The title is not original with me; it is from a Gawker article but I love its punniness.There’s a lot speculation about whether he was pushed or whether he really was “too pooped to pope”. He’s a year older than John Paul II was when he died and trying to manage the world’s largest corporation (in the literal sense of that term) at that age is kind of ridiculous when you think about it.
In fact, I think/hope this becomes a precedent. The idea that a Pope should serve until he (unfortunately no near term hope of a she) dies makes little sense.
As for his reign, he was not, of course, any kind of innovator. His entire history was the opposite of innovation. A caretaker, at most and a reactionary by most measures. Also, there is a growing amount of evidence that he knew about and did nothing to stop the paedophilia scandals in the US and elsewhere. He also inflamed the Christian – Islam divide earlier in his reign. So, from my viewpoint it is good that he is gone.
So, who replaces him? The Curia that elects the new Pope are all pretty much conservatives so it is hard to imagine a candidate emerging who is going to engage Catholicism’s structural problems:
1. The Church is fundamentally a misogynist institution. It categorically refuses to contemplate a clergical role for women and its reproductive doctrines are deeply anti-women and actually encourage STD and other social diseases that affect both men and women.
2. The Church is inconsistent about its social mission. Historically, the Church has had a pretty good track record of providing for the poor and organizations like Catholic Relief Service (and others) is a good development partner for the poor. But JP II pretty much killed liberation theology because he thought it too socialist given his history under Communist Poland. Of course, Liberation Theology was far different from totalitarian Communism. In fact, it embraced empowering the individual through collective action. But the institutional Church has always been about cozying up to the political economic elite in any given country, including the USA and against the people, especially in Latin America but also places like the Philippines (with the heroic exceptions of people like the wonderfully named Cardinal Sin of the Philippines who stood against the dictator Marcos and Oscar Romero of El Salvador who the government assassinated in 1980).
I say this as someone who was born and raised in an American traditional Catholic family. And went 3-12 in Catholic schools.
On social policy issues, as opposed to social services, the Catholic Church is only marginally more progressive than the Protestant fundamentalists who are frankly demented in their embrace of creationism, capital punishment, misogyny and a rejection of the legitimacy of science and factual reality. Who would want to be a member of an organization that embraced a demented view of realty, especially considering the terminal future that climate change represents? But the Catholic Church, as far as I know, has no policy on climate change.
(We’re already at 1 degree C increase in global climate average temps and positive feedback loops are rapidly increasing temps and the associated devastating impacts. At 3 degrees C, civilization will be effectively at an end – a situation facing our children/grandchildren, depending upon how old you are but certainly before the 21st Century. We can prevent this global disaster but the USA, China and India are not interested – that’s another blog post.)
So it would behoove the Church to choose someone as Pope who is truly engaged in the world and its future since he will be the patriarch of more than 1 billion souls. Of course that won’t happen any more than the Republican Party will become a party of rational thinkers.