Monday, 11 February 2013
Pope Benedict XVI to resign
It was announced from the Vatican this morning that Pope Benedict XVI is to resign with effect from 28 February.
Press reaction has been swift. The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, in a press release, has responded:
In his visit to the UK, Pope Benedict showed us all something of what the vocation of the See of Rome can mean in practice — a witness to the universal scope of the gospel and a messenger of hope at a time when Christian faith is being called into question.
In his visit to the United Kingdom, Pope Benedict showed us all something of what the vocation of the See of Rome can mean in practice – a witness to the universal scope of the gospel and a messenger of hope at a time when Christian faith is being called into question. In his teaching and writing he has brought a remarkable and creative theological mind to bear on the issues of the day. We who belong to other Christian families gladly acknowledge the importance of this witness and join with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in thanking God for the inspiration and challenge of Pope Benedict’s ministry.
The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, writes
… the Christian world will miss a great theologian with great spiritual depth.
Posted by Simon Kershaw on
Monday, 11 February 2013 at 12:11pm GMT
We should remember Pope Benedict communicated the revelation of God in a characteristic way as a true successor of St Peter. He was unafraid to proclaim the Gospel and challenge a culture that is so self-referential, managing to lift our eyes to God’s glory.
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Just like Peter and our Lord he has been a great champion of the status quo.
Is this the beginning of the end for an elected monarchy which has reigned for hundreds of years?
Probably yes to the above question, because it sets a precedent that will be difficult to ignore in future. It could then in the long run do for the Roman Catholic Church what Benedict XVI would abhor, liberalise it.
Randall Davidson was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to 'retire' in 1928 ... where the C of E leads, Rome follows.
One may have disagreed with his conservatism, but one cannot but admire his deep spirituality, and scholarship.
A reaction to the libertine era of the 70's and 80' and the consequences thereoff.
May he be allowed a time of tranquility, and spititual peace.
Where the CoE leads... into irrelevance and obscurity in the secular world with a bunch of empty buildings and horrible infighting amongst the few members it has? How would the CoE actually be doing if it weren't the "official" church? Even Richard Dawkins has said he's a "Cultural Anglican", whatever that means. Are liberal churches bursting at the seams? I don't really see Christians wishing this on other Christians. Atheists, Muslims, etc. wishing it maybe.
At least Benedict was honest enough to admit he can't do the job anymore; I sometimes wondered how much Pope John was doing and how much his staff was deciding for him at the end. God Bless him and the man chosen to replace him.
"Just like Peter and our Lord he has been a great champion of the status quo."
Is this that English sarcasm/irony that we Americans don't always get? Jesus overthrew the money changers and issued harsh words for the establishment for using the law to exclude and demean people. He was definitely not "status quo." Liberation of the oppressed is never a status quo activity. If the church would actually try it, we'd learn it for ourselves...
"One may have disagreed with his conservatism, but one cannot but admire his deep spirituality, and scholarship"
Leaving the person of the current Pope aside - I really struggle with the idea that spirituality can stand as an isolated accomplishment regardless of kind of life it inspires the spiritual person to lead.
What value abstract spirituality when it translates into continuing to marginalise whole groups of people?
Spirituality has to be measured, as everything else, by the fruit of a person's life.
"What value abstract spirituality when it translates into continuing to marginalise whole groups of people? Spirituality has to be measured, as everything else, by the fruit of a person's life."
Very much so. I used to love the Catholics here in the US, and I still love the nuns. The nuns are, and the church was, on the forefront of service to the poor and marginalized. They were/are great! But once the RC church came to be about conservative politics and incessant lobbying to force their views on the rest of the US, they lost focus on the poor and marginalized. They would likely say that if they just succeeded politically they would score bigger for the poor and marginalized. But really, what's the value in putting so much long-term resource into a lost cause when the vulnerable have intensive need NOW.
The pedophile scandal and bizarre positions on birth control (especially in face of AIDS) really made the church irrelevant at best, harmful at worst.
I would love to see all of us get on with the work of ministering to the needy.
@ChrisH - well the liberal church where I worship is pretty much bursting at the seams, yes.
Will Benedict XVI be replaced by that great mythical figure a liberal pope who will sanction the ordination of women and gay marriage? No, I don't think so! My money, for what it's worth, is on the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan. It's about time the Italians seized back the papal throne after the incumbencies of a Polish and a German pope
Prayers for a---all trends to the contrary---MIRACLE Conclave! For a new Bishop of Rome who, if not infallible (hardly), at least doesn't do so much to try to THWART the will of God.
God bless and keep Josef Ratzinger...and his influence away from the RCC ever again. Merciful Christ, True Vine: reform your Church (every branch).
