I’ll start this by saying I don’t really have a dog in this fight. I consider many priests and nuns in the Catholic Church to be heroes, but I also have many, many friends and relatives who remember Catholic grade school back in the 50’s and 60’s, and won’t set foot in a church unless it’s for a wedding or funeral. I am a simple reporter here, forwarding information from other places.
Pope Benedict’s resignation from his office was a shock to much of the Christian world, not only for Catholics, but to a certain extent for Protestant and Orthodox denominations as well. It has been some 600 years since it happened last, and the Vatican’s excuse of ‘frailty and decline’ doesn’t wash. The Pope is much like the Queen Ant, who is less a monarch of her colony than a hapless object to be dragged from nest to nest and otherwise beholden to the masses of her subjects. In a somewhat similar vein, the Pope is a prisoner to a certain extent of his office and his followers. If he truly begins to fail, the staff can take the appropriate steps to protect him–limit appearances, control access to him, and make doctor’s ministrations as state secret. Something else might be at work here–conspiracy theorists immediately set to work.
We/They didn’t have long to wait. Apparently, the Holy See has been preparing a living space for Benedict at another locale for several months. Off-the-record conversations indicated that there were concerns that a resigned Pope who emigrated to foreign climes might inspire pilgrimages, especially if there is widespread disappointment with whoever succeeds him. And the Vatican, stuck with the prospect of two Popes alive at the same time, faced a number of theological and logistical problems as well. But a few days ago, Reuters laid out another scenario–Benedict is staying in the Vatican in the expectation of possible criminal indictments in the ongoing sexual molestation scandal. He’s staying in the one state that can guarantee him there will be no extradition.
I point you to the website for the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State, an organization started by those who suffered sex abuse at the hands of priests (who were subsequently protected from indictment or prosecution by the Catholic hierarchy). The ITCCS issued a press release last week indicating a timeline for the issuance of an indictment on Benedict and a commercial lien against the Church’s properties. They have apparently found a friendly nation (possibly Belgium) willing to issue the indictment and support the liens.
If the above is true (and I’m not saying it is), there are no guarantees that Benedict’s resignation will end the matter. A new Pope may get the same paperwork, or be unable to prevent Benedict from being served.