So the Pope is resigning, and no one can really decide if this is a good or bad thing.
Whilst a lot of people will be happy to see him leave, there are concerns for who his successor will be. Benedict was a very busy bee when it came to making Cardinals and Bishops in his own image, and most worry that any successor will simply continue with the game-plan devised by JPII and consolidated by Benedict. To them, I say, “Psh, bring it on!”
You see, the Papacy is one of the last remaining absolute monarchies and, in a weird metaphysical kinda way, the last remaining Empire. The Papacy grew up in Empire, and when the parent Empire of Rome finally crumbled, it grew up with all its sibling Empires and even got hold of its own temporal Empire, the Papal States. Losing that temporal Empire was a hard blow to the Papacy and Papal authority; bereft of its ability to impose morals through the secular courts, the Papacy had to fall back on fear and intimidation to get Church members to follow the doctrines of the faith, and the rigid adherence of all members of the Church to any and every Papal pronouncement was the only way left to measure the authority of the Pope. Other Empires had become countries (or commonwealths) and still maintained secular power, and governments and prisons and courts and all those other things that the Pope just no longer had. They still had a temporal power that they could exercise. The Pope, technically, still had his Empire, but it was spiritual and so very difficult to quantify in any meaningful way. Having an obsession with power and no real way to measure ones own power must be a frustrating situation.
But the Papal model of Empire had been left behind long before the great crumbling of Empires that followed World War I. Other Empires had Kings or Emperors as figure-heads, but had some form of (nominally democratic) government running things, but the Papacy stuck to the traditional Roman method; elections made of the few, by the few, for the many. The only explanation I can come up with for how this model lasted so long is that intellectual in-breeding is a much slower process than physical in-breeding. As the Roman aristocracy inter-married and inter-married in order to keep their blood lines pure, leaving a poor selection of candidates for the role of Emperor, so the Papacy has continually promoted the same ideas, over and over again, becoming more conservative, more rigid as time has gone on. Once you have made the decision that orthodoxy is hard-line conservatism, the only way for people to distinguish themselves for a position in the hierarchy is to be more and more “orthodox.” The pool of ideas and thoughts shrivels and shrinks, just as the gene pool of the aristocracy did, until you end up with “theology” so twisted and warped it is no longer recognisable as Christian.
And then it falls. It inevitably falls. It can do nothing but fall because it has built all it’s authority on such a narrow base, and then tried to spread out. Whilst it is technically possible to balance a triangle on its point, it’s far more effort than it’s worth to try to do so.
So bring them on. Bring on the Thomists and the anti-modernists. Bring on the bigots and the homophobes and the misogynists. Bring on the Pius lovers and the wannabe Boniface’s. Give me a new Gregory IX. Please, God, give me a Pope who revokes the apology to Galileo. Give me more and more ridiculous and unworthy Popes until they fall.
Because we will not. The Hierarchy, the Pope, they can crumble and disappear, but the Catholic Church will remain, will rebuild and will renew.
Because WE are the Catholic Church and this is what we were made for.