A Valentine's Day gift from me (and most of all, from the authors of the following pieces) to any readers not thoroughly bored by now with talk of the papal resignation: here's an assortment of articles commenting on this event and talking about the choice of a new pope. I've provided only tasty tidbits from each, in the hope that these will pique the appetite of interested readers, and you'll read the entire piece:
At Open Tabernacle, Betty Clermont lists some telling facts that indicate how much the moral credibility of the Catholic institution and its leaders is waning at the end of Benedict's papacy:
Throughout her reign, Queen Elizabeth II has always met with whoever is pope when she is in Rome. But no meeting is planned for her March 6-7 trip.
Similarly, no courtesy call to the pope was scheduled for Irish Pres. Michael D. Higgins during his official visit to Rome Feb. 7-9.
John Allen at NCR notes that at least one cardinal, José Saraiva Martins of Portugal, who's a Vatican insider, has been willing to state bluntly that the abuse scandal may have influenced Benedict's choice to resign:
Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli asked Saraiva Martins if Vatileaks and the other scandals of the last couple of years might have been part of the reason Benedict reached this decision.
"I imagine they might have influenced it," Saraiva Martins said.
Gregg Kilday in the Hollywood Reporter quotes Alex Gibney, maker of the documentary Mea Maxima Culpa, who states,
Pope Benedict’s XVI’s resignation "seems to me inextricably linked to the sex abuse crisis . . . " "I don’t have proof that that’s so, but it just seems like it," the director said, noting that in addition to his own film, which began airing on HBO on Feb. 4, there has been a new wave of coverage of the Roman Catholic Church’s worldwide sex scandal because of the recent court order that forced the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles to release its files, documenting how Cardinal Roger Mahoney [sic] and other officials covered up the cases of 122 priests accused or convicted of molesting children, as well as a widening investigation in Australia.
Sister Maureen Fiedler at NCR on what we should look for in a new pope:
But now, speculation abounds about the next pope. So, sure, I'd love to see Joan Chittister or Elizabeth Johnson or a woman elected to that role. Short of that, someone like Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese would be promising. But I digress into dreamland.
In a triptych of statements at his Christian Catholicism blog (here, here, and here), Jerry Slevin indicates,
This [i.e., the selection of a successor to Benedict] may be the last chance for any Pope and the Cardinals and Bishops to salvage their rapidly disappearing moral authority that most Catholics once respected.
Unless the imperial coercive structure is changed back to the Catholic consensual structure Jesus and his first disciples left behind, it matters little who is Pope. The insightful [papal] butler clearly understood this.
While it may seem overly pessimistic to say so soon that the next Pope will likely fail too, it is just being realistic; and yet there is also room for much optimism. The papal resignation is tantamount to an admission of failure and will lead to de-mystification of the papacy quickly. Pope Benedict XVI, soon to again be non-Pontiff, Joseph Ratzinger, and his Vatican clique led by Cardinal Sodano et al., have already set the stage for the next failure.
Perhaps half tongue in cheek, at the Voice from the Desert blog, the redoubtable ClevelandGirl argues for the worst pope ever to succeed Benedict:
I hope that all the JPII/Benny appointed right-wing zealots bring to fruition the goal of these two popes – the election of the most right-wing/fascist/gay-hating/woman-hating pope ever! Of course, I’m against all of these things myself, but I want the *worst pope ever* to be elected so that as many people *leave* as possible. The more pre-neanderthal pronouncements about pelvic issues, the better! The more stupid and out of touch the papacy and RCC Inc show themselves to be (their *true* face), the better! Let’s see a *young* Opus Dei/Legionaries of Christ pope! Let’s have 30 years of cilices and disciplines for all and see how many stay! Let’s have *everyone* see the BS inherent in the system and the emperor being stark naked once and for all!
At the Commonweal blog, Eduardo Peñalver looks for more of the same in the next pope (and notes he's echoing Garry Wills):
The selection process is utterly bereft of the characteristics of participation and transparency that virtually all of us would demand as criteria of legitimacy in any other context. It is possible, I suppose, that the process will somehow misfire and yield a Pope who affirms values of openness and accountability. Now that would surely be a sign of divine intervention.
The statement by Garry Wills off which Peñalver is keying is in the New York Times:
Jesus, we are reminded, said to Peter, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” But Peter was addressed as a faithful disciple, not as a priest or a pope. There were no priests in Peter’s time, and no popes. Paul never called himself or any of his co-workers priests. He did not offer sacrifice. Those ideas came in later, through weird arguments contained in the anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews. The claim of priests and popes to be the sole conduits of grace is a remnant of the era of papal monarchy. We are watching that era fade. But some refuse to recognize its senescence. Such people will run peppily up, like Charlie Brown, to the coming of a new pope. But Lucy, as usual, still holds the football.
At his Daily Dish site, Andrew Sullivan laments the "lost promise" of Benedict and his papacy with a gloss on Ratzinger's classic work Introduction to Christianity:
Somehow, the prelate who compared the mysteries of God to the vastness of the ocean aided and abetted the forces of reaction in the Church. Somehow, the thinker who urged readers to recognize "the truth of their being" became the foe of gay and lesbian Christians who wanted to do just that. There was equally a blindness to the revolution in women’s freedom that occurred in his lifetime. You will notice that his abdication begins, "Dear Brothers . . ." Sisters are not among those he addresses as equals . . .
The graphic: the Sybil of Delphi, from Michelangelo's fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, where the conclave to elect the next pope will be held (the image is from Wikimedia Commons).