Benedict XVI announced today that he is resigning at the end of this month. He said that he was too old to continue to do the job required of the pontiff.
If that is the real reason, I admire his capacity for self-knowledge. It has seemed to me over the years that one of the great challenges of old age which too many of us fail is to recognize that we can’t do what we used to do. We might have accomplished a great deal, we might have been great leaders in our fields of endeavour, our contributions may have been significant.
But no matter how large or small our achievements may have been, we do not stay at the top of our game. Our physical and mental energies decrease. We are not what we were.
And quite possibly, the higher up the tree one has climbed, the harder it is to recognize this.
So if Benedict has in truth been able to recognize that he simply no longer belongs in the position of leader of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, I think his decision is one that many of us need to emulate in our own small ways.
But of course in this age of lost innocence, one cannot help but wonder. The popes have declared themselves infallible, but it has thus far been beyond even a pope to declare himself incorruptible, competent and wise.
Is there some scandal threatening to emerge, some new cover-up of hierarchical corruption, paedophilia, or hypocrisy that is what the pope really does not have the strength or courage to face?
I don’t know. Obviously I don’t know. I do hope this decision is one of humility and wisdom. If it is, it may perhaps be one of the biggest benefits to the church of this pontiff’s reign.