Will Pope Benedict’s resignation make any difference in the world? He has appointed a College of Cardinals profoundly dug into his vision of the world; so it would really take a miracle, the suffusion of the College by the Holy Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh, YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Interbreathing Spirit of all life, to change the Church by election of a Pope more in the tradition of Jesus and John XXIII.
The Vatican claims that the Pope is resigning for reasons of health. But his resignation comes just upon the heels of a stunning documentary film, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, on the priestly abuse of children and the cover-up of these priestly crimes, broadcast by HBO just a few days ago, about the resistance of deaf young men in Milwaukee to the Church’s silence about their being abused.
The film makes clear the responsibility of the present Pope, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, for controlling and arranging the concealment of hundreds of cases of priests around the world who abused and raped children. Among the clear, calm, but incisive commentators in the film is Laurie Goodstein, religion reporter of the Times. See http://hbowatch.com/hbo-documentary-film-mea-maxima-culpa-silence-in-the-house-of-god/
What would another Pope like Benedict mean? Not only does he bear responsibility for much of the cover-up of criminal behavior by priests: As Pope, he ordered attacks by the Vatican on the American nuns who have committed their lives to working with and for the poor — not only in direct service but in advocating public policy. The Vatican has condemned them for not putting their energy instead into criminalizing abortion and opposing contraception.
Pope Benedict does not deserve praise from any religious leader who sees women as worthy of full respect, fully capable of making moral decisions on their own and fully deserving of legal and religious support for their own religious freedom. Nor does he deserve praise from any religious leader who believes the protection and sustenance of children is far more important than the protection of criminal priests. Indeed, the protection of criminally abusive priests is even worse than the original abuse — for what might have been a terrible event visited on a few children by a few power-addicted priests who would have been swept away by a self-cleaning, accountable Church instead becomes a “massacre-abuse” of many many children when the power-addicted Church as a whole condones and hides the abuse.
Assessment and judgment of the past will be necessary to healing of the future. Perhaps the scandal of the priestly abuse of children and the even worse scandal that bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and popes protected those criminal priests will so stir the conscience of the College of Cardinals — or at least their prudential judgment, about the reputation of the Church — that an unexpected choice will emerge.
Catholic tradition teaches that the Holy Spirit, literally a Breath or Wind, enters the conclave of Cardinals when they choose a Pope. It certainly did in 1958, and wrought a miracle, when Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli became Pope John XXIII, soon astonishing most of the Cardinals who chose him by blowing open the time-encrusted, grime-encrusted windows of the Church, to let in the winds of change.
Can such a miracle happen now? For the sake of the world as well as of the Church, let us hope so. Even pray so.