Goodbye Pope Benedict, it’s been a rough 7 years. While more people around the world have fled the Catholic Church under your reign than any other, it’s also true that those whom have remained have stayed true to their consciences, not the dogma that you proclaimed ceaseless. We still cry out for a church that is open to women, that is more compassionate and equal, that demands justice for LGBT people, for the poor, for immigrants, and that is willing to meet at the table for dialogue about all of these issues that shape the future.
In your statement, you said that you had realized that you were no longer strong enough to continue your duties to the fullest of your ability. While that may be true, it is also true that the church is wracked by scandals that have left us all weak, from the pedophile cover-ups that continue to expose more and more men in power, to the banking fraud exposed earlier this year — the truth is, Popes who resign have usually done so under clouds of scandal, and you are no different. The last Pope to abdicate the throne of Peter was roughly 600 years ago during the Great Western Schism.
I suspect there is a note of sadness in your departure address: as if you admit that the world is not really going your way, and you have failed in changing our minds. And it is true: Priests are continuing to speak out in favor of women’s ordination. Nuns are speaking out on all manner of social issues, caught up by the evil sway of “feminism.” Catholics in Ireland have overturned the ban on abortion, and U.S. Catholics support LGBT Equality more than any other Christian denomination. Yet somehow, you do not see this as a great movement of the Spirit, but as a great movement of sin, that must still be corrected — if only you had more energy and more strength. Alas, God’s Rottweiller has lost his bite.
With the massive amount of conservative appointments that you made during your papacy, it is highly unlikely that we will get anyone whose views are unlike your own. Yet with every change comes hope that a different choice, a different course will be set. As Catholics worldwide enter the season of Lent, we will be praying for the Spirit to guide the archaic process used for choosing a new Pope. Yes, it will a room full of old boys doing what they’ve done for centuries. Yes, women will be totally absent from this procedure. Fifty years ago, the old boys chose a man that they thought might make a good “short term” Pope, as his health was poor and he’d do a good job of keeping the status quo for a few years. That man turned out to be Pope John XXIII, who brought us the Second Vatican Council, and the most sweeping reforms the church had seen in centuries.
The time for reform has come again, and Catholics worldwide will be praying that such an agent of change will rise from the conclave. If you are not Christian, or have left the church due to the many hurts and wounds of a heartless hierarchy, I ask that you join us in prayer, or in adding your positive affirmations for positive growth and change within this wounded church.
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Valency was born in San Francisco to hippie parents, but is a Chicago girl through and through. Ten years of Catholic school helped her develop a finely-tuned bullshit detector, as well as a love of all sorts of Catholic kitsch. Valency isn't fond of labels. She is, however, fond of embracing her many paradoxes, and walking the fine lines between religion and politics, with an eye turned toward postmodern religion, feminist theology, and challenging patriarchy from inside religious institutions. She lives on the northside with her two daughters and two female cats, and is always looking for more ways increase the estrogen in her household.