Abdication of a pope

Pope Benedict XVI decided to abdicate (for ordinary people: retire) at the age of 85, after almost eight years in office. I wish him all the best during his retirement. He will analyse his life and I hope he will understand the sadness he caused amongst so many people worldwide for refusing them as they are although he also showed sadness about what happened to certain people. Here a short history of certain aspects of his career and some comments.

Early life

Joseph Ratzinger was born in Germany who during WWII as a 14 year old boy had to join by law the Hitler Youth. Later he had to serve in the German anti-aircraft corps as Luftwaffenhelfer (air force child soldier). Near the end of the war he deserted and was shortly taken as a prisoner of war. After decades, people still condemn him for this (although it happened to him when he was a child), but maybe they should consider it took courage to desert (even at the end of the war) as there was the possibility of being shot by his own people, while of course during his time in the army he may have been shot by the enemy. Indeed, that period of human history was pure evil, and when evil rules the world little can be done against it: join the evil and risk being killed or resist the evil and risk being killed. Moreover, resisting evil may result in family being killed as revenge, and thus often people have no other choice than to do what evil expect them to do. E.g. in the region of Congo, some people force children to kill other children, sometimes their best friend, or they will be killed.

Early priesthood

Later, as a starting priest it seems he was quite open-minded and favoured Church reforms. However, for reason probably only known to him, shortly after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) it seems he became more of a hardliner, for instance preaching against homosexuality, contraceptives or women priests. Indeed, he became a conservative, believing that was the essence of his religion, i.e. the exclusion of parts of society and the abolishment of reason. (Maybe he saw in a vision that he may one day become pope, and to maximise his chances he may have decided that becoming more conservative would make his dream come through as he would gain the support of other conservatists (it would show a lack of thrust in God)).

Life under Pope John-Paul II

He became the number two during the pontificate of Pope John-Paul II. He became the head of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, before known in the past as the Holy Office of the Inquisition (or the killing machine). As its head, he became known as God's Rottweiler, while it should have been something as God's Blessing. He received this "title" because he defended and reaffirmed Catholic doctrine and he censored or tried to censor theologians, with some of them he collaborated at the Second Vatican Council such as Edward Schillebeeckx (remember Judas and his friend Jesus).

He was a leading campaigner against the Liberation Theology in Latin America that he found too close to Marxism (and thus too left). Here too he should have been more moderate and he could have expressed that his religion embraces some of the theology as it defended the poor in suppressive countries while he could always have condemned it if it would become tyrannical itself. Indeed, many people in Latin America supported this theology but it was crusted by cruel dictators, those who killed even the Roman Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador while during the funeral many people were killed. Was Archbishop Romero really so stupid he didn't understand the real teaching of the Church and thus embraced Liberation Theology? (I have to be true that Archbishop Romero was killed before Ratzinger became head of the Congregation while Pope John-Paul II visited Romero's grave, even against the wishes of the regime or some of the Church (i.e. the conservatists). Cardinal Romero's beatification is still going on and may even have been delayed recently). Of course, I understand why he behaved so strongly against the left: Hitler always referred to the left as something evil while indeed Communism in the USSR and surrounding countries was a power that suppressed its own people. Still I think Ratzinger should have understood better the Liberation Theology, and I think as a young man (before he decided to become a conservatist) he would have understood the Theology (indeed, during his papacy he preached to share wealth with the poor). But this theology was about progressive clergy against conservative ones, and at that time the latter won and thus the poor continued to suffer.

Life as a pope

After Pope John-Paul II's death, Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI. Many feared the Church would become even more backwards as already started during Pope John-Paul II's reign. Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI loves Latin to be used in the mass and tries to unite with extremists.

And still, during his pontificate one sometimes noticed he still could reason and that he tried to unite not only with conservatists. As I mentioned in a previous article, he ones moderately mentioned that condoms could be used in certain circumstances although he quickly excused himself for having said that, probably under the pressure of even more extreme figures in the church while here he could have made the difference as Head of the Church. Indeed, he is correct if he says that no sex is the safest way to protect against aids, but even priests have difficulties being totally asexual, and thus condoms are the best protection. But as I mentioned before, he probably wanted the power as pope and thus he had to bow for the more extreme voices, those who allowed him to keep the power.

He spoke out in favour of human rights (so why not for the rights of gay people, of whom many are still prosecuted worldwide?) and the environment (then why did he say gay people are a problem for society as they may cause the extermination of humanity while firstly gay people have as many children as Catholic priests (none) and secondly everyone with a brain knows that too many people cause environmental problems and thus gay people slow down the rise in number of people and thus in problems (here he demonstrated a total lack of reasoning. How on earth could he ever allow himself to speak as an idiot?).

He also tried to bring religions closer and visited Israel as well as some Islamic places such as the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, although I wonder whether that was really to unite in diversity or to win over more people for his own religion. Other moments his comments caused insults to those in other religions, although we know some religious people are often very quickly insulted and he apologised for any offence he may have caused. Still, there are others in the Church who simply refuse to talk with anyone who does not share their faith (and demonise those of their own faith who speak differently from them). But it is something within every religion.

