|Benedict and Curia, December 2008|
And, to complement the two postings I've just published providing the testimony of LGBT Catholics, abuse survivors, and allies of both groups about Benedict's troubling legacy: here are two stellar theological reflections on Benedict's announcement by Catholic women scholars with compelling insights and clear vision--Mary Hunt at Religion Dispatches and Colleen Baker at Enlightened Catholicism:
What is news this time around is that rank and file Catholics want a new Church, not just a new pope.
We know that change is in the air because we put it there. Progressive Catholics all over the world are creating new forms of church since the old is so thoroughly discredited. No institution can withstand the onslaught of negative publicity that the Vatican earned over clergy sexual abuse and episcopal cover-ups without major changes. No hierarchy however fortified can hold out forever against spirit-filled steps toward equality and justice. This time, just electing a new pope will not do. Nor will closeting away a group of elite electors responsible to no one but themselves cut it for an election process.
Catholic people have consciences too. We expect to have a say in how we organize and govern ourselves. We cannot in conscience abdicate our authority to 118 mostly elderly men. Those days are over. If a pope can abdicate before he goes out feet first without the sky falling in then new egalitarian models of church can and will emerge too.
Part of that legacy, whether he intended this or not, is that he has made the point in spades that the office of Pope is just that, an office. It's not an ascension to a semi divine all knowing ontologically different human state. The Pope is not Jesus Christ with a private hotline to the Holy Spirit. The Pope is just another man who can get old and tired and admit the office is too much. It maybe this one act which will cement Benedict's legacy. It maybe this one act for which the Holy Spirit had anything at all to do with his election to the Papacy.
I find these statements by Catholic women scholars far more compelling, far more theologically rich, far more honest, than the trite pap--"why I came to love Benedict," or Benedict "the erudite professor" who shored up orthodoxy--of the Catholic-insider old boys' club. Nothing new under the sun with those folks, while this game-changing resignation is a decidedly new moment for the Catholic church, and requires new perspectives and the invitation of new voices into the club, if we want truly to understand what's happening to our church these days.