CNHI News Service

Opinion

February 15, 2013

Pope steps down without deserved fanfare

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— Editor's Note: If you're not a weekly subscriber to Taylor Armerding's column, you can publish this one if you notify him at t.armerding@verizon.net

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Never mind about Islamists who call America “The Great Satan” and seek to obliterate our nation and way of life. Never mind about Sharia law’s treatment of women, and the punishments meted out to those who challenge it by doing things like calling for girls to be educated.

No, the real threat to civilization and the American dream is Pope Benedict XVI, leader of the Catholic Church for the past eight years, who announced his resignation this past week because he believes he can no longer carry out the duties of the office.

It offered another opportunity for the haters of Joseph Ratzinger, who they call “Ratzi the Nazi” or “God’s Rottweiler” to rail about how radically conservative he is, how inflexible, how out of touch with the modern world, how his mission in life is to control everybody’s sex life and how he wouldn’t even control or punish priests who abused children.

On the last point, they have part of a point. The abuse scandal, besides inflicting horrific wounds on young innocents, is a self-inflicted wound on the church. Those who took vows to set an example of purity and godliness did the opposite.

I don’t pretend to know how well Pope Benedict confronted it – he did more than his predecessor, Pope John Paul II – but it clearly was not enough.

But those who try to use that human failure to undermine every inconvenient (to them) principal the Pope stands for are troubled souls who probably need the church much more than they realize.

First, and most important, is that nobody has to be a Catholic. Yes, some of us are brought up in a certain faith by our parents, but once we are of age, there is no law that says we have to continue. There is no state church. Those who remain Catholic do so by choice. If they cannot abide the Pope or the teachings of the church, they are free to leave.

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