As the Christian world begins the season of lent in preparation for Easter, there could be no greater surprise than the news that Pope Benedict XVI will step down from the Papacy on February 28.

I wonder what the top story is today… Photo: Getty

Even though the reasons of deteriorating health are valid for an 85 year old pontiff, having not seen a Papal abdication since Pope Celestine V in 1296, (and even before then they were rare), the decision has met with expected shock.

Pope Benedict is the 264th successor of the Apostle Peter in a line that has seen empires rise and fall and dynasties come and go. No institution is able to claim a more ancient status than the Catholic Church and the papacy.

In modern times the Pope is referred to as the head of the Catholic Church, differentiating him from other Christian Churches and communities, but it is wise to recall that for the first thousand years of Christianity there was no other Church besides the Church led by the Pope.

The schism of 1054 between the East (Orthodox) and the West (Catholic) was, and remains, a tragic political blunder which will certainly one day be rectified.

The remainder of the Christian world goes by the name of ‘Protestant’ deriving most simply from a protest in the Middle Ages against the authority of the Pope. And so through the peaks and troughs of history, the Papacy has remained a constant.
The scriptural home of the papacy has always been the words of Jesus to his apostle Peter, commissioning him to take charge of the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

Peter was to act as the vicar of Jesus on earth and subsequent Popes have done the same. However as with most aspects of Catholicism, the role of the Pope is misunderstood, and we will see plenty of error trotted out as fact in the coming weeks.

We will hear Pope Benedict being referred to as a conservative Pope who took a hard line on women priests and contraception, but the truth is every Pope has taken the exact same stance.

While it is acknowledged that about eight Pope’s across the last 2000 years have lived morally or politically corrupt lives on a personal level, no Pope has ever, in his office as Pope, contradicted the teaching of the Christian faith.

This is simply because the role of the Pope is less about making up rules than it is about preserving what is classically called the deposit of faith.

Happily, the vast majority of Popes have been holy Christian men, but in one sense that has been a bonus. The role of the papacy exists to ensure that the official faith given by Jesus Christ is passed on, in its entirety, to every generation.

So out of the one billion plus Catholics on earth no one has less room to move than the Pope.

A Pope is not able to wake up one morning and decide to drop the 6th commandment or add a fourth person to the Trinity. The Pope can create laws for the Church in a particular time and place, such as the tradition of a celibate priesthood which could be changed by any subsequent Pope.

The Pope cannot decide however to ordain women as priests, because most simply, Jesus did not do that and the Pope would be going beyond his mandate.

Popes are not liberal and Popes are not conservative; Popes can only pass on what was given to them.

The world witnessed Pope John Paul II struggle through Parkinson’s disease in his later years until his death in 2005. At that time there was calls for him to resign and while that was within his rights to do so, John Paul used his sufferings to demonstrate an inner strength that became more evident as his frailty increased.

Pope Benedict in his notice of abdication, while acknowledging the value of suffering, feels he cannot adequately fulfill his enormous task as spiritual head of the Catholic Church.

He will no doubt retire to the quite life of prayer, study and piano playing that he had hoped for prior to his election as Pope in 2005.

This decision of Pope Benedict need not be turned into more than what it is. If anything we see in this that the Catholic Church is always bigger than any Pope, priest or individual.

For 2000 years the Church has been the people of God, following their Lord Jesus Christ, led by the successor of St Peter and nothing will change. The Catholic faithful and all people of good will no doubt wish Pope Benedict peace and health as he takes a back seat for the election of a new shepherd.

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    • Jim Moriarty says:

      07:37am | 12/02/13

      Maybe he’s resigning so he can play Emperor Palpatine in Episode 7?

    • Borderer says:

      08:24am | 12/02/13

      I think it’s so George Pell can be made Pope, Acotrel would implode in a vortex of indignation and outrage….

    • Gordon says:

      09:01am | 12/02/13

      Good one Jim

    • David says:

      10:44am | 12/02/13

      Pope Pell does have a ring to it…

    • Pedro says:

      02:30pm | 12/02/13

      In breaking news, Christopher Pyne elected LNP leader after Abbott accepts invitation to be the next pope. Promises to continue to sweep allegations of child abuse under the carpet.

