperor Chandragupta giving up his throne for the life of a wandering ascetic and then dying of starvation in a cave. I've heard a few whispers that the pope's decision may be motivated by medical diagnoses indicating impending dementia. Perhaps his decision was inspired by his very close experience of the seriously declining health of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II in his last years.
Hans Kung on the outgoing pope:
"During his time in office he has ordained so many conservative cardinals, that amongst them is hardly a single person to be found who could lead the church out of its multifaceted crisis."
Tip of the Papal tiara to Erika Baker.
I'm glad the old duffer is going, but I don't expect much to change; and if anything does change, then duck and cover.
Excellent summation of Pope Benedict's reign and the current state of the Catholic Church by Stephen Bates of The Guardian:
Catherine Pepinster, editor of the Catholic weekly the Tablet, said: "It has been a very troubled time. We have not got a Catholic church at ease with itself."Tip of the Papal tiara to Lapinbizarre.
Indeed, the Vatican has seemed to be pressing hard in the opposite direction: into a cul-de-sac of conservative authoritarianism which neither inspires nor revives the mass of cradle Catholics, who are still deserting the church even in heartlands such as Spain and Ireland. Fifty years ago, governments in Catholic countries would tremble at the Vatican's displeasure; now they just wag their fingers back and press on with their plans for gay marriages or easier abortion. There is no comeback when the church has squandered its moral authority across the world over child abuse.
Garry Wills is deeply pessimistic that anything will change for the better in Rome.
Wistful Catholics hope that on this and other matters of disagreement between the church as People of God and the ruling powers in the church, a new pope can remedy that discord. But a new pope will be elected by cardinals who were elevated to office by the very popes who reaffirmed “eternal truths” like the teaching on contraception. They were appointed for their loyalty, as were the American bishops who stubbornly upheld the contraception nonsense in our elections.Will the new conclave vote for a man who goes against the teachings of his predecessors? Even if they do, can the man chosen buck the structure through which he rose without kicking the structure down? These considerations have given the election of new popes the air of watching Charlie Brown keep trying to kick the football, hoping that Lucy will cooperate.