Editorial: Benedict’s resignation could have major benefits
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 14:02
Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to step down from the papacy has been met with a varied and conflicted response, both from within the Catholic Church and without. How well this resignation has been executed and what the reasons behind it are remain up for debate, but we at The Maroon applaud the precedent set by the move as one which could ultimately prove beneficial to Catholicism.
The potential effects on the Catholic Church are of concern to everyone in the world and everyone at this university. Even if you are not a member of the Catholic Church, the university you attend is part of a larger Jesuit order, which answers to that church. The precedent set by Benedict’s resignation could have long- term consequences for Loyola University. And because the Catholic Church operates on a global stage, this precedent could also have major consequences for the world.
The power of precedent can be seen here in the United States. George Washington, our nation’s first president, stepped down from the presidency after only two terms, in spite of the fact that there was no official rule requiring him to do so. Indeed, no such rule was implemented until over a century later, after Franklin Roosevelt’s election to a fourth term and subsequent death.
For over a hundred years, the mere example of Washington was sufficient to set an unofficial term limit to the highest office in the United States, and when an official term limit was set it was set after his example. It is possible that Benedict’s resignation could set a similarly powerful example for the papacy, both officially and unofficially.
The potential benefits to Benedict’s resignation are enormous. For one, it may enable a more flexible and efficient church. If the papacy is no longer a lifelong commitment, then those who hold the office can do so in the years when they are most effective before age robs them of their faculties. And being able to step down prior to their death ensures there will always be a smooth transition of power from one pope to the next.
Benedict’s decision also has the potential to offer younger members of the Catholic Church better access to its upper echelons. In an environment where appointments last a lifetime, it is better to select older, wiser popes. Selecting older popes has the added benefit of preventing one poor choice from dominating the affairs of the church for extreme periods of time. If these positions no longer last until death, however, it opens the way for younger members of the Church to have access to great power.
It also improves the Church’s general involvement in world affairs. The Catholic Church has always been both a secular and spiritual influence across the globe — Benedict’s resignation allows it to better participate in world affairs by turning the office into something less personal and more democratic. If Benedict’s precedent is followed, the Catholic Church will be better able to select leaders for the times they are in and respond to ongoing issues and immediate crises with a pope suited for the times.
For several decades now, the Catholic Church has aimed to increase its involvement in the world, becoming more accessible to its members as it worked for the material and moral benefit of all the world’s people. Benedict’s resignation, whatever the reason behind it, has the potential to contribute to this trend and both increase involvement within the church and improve the world in general. We at The Maroon urge the Catholic Church not to let this opportunity go to waste.