    • Troy Flynn says:

      03:46pm | 12/02/13

      Pope Pell does have a ring to it…and a dress and Prada shoes.

    • sunny says:

      04:23pm | 12/02/13

      I saw an interview of Mark Coleridge the bishop of Brisbane this morning. This is the first I’d heard of him and I know stuff-all about the Catholic church but geez that bloke can speak - he’s clear concise and to-the-point and cuts through bullshit like a champion. The first thing I would be doing if I ran the show is put that waffling old fogie Pell out to pasture and give Coleridge the top job.

    • P. Darvio says:

      07:43am | 12/02/13

      So the Dear Leader CEO of the Christian Vatican State has a chat to his GOD and decides to resign.

      This wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that the Royal Commission into the Christian Priest Child Sex Rape Scandal is about to start in Australia around the same time he steps down? Seems very funny this Dear Leader is breaking with 600 years of tradition.

      Maybe another alternative reason is he has finally decided he really is an Atheist?

      Maybe he has been listening too much to Vatican Radio?

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/vatican-radio-is-told-to-pay-out-over-cancer-risk-scare-2228541.html

      I think the odds just shortened for the election of a Dear Leader CEO of the Christian Vatican State from Australia.

    • Q says:

      07:55am | 12/02/13

      You do understand the difference between Christianity and Catholicism…...don’t you?

    • John says:

      07:58am | 12/02/13

      There’s a lot not to like about the Pope, but when an 85 year old says he can’t do do the job because of bad health, you’ve got to take it at face value.

    • marley says:

      08:03am | 12/02/13

      Whatever his reasons for abdicating, I seriously doubt that a Royal Commission in Australia had anything at all to do with it.

    • subotic says:

      08:37am | 12/02/13

      I want the next Pope to be a married lesbian amputee atheist.

      Preferably “height challenged” too….

    • Wayne Kerr says:

      08:53am | 12/02/13

      @Q

      Catholicism is a Christian religion so what’s your point? Catholics worship Christ and so do other Christian religions.  There seems to be some misinformation about the Catholic faith usually sprouted by those who know absolutely nothing about it.

      DISCLAIMER: I’m a lapsed Catholic and atheist, I just get the shits when people try and misrepresent the Catholic church as being a non Christian organisation and get other facts wrong.

    • Q says:

      09:39am | 12/02/13

      Wayne Kerr indeed…..

      My point is that mr darvio has previously constantly referred to the pope as the head of the christian church, or that George Pell is the head of the Christian church in Australia…or he refers to the Christian Vatican state, which is incorrect. All catholics are christians, not all christians are catholic. There are fundamental differences. A little research goes a long way, but it seems to be lost on people like mr darvio, who let’s his obsession overrun the facts.

      BTW I am catholic and are just as miffed as you about misrepresentation. Ease up tiger…

    • Al says:

      09:39am | 12/02/13

      Wayne Kerr - actualy Christian is a meanigless grouping of various faiths.
      It was brought in to provide the illusion of increased numbers of belivers in a religion but there is no religion called Christianity, there are various different religions that are group together under this banner.
      It is a little like calling anything that swims a fish, it is inaccurate and misleading.
      Otherwise every person who identifies as a Christian would need to be able to defend the beliefs of every other person who identifies as a Christian as being the same beliefs, when there are some serious fundamental differences between the various faiths under this banner.

    • Schmavo says:

      09:44am | 12/02/13

      The Catholic religion has a history of moving people around at just the right time. Cardinal Pell, off to the Vatican perhaps?

    • subotic says:

      10:13am | 12/02/13

      Catholicism is a Christian religion so what’s your point?

      Catholicism claims to be a Christian religion. Standing in a garage doesn’t make me a car…

      Catholics worship Christ and so do other Christian religions.

      Most so-called Christian religions claim to worship God, about whom Jesus claimed to be His Son, not Him. Bit of a difference I say… 

      DISCLAIMER: I don’t practice any religion, I just get the shits when people try and misrepresent the Catholic church as being a Christian organisation and get the facts wrong.

    • marley says:

      10:17am | 12/02/13

      @Al - the same can be said of Islam, but we tend to think of all followers of the Prophet as being Muslim, whether they’re Sunni or Shia or Ahmadi.  I don’t see that Christianity is any different.