"Is this that English sarcasm/irony that we Americans don't always get?"
Yes, Cynthia, that was sarcasm. American sarcasm to be specific. I thought it was obvious. Sorry if I wasn't clear.
And I do strongly wish that our C of E leaders wouldn't cringe in this way. We have our own integrity. Even Fif people think that - otherwise they'd be rushing out the door, but they aren't, I sincerely hope they won't, and at the end of the day they won't. The C of E - Anglicanism generally - is better. It has made some attempt - albeit fitful and sectionalist - to grapple with modernity. Let's spurn sycophancy.
We didn't warn you about the House of Bishops' cunning plan to get Women Bishops sorted, did we? Once the new guy says OK to women priests, FiF are stuffed.
Of the many many media reports today, both secular and religious, it was not until I listened to this evening's radio news covereage on CBC Radio One (World at Six) that I heard the " A" word i.e. Pope Benedict has not simply resigned, or is "stepping down", he is abdicating. Much is being made of his being the first Pope to abdicate in six centuries. Unlike the Queen,for instance, the pope is no mere figurehead. He has universal jurisdiction and is a centralized authority. He has stated clearly that health and age have motivated him to take this onerous decision. Knowing what we know in our time about the challenges of advanced aging, his decision is very much one with a 21st century sensibility.
Pope Pius XIII anyone?
To be honest, I really don't care. I don't think much of anything will change in Rome. If anything does change, it will probably be for an even sharper turn to the right. We could get a fanatic who excommunicates everyone and throws up barbed wire around the Vatican; not likely, but more likely than any softening of the hard line on women, gays, and sexuality that continues to undermine the moral authority of the church, especially on the issue of human rights.
I expect Benedict's successor to continue policies concerning all the crime and scandal in the church that are more about institutional protection and saving face instead of any kind of true reckoning with those harmed, or any meaningful reforms that dispel secrecy and make shepherds accountable to their flocks and to the law. I expect Rome to move even deeper into that cul-de-sac of reaction, causing more cradle Catholics in Europe, North America, and Latin America to vote with their feet and leave in droves.
I have never liked Pope Benedict's views, but in many ways I like the man. This seems an entirely dignified departure. Among many other things, it is an acknowledgement -- at least on one level -- that the church is a human institution. One thing of which I feel very sure is that this pope, in his retirement, will not try to interfere in the work of his successor (unlike that most undignified last-ABC-but-one.)
Come again, Bishop Pete? I can't be the only one here often to regret it when I've hit the 'post' button.
The Roman Catholic Church [RCC] is what it is. Hopes for a liberal pope who authorizes women priests and accepts gay people and countless other things are hopelessly naive. I think the best to be hoped for is that the new pope reverses the braking of Vatican II reforms that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI imposed, and starts a re-evaluation of how to proceed forward. Maybe even in conjunction with the College of Cardinals.
Regardless of what I, a non-Roman Catholic, think of Pope Benedict XVI's term in office,
What a concept: To admit that age and infirmity have made the incumbent incapable of performing his duties, so he's retiring.
Imagine what better legacy Pope John Paul II might have left had he done the same, instead of leaving the RCC floundering for months (years?).
The pope may be, in the dogma or beliefs of the RCC, the vicar of Christ, but he's a human vicar. Why not admit frailties, and let someone else take the job?
Now, now Pete! That doesn't sound very episcopal.
I wonder how well the successor will cope with the increasing disaffection manifested, for example, in the Irish RC church, despite the best efforts of Charlie Brown. And the Ordinariate? It’s hard to imagine any of the bookies’ favourites being as interested in so precious a manifestation of European aestheticism as was Ratzinger. The Ordinariate has helped make the CoE more protestant. The evangelical wing is no longer balanced by the catholic wing, because the catholic wing is now almost a rump. Whatever Ratzinger’s legacy for the RCC, his influence on the CoE, and Anglicanism, has been profound. Interesting times.
Pete Broadbent might have used flippant language, but the point he made is valid! If Rome ever decided that women could and should be priests there would be nowhere left for those who are still opposed. Rome most certainly would not give them an honoured enclave within the church.
But I don't think we need worry - this will not happen in any of our lifetimes.
"Hopes for a liberal pope who authorizes women priests and accepts gay people and countless other things are hopelessly naive."
Peterpi, consider who you're talking to: Christians. We believe a man rose from the dead, remember? On the scale of the impossible, that an elevated RC bishop could---in the next 25 years---say "People are people. Women, gay? Eh. Still people. Still the same mixture of sinner&saint. Eh...OK."
