Springingtiger's Blog

Retiring Pope

I must admit from the start that I do not particularly like Pope Benedict, but he has gone up in my estimation by announcing his retirement. He, of course, knows what it is like to run the Catholic church when the Pope is incapable of active participation and it is commendable that he is unwilling to inflict his incapacity upon the Church. It would have been easy to linger on ineffectively until death, but he has obviously put the administrative needs of the Church first. There is one thing for which Benedict has been known whether as Pope or Cardinal Ratzinger and that is his commitment to the organisation.
Pope Benedict has been criticised for not trying to cover up the many cases of paedophilia perpetrated by clerics that have come to light recently. However it was his job to protect the church and he obviously thought it best to keep the abuses under wraps. Perhaps he made the wrong call, perhaps that’s because the abuses were far more widespread than he realised. I think what he did correctly understand was that too many revelations would undermine respect for the Church and provide ammunition for political groups intent on destroying religion.

Not all the Holy Father’s actions have been wrong. His declaring Hildegarde of Bingen a doctor of the faith, reminds us that the Church is much more than just a political organisation. It has a rich mystical and artistic tradition, many of our most sublime writings, our finest music, most beautiful art and architecture are expressions of the faith that underpins the Church, produced by members of the church. I don’t think anyone can deny that the Church has been responsible for some terrible things, the crusades, the Inquisition, appalling intolerance. However members of the Church have also been responsible for much good. In the autumn I was in Dubrovnik where I visited one of Europe’s oldest pharmacies established by the Franciscan Friars(OFM). For centuries the Church has cared for the poor, healed the sick and stood against injustice, and many have died trying to make the World a better place. For every abusive priest there has been another working for justice alongside the poor in the slums of Latin America like Helder Camara and Oscar Romero , or fighting disease in India, providing education to poor children in Africa. The media love to dwell on the abuses of some, frankly evil and disgusting, clergy while steadfastly ignoring all the good done by the rest. Atheists love to use reported abuses to attack the church while ignoring the millions of lives destroyed by atheists in the Soviet famines and the Gulags. They ignore the wholesale attempt by to destroy Tibetan culture and replace it with atheism.

We should judge any institution, any religion, any belief not just by its wrongs but also by the good it does. The Church is represented much more by the priest healing the sick as it is the politician and the abuser; just as atheism is just as much about the scientist trying to understand the world s it is about the looting of Tibetan monasteries and the rape of nuns.

I do not know who the next Pope will be, but I do know the Church will still have flaws and human beings will continue to behave like humans. However I believe we can all rise up above our baser natures, I believe we can transform our institutions for the better, even the Church, and with love and good will we can make this world a paradise. It probably won’t happen over night, but in the meantime I pray the Catholic Church elects a leader who will try and make it happen.

A final word to the retiring Pope; enjoy your retirement and get a good rest, you really do look as if you need it!


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