Mary Hunt writing at Religion Dispatches discusses the "matter of conscience" and how that might affect the Roman Catholic Church and its memebers:
The unexpected announcement of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is a welcome breath of fresh air. A human being, even a pope, ought to have the option to say enough is enough, I have done what I can do, and now it is time for someone else to take over. I applaud his move and read it as a sign of hope in a dreary ecclesial scene.
Speculation about his health is rampant. As with many elders whose offspring plot to take away the car keys, I suspect there was some backdoor lobbying to make this retirement happen. But I dare to hope that it was at least in part the considered judgment of an octogenarian who saw his predecessor propped up long after his prime and did not want the same for himself.
But before looking for the backstory there’s something in Benedict’s resignation statement that bears noting: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”[ed. emphasis]
Conscience, Benedict reminds us today, is still primary for Catholics. Examination of conscience: that is just the formula millions of us use to explain why we use birth control, enjoy our sexuality in a variety of ways, and see enormous good in other religious traditions. Conscience is the ultimate arbiter, and the Pope relied on his. Good on him, and good on the rest of us.
There has been a lot of fudging on the matter of conscience in recent decades. The post-Vatican II hierarchy has claimed that conscience is primary if, and only if, it is informed as they see fit. But Pope Benedict XVI is giving conscience a new lease on life. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander—the appeal to conscience cannot be denied now that the Pope himself has had recourse to it.
From the New York Times:
Jason Berry on one last thing he could do to help in the pedophile scandal:
Still, Benedict has one last chance to right some of the wrongs of the recent past by forcing out Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals and the man who, more than any other, embodies the misuse of power that has corrupted the church hierarchy.
John Patrick Shanley on the mess that he church is:
POPE BENEDICT XVI quit. Good. He was utterly bereft of charm, tone-deaf and a protector of priests who abused children. He’d been a member of the Hitler Youth. In addition to this woeful résumé, he had no use for women.
The Roman Catholic Church, which in so many ways has been a great boon to the City of New York, has been choked and bludgeoned into insignificance by a small group of men based in Italy.
I have watched the wealth of the Catholic Church turned into a subsidy for wrongdoing and a prop for the continuing campaign against women’s rights and homosexuality. Neighborhood churches, built with the hard-earned money of working-class people, are being sold off. The sacrifices that were made to build these churches were significant and local. The decision to close them has been made antiseptically, by remote control. The men who make these decisions are at a remove, very much involved in protecting their power and comfort.