02 April 2010

Scandal in the Church : Time for Pope to Depart?

In 1294, Pope Celestine V issued a decree making it permissible for a Pope to resign. Then he resigned. Detail from portrait of Celestine V, artist unknown.

There is historical precedent:
Should Benedict apologize and resign?

By Ted McLaughlin / The Rag Blog / April 2, 2010

There's been a lot of controversy in the last few years with the Catholic Church and child abuse. It started in the United States, when it was learned that scores of priests were guilty of having sex with young children. At that time, the church was embarrassed when it was revealed that they knew of the abuse and had tried to hide it instead of reporting the criminal priests to the proper authorities.

The church refused at that time to admit just how widespread the problem was. They told the world this was only a problem in America, and tried to blame it on America's "permissive" society. Well, that excuse has been blown out of the water by recent revelations. It has now been revealed that the problem was just as widespread in other countries (like Ireland and Germany). It has become obvious now that this is a church problem, and not a problem with the countries in which the church is located.

And right in the middle of this scandal is the church's current leader -- Pope Benedict XVI. It is now known that while he was a Cardinal in Munich, the Pope covered up at least one priest's pedophilia and transferred him to another church, where he continued abusing children. Then after being promoted to head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he had responsibility for disciplining priests guilty of bad conduct, he continued to cover up child abuse committed by priests.

There are now many people who believe the Pope should resign. I agree. If there is even a shred of decency and morality left in him, he should apologize for his serious misdeeds and then resign the papacy. The Pope is supposed to be the moral leader and guide for the church. How can he offer moral leadership after his own immoral behavior? And the harboring and protecting of child abusers is egregiously immoral behavior!

Some may believe that the Pope cannot resign since he is supposedly appointed by god to lead the church. That is just not true. It has been permissible by the church's own canon law for a Pope to resign since the late 13th century. In 1294, Pope Celestine V issued a decree making it permissible for a Pope to resign. Then he resigned.

In 1415, Pope Gregory XII also resigned. He did so in an effort to re-unify the papacy. At the time, there were three claimants to the papacy -- Pope Gregory XII in Rome, Pope Benedict XIII in Avignon and Antipope John XXIII.

It is even rumored that during World War II, Pope Pius XII drew up a document stating that if he was captured by the Nazis the church was to consider him as having resigned and choose a new Pope (although this cannot be verified since the church still refuses to release documents from that wartime period).

So it can be seen that the resignation of a Pope is not only permitted by canon law, but there are at least two (and possibly three) precedents for it. It is now time for the current Pope to live up to his moral responsibility -- and that moral responsibility demands his immediate resignation. Nothing less will do.

[Rag Blog contributor Ted McLaughlin also posts at jobsanger.]

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