Thursday, February 28, 2013

On Being Popeless

Though not a Catholic, I watched the departure of Pope Benedict XVI today as  his white helicopter went winging him off to Castel Gandlolfo, the lovely summer residence of Popes for ages. The Catholic Church is currently without its head of state.  There was something poignant about a little man in red shoes finding himself too frail to continue in his work, not that work of everyday, but for the coming scandal, both of the Vatican Bank and the sexual debacle at the highest level.

Today he looked ten years younger, to be out from under such a weight. He is a happy camper. I'd be, too, to live at the lovely castle, if only for a little while. It gave me quiet joy to see an escaped man happy to be free.

The political structure of the Holy See is and has been, throughout its history, politically corrupt, the epitome of the corruption of extreme power. In my lifetime there have been good and bad popes. Not being Catholic, I was not intently aware of the machinations of the Vatican. Having worked for Catholic physicians, I learned quite a bit about the church hierarchy and how it works. It functions like any high level corporation with the same triumphs and pitfalls. And is prey to the same foibles and criticisms.

The sexual scandals of the church are impossible to excuse. Impossible to condone and impossible to tolerate. And therein lies the problem: it is still going on at very high levels but not involving children, or so it seems. As the story unfolds, and the financial and sexual foibles are revealed, the church will sustain serious damage. I am glad this good man, this retired Pope, had the good sense to get out while the getting is good. And still might not survive it. For way too long, the Church has been whistling past the graveyard, that one where all their ghosts are buried.

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