Pope Benedict XVI: A Pagan Perspective of His Legacy

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 12, 2013 — 95 Comments

In a move that has shocked the world, Pope Benedict XVI, head of the Roman Catholic Church, announced that he was abdicating his pontifical duties at the end of February.

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

“I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.”

Already, speculation is flying fast and furious about who will replace him, and what the legacy of this Pope will be. However, for modern Pagans, for indigenous religious communities, for interfaith advocates, for anyone who existed outside the boundaries of the dominant monotheisms, his legacy of exclusion and derision was all too clear. Here at The Wild Hunt we’ve been covering the career of the former Cardinal Ratzinger turned Pope Benedict almost from the beginning. Below is a sampling of that coverage, of a church under his leadership that has emphatically placed our faiths outside the boundaries of respect or dialog.

So let us place the pieces together, shall we? Banning energy healing, banning a book that suggests female pronouns for the Christian God, banning gender-neutral formulations of baptism ceremonies, turning access to contraception (for women) into a national referendum on religious freedom, and now, accusing the largest conference of American nuns of promoting “radical feminist themes” and moving to bring them under control.  What do you get? In his book “The Ratzinger Report”, then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, made very clear his views as to what radical feminism was: “I am, in fact, convinced that what feminism promotes in its radical form is no longer the Christianity that we know; it is another religion.”

If Benedict won’t deign to visit practitioners of Vodun in its very birthplace, even after much speculation that he might, what hope does Santeria have in Cuba? One can only imagine that this trend of avoidance goes beyond mere discomfort, or fear of unscripted moments of truth-telling, oreven traditionalist furor, into outright animus against any and all non-monotheistic “pagan” faiths. Benedict, when he was Cardinal, lashed out at Catholic interfaith efforts when he thought they might be getting too chummy with African animists, he also called Buddhism narcissistic in nature, andpredicted it would replace Marxism as the Church’s main enemy. 

The last 25 years have seen Catholicism’s theological conservatives smear the goals and initiatives of the Assisi interfaith meetings, setting back progress on relations between the Catholic Church and non-Christian faiths (incidents like this don’t happen in a vacuum). Meanwhile, the rest of the world’s religions have moved on, the Parliament of the World’s Religions openly welcoming all faiths without worry over who does and doesn’t pray together. Its 35 Trustees boasting three American Indians, four individuals in Hindu or Hindu-derived traditions, two Buddhists, and three modern Pagans (Andras Corban-Arthen, Phyllis Curott, and Angie Buchanan). If anything, this Benedict-approved Assisi meeting could be interpreted as an attempt to regain relevancy for the Catholic Church within the world of interfaith dialog. As for claims of “desecration” or “syncretism” in Assisi, I think Italian Pagans have an earlier claim for that particular outrage.

Obviously not all Catholics are demon-haunted like Father Euteneuer, my father’s a staunch Catholic and I don’t think he believes I’m being controlled by various devils (right dad?), nor do most rank-and-file believers seem to be lining up for exorcisms because their teenager is reading “Twilight” or dabbling in Wicca. But this new zeal for exorcisms among certain priests and believers is troublesome, especially since Euteneur isn’t the first exorcist to list modern Paganism as a symptom of possession. Further, their zeal for occult battle is vindicated when prominent Bishops fear a looming “esoteric religiosity” due to the evils of secularism, and their Pope warns of “subjugation to occult powers” in his encyclical on love. When your religion isn’t merely criticized, or found to be in error, but actively demonized, seen as a pure evil to be cast out, there can be no real conversation or understanding. It sparks a dehumanizing process that can lead to violent outbursts against those who are “other”.

Catholicism is the best! Paganism is the worst! Rah! Rah! Rah! Some religions are more equal than others, right Benedict? I love the scare quotes around religion when describing syncretic, magical, and occult belief systems, it really drives home that the current leader of the Catholic Church doesn’t see us as even practicing a valid faith (even if in error). I suppose I should be flattered that the Pope considers us enough of a going concern that we’re mentioned in an encyclical, but I doubt it’s a first step towards understanding or tolerance. After all, if we aren’t “equal” to Catholicism (and other faiths that the Catholic Church deems “real” religions), maybe we don’t deserve the same religious freedoms and protections.

