Multiple sources including the Wall Street Journal report that the Pope is resigning, which has observers around the world all atwitter. The news is fascinating on multiple levels.
While I’m not looking forward to the inevitable avalanche of Catholic-bashing (which is in vogue today now more than ever in my life it seems), other interesting things to observe will be:
This is not be the first time a Pontiff has resigned although it’s been many centuries since that’s happened. It would appear that Benedict’s own statements that he didn’t really want to be Pope in the first place may have been more legitimate than cynics believed. It also opens up a new door to the world’s largest group of Christians: at this point, almost every Cardinal in a position to pick the new Pope will have been appointed by either John Paul II or his successor. No Cardinal over the age of 70 will be allowed to participate in the conclave, which means they’ll all be people who grew up in the wake of World War II and have been affected most of their lives by Vatican II. It should be interesting to see what new direction, if any, this heralds for the Church’s mission and focus. A clean break from scandals that rocked the Church over the last half of the 20th Century will also be possible.
Also, presumably Benedict will keep his title as Cardinal, although unless he rewrites the rules, he interestingly enough cannot vote in the conclave to replace him, although I’m sure he can make his thoughts or wishes known. This is because under current rules only Cardinals age 70 or under may vote in a conclave to elect a new Pope, and he’s significantly older than that.
As a Catholic I have nevertheless often been deeply uncomfortable with certain specific teachings on human sexuality and reproduction within the Church. While I don’t expect dramatic change (that’s just not something the Church is in the habit of doing–if it were it wouldn’t still be here) I’m hoping to see a few re-examinations in that area in my life time as well.