On Popes and Retirement

I doubt that there is anyone in this connected world who does not know by now that  Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, has announced his retirement as of February 28, 2013.

Apparently, many of his closest aides were flummoxed and unprepared for this announcement.  And within moments, the cyberworld starts asking, “Is a new scandal concerning the Roman Catholic church starting to break?”  And, “How can the RC possibly function with two living Popes?” as though Ratzinger is not quite elderly and hardly physically robust, and has already said he will live out the rest of his life in an enclosed monastery devoting himself to prayer and meditation.

The sky is hardly falling at the thought of two living Popes, as much as the question seems to be throwing people for a loop.

Now, I will tell you I had little admiration for this man.  Personally, I saw him as a power-hungry institutional church man who knew little of a gracious and Holy God whose Son came to seek the lost and die a lonely death, and who really didn’t care that many, especially children, were severely injured by decisions he made in his high-level clerical career before he assumed that highest seat of honor and power in the RC world.

I also didn’t particularly care to hear from his lips that I serve a “deficient” religion.  Nonetheless, that was his opinion and there is certainly a grace in being honest.

But at this point, I say that he has done an honorable, if unprecedented, act.  He is simply no longer fit for the position, and has appeared to face this situation honestly and to leave before he becomes completely unable to do the job. Had he just waited it out until death took him, many vital decisions would be left in the hands of his minions who could easily say they are speaking for him, even if he never uttered another world.

It was an act of integrity. I trust this was not the first of his life, despite how I view his record.

With all this silly talk of “60 is the new 40” and “80 is the new 60,” people seem to want to forget that we are seriously mortal beings, and that we either get old and die, or we die before our time. Either way, we’re all going to die.

Not exactly new news, but the way most deny this inescapable reality often leaves me shocked.

The Pope is 85 years old.  There is no way his brain is fully sharp anymore.  He should NOT be making decisions that affect millions and millions of people.

Would that more people who are in life-time appointments would figure this out and learn to step down graciously, rather than insisting on keeping their seats of power long after their effectiveness has deserted them.

But it takes guts to be that self-aware, and frankly, it takes a brain relatively free of dementia to even begin to think this way.  That’s what does make this decision so remarkable–in order for him to make this decision, a good part of his mental acuity must still be present.

So, I say, “My hat is off to you, Pope Benedict.  May you find the fullness of the grace of God and blessing in your retirement and may the church universal find healing  where necessary from your tenure in that seat of power.”

5 thoughts on “On Popes and Retirement

  1. Well I was raised Catholic so I’ve seen my share of Popes and been a part of changes because of them such as Vatican II. My thoughts are as follows: I want to say to anyone that is looking at this in a bad way. Wait think about what you are saying. Just because a man says he wants to retire does not mean that something is wrong with him or with the church he was the head of. It just means that this man is stepping down from a position that he held because he wants to spend the time he has left doing something else. Hopefully we all look forward to our time of retirement whatever that may look like. For many it doesn’t mean not working, it just means doing something we enjoy instead of something we do as a job. While a Pope is elected for life, the office requires that the person accept the appointment and all that goes with it. I admire this man for knowing that his time as an effective leader is over. He doesn’t love God any less, he just needs to be free to serve him in a different way. Is this a selfish act? Well, I can’t really say on that one since I don’t know the man’s heart. It could be an act of obedience on his part to something God planted in his heart. Only he knows the answer to that question. Bottom line no matter his reasons for stepping down, we need to respect them and pray for him as he seeks God’s will for his life.


  2. Seems to me that my Dad at 85 was still sharp at a tack. We went out with a pastor heart and clear thoughts of the next great adventure.


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