There are quite a few problems with Benedict’s argument, a primary one is the confusion of mythological stories with the living and breathing religion being practiced at the time. The assumption that Roman polytheists had no hope for a pleasant afterlife, when in fact they had a systematic afterlife that included judgment, rewards, and punishments, and the characterization of Roman religious ritual as a clockwork obligation that had no belief or passion. The bugbear here for Benedict is the specter of “philosophical rationalism”, which along with relativism leads (in his view) to all manner of horrors, including the destruction of Christianity (and which, in his view, drained the life out of Roman polytheism).

In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI, while addressing the Jewish community of Cologne, laid out exactly what the new party line on Christian involvement in the Holocaust was. “And in the 20th century, in the darkest period of German and European history, an insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and systematically carried out by the regime, to exterminate European Jewry. The result has passed into history as the Shoah.” Comments like these conveniently sweep aside the long, long history of Christian persecution of the Jewish people. As columnist James Carroll pointed out, to not mention Christian culpability when discussing National Socialism can be a dangerous enterprise in the longer run.

This is a pope that claimed indigenous populations in South America were“silently longing” for the Christian faith of the colonizers, who said at the recent Assisi gathering that four token agnostics were invited “so that God, the true God, becomes accessible” to them. He has mocked and criticized “paganism” in any form one could imagine, describing pre-Christian gods as “questionable” and unable to provide hope, and engaged in a kind of Holocaust revisionism by saying that Nazi-ism was born of “neo-paganism.” During his Papacy the practice of exorcism has boomed once more, a practice that explicitly lists adherence to other faiths as a sign of demon possession. This was the Papacy of a man afraid of a post-Christian future, one “subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith,” as he put it. His stepping down can only be met with something akin to relief, albeit one tempered by the knowledge that his sucessor will no doubt follow in his footsteps.

I leave to others the monumental task of listing the many things this Pope will be held accountable for, but I wanted to use this moment to remind the world of how the Catholic Church under Benedict XVI had used its power and influence when it came to the religious world beyond monotheism. Catholicism is one of the most powerful religious bodies in the world, and power should always be judged by how it is used. For my part I think Pope Benedict XVI used his power in ways that were not always wise or good, and should the post-Christian shift really bring about a “neo-pagan” (as he would put it) world, I wonder if the Church will look back on him as a hero, or as a misguided, intolerant, man trying to shore up the power and privilege of a lost institution.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    He did what he believed was best for his church, I think that must is self evident. Can’t blame him for that, really.

    That said, I think that his rampant conservatism has actually been beneficial to cross religious tolerance, in that people haven’t seen his brand of Christianity as that popular or relevant to modern times.

    I think, rather than focussing on all the ‘bad stuff’ he has done, we can, instead look towards who will be the next Pope. Rumour has it that there is a strong chance of a black Pope.

    • http://en-pi.facebook.com/steward John Deltuvia

      Trying to figure out rumors of whom a conclave will select is futile at best. I’ve seen web rumors of Timothy Cardinal Dolan of NYC for the current election. Before the conclave of October, 1978, the papabili were considered to be a choice between two Italians; and then a cardinal from Poland was elected – and followed by a cardinal from Germany!

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Futile, yes, but it passes the time.

      • http://www.xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

        I’d actually rather see Archbishop Diarmuid Martin get elected. He seems a far more rational and realistic Catholic than most of the others (i.e. someone who actually cares about people, not just warm bodies in the pews).

    • http://twitter.com/karendales Karen Dales, Author

      Yes, and Torquemada felt the same way when he started the Holy Inquisition that sparked the Burning Times.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I think that things would be somewhat different this time. People are more likely to fight back, for one.

        • http://www.facebook.com/ezelnio Erin Zelnio

          People fought back then, too. And then crumbled. What we need is to make sure that our governments don’t side with religious policy. So let the religious leaders say what the like, so long as we keep our politicians on a very short leash.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            In any cohesive fashion?

