Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Is the Pope Catholic?

While it’s startling to think a Pope could actually retire and not just meld ethereally into the firmament like one of the Roman emperors-turned-gods with whom his predecessors’ hob-knobbed, Benny 16’s abrupt announcement also illustrates what a flop he’s been under the holy hat. As a place-holder for the Vatican to get its bearings after the reign of JP II, he neither kept a low enough profile to be inoffensive nor managed the unruly Curia astutely enough to prevent its wild infighting from filtering into public view.

Ben XVI has a reputation as an intellectual, but if he really is a smart guy, his PR advisors were a disaster. The inexplicably dumb citation in his Regensberg lecture of a nasty critic of Islam set back the ecumenical spirit among monotheists enormously (one could argue whether this is entirely a bad thing—but I digress), and his handling of the rolling child sexual abuse scandals also was a wreck, formal apologies notwithstanding. He couldn’t keep the lid on the latest financial funny business that led his butler to smuggle out damaging documents, and the use of Twitter does not a modernizer make.

As for the voluntary early retirement, it’s probably what we’ll recall as his best move and completely counterintuitive to his defense of the mystical role of the papacy and the RCC itself. Future popes won’t be seen to symbolically leave the earthly realm upon taking office but more as CEOs, with or without training as such. For that reason I suspect the succession candidates will attract more attention if they actually know something about reading a balance sheet and other managerial skills, whether or not they look nice in a surplice.

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