Pope Benedict XVI

Papal resignation: The more things change

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI

As the sun sank slowly in the west (in Italy), Pope Benedict XVI stepped out of the public limelight and into “retirement” (though he’ll continue to reside in the Vatican), his every move described in rapt reverence by this morning’s commentators on ABC News.


I’m sorry, but as an increasingly cynical old atheist, I find such worship of a mere mortal rather nauseating. My apologies to Catholic readers, but to me the pope is just an old man who puts his pants on one leg at a time like every other man on the planet. Infallible? Hardly.

Even as a child I wondered how and why the Catholic Church held such sway in so many poverty-stricken parts of the world. And why on earth, if church leaders were so concerned about the well-being of the poor, they continued to lavish such riches on themselves in Rome while at the same time professing adherence to vows of poverty. There’s a huge disconnect there. Was I the only one who saw it?

And the men-only priests, vow-of-chastity thing. What a bizarre, totally unnatural (as in, defying nature) thing to do. Suppress and deny their sexuality, one of the strongest drives in nature, for a lifetime? How noble. Yet they dare to instruct their parishioners on heterosexual sex, love, and marriage? What hubris! Not to mention the likelihood of young gay men being attracted to an all-male environment and the recent, continuing scandals of priestly abuse and molestation of children, systematically hidden and/or denied by the church.

The same unisex situation exists among nuns, with the same perils and shortcomings, but it also demonstrates the church’s very outdated hierarchy where females are always subservient to males.

The veneration of the pope, a mere mortal named to his position by other mere mortals, to become suddenly an infallible, saintly, one-of-a-kind interpreter of God’s word? I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t fly with me.

There’s a lot of very earthly, real suspicion about why Pope Benedict resigned, other than his own explanation of failing health — the sex scandals in the church, leaks of information in the Vatican (but what do they have to hide?), and the idea that the pope himself may be gay (a notable charge, considering it comes from Andrew Sullivan, prominent columnist and himself a gay Catholic).

I’ve opined before that all religion originates as a few people realizing they can seize power over the many, a few people who see that by offering explanations for the inexplicable to the ignorant and superstitious, they can wield power and influence over those people. The Catholic Church has raised this to a high art.

16 thoughts on “Papal resignation: The more things change

  1. PT, your summation of Papal puffery was so close to my own thinking that it might have come from my own pen, er, keyboard. I only have one nit to pick: how can he put his pants on one leg at a time when he (apparently) doesn’t wear them? 😈

    1. And a don doesn’t just walk away from the mob … Having a pope and a pope emeritus living on the same grounds is going to pose some interesting problems for all concerned.

  2. The final pope (or so my mother in-law used to say). She was Catholic. Apparently there’s only supposed to be so many before Jesus shows up and rules the roost. Watch out! I’m surprised there aren’t more end-of-the-world conspiracies showing up around this. But maybe she was full of crap. You never know.

    1. I’d never heard about a “final pope” so peeked at Wikipedia, which says Benedict’s successor will supposedly be the last pope and he will usher in the destruction of Rome and the beginning of the Apocalypse. All this according to an ancient unreliable document. The plot thickens …

      1. Warm up the hunker bunkers! Maybe they’ll pick a young pope to give them more time to build shelters. Or maybe they can just buy them from the Mayan Apocalypse people. They’re probably renting them out for Apocalypse Holiday travelers.

      2. I hadn’t heard of “the final Pope” either. It has been generally discredited, as you said, but <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prophecy_of_the_Popes"the Wikipedia page on it does reveal some interesting insights into papal politics over the ages. There has to be one hell of a lot of cognitive dissonance going on inside that locked chapel as the good-ol’-boys in the red hats maneuver for position while pretending not to. Too bad the Pope’s butler got caught – we need to find some venal functionary to plant some sensors – wouldn’t it be delicious?

... and that's my two cents