That Was The Day That Was: Pope Benedict’s Resignation

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI, in 2010 – Wikimedia

Yesterday’s surprising announcement that Pope Benedict XVI would resign at the end of this month inspired all sorts of commentary. Rather than try to make room for it all in my standard “That Was The Week That Was” links post on Saturday, we’ll give some of those links their own post:

Washington Post foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher concluded that Benedict’s political leadership paled next to that of his predecessor and predicted that the new pope would continue to possess little political power (though National Journal editor Matthew Cooper argued that, historically, the selection of the pope has important consequences for American presidents). Post reporter Michelle Boorstein thought that the new pope may have to make “more explicit choices” than did Benedict. The Post also presented a nice infographic on the distribution of Catholics around the world and possible candidates to succeed Benedict — including three from Latin America, home to 40% of all Roman Catholics.

• The New York Times had a similar infographic, which also documented the historic shift of Catholicism southward since 1900. CNN’s Belief Blog handicapped the chances of the next pope coming from the Global South.

• Alexander Stille called the resignation “a surprise — but not a total surprise.” Emphasizing the “Vatileaks” scandal, he concluded that “For seven years, [Benedict] has been unable to hit the right note. Perhaps, with his resignation, he has finally done so.”

• The resignation led one Anabaptist writer to recall a former cardinal’s lament that the Catholic Church’s “leadership was ‘200 years out of date’ — bureaucratic, pompous, autocratic, inflexible and seemingly remote from the spirit of Christ on key issues.” But in a very different “Anabaptist appreciation” for Benedict, a Bruderhof leader called the outgoing pope “a tireless advocate for the true values of Christianity—values which are sadly being lost, and attacked, all over the world.” (And if that sounds “conservative,” don’t tell British historian — and Catholic convert — Tim Stanley, who rejected that label and instead celebrated Benedict for “asserting a living tradition that had become undervalued within the church. His success in this regard will be felt for generations to come.”)

Pope Benedict XVI, 2006
Benedict in 2006 – Wikimedia

• Another convert in academe, sociologist Mark Regnerus, shared some hunches about the succession, but pronounced himself “pleased with whomever is selected. Indeed, that attracted me to Catholicism in the first place–that I didn’t have to discern and decide so much as to defer to the remarkable wisdom of others.”

• While most commentators that I read expressed admiration for the “humility” of Benedict in accepting that his health wouldn’t permit continued service, self-described “cradle Catholic” Rose Marie Berger called the decision “very hazardous and worldly,” and said that the thought of a papal vacancy struck “a dark loneliness in my stomach and soul.” (And Amy Davidson was struck that “Benedict has made a conscious choice not to be John Paul II, who turned his own wrenching, illness-filled last days into something like a parable.”)

• And if you’re confused about what happens next, the National Catholic Reporter has a concise summary of the procedure for choosing the next pontiff. (Or, if you’d rather look back for a time, a photo essay on Benedict’s nearly-eight years as pope.)

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