            Certainly, keep religion and politics as separate as possible, but be ready to fight (in a very literal fashion) if necessary.

        • Charles Cosimano

          They did. It was called the Reformation.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I don’t recall that crumbling.

          • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman Marc

            The Reformation was a response to theological and dogmatic authority, not moral authority. Erasmus was a Catholic who had a handle on the whole moral authority of the church thing. Luther sort of came out of left field and surprised a lot of people with his tracts. That was part of the reason why the Church took so long to start it’s Counter-Reformation.

    • kenneth

      A black pope would in no way translate to a progressive pope. African Christians tend to take the whole “spiritual warfare” bit quite seriously. Recall that “witch burning” isn’t a metaphorical thing over there. Every cardinal that this pope and the last has elevated was selected primarily for their theological/social conservatism and their tribal loyalty to a movement to purify the church to it’s old medieval form.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Actually, the notion of a ‘black Pope’ is pretty meaningless in terms of Papal policy. It merely is an indicator of how he will be viewed from the outside. Which is what I thought would be interesting.

    • harmonyfb

      He did what he believed was best for his church, I think that must is self evident. Can’t blame him for that, really.

      Oh, I certainly can blame him. His ‘believing’ doesn’t enter into it. The fact remains that he not only looked the other way, but gave aid, comfort, and stealth to child molesters, and he did it deliberately, because he valued PR and image more than he valued the actual lives of children. (Which, btw, has kind of typified his entire tenure, under which Catholic bishops have preferred to stop helping children instead of possibly, maybe having to adopt one out to a gay couple, obstructed attempts to prevent the spread of HIV (because condoms, oh no!), and other what-the-hell-is-the-dark-ages activities.)

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I don’t blame anyone for sticking to their convictions.

        I’d like to see more of that, in fact. If those convictions are unpopular, then they will swiftly be put into their place. If they are popular, then they get to see the convictions of the majority be put into place.

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    Excellent summary, Jason.

  • Ambermoone

    Ouch. If you are going to associate the Nazi party with neo-paganism in general, then we should all just associate the Westboro Baptist Church with Christianity in general. Seriously.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

      Except that Westboro makes actual claims of Christianity. Paganism, neo or otherwise, have never had any real ties to the Nazi party. But in general, I agree with the sentiment.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Or just point out that Benny was in the Hitler Youth…

      • Charles Cosimano

        Like he got a choice in the matter.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          There is always a choice.

          • harmonyfb

            When you’re 14 (the age at which, I believe, he joined the Hitler Youth)? HA! Mothers everywhere are laughing hysterically at you.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            What a wonderfully closed mind you have. There are plenty of independently minded fourteen year olds, not to mention how many will have a tendency to rebel…

          • http://entdinglichung.wordpress.com Entdinglichung

            and there was at least a (far to small) minority of young people in Germany in that period who rebelled: swing music enthusiasts who simply wanted to have a good time, the Edelweisspiraten, the Leipziger Meuten and other working class youth “gangs” (some of whom where among the few ones who got involved into armed resistance), some small youth groups like the “White Rose” or the Hamburg group around the young Mormon Helmut Hübener (the youngest person sentenced to death by the Volksgerichtshof, he wrote leaflets opposing the war, he was also expelled by his church)

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1496810171 Angie Buchanan

            He was not 14, he was 18.

          • http://entdinglichung.wordpress.com Entdinglichung

            no, since the end of 1936, membership of the HJ was compulsory by law for every “Aryan” between 14-18 and relatively hard to avoid, there were of course different levels of involvement possible but according to most sources, the young Ratzinger wasn’t an enthusiastic activist, most likely due to his family’s political background which was strongly influenced by his grand-uncle Georg Ratzinger, a priest and maverick populist politician, with some antisemitic tendencies but also with a strong resentment against Prussian/Greater Germany due to strong roots in Bavarian federalism and catholic opposition towards a “protestant” German state … to summarize it: no Nazi but a right-wing clerical conservative, a political milieu which did not like the Nazis but was mostly not involved in any resistance activities

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I am fully aware that enlistment was compulsory, and that reports put him as less than enthusiastic. The fact remains, however, that he could have chosen another option, if he really felt against it.

