Pope Benedict's Retirement Plan - Intercollegiate Studies Institute

Pope Benedict’s Retirement Plan

The Pope has gotten very old, and so he has decided to retire. What could be more natural? It’s good that Catholics have a pope who understands the human nature we all share and who shows us that our nature can be put to Godly use. For all the fasting that the Pope has done, he wouldn’t turn his nose up at a hearty breakfast or a good Bavarian beer. For all the vigils he’s kept in sleepless prayer, he hasn’t lost the healthy human longing to curl up childlike in a feather bed.

He understands the present-day world as well, and fights its evils while appreciating the goodness that it offers. He knows that life is good and loves the sciences that help us live much longer than we used to do. He also knows that, though he may live long, modern medicine does not enable an aging man to maintain the intellectual stamina of his prime. And so he also respects another modern convention: retirement. Intelligent and unsanctimonious, this is not a pope to stand on ceremony when he’d rather take a seat. Especially since he’s earned the rest.

Pope Benedict understands the Church as well, and he is not above looking at the Divine Institution in the light of natural human reason. He has not forgotten all the chaos and corruption that was inflicted on the Church while Pope John Paul II was incapacitated with age. Benedict, in fact, has spent much of his pontificate righting wrongs done to the Church by the evil and misguided men who took advantage of his predecessor’s weakened state. But even now the Vatican is by no means purged of such men and such corruption. The supernatural character of the Church notwithstanding, the Pope knows the men of the Church for what they are; fallen, fallible and even dangerous. So this aging pope has made a characteristically intelligent decision: He will step down and leave the Church in the hands of God and of the successor His church chooses, rather than in the hands of those who would do it harm again.

Not only does the Church have every reason to be grateful for the humility and wisdom with which Pope Benedict XVI has conducted his pontificate, we should also appreciate the excellent strategy of his retirement.

I received the news of Pope Benedict’s retirement from a good priest I know. He called me up first thing this morning to tell me what he called “good news” for the Pope’s sake. Father was right. Though the Pope would surely be grateful for our prayers, I don’t think he needs our tears. I’ll close with a few words from the soon-to-be-former pope which he wrote before his papacy:

 “We have a new need for that primordial trust which ultimately only faith can give. That the world is basically good, that God is there and is good. That it is good to live and to be a human being. This results, then, in the courage to rejoice, which in turn becomes commitment to making sure that other people, too, can rejoice and receive good news.”


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