The media houses both local and international alike have gone agog ever since the news about Pope Benedict XVI proposed resignation and vacation of the seat of St. Peter at the Petrine came to the fore. Newsletters, articles, interviews, opinion polls, documentaries and behind the scene investigations have been carried out or are being carried out to either ascertain the reason(s) if any, that may have led to this sudden decision that has never been heard since the Middle Ages of the papal history or to either support or condemn the pope’s pronouncement with each sides not forgetting to proffer reasons to back up their positions. However, it has become prosaic that since the commencement of this hurdle, the weight of judgment has tilted heavily against the holy see’s decision with the exception of just a little few who are able to see reasoning and justification for the popes judgment that has left a little more than the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics overwhelmed and beleaguered of which I am not an exception.
As a matter of fact, the attractions which this matter of faith has drawn to itself are not without any surprise as an office and a position as high and sensitive as the one which the pope occupies must be subject to latches from within and without whenever it draws any conclusion since it is most often than not, one which have the tenacity of affecting the world’s population and changing the course of history but then, sentiments must be kept at the barest minimum if ever it is to be allowed in this game.
A cursory look at the pope’s resignation letter shows that it was indeed not a decision reached per incuriam i.e. carelessly but rather one which must have cost him a great deal of physical, spiritual and psychological labor before he reached a compromise to that effect. It wasn’t a decision by any means reached under duress or any influence of some sort as is being rumored in the camps of rumor mongers who haven’t the interest of the Church at heart but rather one that is devoid of any vitiating elements of a sound reasoning and judgment since by the Catholic Church doctrine, the pope cannot err in his dealings, views and decisions with regards to matters of the church and Faith.
Perhaps one question that is pertinent to be asked at this juncture should be: Is the pope Human? If yes, thus there shouldn’t be lacking any justification for his decision to abdicate the ecclesiastical throne of the Vatican City if true to his conscience his strength due to an advanced age is no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the petrine ministry as he remarked in the resignation letter made public sometime last week. If No, then he lacks every justification to reach same but we all know that the pope like you and I, is human and subjected to every human characteristics, behaviors and reasoning except with regards to matters of Faith- so the latter presumption cannot hold water anywhere.
There is not a single thing I haven’t heard since this matter went global. Many have linked the resignation to the fictional preferity of the movie ‘Angels and Demons’ to the effect that in the college of cardinals of the Vatican, certain elements who are not in support of his reign have threatened him into resignation failure to do so, which they will sell certain alleged scandal of his to the public, some have attributed it to the pope’s nursing of a fatal illness. Others, to a head injury he sustained during his last trip to Mexico last march as the reason for the abdication. In some quarters it has been rumored that the resignation is connected to the pope’s looming disgrace over either dodgy deals done by the Vatican bank, past cover-ups of pedophile priests or an “explosive” forthcoming report by a team of cardinals on a tendering scandal and to a strategy to secure the succession for his favorite cardinal as becoming the next pope under his watch. All of these at first glance makes me and many Catholics seem hopelessly naïve for taking after having a great review and study of the pope’s resignation speech where he said that in today’s world subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to steer the boat of Saint Peter and proclaim the gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary. This is obviously a spick and span reason having been reached under the highest of liberty and without influence of any kind.
This may not have gone down well among certain principals of the church and concerned adherents of the catholic faith no doubt. And one of those people is the former secretary to the beloved pope John Paul II, cardinal Oswisz who said disproving the health reasons for resignation tendered by the pope that “one doesn’t come down from the cross irrespective of the suffering.” But the pope has not given the laborious and taxing nature of the office as the reason for the abdication but rather the incommensurate nature of his health to the demands of the office that risks putting the catholic church in the wheels of controversy and thereby, saving nine by stitching possible defects in time. Had he the physical and clinical wherewithal, this decision no doubt wouldn’t have been put into contemplation so cardinal Oswisz’s decision cannot suffice and the pope’s decision is not tantamount to betrayal by whatever forms it is being looked at.
It may be true that the outgoing pope may not have lived up to the official expectations of the people, given the big shoes he was left to fill after the demise of his beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II who was loved across the world and a hero even to adherents of other religions like Islam, Judaism and the like but we must know that they are two different persons that occupied the same office at different points in time. The need for any analogy should not arise and if ever it should, it must not be anchored on the basis that the successor to any throne must thread the path left off by his antecedent as they are different persons irrespective of formation under the priestly vocation. The last pope had his own fair share of controversies one of which was penning his letter of resignation when he came down with Parkinson’s disease that robbed the once athletic pope of mobility and in the same vein, the outgoing pope has got his, so let sleeping dogs lie. Medical experts across the world who have donned their stethoscopes to offer diagnosis to confirm the pope’s health status could save it for other patients and allow God be the judge since the Vatican is an institution answerable to moral codes in the highest heavens.
The pope has handed his resignation and is preparing to retire at the Mater Ecclesaie monastery in the gardens of the Vatican into a dedicated service to the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer and suffering. All we need do is to entrust the Holy Church to the care of our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff.
Irrespective of how controversial his reign was and his conservative philosophy towards matters of the Church, one thing remains unrivalled that by resigning, he has booked a place for himself in the sands of history but not in the annals of infamy. Whatever the case may be, let us allow God who the Vatican is answerable to be the judge in this cause. He may have created a precedent that may be towed by subsequent popes; we understand that it is in the best interest of the Church. May God help the Church!
The writer is a Law Student and a public affairs analyst. He tweets @yung_silky. Comments and reactions are welcomed.