            “Liberty or death” springs to mind.

          • http://entdinglichung.wordpress.com Entdinglichung

            true … sadly, accommodation to the regime was the preferred option also for most Germans who didn’t like the Nazis, uncompromising opposition more or less from the very beginning in 1933 was only practized by the core of the labour movement, by the Witness of Jehovah and by a few small and scattered circles from other political and religious milieus (and most of the people involved in “Operation Valkyrie” in 1944 only discovered their opposition towards Nazism after realising that the war was lost)

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1496810171 Angie Buchanan

            Oh yes, yes, he did have a choice and he chose to join. In spite of the
            fact that his father physically re-located the family in order to try to
            keep his 2 sons out of the grasp of the Hitler Youth, in spite of the
            fact that his brother never joined, little Bennie joined – and he joined
            because he was promised that his schooling would be paid for by a
            Mathematician friend if he agreed to join.

        • cernowain greenman

          He had a choice whether to be a brown shirt or not. Whether he grew out of that way of thinking is a matter of opinion.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1496810171 Angie Buchanan

          Oh yes, yes, he did have a choice and he chose to join. In spite of the fact that his father physically re-located the family in order to try to keep his 2 sons out of the grasp of the Hitler Youth, in spite of the fact that his brother never joined, little Bennie joined – and he joined because he was promised that his schooling would be paid for by a Mathematician friend if he agreed to join.

    • Rebel Druid

      As well as Waco. Let’s not forget Waco.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I always loved toying with the notion that Koresh actually *was* the second coming of Christ. Consider the implications of that one…

  • http://entdinglichung.wordpress.com Entdinglichung

    Ratzinger has good reasons, not to mention the religious body to which Hitler at least nominally and according to the 1939 handbook of the German Reichstag belonged and that the Chairman of the German Bishop’s conference, Cardinal Bertram scheduled a requim mess for Hitler

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Hitler, and his party, had to court the Catholics for political reasons.

      • http://entdinglichung.wordpress.com Entdinglichung

        some leading Nazis like Himmler and Rosenberg would have preferred an outright attack on the Catholic church e.g. banning it or replacing it by a “National Catholic Church” but this would have interfered with foreign political considerations e.g. alliances with countries like Spain, Italy and Slovakia … and Hitler was very grateful for the deal with the Vatican in 1933 which granted him his first success on an international level: the Concordat of 1933 which formalized the relationship between the two and for which the Catholic church sacrificed its political party, the Zentrum, who already had due to rumours about the Concordat – like all bourgeois parties – voted for the Enabling Act in March 1933 which legalized the factual abolition of constitutional rights and parliamentary rule

  • http://twitter.com/CttCJim James

    It’s fascinating how, just because he’s an old man and he’s sick, so many people forget the cumulative weight of his decisions. The office of the Pope has this strange variation of a perception filter on it, whereby culturally we of the west have this belief that he is a good man, but then he does bad things and we all get mad, and then go back to saying that he’s a good man. Or at least I do, and I wasn’t even raised catholic.
    We are to love our fellow man, and as such I would gladly pray for his health and comfort in his declining years, but at the same time it is important to remember who he was and what he did with his life.

    • Deborah Bender

      Good men can promote bad policies, and vice versa. There have been a couple of popes in my lifetime who I thought were good men. Benedict isn’t one of them.

      • http://saffronrose.livejournal.com/ A. Marina Fournier

        You said it, Deborah!

    • http://saffronrose.livejournal.com/ A. Marina Fournier

      This one, I have *always* perceived as a Bad Man. I can see nowhere that he did anything positive for the people he allegedly serves.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        The Pope serves “God”, not the people.