Certainly unlikely---but "rose from the dead"? ;-/
"... where the C of E leads, Rome follows."
Are you suggesting the Church elect a Chief Bishop who has less that one year's experience as a bishop,like the C of E. That was a panic knee-jerk reaction. The ABC's only memorable contribution at Liverpool was to have the bells rung ( badly) to sort of resemble John Lennon's "There's no heaven..."
The C of E is leading to terminal decline.
John - that was a bishop telling a joke. Surely you have encountered this phenomenon before?
Robert - Benedict steps down and it is lauded as a humanizing thing to do to the papacy; +Pete makes a touguue in cheek comment and that's not allowable within the parameters of episcopal behaviour?
Bishops who are human beings - bring it on!
Notable in the ABC's response: "We who belong to other Christian families...."
Indeed. The Anglican Communion is a family of related but autonomous churches. Nothing more.
Can we detect in this statement an end to the former Archbishop's campaign of centralization?
Those so quick to laud the man, and/or his "spirituality", or, as Justin Welby so regrettably has done, his record of witness, might do well to read this, alternative, well-founded, take on Ratzinger cum Benedict.
Where I live, and work, in the thick of the RC world, the legacy of this Pope, whether it be the cover-up of sexual abuse, the appointment of arch-conservative men of deeply troubling character to positions of authority, the treatment of women or sexual minorities, the bullying of theologians and institutions of higher education, and the recent pronouncements so weak in theology, so warped in anthropology, and so cozy with tyranny, regarding marriage, are the stuff of a record worthy of contempt rather than adulation.
Rambler - Whatever Benedict XVI had done - turning the Anglo Catholics in the CofE into a rump isnt one of them. The Ordinariate has attracted so far around 1500 Anglican parishioners and a maximum of 100 priests, some of whom were already retired. Far from creating a rump it has shown how most conservative Anglo-Catholics prefer to stay in the C of E and fight for a decent long term place in it.
To Erika Baker - If the Roman Catholic Church were ever to create women priests - highly unlikely - but what if??? It would no doubt do it by creating a new Rite within the church which would include priests of both sexes.
Bernard, thank you. I stand corrected. Teaches me not to believe everything I read/hear. Interesting times, nevertheless. Thank you.
Like Rosemary, my liberal parish is growing rapidly. We expanded the church's capacity by 30 percent and in 3 years we're already maxed out and starting a 3rd "Sunday" service (it might be Saturday).
Why the growth? Excellent liturgy and music, robust outreach, but most of all we have lots of new families who don't want their children to be raised in a hateful environment. Liberation has brought many blessings.
I admire Bishop Pete Broadbent for fighting for a place for FiF people even though he thinks them wrong.
Locuste Iste you win the prize for being the first to criticize the new ABC in public. Just over a week in office...
"Whatever Ratzinger’s legacy for the RCC, his influence on the CoE, and Anglicanism, has been profound."
It seems like there was a strong influence in the UK, but in the US I don't think the pope or the RCC has made the slightest impression in TEC, let alone a profound one. Well, except in a backwards direction. Our liberal Anglo-Catholic parish has a lot of ex-Catholics. In the US, there are many more people who identify as "ex-Catholics" then as Catholics.
I guess in the US people are more willing to "vote with their feet" and try other denominations. It seems like in the UK when people leave the church, they leave the church - all churches.
After all the (mostly ill-informed) criticism of General Synod for its requirement of a two-thirds 'special' majority in each house to approve the draft Measure that would enable women to become bishops, it is interesting to note that a two-thirds majority plus one in the conclave of cardinals (i.e. 79 out of 117) is needed to elect Benedict's successor as Pope.
@ Locuste Iste: and what about Ambrose?
Ooops sorry. You can take out my last one, I meant Augustine of course. So, what about Augustine, Locuste Iste??
"Can we detect in this statement an end to the former Archbishop's campaign of centralization?"
Er, isn't he just talking about everyone who isn't an RC here and reflecting on Benedict's papacy? Not grandstanding about his own communion through the medium of grammatical split hairs...
Unlike Deacon Charlie Ido not think Christ was an advocate of the 'status quo'- rather one of turning the world upside down. I wish the RCs could elect a Pope like that but I fear that with the Cardinals they have he will be yet another Conservative. My heart bleeds for my RC friends who long for women priests and equality for gay people.
I think Canon Giles Fraser got in there first before Locuste Iste and thus wins the prize for being the first to criticize the new ABC with his swan song article in last Friday's Church Times.
In the US, there are many more people who identify as "ex-Catholics" then as Catholics
Cynthia, is that really true? I ask that as a real question, rather than challenging your statement. I am certainly aware of a large number of people leaving the Catholic church (and I see it in New Zealand as well) but I was not aware that those leaving greatly outnumber those remaining.
