As most everyone with access to a television set or a computer knows, Pope Benedict XVI has resigned his position as, well, the pope. He will now be referred to as “Pope Emeritus,” and is the first pope in 600 years to leave the job without dying. That’s a pretty impressive feat no matter how you look at it.
The pope leaves behind a church that, in my opinion, is failing under the weight of scandal, financial mismanagement, hypocrisy, and a complete disconnect to the world around it; although, to be fair, this decline began long before Benedict. But, under this pope, it seemed that the old ways of the church were accentuated and ended up looking more pathetic than ever.
Old dogmas and antiquated ideas were continually pushed, with the pope going so far as to tell Sub-Saharan Africans fighting a devastating HIV epidemic that they shouldn’t use condoms. While flying on his private plane—would Jesus fly on a private jet?—on his first trip to Africa, he told reporters that the epidemic is, “A tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems.”
This, of course, flies in the face of science, which tells us that a simple condom can save lives. I’m sure the pope would love all humans to abstain from sex unless it is absolutely positively necessary, but that shows only how out of touch he and his organization is. The reality is that humans are sexual. Sex will happen. Now, let’s make it safe for people! Science has done this, the church has not.
The continuous child sexual abuse scandals that have plagued the Catholic Church over the last number of years have been met with what seems to be a slow and even half-hearted response. And, as has been pointed out many times, Benedict was more than aware of cases of abuse and was in a position to do something about it before he became the pope. The old boys’ club just protected its own, seemingly unconcerned about the impact the abuse was having on children and families. The ego of the church was too large to allow these crimes to taint its image. But the truth came out anyway.
Same-sex marriage and LGBT equality gets the standard damning and, compared to child sexual abuse, a very swift and determined response. The Catholic Church sees homosexuality as a terrible sin and the idea of same-sex marriage as an attack on traditional family structures. Apparently, homosexuality is a “manipulation of nature,” with no acknowledgement for the idea that being LGBT is not a choice, and that if there is a god that created us all, he also created LGBT folks just the way they are.
And, of course, the notion that women could be priests? No way! This was the domain of men, as instructed by god. Are women not close enough to god? Can they not convey god’s “message” as good as a man can? What’s the problem? The problem is age-old traditions, dogma, arrogance, and misplaced opportunity.
Pope Benedict XVI towed the line. He had a “fire and brimstone” approach to contentious issues. He used rhetoric that could be seen as hostile and aggressive. It left me feeling more disappointed with the Catholic Church than ever.
One of my favorite Internet memes shows the pope covered in gold and silk carrying a giant golden cross. It says, “Pray for the starving children while I hold this gold cross.” That sums it up nicely in my opinion. To me, the gold, silver, gems, and jewels, the silk robes, the Prada shoes, the popemobile, the billions of dollars in assets around the world, and, indeed, the gold crosses, are so far removed from anything and everything that Jesus taught that I don’t believe this organization even bothers to understand its sole reference book!
The pope’s departure is a time for the Catholic Church to regroup and choose a new leader. But it needs more than a new leader; it needs a complete overhaul. Do you really need a multi-billion dollar organization in order to believe in a higher power? In my opinion, the answer is no.