- Important: All passwords were reset on 06/15/11. Old passwords will no longer work. Click here to retrieve your password.
- Subscribe to Our Free Dewsletter
We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
Catholic bombshell creates unique situation for church
It was a surprise bombshell for Catholics around the world when Pope Benedict XVI announced that he is retiring. As always, the worldwide church faces unusual problems in selecting the next pope.
In modern times, there is no precedent for a pope’s resignation. It’s been 598 years since a pope has left the church while living, the last with Pope Gregory XII in 1415 during what was known as the Great Schism.
What Pope Benedict’s resignation, really a retirement, does is to create a situation where there will soon be a reigning pope, and a “pope emeritus,” you might say. Whether Pope Benedict will have any influence with the newest pope, or whether he will even want to be on close terms with him, will be watched carefully.
Having a retired pope, in one way of thinking, is what the modern world has brought about. After all, people live longer these days. Where prior popes have assumed that they would remain as the leader of their church until death, and therefore reigning at the will of God, now this step by the 85-year old Benedict puts a new light on the length of service by a pope. As Benedict has noted, he is weary of the weight of the job, not in good health, and doesn’t have the stamina to carry on. We (as a senior our self) can understand. We can feel his thinking that another person, perhaps a younger person, would best be God’s right hand in this world.
Look at the many pressures the Catholic church faces as it moves toward election of the next pope. Today there is ever-increasing pressure for diversity in high places, even in the church, though the Catholic church apparently feels no pressure to bring the white collar to women. Yet the odds of the 117 cardinals selecting someone unlike their majority are long.
Of the 117 cardinals, 53 percent of them are from Europe. Charge that off against only 24 percent of Catholics worshipers are from Europe, and you get an indication of perhaps one way the pope’s election might go.
Then, too, consider where the Catholic church is strongest today: in Latin America and the Caribbean. There are 483 million Catholics in this region, which amounts to 41 percent of all Catholics. People in these countries feel that they are rightfully in line for someone from their lands to be head of their church. But there are only 19 Latin American cardinals, which gives an indication of the steep steps it would be for a Latin cardinal to ascend to St. Peters in Rome.
Africa, too, is a growing region for the Catholic church, now home to 177 million people. Yet there are only 11 African cardinals. Again, steep odds.
Another consideration in both Latin America and Africa is that the Catholic church faces strong competition from evangelical and Pentecostal influences. If the cardinals do not select a pope with diversity from either of these areas, it could lead to a weakening Catholic church in Africa and Latin America.
The pope’s resignation, therefore, is fraught with opportunity and problems. The entire world is watching. And so is a living pope, something most unusual.
- Editor's note: This story originally published at the GwinnettForum.com.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
This past weekend, my wife Jody and I attended a performance of Cyrano de Bergerac performed at the Blackfriar’s Theater in Staunton, Va. Just to hear the language was well worth the one-hundred forty mile round trip. Although I don’t have the skill to read it in the original French, Anthony Burgess’ translation which combines blank verse, prose, and rhyming couplets held our attention for the nearly three-hour performance. He created a contemporary sound for a play written in 1897 by Edmond Rostand based on an historical seventeenth-century troubadour, dramatist, poet, soldier, and sword-swinging duelist known for his razor-sharp wit and w Read on →
More than a century ago the “forgotten man” of Mississippi and across the South — the farmer, the common worker — decided he’d had enough of “Wall Street speculators who gambled on his crop futures; the railroad owners who evaded his taxes, bought legislatures, and over-charged him with discriminate rates; the manufacturers, who taxed him with a high tariff; the trusts that fleeced him with high prices; the middleman, who stole his profit.” The forgotten man was so angry, historian C. Vann Woodward goes on to say, that he created a movement. It came as close to toppling our two-party system as any effort Read on →
I recently had the pleasure of roaming about the grounds of the Carter Center in Atlanta. It was an early Sunday morning before any of the buildings were open and I had the place pretty much to myself except for one lady who volunteers there and was fidgeting around in one of the small side gardens. I didn’t tromp over the entire thirty-five acres, but I covered enough to be impressed with the design and the number of large Oaks that provided much needed shade from the bright sunshine and heat. The visit took me back in time to when I w Read on →
There is a gathering storm of American voter unrest from citizens tired of having to chose between the party of blither, Republicans, and the party of dither, Democrats. The former jabber endlessly, making no sense, spouting nonsense and being outraged when sensible people point out these failings. On the other hand, the ditherers believe they have a winning strategy in simply not being the other guy. Who can blame them? President Obama was awarded what had previously been the most prestigious prize on the planet, the Nobel Peace Prize, for the achievement of not being George W. Bush. It was Read on →