Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI resigns due to advanced age

Pope Benedict XVI

The Pope may have resigned, but the men he has made powerful will surely try to elect one of themselves to succeed him. I hope they won't be successful.

Four years ago, I was in a small town in El Salvador, which itself is so small that it is known as the "thumb" of Central America. It is so densely populated that it's hard to find a patch of land without houses. Seven million people live there, with another three million living in the U.S. And yet the local priest rails against birth control. Where does he expect the next generation to live? The apparent solution is to build second stories in family compounds, but few can afford to do that unless they have relatives sending money from the U.S.

Why next pope must open up church and usher in Vatican III
By Paul Donovan
Special to CNN
February 11, 2013

Benedict, 85, announced on Monday, February 11, that he will resign at the end of February "because of advanced age." The last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415.

(CNN) -- The announcement of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI came as a bolt from the blue to the world but not a moment too soon for many Catholics.

The Catholic Church has continued to march backwards under Pope Benedict, seeming at times to be in a state of perpetual denial, whether the issue be that of child abuse, birth control, homosexuality or the role of women.

At the heart of the church there lies a deep chauvinism that seems to have infected the whole edifice.

Women may feel discriminated against in many institutions but few have made it so blatantly clear that the woman's place remains at the kitchen sink as the Catholic Church.

The refusal to enter into a constructive dialogue about the possibility of having female clergy underlines just how male dominated the institution remains.

Rubbing salt in the wounds in Britain has been the creation by Pope Benedict of the Ordinariate. This body facilitates the progress of those Anglicans who predominantly want to leave the Church of England because of the ordination of women into the Catholic Church.

This has seen a succession of married priests coming over, so providing a ready supply of candidates to fill the growing number of vacancies, due to lack of celibate males, in the Catholic Church.

No one at the Vatican seems overly concerned about the contradiction that sees married Anglicans being allowed to join the Catholic Church and minister to the faithful, whilst a man ordained as priest in the Catholic faith who wants to get married has to leave in order to do so.

It is this sort of heaping of contradiction on contradiction that has brought the church to its present position of crisis with people walking away in their droves.

But perhaps the biggest crisis for the Church remains child abuse. It has shaken the whole edifice under the present pontiff's tenure, and no doubt taken its toll on him personally.

Fulsome apologies have been made and actions taken to remedy abuse across the world. However, as cases like that of Cardinal Sean Brady in Ireland prove, many of those now in the positions of authority in the church are the very same who stood by, or worse still, colluded in the cover-up of abuse.

There is no doubt still more to come. The church needs to face up to its responsibilities and show a greater concern for the victims than for protection of the institution at all costs.

The laity feel largely ignored on these matters. They were not consulted over whether they wanted the Ordinariate nor over the recently imposed translation of the mass. A great number of the laity also feel hugely let down by the role of priests in abuse.

Catholics worldwide must hope that the spirit moves the Cardinals when they gather in March to elect a new pope. Many will pray that the new pope is more in the mould of Pope John XXIII, who ushered in the Second Vatican Council that sat for much of the 1960s.

This was a time of hope. Pope John called for the church to open its windows and engage with the world. Vatican II brought forward radical thought on issues from poverty and war to workplace justice and the family. The laity were given a say. Nothing less is required this time around.

Vatican III would have to look at things like the dignity of the human person, empowerment of the laity, the role of women and the sex abuse scandal.

In the case of abuse, change would mean examining those structures of the church that made these things likely in the first place.

Central to this effort must be the role of the priest. The role must change to become that of one among equals. Priests, whether they be men or women, must become more accountable and not act in the authoritarian manner that many who hold the office do today...

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