Pope Benedict gives up his job for Lent–what’s next?

As a die-hard practicing American Filipino Catholic (practice makes perfect, you know), I admit to being startled by the news.

And to think, I was just getting used to Benedict, every bit of his sixteenthness. And now he’s giving up his job for Lent? His job span was but a sixteenth note compared to others’ operatic tenures. What gives?

Was Il Papa really an ill papa?

It’s said he had what I call a real Filipino heart—a pacemaker. But was it really Benedict’s frail health and instability that brought on his departure? (You mean they couldn’t just make a walker version of the Pope-mobile?)

I don’t know what really happened to force his stepping down, or if one could even characterize his leave-taking as an “ouster.” He apparently ousted himself. Still, Benedict has not exactly been an unstoried pope in terms of real headline news.

And I mean headlines far beyond the church bulletin.

In Benedict’s time, $2 billion in settlements were paid out due to priestly sex scandals around the world. Last year, another big scandal involving the pope’s butler revealed inside dirt on Vatican nepotism and corruption.

No one can ever accuse Benedict of being the “good news” pope.

And yet, when the news was released at the start of the week, almost immediately the Vatican spin was apparent. Abdication? No, the pope’s stepping down was an “act of humility.”

Of course it was. And he really does care about the church. So much that he’d rather do his penance as an ex-Pope?

Taking things at face value is an act of faith, which we Catholics are very good at. I don’t question the pope’s motives, really. If he wants to leave, that’s his right.

But the record is pretty daunting. No one EVER abdicates as a pope. It’s just not done. Not in more than 700 years. When the last time something happened was 700 years ago, you better have a pretty good reason for letting it happen now, beyond simply not feeling up to it anymore.

Being pope is a job that comes with ultimate job security. That’s the reason most popes die with their pope hats on.

It’s too good a gig to lose. In fact, you can’t really lose it.

You’re the pope for goodness sakes! The president has a hotline to the Kremlin? The pope has a hotline to God.

Maybe the hotline told him something about how he’s left the church?

That would make the lesson of Benedict’s leaving a reminder that the pope, whomever he is, is really just an ordinary man placed in extraordinary circumstances.

He may be God’s main messenger on earth. But he is just a man. And with that comes all the venal stuff that man can do.

Oh, and isn’t that one of the problems of the church, that it’s all men with a very limited role for women?

Speaking of which, I’d rephrase the idea going around that the pope wants to “make room for a younger man.”

I mean isn’t that what usually why Catholic priests end up leaving?

Maybe the new pope can get to the bottom of that.

Don’t count on it. The cardinals were handpicked by the pope for their deferential nature. Maybe there will be an awakening as the jockeying now begins prior to the vote in the Sistine Chapel.

As an American Filipino, it makes me yearn for the late Cardinal Sin. Having a Pope Sin would have been too cool.

Alas, the new Phiippine Cardinal, Luis Antonio Tagle, in his 50s is perhaps a bit too young to be elevated yet again, having just been been appointed among a group of cardinals from the Third World last October. So a Filipino pope is unlikely.

The name that comes up is Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.

Given all the issues in the church including a a declining flock, gay marriage, women’s role in the church, predator priests, first/third world differences, conservative/liberal divides, contraception, to name just a few items, the church is mired in negativity.

To announce the first black pope? It could be a way to heap history on this historic abdication. And maybe the way to get the church spinning in a more positive and modern direction.