        • http://www.facebook.com/MachaIsAline Aline O’Brien

          He serves the institution of the Roman Catholic Church, which is a huge industry with lots of properties, employees, investments, etc. Ironically, for all their talk about sublime spirit and gross materiality, they seem to be ruled by their material acquisitions .

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Funny, I thought the Roman Catholic Church served him.

  • http://blog.dianarajchel.com Diana Rajchel

    The man did his job. I can tell, because I really don’t like what he did.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rapture.hoax2011 Roy Linford Adams

    I believe this failing health reason is just a cover. I believe there’s a much deeper, more sinister, reason for his resignation. One that would hurt the catholic church should the truth ever come to light, so bad in fact that to further brace themselves for possible impact. He was forced to resign by the vatican so if there comes a day when the Truth slips through their powerful fingers they can say “Well that’s why he isn’t pope anymore. We did the moral thing and got rid of him so we’re actually the hero here.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

      I agree. I think you’d have to have been living in a cave for the last few years to buy the “poor health” line.

      • Deborah Bender

        I’m willing to consider it. He doesn’t look well, and perhaps he does not have the temperament to be a suffering servant. The job is stressful for the reasons you allude to. The previous two popes, whatever you think of them, seemed to me to be caring individuals. This one’s reasons for wanting to be Pope seem to be more negative. He wants to stop other people from doing the wrong thing, according to his conception of wrongness. He’s not giving a lot of love out, so he doesn’t get it back, and perhaps he’s running out of energy.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

          Of course he has ill health, but what’s that to the Papacy? They held John Paul up as long as he still had a pulse. And not a single pope has resigned since the 15th century. Don’t you find that odd? It’s just not something that’s done. The media can praise him for his “clarity” in this decision but I don’t buy it.

          • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman Marc

            For what it’s worth, I remember everyone making it a big deal that someone who was “so old” was appointed to the Papacy. And I remember the snerking that we did about how we’d have another Papal Election within a few years because the old codger wouldn’t survive. I’m surprised he lasted this long.

            I mean, the stress alone has to be insanely high. People constantly looking to you for guidance. Being wheeled out for public rituals. I can’t imagine what that’s like. How many 85 year old men (with a pacemaker!) do you know that make trans-national and transatlantic trips as often as he did?

            If you look at the recent Popes his reign was short, yes, but understandable given his age. JPII was kept upright as long as he could because it was his choice, IIRC, as Papal legality prohibits the forced resignation of the Pope.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      What’s the reason?

    • kenneth

      It’s hard to imagine a scandal so ugly that it would cause a pope to resign. Over the centuries, they’ve weathered the open buying and selling of the papacy, murder of papal political enemies, money laundering, kids fathered by popes, and of course, papal cover up, in writing, of kids buggered by priests. These guys clearly aren’t shamed too easily. Unless they found a “Buffalo Bill” style pit in Benedict’s basement, it’s hard to imagine what THEY would find so shameful that they would have to have him quit the job.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Well, there is always the ‘Pope Joan’ story…

        • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

          I always wished that could be true.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            No reason it couldn’t be.

          • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

            There’s a pretty solid record of Popes. Not much empty space for someone to sneak in.

            My understanding (and I never looked heavily into this) is that the statue connected to her was in fact a Classical Goddess (don’t know which one), that the road they supposedly avoid is simply too small for a Papal retinue, even in the early Middle Ages, and that the period in question is pretty well covered historically with well known Popes (I think it was circa 850 CE right?).

            Not to mention, considering the big number of celibate devout women in that time period (I remember one of the kings of Deira spent half his reign fighting some particular churchman because he convinced the queen to remain devoutly chaste. Mr. King was not happy), I find it hard to believe a woman pious enough to pretend to be a man AND become Pope would get pregnant.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Oh, I agree it probably isn’t true, but records are only *so* reliable…

