Reactions to and reflections on Benedict's resignation are accumulating as the day goes on. In what follows, I'll offer a sampling. My criterion for choosing among many different statements is in line with what I've been posting all day long: I think that if ever it were important for the shepherds of the Catholic church to listen to all Catholic voices, that time is now.
Those voices include those of many Catholics who are completely outside the elite clubs that allocate power and determine who belongs to the "official" conversation of the Catholic institution. It also includes huge numbers--and they're growing by leaps and bounds--of Catholics now strongly alienated from our church due to 1) the immoral behavior of our shepherds vis-a-vis abuse survivors and the abuse crisis, 2) the ongoing attack by top Catholic leaders on gay and lesbian human beings, 3) in the U.S., the shameless partisan politicking of the bishops and their pandering to the super-rich, and 4) the treatment of women, who are excluded from office and institutional power within the Catholic church, whose healthcare needs have been attacked by the hierarchy, and who are told to aspire to second-class citizenship in church and society.
It's time to listen. Specifically, to those belonging to groups I've just enumerated, who are legion . . . . What I'm reading at the major American Catholic blogsites today as responses to the papal resignation are posted is more of the same: trite pap and clubby, insider chit-chat that in no way reflects or responds to the depths of crisis in the Catholic church at present. Trite pap and insider chit-chat that in no way move outside the cozy boundaries of the centrist Catholic club to engage the many voices systematically excluded from the conversation of the Catholic club, who absolutely must be heard if the next papacy is to begin repairing the damage that the last two papacies have inflicted on the people of God . . . .
It's also time to listen to the voices of the many non-Catholics who maintain hope that the Catholic church recover its moral credibility in the public square and, equally important, that its leaders stop hurting certain targeted members of the human community discussed in the second paragraph above.
And so reflections about the papal resignation I'm finding helpful as the day goes on, in contrast to many being posted at the major centrist Catholic news outlets today:
At National Catholic Reporter, Sister Maureen Fiedler asks what we should look for in a new pope. A selection from her own proposal:
We also need someone who accepts and preaches the Gospel value of human equality for women and men, people of all races and ethnicities, and people of all sexual orientations.
So we need a "gutsy" pope: someone who would open up all roles in the church to anyone who qualifies spiritually and would not rule anyone out based on gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Such changes would likely mean standing up to lots of Vatican bureaucrats.
Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, by way of Terry Weldon at Queering the Church:
We are praying, too, for LGBT Catholics and their families and friends, whose lives were made more difficult living under Benedict’s reign both as pontiff and as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), where he served previously. For the last three decades, Benedict has been one of the main architects of the Vatican’s policies against LGBT people.
But the Pope has only been an ornament on a hierarchical structure that remains. Unless and until that Catholic Church’s structure returns to the pre-Constantinian consensual style that Jesus and his first disciples left behind, a new Pope will likely just continue business as usual. For that reason, President Obama must act now to signal to the worldwide Cardinals that business as usual is unacceptable and that the Catholic Church leadership structure must return to a consensual and accountable basis.
Hans Küng, who was a peritus along with the present pope at Vatican II, by way of Paul Owen and Tom McCarthy at the Guardian (and thanks to Jerry Slevin for emailing me and others Küng's statement):
It is to be hoped . . . that Ratzinger will not exercise influence on the choice of his successor. During his time in office he has ordained so many conservative cardinals that amongst them there is hardly a single person to be found who could lead the church out of its multifaceted crisis.
Equally Blessed, by way of Joshua McElwee at National Catholic Reporter:
With the pope’s impending resignation, the church has an opportunity to turn away from his oppressive policies toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, and their families and friends, and develop a new understanding of the ways in which God is at work in the lives of faithful and loving people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
He seems to recognize that the challenges the Catholic church now faces – its intellectual collapse in the West, the stench of moral corruption revealed by the decades of child-rape and cover-ups, and the resort to the crudest forms of authority and reactionaryism in response to new ideas, discoveries and truths about human nature – have now overwhelmed his physical and mental strength. At some point, the sheer human energy required to try and impose a moral authority already lost must have seemed hopeless.
And the damage has been enormous.
Look at Benedict’s legacy in Germany, his home country:
Since Benedict’s election in 2005, the number of people leaving the Catholic Church in Germany has more than doubled, and it’s been the highest most recently in Ratzinger’s former Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. Only 30 percent of Germans are still Catholic today.
In Ireland, the collapse has been close to total. At the start of his papacy, Benedict declared his intent to bring Catholicism back to intellectual life in Europe. He didn’t just fail; he failed catastrophically, accelerating the Church’s demographic, spiritual and moral decline in the West. Key pillars of the Wojtila-Ratzinger counter-reformation – like the Legion of Christ, the creation of the repeat child rapist and drug trafficker, Marcial Maciel – crumbled to dust. Key enablers of abuse were given rewards – Boston’s Cardinal Law springs to mind; other minor figures – including the monster who raped over 200 deaf children, Father Lawrence Murphy – were allowed a quiet retirement with no serious punishment; I called for the Pope’s resignation two years ago, as the full extent of his complicity in the child-rape crisis came into closer view . . . .
And Fred Clark at Slacktivist cleverly clears the air about rumors that he may be drafted to fill Benedict's shoes (as he also courteously calls me by my correct name as he issues this announcement, rather than calling me Bill Donohue):
Let me get this out of the way first: If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve.
And, finally, a valuable resource providing links to various sites offering good commentary: Phil Ewing at Blue Eyed Ennis.