Can you substantiate your statement?
Re two thirds majorities, that's the catch-22 that favors status quo.
If anyone has nothing better to do, they might like to research whether a Pope and an Archbishop of Canterbury has taken up the reins of office within a few weeks of each other!
I am surprised that the Archbishop of York is reported as referring to the Pope as successor of St Peter. If he means that in the usual,Roman Catholic sense, that is certainly not the view of many Anglicans. If Simon Peter did go to Rome and was martyred there (not absolutely certain), there is no evidence that he (or probably anyone else) was "Bishop of Rome" in the early days of the Christian communities in that city.
David, don't the cardinals have multiple votes, and therefore narrow the field? That is rather different from a 2/3rds vote in your General Synod on an issue.
Clearly, General Synod did not reflect the overwhelming view of the vast majority of CoE laity. That is a big problem. Being a discriminatory "established church" is a big problem. Driving people out of the church because of these quaint views is yet another problem. Then there's the call of the Good News for justice and compassion and CoE's lack of credibility on social justice and equality because of the quaint views of a tiny minority.
I would say something is seriously broken with your General Synod. I don't know where the precise problem is, or the fix. I just know it is way broken and I keep CoE in my prayers.
What freaks me ..is if you read traditionalist ( not necessarily SSPX) Catholic websites..for many Pope Benedict was a liberal and quasi- Conservative.
To me , Pope Benedict was a sound man, deeply spiritual and intellectual.
I think his pontificate and legacy has been very important to the future direction of the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict's most admirable contribution towards understanding in the Church? - His very first encyclical, in which he explained the efficacy of Love in 'Eros'. Sadly, he didn't follow it up.
The 2/3 majority requirement might be significant. John Paul II changed it, so that only 50% was required after a certain number of voting rounds. Benedict XVI rescinded that a some point early on, so the status quo ante prevails. Given the vast number of cardinals appointed by both Popes largely in their conservative image, no-one should expect a radical appointment, which is a shame. The RC church urgently needs a moderniser who can relate to, preferably come from, the Global South.
I said: In the US, there are many more people who identify as "ex-Catholics" then as Catholics
Edward asks: Cynthia, is that really true? I ask that as a real question, rather than challenging your statement. I am certainly aware of a large number of people leaving the Catholic church (and I see it in New Zealand as well) but I was not aware that those leaving greatly outnumber those remaining.
Can you substantiate your statement?
I heard the statistic on NPR, National Public Radio. I can't recall which of the big groups did the survey. Perhaps I can look it up. I do tend to trust NPR. And yes, they clearly reported that according this survey, more Americans self identified as ex-Catholics than practicing Catholics. The pedophile scandals here were widespread, particularly atrocious for superiors protecting them and even putting them in new positions to abuse more children. The lawsuits are huge, and in addition to the disgust (and WO and LGBT figures in as well), no one is thrilled about being expected to PAY for the legal ramifications of abuse and cover up. The political situation here with the RCC's is not exactly inspirational, either. And it once was.
I believe it. If I find the source I'll add it later.
Much has been made of the short tenure of Benedict XVI papal reign. However it must be remembered that his predecessor was fairly incapacitated for many years prior to his death on 2nd April 2005. I remember seeing and hearing the previous pope in Rome in 1997 and he was sadly pretty incoherent as long ago as that. So, in reality Pope Benedict was pope in all but name for a lot longer than the history books will record his papal longevity.
re Edward and Cynthia. I think that if the ex-Catholics were a denomination they would be the third largest denomination in the US. Cant alas give the reference but I heard it when I was in the States last October.
Edward, I found this:
There's more out there.
There were some major studies done by Pew and other research centers in recent years. Apparently "ex-Catholics" would be the 2nd largest denomination. Whatever. They've lost a lot of people even with their numbers being helped by immigration.
Interestingly, the US has traditionally been the most "religious" of the "first world" nations. We started trending in the secular direction around 1990 - when the culture wars heated up. Apparently, the more church leaders deny decency and inclusion for women, LGBT persons, and whomever the scapegoat-du-jour happens to be, the faster people leave the pews.
Cynthia and Perry
Thank you for enlightening me
Cynthia,any chance of enlightening us as to which parish yours is? I'd like to compare your description with the official statistics please. With such an alleged success rate, it must surely be spearheading diocesan campaigns for growth etc.
"Cynthia,any chance of enlightening us as to which parish yours is? I'd like to compare your description with the official statistics please. With such an alleged success rate, it must surely be spearheading diocesan campaigns for growth etc."