      • AndrasArthen

        It’s complicated, as most things regarding the Vatican tend to be. The age & health concerns are doubtlessly true — he has a bad heart, wears a pacemaker, & there have long been rumors in Europe that he’s blind in one eye due to a stroke prior to assuming the papacy. But for 25 years before becoming pope, Ratzinger was probably the top power-broker behind the scenes in the Vatican, and openly so for the last several years of John Paul II’s papacy. He knows all the dirty secrets, and where the bodies are buried, & it’s only reasonable to assume that his own hands have probably gotten very dirty in the corrupt Machiavellian world of the Vatican. Some of this was exposed by his butler and by Italian journalists who’ve been tracking his moves since before he became pope. These revelations suggest widespread financial problems, embezzlements, bribes, etc., as well as huge internal political struggles, some of which have allegedly resulted in violence. It’s all alleged because the Vatican has by far the best cover-up and PR machinery in the world, but it could be that some of the revelations have triggered behind-the-scenes conflicts that may have forced Benedict to resign. Besides that, there’s his role in covering up the pedophile priest problem, which is shattering the Catholic world in unprecedented fashion. The recent HBO documentary “Mea Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” which is getting a lot of publicity both here and in Europe, clearly points to Ratzinger’s role in that scandal. That (the scandal, not the film), too, may be a big factor in his resignation.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          I’m not all that convinced of that. All those things are pretty much expected of the Catholic Church over here, and ‘Catholic priest’ has been a synonym for ‘kiddie fiddler’ for longer than I’ve been alive.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1496810171 Angie Buchanan

            It used to be that they were above the law. Now that they’re not, perhaps the realization has hit him that he could quite possibly be going to be prosecuted. He says that he’s planning to “just disappear” after his “retirement.” I bet he is!

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            He couldn’t have been prosecuted as Pope. Had he died in power, that would have been the end of it. However, by stepping down, he has opened up the possibility of him being charged.

          • kenneth

            It’s very tough to envision a pope being prosecuted under any circumstances. Even though they don’t have the absolute formal immunity and temporal power they once had, they still enjoy a de-facto sort of untouchable status.

            That’s true even of bishops. The actions they took in the abuse cover up were nothing less than organized crime; witness and victim bribery and intimidation, interstate flight, destruction of evidence, money laundering. None of them has been touched by criminal prosecution until Bishop Finn last year, and that was a misdemeanor rap. I think we’ll see more prosecutions in the future, but it’s still very politically dodgy to go after a bishop, especially in a major metro diocese.

            A pope, even a retired one, is essentially untouchable because the Vatican is its own country, and last I knew, one without extradition treaties with any other nation. If he stayed put, there would be essentially no way of getting to him, short of international sanctions or some sort of “Zero Dark Thirty” raid. Neither would look good going after an ancient and ailing guy, unless he was wanted for genocide or big war crimes. Catholics, at least the conservative fans of Benedict are already going apeshit over “persecution”.

            It will be interesting to see if some other skeleton comes tumbling out of the closet. It may be some combination of true fatigue and the fact that he never really wanted to be an administrator and front man. He probably figures he can cement his legacy by seeing a successor in place rather than waiting until he’s a vegetable for two years and the joint is run by the criminally insane bankers and bureaucrats. The machinations in the Vatican are very much like those of Medici Italy or the Roman imperial court. The difference is a modern pope can (probably) step down without fear of waking up dead in the Tiber one night.

          • Deborah Bender

            I agree with your final paragraph. When the news broke, my local paper interviewed several Catholic professionals (priests, educators and the like) for comments. Some of them said that Ratzinger was primarily a theologian and writer, and that he wasn’t attracted to the administrative part of the job. He’s been successful at packing the College of Cardinals with like-minded men, who will undoubtedly pay some attention to his recommendations for the next Pope.

            It’s difficult to see how any reform movement can take root in the Catholic Church as it is structured today.

          • http://saffronrose.livejournal.com/ A. Marina Fournier

            The idea of a modern pope stepping down “without fear of waking up dead in the Tiber one night” made me giggle. If I woke up dead, I’d be confused or appalled!

            I know what you meant, but the images conjured by your words went wild in my head.

    • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman Marc

      Beyonce and the Illuminati did it.

