The Pope’s Wise Decision


I make no pretense of passing judgment on the pontificate of Benedict XVI. Although a baptized Catholic (by Cardinal Cushing of Boston, no less), I have accidently missed Mass for the last, oh, 55 years or so. If I ever went back and went to confession, the next in line would have to wait for a year.

I also make no pretense of judging Benedict’s policies on, or responsibility for, the sexual abuse by priests, opposition to birth control, condemnation of gays, or refusal to admit women to the priesthood. We can have all those fights another day, and I daresay that Benedict may eventually be judged as wrong on all of them.

Nonetheless, I admire what the Pope has done in resigning his office, scheduled to take place later this week.

I have a pal whose mother is 91. His father died six years ago, so his mother lives alone. Last year, while driving, she sideswiped three parked cars. The police came to the house and took her license away. The family has various financial interests (they own a shopping center) and his mother continues to run these, sending out rental invoices on an old typewriter and paying the bills. But of course, she has become increasingly forgetful, can’t recall what bills she paid and when, and so on. It is the same situation with her investment portfolio, savings and other financial affairs, right down to the electric bill at her home.

On top of that, she is cantankerous and views with suspicion any attempts to help her.

What is my friend to do? He could go to court and attempt to be named guardian, but the fact is, he loves her. He doesn’t want to be in an adversarial position with her. All options have been explored, including in-home help. She is adamantly opposed.

For obvious reasons, most of us don’t like stepping aside. Look to the world of sports for myriad examples of great players who didn’t know when it was time to go; who hung on and tarnished their own legacies.

Many of my clients are elder law attorneys who see (and help with) these sorts of situations every day.

Pope Benedictus XVI

Pope Benedictus XVI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pope, at age 85, has wisely recognized that he lacks the physical and mental strength to deal with one of the world’s most demanding jobs, and he has found a way to gracefully step aside, despite 600 years of tradition (that’s how long it has been since another pope resigned).

The words of Benedict to residents of a Rome facility for the elderly a couple of months ago hint at his upcoming decision:

“I come to you as Bishop of Rome, but also as an old man visiting his peers. It would be superfluous to say that I am well acquainted with the difficulties, problems and limitations of this age … At times, at a certain age, one may look back nostalgically at the time of our youth when we were fresh and planning for the future. Thus at times our gaze is veiled by sadness, seeing this phase of life as the time of sunset.”

Bravo to Pope Benedict for not clinging to power, for not standing in the way of the energy and strength that younger man might bring to the job, for becoming again Joseph Ratzinger. And may his action be an inspiration to other seniors, who could benefit from letting go of the burdens and responsibilities they have carried for so many years.

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2 thoughts on “The Pope’s Wise Decision

  1. Well said. But, frankly, I truly loved Pope Paul II. He was all inclusive and welcomed all. He was charismatic and spoke of the true meaning and message of Jesus Christ… a message of Love and caring and forgiveness for others. My opinion:
    “our purpose in life is, if reflected upon, is only a “tiny speck of dust” in relation to all of history and what exists in the Universe, yet, there is no doubt in my mind that God exists”. If you take time to read “Super Brain” you will understand my thinking. There is no concrete definition of the “mind”, per se. The brain is all tissue, etc., but no reputable scientist can “define” the mind. Yet, the mind is what controls the brain. You die, and the brain dies…. but, there is this undisputable fact that the “mind” continues… to where.. is the ultimate question.

    Sorry, ….for “I digress”… as the saying goes. I’m truly happy to see that Pope Benedict has decided to resign. We do need (speaking as a “Christian Catholic”,… a Pope who is in “tune” with today’s many challenges. We all have choices in life. We all have “good and bad” in us. Choosing the “good” is what keeps the human species alive. Isn’t that what a loving God wants? To keep us humans going… in a civil manner… and not destroy ourselves? He sent Jesus Christ to show us how to live. To forgive… and move on. To choose the better part of yourself. Frankly… if we met someone like that today… would we not say… truly, this is a better way of thinking?

    Anyway.. that’s my opinion…
    Sue Mc.

  2. Simply wanted to correct myself… in writing so quickly in my previosu response…… of course, I’m referring to Pope John Paul II.

    Pope John Paul II… was a truly gifted man! A man who realized the power of Love.

    My wish would be that every attorney/lawyer who takes the time to read these blogs would take a moment an stop to think about their “purpose” in life. There are so many today who need that “knight in shining armor” to come their rescue. The elderly.. for instance, ..those who don’t understand that if they don’t submit their checks to a “mandated electronic system”, for instance, will lose their social security checks! I’m talking about those on a monthly fixed income. Is this,… the United States of America, I ask you.. What elderly person who is not in tune with today’s electronic age will understand this? Where is their choice???? Isn’t freedom in America about choice? Why should anyone be MANDATED to have to do things electronically/computerized? This should be a class action suit! How many, I wonder, will be looking for their social security checks in the mail and find nothing… Who will represent these hard working innocent people? Americans who have worked hard all their lives, paid taxes, paid their dues, etc……Are you being called?
    Think about it. Is this fair?

    Sue Mc.

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