Editorial
Behind the DWP rate hike: Where will that money really go?
Top of the Ticket
Opinion Top of the Ticket

Pope Benedict's departure is a surprise; his successor won't be

Pope Benedict XVI knows how to keep a secret. In a world of strategic leaks, gabby underlings, intrusive paparazzi and cyber-hackers, the pope was able to pull off a surprise when he announced his plan to step down as head of the Roman Catholic Church at the end of the month.

Since no other pope had done such a thing in nearly 600 years, most people assumed Benedict would be the top man at the Vatican until the day he died, like all but eight of his predecessors. But even at the beginning of his papacy in 2005, Benedict dropped hints that it would be justified for a pontiff to bow out early if his health seriously inhibited his ability to do the job. Benedict had watched Pope John Paul II become frail in his final years and saw how the lack of strong leadership impeded the work of the church. With his own health faltering, Benedict apparently decided he wanted to set a different example.

Could this be a new precedent? Now that medical science can keep people alive, even as their bodies and minds are seriously diminished, lifetime sinecures are more problematic than in the past, when natural death could not be forestalled for years. By this act, Benedict is indicating that the old system does not work anymore and that the office is more important than the man who holds the office. For some Catholics, that is a troubling idea. They do not want to think that a pope is like a president or a prime minister, a mere mortal to be turned out of power and routinely replaced. For them, the pope is God’s anointed, the shepherd of a flock 1.2 billion strong who cannot simply give notice and head off to play golf in Palm Springs with other retirees. 

But the deed is done and now attention turns to the selection of Benedict’s successor. As in the past, progressive Catholics will be praying for a new direction, a choice that indicates a departure from the unbending theological conservatism that has held sway at the highest reaches of the church for decades. It is hard to imagine such a shift will come, however, since the Cardinals who will be choosing the new pope are appointees of Benedict and John Paul, the very men who sought to clamp down on the liberalization that swept though the church in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Even if the new pope looks different from the endless line of old European men -- an African or Latin American, for instance -- he will likely be a man who subscribes to traditional views. Do not expect priests to be allowed to marry or women to become priests anytime soon. Benedict may be going, but his conservatism has been institutionalized.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • John Brennan's killer drones are new symbol of America in the world

    John Brennan's killer drones are new symbol of America in the world

    It is certainly not what he hoped or intended, but one of President Obama’s biggest legacies in foreign affairs may prove to be the proliferation of drones as tools of war, assassination and terror.

  • Postal Service dying from 1,000 cuts and a GOP stab in the back

    Postal Service dying from 1,000 cuts and a GOP stab in the back

    As AOL used to say, “You’ve got mail!” But maybe not on Saturdays if the mail you are looking for is being delivered by the much-maligned “snail mail” of the United States Postal Service.

  • Drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea isn't worth the risk

    Drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea isn't worth the risk

    The Obama administration is being at least somewhat more cautious this time around in allowing Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Arctic waters of the Chukchi Sea. The company must keep its drills from reaching the oil reserves until it has the equipment in place that can shut down a well in case...

  • Richard Henry Dana's second act

    Richard Henry Dana's second act

    Richard Henry Dana Jr. told no one that he was turning 28 because, he wrote on Aug. 1, 1843, “birthdays are not pleasant occasions for hilarity with me and friends always feel bound to make them so.” Nevertheless, I trust Dana would have been delighted to know that friends of his classic “Two Years...

  • Would L.A. be better off without the Olympics?

    Would L.A. be better off without the Olympics?

    As epic collapses go, Boston's bid to host the 2024 Olympics wins points for speed, if nothing else. On Monday, Mayor Marty Walsh announced that he didn't intend to sign the International Olympic Committee's required pledge to cover any cost overruns on the Summer Games. Within hours, the U.S....

  • Behind the DWP rate hike: Where will that money really go?

    Behind the DWP rate hike: Where will that money really go?

    The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is asking customers to pay significantly higher rates over the next five years — from 13% to 34% more — to meet a crush of environmental regulations and fund long-delayed infrastructure upgrades and renewable energy projects.

Comments
Loading
78°