Into the 21st Century...

It's not often we have the opportunity to observe history, but we will today when Pope Benedict XVI retires.  It will be the first time in 600 years that a Pope has stepped down from his position. He has pledged 'unconditional reverence and obedience' to whomever succeeds him as head of the Roman Catholic church as he prepares to stand down. And when he retires, perhaps now would be a good time for the Catholic church to become part of the 21st century.

When I was getting married, my husband was Catholic and I was required to convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism in order to be baptized in the Catholic church.  Every week, I took instructions from a priest by the name of Father Belanger.  We would have long conversations, and one day Father Belanger said to me, 'You'll never make a good Catholic, you ask too many questions.'  I was baptized, however, and on the morning of my wedding, Father Belanger was in a car accident and, prophetically, his car struck a part of the Vancouver Island Mountain Range known as Angel Rock.  He survived and officiated at my wedding with a bruised face and a black eye.

The Catholic church has its problems, to be sure, but I prefer to believe that, for the most part, the priests and nuns are good people.  However, an institution as large as the Catholic church, with 1.8 billion followers, has to modernize.  It has to become part of the world in which its followers live.  Folks don't live in the 13th Century, they live in the 21st century, with all the ramifications of life in the 21st century.  Celibacy does not work.  My feeling is that Pope Benedict understood that, and had difficulty with it.  He is one of the more intellectual Popes to have governed the Catholic church.  Pope Benedict's legacy will be his resignation; that in itself is a 'modern' act, if you will.  I don't believe Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger ever wanted to be Pope, and his predecessor was certainly a hard act to follow.

The next Pope will be facing plenty of challenges.  Hopefully he will be a younger man who has experienced modern life, and has more understanding of the human condition.  And, I hope he asks a lot of questions.

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