Nel's New Day

February 17, 2013

First Pope in Almost 600 Years Quits

My question on this Sunday: did lightning strike the Vatican because the pope quit? Everyone else wants to know why the pope quit. [image] Hours after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, a bolt of lightning struck the rod atop St. Peter’s Basilica. Agence France-Presse gave the photo credit to Filioppo Monteforte, who has photographed the pope extensively for over a decade.


Although the photo’s authenticity has been questioned, Fairfax Media Nick Moir said, “It’s probably not that rare for St Peter’s to get hit.” He added that there’s no way to verify when the photograph was taken. It can be verified, however, that the pope is leaving, the first time that a live pontiff has done so since 1415 when Pope Gregory XII resignedto resolve which of three people should be the pope.

The timing of his departure on February 28 is peculiar, coming during Lent before Palm Sunday and Easter, two big days of celebration for the Catholic Church. He gave his advanced age, 85, as the reason, saying that the changing pace of the modern world has left him unable to “adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.” Despite physical and mental decay, most other popes stayed until death. Only four others have left the office, believing that their prayer and suffering as they approach the end are a part of their position. None of those who resigned gave cited health as the reason.

One reason for the pope’s resignation could be the increasing connection with cases of sexual abuse by priests under the charge of Cardinal Roger Mahony, then Archbishop of Los Angeles. When he first tried to evade the law after covering for his priests’ crimes, the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, oversaw Mahoney’s actions. In an unprecedented move, Mahoney has been publicly rebuked by current Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Gomez, and stripped of any public duties. The records, including letters from Mahoney to Ratzinger, are becoming public record because of a recent court order

For instance, in a 2003 letter to Ratzinger, Mahony says of Father Lynn R. Caffoe that between the priest and one boy, there were 100 “instances of masturbatory and copulative acts,” according to an account in the Los Angeles Daily News.But Mahony never reported Caffoe’s alleged crimes to police, and Ratzinger apparently never instructed him to.

Mahoney’s lack of ethics continued after he hid the priests’ illegal behavior. In trying to find money to pay the settlement with victims abused by priests, he stripped the cemetery maintenance fund. The $115 million that he took comprised 88 percent of the fund contributed by families of dead Catholics into an account used for the care of graves. Although his move, approved by the Vatican, was not illegal, his secrecy indicates that he knew how angry Catholics would be.

The pope has scheduled a meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano for Saturday, February 23 to discuss securing protection and immunity from prosecution from the Italian government. This action may have been caused by a diplomatic note sent from an undisclosed European government on February 4, stating the intention to issue an arrest warrant for Ratzinger. He resigned less than a week later.

The International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State (ITCCS) has asked President Napolitano to refrain from assisting Ratzinger in evading justice. In part, the letter states, “Under international law and treaties that have been ratified by Italy, you and your government are forbidden from granting such protection to those like Joseph Ratzinger who have aided and abetted criminal actions, such as ordering Bishops and Cardinals in America and elsewhere to protect known child rapists among their clergy.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based non-profit legal group, has requested an inquiry on behalf of the Survivors Network, arguing that the global church has maintained a “long-standing and pervasive system of sexual violence” despite promises to swiftly oust predators. The complaint also accuses Vatican officials of creating policies that perpetuated the damage, constituting an attack against a civilian population. Vatican officials have announced that Joseph Ratzinger will remain a permanent resident of Vatican City so that he will have legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him.

The pope will leave legacies other than the sexual abuses of children. In his push for prescribed gender roles Benedict’s legacy, he described moves toward egalitarianism as “a violation of the natural order.” On his watch, the church equated the ordination of female priests with child sex abuse. Under the pope’s leadership, the Catholic Church has fought against U.S. regulations to provide reproductive health care for all women. He set up an investigation of nuns in the U.S. because all they did was care for the sick and the poor.

Also on the pope’s agenda is his opposition to equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender individuals. Less than a year ago, he said that Catholics should oppose marriage equality and defend opposite-sex marriage against “every possible misrepresentation of their true nature.”  He also used his Christmas speech to denounce marriage equality, saying that it destroyed the “essence of the human creature.”

In a meeting with Speaker Rebecca Kadaga of the Ugandan Parliament, a primary supporter of a bill that would kill people for homosexual acts, he blessed her although the Vatican later denied such a blessing.

The pope stated that the Islam Quran urges that religious faith should be imposed by force. It does not.  In fact, the Quran states:

“Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians–any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. “

He angered Jews when he lifted the excommunication of a British bishop who denies that Jews were killed in Nazi gas chambers. Bishop Richard Williamson and three other bishops who belong to the Society of Saint Pius X were allowed back into the fold.

Under his rule, the Catholic Church maintained the lack of equality between men and women, the sins of LGBT people, and importance of its priests over the victimization of children.

With the pope, for all intents and purposes, gone, the world is guessing about his replacement. Those in Latin America, comprising almost 40 percent of the 1.2 Catholics in the world, think that it’s time for a pope to be from one of their countries after three decades of German popes. Catholics in the United States hope for the first pope from our nation, with some of the U.S. cardinals having held important positions at the Vatican.

The choice will be made by 110+ cardinals under the age of 80, over half of them appointed by the current pope and over half of them from Europe. Of the 11 from the United States, two of them, Mahoney and Cardinal Justin Rigali, lost their positions because it was found that they kept clergy on assignments after indictments for child molestation.

On his most recent show, Bill Maher said that he doesn’t care who becomes pope. The shredded separation between church and state in the U.S., however, demands that everyone who cares for equal rights should care about the positions of the pope selected by the Catholic Churth. Over half of our nation’s population are Catholics and Evangelicals, many of whom try to oppress the rest of the population with their religious beliefs. Those of us who want freedom from religion will be affected by the new pope, especially if he continues to eradicate rights for women and LGBT people.


  1. Maybe the next Pope should be a woman! We don’t need another Ratzinger, imo.


    Comment by civilrightsactivist — February 17, 2013 @ 9:33 PM | Reply

  2. And Ratzinger is supposed to be the mouth piece for God? Can’t say I think there’s much reason to respect the Catholic god. Ratzinger and many of his cohorts were criminals many times over and Catholics should be ashamed to support him.


    Comment by Pat Brown — February 17, 2013 @ 8:34 PM | Reply

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