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I Say “Back to Avignon!”

[ 229 ] February 11, 2013 |

Well, this doesn’t happen every day:

Pope Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who took office in 2005 following the death of his predecessor, said on Monday that he will resign on Feb. 28, the first pope to do so in six centuries.

A profoundly conservative figure whose papacy was overshadowed by sexual abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church, the pope, 85, said that after examining his conscience “before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of his position as head of the world’s Roman Catholics.

While there had been questioning about his health and advancing years, his announcement — even by the Vatican’s official account — stunned many. “The pope took us by surprise,” said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, who explained that many cardinals were in Rome on Monday for a ceremony at the Vatican and heard the pope’s address.

As a disinterested observer, I have to say that establishment of a norm of retirement for aging, incapacitated popes seems like an altogether good idea. And also, of course, I like the idea of something happening that hasn’t happened for six centuries; makes me feel special.

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Comments (229)

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  1. Keith B says:

    Just a hunch, but it could be that the Pontiff wants to influence the choice of his successor.

    • Jameson Quinn says:

      And here I was, starting to feel optimistic.

    • Jeff R. says:

      When Benedict was elected in 2005, only two of the 115 cardinal electors were not appointed by John Paul II. And for upcoming conclave, the all will have been appointed by JP II and Benedict. What more influence could you want?

      Plus both John Paul and Benedict have much more theologically and ideological pure in appointing bishops and cardinals. I don’t think there’s another John XXIII out there.

      (Benedict himself and Cardinal Baum, former archbishop of Washington were created cardinal by Paul VI.)

      • Hogan says:

        It wasn’t all that clear that there was a John XXIII out there in 1958, but since the Vatican has spent the last forty-five years making sure that never happens again, I don’t expect that lightning to strike again in my lifetime, or my great-nieces’.

    • Barry says:

      That’s my bet.

      • expatchad says:

        But why hasn’t it occured to anyone that his physician might have diagnosed a late stage terminal illness from which he will soon succunb? He might not want to compound his death by announcing that. If I were in his position, I would not.

        • Left_Wing_Fox says:

          It occurred to me. Both Steve Jobs and Canadian NDP leader Jack Layton were dead within a month of stepping down due to health concerns. I would not be surprised at all if the same happened here.

    • laslo says:

      Already happened. PJII already stacked the deck with cons like himself and Benny before he croaked. Next sets of candidates for popenführer will likely be right wingers. And probably non-Italians.

  2. Jameson Quinn says:

    At least it gives some hope for the SCOTUS.

    • Richard says:

      If only. I have a case in federal court where we’ve been assigned to a 89 year old judge, a judge who was appointed to the bench by LBJ and one who. to put it charitably, is not one of the shining lights of the federal bench. He will be on the bench until he dies and theres nothing anybody can do about it.

  3. Malaclypse says:

    I’ve been trying, and failing, to come up with a joke about the torch being passed to a new generation, one that didn’t have the chance to serve in the Hitler Youth.

  4. mark f says:

    But is Gov. Christie too fat to be pope?

  5. Warren Terra says:

    Good riddance to a truly terrible person. Sadly, he and his predecessors have probably ensured that his successor will be at least as bad.

  6. c u n d gulag says:

    There’s a tawdry sex-joke here (is there any other kind?), but I think I’ll leave it alone.

    Any chance for a more Liberal Pope – one who’s less concerned about sex, both hetero and homo, and lady parts, and more concerned about teaching Christ’s message of peace and love?

    Also on who might decide to really come down on the past sexual abuses by the Priests and laity?

    I’ll do the SATSQ’s myself, thank you!
    NO!!!

    • rea says:

      Any chance for a more Liberal Pope – one who’s less concerned about sex, both hetero and homo, and lady parts, and more concerned about teaching Christ’s message of peace and love?

      Well, there’s always the chance of a miracle . . .

    • Warren Terra says:

      Once in a while a Republican hack appoints a John Paul Stevens without realizing what exactly they’re getting. But Ratzi and his predecessor paid special attention to packing the college of cardinals with extreme conservatives, ultramontanes, and outright nutters – so I wouldn’t hold out too much hope.

    • NonyNony says:

      Any chance for a more Liberal Pope – one who’s less concerned about sex, both hetero and homo, and lady parts, and more concerned about teaching Christ’s message of peace and love?

      Let’s put it this way – the guys who are picking the next pope were all elevated to the position of “being the guys who get to pick the next pope” by either John Paul II or Benedict XVI. All of them. And Benedict was the former head of the Inquisition (sorry “Office of the Doctrine of the Faith”), so he knows how to sniff out wrongthought in the Church.

      So yeah there’s a chance – we live in a probabilistic universe after all. But you probably have a better chance of being struck by a meteor while holding a winning lottery ticket and getting a phone call from [insert favorite movie star here] begging you for a date than we have of getting a pope who is more concerned about peace and love than about sex and politics.

    • Left_Wing_Fox says:

      Unfortunately, the trend last time was to support the growing parts of Catholicism, which followed the much more regressive beliefs. We’re probably much more likely to see an ultra-conservative desi or african Pope than a liberal one.

    • TribalistMeathead says:

      At this point the best you could hope for would be a Pope who doesn’t make it his main goal to undo Vatican II.