  • Tara

    He was a horrid man who used his power to spread misery and disease in the worId. I won’t miss him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

    Hailing from Protestant Land I only know three Catholics and they are all relieved he’s stepping down. The general sentiment seems to be “and good riddance.” On the rise of exorcisms, I had a friend who once said, “Possession? They should be so lucky.”

  • http://twitter.com/karendales Karen Dales, Author

    The Inquisition (what a show)

    The Inquistion (here we go)

    We know you’re wishin’ that we’d go away.

    But the Inquisition’s here and it’s here to stay!”
    - Mel Brooks “History of the World, Part One.”

  • AndrasArthen

    Throughout Central & South America, many people accuse Ratzinger (while he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) of being complicit with some of the local church hierarchy & law enforcement authorities in the arrest, disappearance, torture & murder of clergy & lay people who promoted liberation theology, particularly among indigenous communities. When I participated in the World Interreligious Encounter in Monterrey Mexico, in 2007, one of the other speakers was Samuel Ruiz, the Catholic bishop of Chiapas, one of the first proponents of liberation theology in Mexico and a champion of indigenous causes. I was shocked to realize that Bishop Ruiz refused to call Pope Benedict by name, and instead referred to him only as “the Great Inquisitor.” That a Mexican Catholic bishop would openly do such a thing in his own country reflects the contempt with which many Latin Americans regard Benedict.

    • cernowain greenman

      Yes, I agree that the active oppression of liberation theologians in the Latin world has gone unnoticed by the rest of Christianity.

    • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman Marc

      You also have to remember that it was under Benedict’s reign that he
      almost lost the entirety of South America to the Catholic Church.
      Recall the issues with the Jesuits and Drug Cartels in 2007, where the
      Jesuits were becoming more proactive against the drug trade, and how
      Benedict’s administration had to quash them. I remember a period of
      time where there was serious concern that the South American churches
      and orders would schism from the Vatican because of the Church’s desire not to become involved in these affairs that were harming the people they took spiritual charge for.

    • http://saffronrose.livejournal.com/ A. Marina Fournier

      Generally, when *I* refer to him, it is as Ratzinger. “The Pope” is nameless to me. I never thought Ratzinger was worthy of the office to which he ws elected, nor fit for it.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Funny, I always thought he was ideal for the role.

  • http://johnfranc.blogspot.com/ John Beckett

    It is not realistic to expect the spiritual leader of a religion that has always taught it alone possesses Truth to recognize the equality of other religions.

    It is realistic to expect – and to demand – that such a leader treat other religions with the respect with which he expects to be treated, and to respect the rights of the followers of other religions to practice them freely.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      If he refuses to acknowledge the validity of other religions, how is it realistic to expect him to respect them?

      We can demand all we want but, sadly, he has the power.

  • Bor1am

    The real reason why he’s getting out is not being mentioned. The Vatican is about to be hit with the mother of all scandals which centers on him. –

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/11/pope-benedicts-s-tenure-marred-by-human-rights-failures.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/SilverHawk67 Silver Hawk

    The only thing I can say to this is…that was yesterday. Don’t tell me what you did yesterday. I want to know what is to be done today, and what you are going to do about it tomorrow.

  • Raksha38

    I’m going to miss all the Palpatine jokes, but other than that, good riddance.

    I just wish the man who’s going to take his place were likely to be a better person, but the odds of that happening are slim. The massive effort to facilitate and cover up child rape alone pretty much demonstrates that anyone of any real power in the Church is a monster.

    • Kilmrnock

      Just comediens miss George W. Bush …………….but still good riddance .

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=751691973 Damon Leff

    Let’s not forget that under Benedict’s reign, the Church has repeatedly called for the suppression of witchcraft in Africa. This has directly led to witch-hunts against people practicing traditional African religions, and has increased accusations of witchcraft against people who have never identified as witches!

  • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

    Can’t really say I’ll miss him.

    Then again I think it’d be odd if I really liked a Pope. Respect is possible, but liking I really just don’t see. Who knows, I hear the next guy could be Canadian (French Canadian though).