Also the child abuse scandal was a strain and he was blamed for not protecting children more while he was the "Rottweiler" in the Congregation, knowing about the abuse but simply moving abusive priests around instead of prosecuting them (although it seems Pope John-Paul II prevented him from doing). Recently, we discovered not only the Church has these scandals, also other organisations such as the BBC where a presenter abused hundreds of children while no-one interfered although some knew. The reaction is often that people didn't understand what was going on and thus didn't see it happening. This is often a reaction of good people who can't understand some people want to harm others. E.g. children are bullied and some have to commit suicide before we notice what was going wrong. Still, pope Benedict acknowledged the "sin within the Church" and the "filth ... in the priesthood" and apologised. Others however saw it as a conspiracy against the Church, and damned those who mentioned it. And during these circumstances we notice the true face of some within the Church. Belgium too had its child abuse scandal and some investigators tried to find out what was going on. But the Church immediately claimed some investigators wanted to destroy the Church, and some (e.g. Cardinal Danneels, a person who is softly spoken and seems to be very kind and was considered a moderate within the Church) but not all senior individuals did everything that was in their power to stop the investigations and get the documents back, and they succeeded. Of course, they claimed this was because the investigation was conducted wrongly, and indeed the Department of Justice should follow the correct procedures. Still, if the Church leaders were sincere, they would have allowed the investigation to continue so that the predators could have been sentenced. Although some were sent to live in monasteries, others are not known as the investigation stopped. I have to admit the Church agreed to pay the victims. Nevertheless, priests should have given the example and accept their punishment. As a result, many more people left the Church while society may become more suspicious towards men who say hello to a child.

Recently the media mentioned what is now known as "Vatican-leaks". Internal documents were leaked to the media and they showed the infighting within the Church, leading to the conviction of the messenger, the Pope's butler and former trustee. But it clearly showed the Pope started loosing control of those below hem. And as the Pope acknowledge, he becomes to weak to lead the Church any longer. Maybe the fundamentalists within the Church are indeed becoming too strong, disagreeing with e.g. his apologies for the misbehaviour of some priests while disagreeing with his efforts to reach out to other churches and religions. He should have known that who gives power to extremists may fall by them, and he appointed many of them. And thus he does something remarkable: he is the first pope in 600 years to resign for health reasons so someone else can lead the Church, probably a stronger person. But maybe this is not what we need, as maybe that person may want to be too strong.

After Pope Benedict XVI

Because, although many people hope now a moderniser can be chosen, I think we are heading towards an even more conservative Church because we should be realistic after all those conservatives who became cardinal. As one notice all over Europe and the world, many people are angry with the changes that are made. They claim there are "attacks" against the traditional marriage, women want sex and still demand the right to decide whether they want children or not, priesthood is verbally attacked for the mistakes some priests made and certainly because of the weak response of the Church (the Church should indeed have worked much stronger together with Departments of Justice to punish those who raped), and thus numbers of Catholics are decreasing fast, certainly in developed countries while it starts to decline in poorer countries. At the same time, many priests, certainly many in the higher hierarchy, still claim people move away from religion not because of the misbehaviour of some priests but because the Church abandoned the old way of religion such as the Latin mass or because the Church doesn't stand enough against contraception or gay marriage. I don't mind they speak Latin during the mass, I will not know as I'm not going so let them do.

As the previous two popes chose many conservative priests to become cardinals who can now choose the next Pope, I fear they may choose a more conservative as pope during the next conclave. Maybe it will not go in one step, but the extremists may continue undermining the position of popes until one of them is chosen. Then many more people may leave the Church. But that is of no importance, as long as the Church no longer interferes with society except with itself. But when society interferes with the Church (and other churches), then of course religions fight back and interfere with society.

E.g. marriage should be open to all in society as every person lives within society, but each person can chose to attend a private organisation such as a church. If one doesn't like the teaching of a church, one can always leave and join another church that is more open. But when someone wants to be a priest in the Roman Catholic Church, then they know they can't marry and he should not be a hypocrite demanding he is allowed as there are many other churches where one can marry and practise a religion. In effect, by refusing the other religion, one thinks the other religion is inferior to ones own religion while by demanding something the organisation doesn't like will anger those in the organisation. Another example is gay marriage: society should allow this as all people should be equal in society and thus all laws should treat people in the same way. But I never understand gay people who want to marry within churches where they are hated by so many.

And thus, I think one day we may look back and consider Pope Benedict XVI as a moderate who tried to unite and soften the pain done by some of his colleagues to others, including the smallest of society. We may one day look at him as someone who was sometimes less harsh than Pope John-Paul II who never met victims of child abuse. But because of his age and the resistance by many within the Church he wasn't able to modernise the Church. He will now retire and he may think about the lost opportunities and become again more a liberal. Or maybe he retires so he has more power to control his opponents. Or maybe we will never hear from him again unless when he dies. Future will tell.

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