The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI came as quite a shock this week. He is nearing his 86th birthday and has come to the realization that he can no longer physically meet the demands of being the head of the Catholic Church. One thing that has not been widely reported was the fact that the Pope made this decision after he “repeatedly examined my conscience before God”. This is a fact that is lost on the media since there is little understanding that Christians live their lives in accordance to the will of God. It is not our decisions that matter, but the clear discernment of determining if our actions are in following God’s will.
Immediately after the announcement, the secular media began to evaluate Pope Benedict XVI. Apparently, having no knowledge of the duties or responsibilities of the papal office or even a basic knowledge of the Catholic faith is not an impediment to judging how well someone has done his duty. Pope Benedict XVI has been widely criticized as being too traditional and conservative. The hope is that the election of the new successor will be someone who can bring the Catholic Church up to the modern era. In other words, they want someone who will condone the current moral behaviors of the time.
This is grossly wrong on several levels. First of all, the Church is neither liberal nor conservative. It is neither traditional nor modern. The Church is about the Truth. It is not the truth as we understand it with our limited intellect. It is not the truth of the day. Societies have gone through countless changes in the last two thousand years. I thank God that the Church has not conformed itself to whatever the truth was proclaimed at any particular time in history. The Truth of the Catholic Church is about the Truth of Christ. Jesus said I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:5) That is the unchanging Truth I want to follow. What levels of pride can there exist in modern man who believes he knows more than God?
That brings about the second point. All sin originated from the fall of Adam and Eve. The root of that sin was pride. The evil one appeared not as an aggressor to be feared. He gained the trust of Eve by acting as a friend. He acted as someone out for her own best interest. He tricked her with his words of assurance, “You certainly will not die.” (Gen 3:4) It’s the same message given today that says to not worry about what you are doing. You need to do what makes you happy, to each their own, don’t judge others, etc. You will not be condemned. They want everyone to believe that there isn’t a God and even if there is, everyone will meet in heaven anyway. The popular media want a pope who will condone all behavior on the basis that it must be ok if lots of people are doing it.
The duties of the Pope include the responsibility to preserve and defend the Truths of the Catholic Church that was begun by Christ. He is not at liberty to change anything according to his own judgment. He is bound to speak as the Vicar of Christ leading the Church. When I go into a Catholic Church I know that it is the Church that has been preserved since the time of Christ. It is one of the reasons why it is so easy to believe in the Catholic Church. We have that assurance that the Truth is being preserved. It is not being twisted or perverted into the beliefs of any individual.
At the Last Supper, Christ was explaining to the Apostles that he was going to return to the Father and he assured them they would not be left alone to their own sinfulness and weaknesses. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains in you, and will be in you.” John 14:16-17
The only thing that matters in the election of the next pope is that the Cardinals follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth and select the man whom God has chosen to lead His Church on earth.