    • expatchad says:

      Any chance for a more Liberal Pope – one who’s less concerned about sex, both hetero and homo, and lady parts, and more concerned about teaching Christ’s message of peace and love?

      Absolutely none whatever. Divine airborne pork is a much greater liklihood.

  7. Mrs Tilton says:

    He never did fully recover from that fight with Yoda.

    [Yes, of course that's stolen. I shall go on stealing it at every opportunity.]

  8. rea says:

    Of course, by propehcy, the next pope will be the last one . . .

  9. Kathleen says:

    Too bad he can’t use the excuse “wants to spend more time with his family”.

  10. Decrease Mather says:

    ESPN is reporting that Lovie Smith is set to interview for the job.

  11. Tiny Hermaphrodite, Esq says:

    Next on Politico: How will the new papal election influence Hillary Clinton’s chances in 2016.

  12. DocAmazing says:

    Smart move. There are a number of scandals reaching critical mass, and having the background Ratzi does (Inquisition, Hitlerjugend) isn’t helpful for PR purposes. Next guy will have a Simon-pure background.

  13. Malaclypse says:

    This is good news for John McCain.

  14. Winchester says:

    God bless him.

    I’m grateful that this Pope made clear that Vatican II never actually forbade the saying of the Tridentine Mass.

    Novus Ordo Mass is a satanic-inspired heresy aimed at destroying the Church by tearing it into utter chaos, ripping people away from the Eucharist, and ultimately resulting in people being lost eternally to hell.
    I love the Church, always will. I don’t agree with Novus Ordo; I HATE it, but I hate it the way a husband hates the cancer that’s killing his wife. He still loves his wife; he would never leave her because her body is riddled with cancer. He might even love his wife more than before, seeing her attack from the cancer. He would want to fight the cancer — anything to get rid of the cancer and bring his wife back to full health and vigor.

    The Church has cancer. Bad. Fully metastasized, all over-type cancer. It’s socialist-homosexualism, and the cancer was first observed and diagnosed in 1968. I fully intent to cling to the Bride of Christ and fight the cancer. I should never suggest to anybody to abandon his own parish nor the Church. The cancer ain’t Her Body; it’s just an invading infection.

    And Ratzinger was a good doctor.

    Thank you for your service.

  15. EliHawk says:

    Democrats are already freaking out that Scott Brown may run in papal special election; beg Benedict to reconsider.

  16. Steve LaBonne says:

    I’ll leave it to St. Peter to sum up Ratzinger’s accomplishments in office:

    “Quelli ch’usurpa in terra il luogo mio,
    il luogo mio, il luogo mio, che vaca
    ne la presenza del Figliuol di Dio,

    fatt’ ha del cimitero mio cloaca
    del sangue e de la puzza; onde’l perverso
    che cadde di qua sù, là giù si placa.”

  17. Winchester says:

    “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

  18. Darkrose says:

    Chris Hayes tweeted: “Call me crazy, but I think the next Pope should be someone who didn’t help cover up child rape.Tho,that may disqualify every single cardinal”

    Sadly, he’s probably right.

  19. rea says:

    I’m surprised that JOP isn’t holding forth on the likelihood that Cardinal Turkson of Ghana will be the next pope. (The lesson of John Paul II and, in contrast, Benedict, being that only a pope with an appealing personal storyline can generate the personal popularity needed to push hyprconservative theology . . .)

    (And note also–his first name is Peter, consistent with the “Last Pope” prophecy linked above. . .)

    • commie atheist says:

      Don’t they take a new name as Pope anyway? I’m with the people who want to move beyond the John Pauls and want the next Pope to be George Ringo.

      • Hogan says:

        While the NY Times was shut down by a strike in 1978 (when JPI died), George Plimpton and some friends put out a parody issue that included a story announcing that the new pope had decided to call himself John Paul John Paul I, thus becoming the first pope to take the names of three of his predecessors.

      • Jon Hendry says:

        The next could be Pope Eggs Benedict I

    • Donald Trump says:

      I’m not satisfied Turkson is a Catholic – he sounds like some kinda Muslim. I’ll give $5m to charity if Turkson releases his long form Baptismal certificate.

  20. Carbon Man says:

    I don’t really have a much time for organized religion. Church services to me seem like nothing but a musical performance/fashion show with some hocus-pocus thrown in.

    I will say this for the Roman Catholic Church, though. It sure does make liberals hit the roof in anger. For that, I salute them.

  21. Carbon Man says:

    It will be funny to see liberals try to savagely attack a black Pope, though. Everytime they do I guess Catholics can take a page out of the Obama Playbook and scream RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACIIIIIST! whenever a criticism, no matter how mild, is made. Also, remember to look for certain “code words”, like uh, “Chicago”. Cause that’s RAAACIIISSST for some reason.

  22. MikeN says:

    Carbon Man has a point. The next Pope will (probably) be an African precisely so that when people start talking about equality for women and gays (and gay women) the conservatives can start screaming about racist liberals trying to impose their Western secular values on Godly upstanding Third World traditional cultures.

  23. commie atheist says:

    For some reason, I keep wanting to say, in a Glenda the Good Witch voice, “Are you a Good Pope? Or a Bad Pope?”

    That is all.

  24. Winchester says:

    For the record, I’ve waged a tiny $333 on Cardinal Arinze to become the next Pope, with Ladbrokes, at 7:1.

    Yes, a black Cardinal.

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