I have no idea what the national statistics are, but my shamelessly liberal Episcopal parish here in godless New York has been expanding steadily for about 10 years. We now have 3 masses every Sunday, one more than most Episcopal parishes.
Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic parishes in my neighborhood in Brooklyn are dramatically shrunken. One is closed, two are being merged, all have vacant school and convent buildings to be disposed. Only the Polish parish is thriving sustained by continuous immigration.
The usual terms describing Episcopal congregations in the USA, small, aging, and rapidly shrinking, could describe all of the Roman Catholic parishes within a 5 mile radius of my Brooklyn home with only one exception.
Jean Mayland, my post was sarcastic. Unfortunately, sarcasm doesnt always come across in writing.
My parish is St. Andrew's Episcopal, Denver. We've grown from a mission (tiny) as recently as around 2000, to a self supporting parish that was around 80-90 per week when I came in 2006, and now we are near 200 a week and growing. We've had female rectors for 20 years and began doing official same sex blessings when our bishop authorized them a year or so ago. It is a downtown parish with extensive outreach to the homeless. I am the current chair of the Outreach committee. You might want to look at St. John's Boulder, friends of mine. it is one of those larger downtown churches and it has been growing. It's liberal and just called a female rector. They continued to grow during the rector search, as we did as well.
We are in the Diocese of Colorado, one of 33 dioceses that have posted growth in TEC in the last 2-3 years. The 2 parishes I've mentioned are not the only ones posting growth here. My anecdotal sense is that the growth is post fallout from the various schisms, and the growth seems to be in the more liberal parishes/dioceses. Young families are driving it at our parish. And we're a very fun community, we do both ministry and parties together.
Research away. The families will tell you that they don't want to raise their kids in an intolerant setting.
Cynthia: there are supposed to be 70M Catholics in the USA. Are you saying there are 70M ex-Catholics too! That's a lot of folk! There are only a couple of million Episcopalians!
I did not hear the NPR story, but my own observations are that my various Episcopal Church parishes have gained far more from the Roman Catholic Church than we have lost to them (in fact, I can recall only one couple who left us versus about eight individuals who joined TEC).
Personally, I was rajsed Roman Catholic and had seventeen years of RC education, but became an Episcopalian at the age of thirty-two.
Three of my former Rectors on Long Island (NY) were in fact former RC Priests, as was the current Bishop of Long Island.
My current Rector, in Florida, was raised RC but became an Episcopalian in his late teens.
Sadly, there seem to be more discontent RC's who simply drop out, rather than joining another Christian denomination.
So, how many former Roman Catholics are out there?
And of those who have not either left Rome, or gone missing-in-action and become non-participating cultural "Catholics", another good question might be how many are really committed to the full RC program, or are simply staying in the RC Church DESPITE the RC hierarchy and pronouncements which they simply do not accept.
To that end, I know several Catholics who have a higher regard for the "Nuns on the Bus" than for the Bishops and Cardinals, and I like the line from my 72 year-old cousin who says that he is a "Christian who happens to be a Catholic."
The Pew Research people have extensive statistics. You can find them here: http://religions.pewforum.org/reports
All I know is that many Catholic churches and schools are closing in my region. And that is not true of Episcopal churches in the same region. Rural areas may well be a different story.
Sounds like Counterlight and I share similar experiences. Very liberal and urban Episcopal churches that are busting at the seams and adding services.
It does seem like intolerance is driving people out of the pews.
I'd like to second comments by others who've noted a strikingly large presence of ex-RCs in their Episcopal parishes. I am not RC. I came to the Episcopal Church by way of the Methodists. Like most Episcopalians these days, I am a convert. My parish has a very large contingent of former Roman Catholics (lots of Irish and Italian). We also have a large contingent of former fundamentalists; everything from the Assemblies of God to the Seventh Day Adventists.
"how many are really committed to the full RC program?"
Studies show that RC's have abortions at the same rate (actually higher, but perhaps that's a statistical blip) as the general population. The RC leadership has invested themselves heavily in the Culture Wars. If their members towed the line, they would have won long ago. RC's are not voting according to their leaders wishes.
According to one study I read about, I think out of Villanova, the main reason people leave is because there is no two-way conversation with the RC leadership, from priest to bishop. All people get is the rules and the dogma, it's "my way or the highway."
Conversely, in TEC, we believe the Holy Spirit moves through the voices of the many. We believe in continuing revelation, not an ossification from the middle ages. We elect our bishops. We study and finally act on issues such as WO and LGBT equality (not fully achieved, but moving forward). It is a messier process than top-down management, but I think it has a much better chance at getting to Gospel message and sharing it.