To sleep: Perchance to dream
Meds aren’t always the answer

Talk about giving up something for Lent

How about giving up the papacy itself? In so doing, Pope Benedict XVI becomes the first pontiff to resign his post since Pope Gregory XII in 1415. When Gregory did it, it was to end the Great Western Schism, in which there were multiple claimants to the papacy.

It also happened in 1294, when Pope Celestine V--a very reluctant choice--resigned after only three months in office, preferring to return to being a monk. He was mistreated, imprisoned, and possibly even killed by his successor Boniface VIII, who worried that the old monk would be re-installed as an antipope. Celestine was canonized in 1313, a mere 17 years after his death.

The Church has long frowned on papal resignation, fearing that such a precedent could lead to endless infighting, forcing a pope to step down. And, many cite the extremely frail condition of John Paul II, who stayed on until his death.

However, the prospect of an incapacitated pope does not work very well in this media-drenched age. A pope needs to be more than a symbol. He actually has things to do, and given the state of affairs during the last few years of John Paul's reign, I'm afraid a symbol was not enough.

As my friend Bud MacFarlane says, the modern papacy needs younger old guys.


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