    That said, I’ve seen some “the Pope bears the cross like Jesus did, you can’t simply step down from the cross” talk. While I have no problem with the man stepping down, I can see how a religious Christian might actually see it as a thing. There’s a pretty solid theological backing to the whole “you bear the cross until God sees fit” bit.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      As I recall, there is a tradition that, at the end of a Pope’s tenure, his skull gets bashed in by a special hammer.

      You think they will apply that here?

      • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

        Really? I grew up only semi-religious in a Protestant household, so I have no idea. Cumberland Prebyterians didn’t deal much with Popes, and my religious education was pretty thin even for that.

        So I can’t tell if you’re joking or not. But I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if you’re not.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        I think that’s done with a Pope who has died in office, to make sure he’s “really and sincerely dead” and not in some kind of spiritual trance.

        • Nick Ritter

          I just got this image of the hammering occurring to a chorus of cardinal munchkins just before the successor dons the ruby-red papal slippers.

          • http://www.xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

            As coroner, I must aver
            I thoroughly examined her (sotto voce: I mean, him).
            And he’s not only merely dead,
            He’s really most sincerely dead.

          • http://www.xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

            Another one that comes to mind is Monty Python’s song “Henry Kissinger” redone as “Herr Ratzinger”

            “Oh, Herr Ratzinger, how we’re missin’ ya,
            You’re the Pope of our dreams
            With your crinkly hair and your glassy stare
            And your Machiavellian schemes…”

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          There is some dispute as to whether this practice is current.

          http://www.snopes.com/religion/hammer.asp

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Remember, Jesus passed off his cross to a volunteer on the Via Dolorosa.
      And anyway the Pope is the successor not of Jesus but of Peter, who dodged Roman wrath by denying he knew his Rabbi.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        And look what happened to Simon…

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Just noticed that the picture of Benny posted in the article looks like he is getting completely stoned.

    Not relevant to anything, but humour is always good.

  • Kilmrnock

    The previous pope atleast was not as much of a hard liner . Altho inadiquate he did apologise for the sins of the Catholic Church in it’s past , Damage done in the new world and elsewhere by Catholic colinisers and lack of action during Natzism and the Holocost.This guy , Bendict , acted like a despot king . spouting all sorts of nonsense and libelous information. He scared / worried me from the get go .Neo Paganism is responcible for Natzism , give me a break. This guy resigning , retiring is a relief from a pagan point of veiw .Not to even mention what he thought and said about us modern pagans and all other non monotheists .In reference to Pope Benedict XVI i say good ridance. All we can really hope is that the Catholic Church puts a more moderate Pope in this time , atleast someone not as hostile to the rest of us .Someone willing to work with all of mankind for the greater good , as i believe Jesus Christ himself would .

    • Deborah Bender

      Unlikely to happen, as the majority of the voting members of the College of Cardinals were appointed by Ratzinger or JP2, who only elevated bishops who shared their conservative theological and political views.

  • Dana

    Given the perceived mandate of the Catholic Church to spread the Gospel
    and convert unbelievers, it is unrealistic to expect a Catholic Pope to
    accept other religions as equals in the search for the Divine. That
    would fly in the face of centuries of patriarchal oppression and
    entrenched dogma. It would also free Catholics to explore those “other”
    spiritual paths, resulting in both a loss of assets and power. Change in the Church occurs in very tiny increments over long periods of time. Benedict’s breathtaking lack of diplomacy has doubtless eroded some of the goodwill won by John Paul II, but what substantive changes occurred under his Papacy? My point is this – the next (hopefully younger) Pope has the opportunity to mend fences, put a more accepting face on the Church’s interactions with the rest of the world’s faiths, and maybe point the Church in a somewhat more progressive direction. I hope he seizes those opportunities.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Wasn’t Benny put into power to try and undo some of the ‘damage’ JP2 had done.

      As a world leader, JP2 was pretty good. Didn’t seem overly great as Pope, though. He kept caring about people and peace more than The Church (TM) and power.

  • http://florforhillary.blogspot.com/ Eddie Bryan

    I wonder how he feels or felt about my Siddha Yoga?