The gold standard

  • February 20, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI barely had time to catch his breath after announcing his resignation before speculation began about his successor.

The media is rampant with guesswork about who will become pope next month. Names are being bandied about much in the way candidates are proposed when a political leader steps down or a hockey coach is fired.

Catholics should resist the temptation to get caught up in this shell game. Besides the folly of trying to predict the mindset of 117 cardinal electors from six continents, the ultimate decision when the cardinals gather in the Sistine Chapel will be in God’s hands speaking through the Holy Spirit.

It’s difficult to imagine any cardinal feeling qualified to become the Bishop of Rome. Humility is the first quality of a pope, an attribute consistently demonstrated by Benedict. In the unlikely event that a cardinal was to trumpet their qualifications, it would be a sign of his unsuitability for the job.

It’s instructive that Joseph Ratzinger had no aspirations to be pope. Nor was he favoured by the media. At 78, the secular press deemed him too old, too cerebral, too bland and too orthodox to succeed John Paul II. Eight years ago media pundits clamoured for someone young, charismatic and, as they put it, progressive.
What they got, and what the Church was blessed with, was a Pope who never failed to epitomize wisdom, compassion, humility and faith. Benedict was an inspired choice and provided nothing but faithful stewardship. The media never forgave him for it.

Its vindictiveness was evident throughout his papacy and, in many quarters, reached a crescendo in the days after Benedict’s announcement that age and frailty made it necessary for him to step down. Several commentaries on his papacy vented scorn for Benedict and the Catholic beliefs he represents.

The secular media craves a pope who will, if not support, at least ignore the moral decay of society, and a pope who will reverse 2,000 years of certain Church teachings that challenge various so-called progressive causes. Benedict, like every pope who preceded him, was unmoved by this clamouring for moral homogenization. He supported modernizing the means of communicating Christ’s message — promoting the Internet and social media, for instance — but the message itself was sacrosanct. And rightly so.

His detractors never accepted that. Now many are trying to outdo the other in vilifying a good and saintly man. One ridiculous claim said the Pope set Catholicism back 50 years. Another bellyached that he reset the Church clock back to the 19th century. Nonsense, all it.

Benedict was a more-than-worthy occupant of the chair of St. Peter. His wise and faithful leadership sets a distinguished standard for his successor — whomever through God’s grace that may be.


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