    • P. Darvio says:

      10:27am | 12/02/13

      Quote: My point is that mr darvio has previously constantly referred to the pope as the head of the christian church, or that George Pell is the head of the Christian church in Australia…or he refers to the Christian Vatican state, which is incorrect

      Sorry I have been through this before, on several occasions – you need to have your argument with the Christian (Catholic) Church – because they claim to be the only true church of the fictional Jesus Person.

      http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2007/07/10/vatican-church.html

      http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=24660

      http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=24660

      Even this resigning Dear Leader has confirmed this belief.

      Now needless to say I’m not one to be supporting any religious position, but as an Atheist and Anti-theist I can’t really try to argue with Christian logic like this.

      Maybe you can seek an audience with the resigning Dear Leader of the Christian Church and Christian Vatican State and see if you can change their minds. Good Luck – lets us know how you go.

    • Nostromo says:

      10:40am | 12/02/13

      @subotic: you forgot paedophiliac, necrophiliac, into bestiality & cannibalism, if you want the clean sweep! Though the 1st one is probably a given >;-p

      (ok, now you’ve dragged me down to your level, perhaps a few feet below…:-/)

    • Nostromo says:

      10:43am | 12/02/13

      @Q: “All catholics are christians, not all christians are catholic.”

      The 1st part is also very debatable, ahem. Hell, half the Christians in the world aren’t any more Christian than Hitler was! (self-Godwined! smile

    • Nostromo says:

      10:50am | 12/02/13

      @Al: *sigh*. All Christian faiths must subscribe to either the Apostle’s or (original) Nicene Creeds to be considered as such. Otherwise, they are collectively known as ‘heresies’ by all the ones that do follow those.

      Add to that a correct interpretation of John 3:16 (Christ being the Son of God & Man, Lord & Saviour, only path to salvation, etc, etc) & you’re pretty much there. The rest is just so much form, tradition, politics, sophistry & funds disbursement. smile

      Then again, up until recently, the aforementioned Catholic church considered ALL other Christian faiths heresies (orthodox & Anglican included), not sure if that’s still the official line though.

    • PW says:

      11:05am | 12/02/13

      “Sorry I have been through this before, on several occasions – you need to have your argument with the Christian (Catholic) Church – because they claim to be the only true church of the fictional Jesus Person.”

      Of course they do. The Anglican Church believe they are correct too. So do Hillsong, so does Islam, etc etc. EVERY faith believes it is the true one, even atheism. You wouldn’t expect anything else from any religion.

    • KJ says:

      11:07am | 12/02/13

      Nostomo, The Catholic Church didn’t just consider other Christain faiths are heresies they happily persucuted and attemped to exterminate them as well.  Wonderful Christian values Catholics of the past had.

    • Wayne Kerr says:

      11:09am | 12/02/13

      @Subotic, I usually enjoy your posts but dude you are wrong. 

      “Most so-called Christian religions claim to worship God, about whom Jesus claimed to be His Son, not Him. Bit of a difference I say…”

      Christianity is the worship/belief that through Christ’s alleged sacrifice that man will enter the kingdom of heaven.  So called Christian religions (including Catholicism)  do worship God but they also worship Hey Zeus being the son of God and the light, as it were. I didn’t spend my formative years being indoctrinated without not learning anything.

      @Q, apologies

    • Straya Numba Wan says:

      11:13am | 12/02/13

      Yes, the Vatican bases it’s decision on an Australian Royal Commission.

      In other news, NASA has decided not to go to Mars because they will miss the AFL grand final.

    • marley says:

      11:15am | 12/02/13

      @P. Darvio - yeah, we’ve been through this a few times before.  I’d be a little more impressed with the subtance of your argument if your entire knowledge of Christianity wasn’t garnered from Wikipedia.

      The Pope may claim to be the leader of the Christian Church (though I think he only claims to be the leader of the Catholic Church) - but a goodly percentage of the non-Catholic Christian world rejects that claim.  Why do you keep insisting of giving credence to the Pope’s utterances and not to those of the Archibishop of Canterbury or the Patriarchs of the Greek Orthodox or Russian Orthodox Churches, or the leaders of the Lutheran or Presbyterian Churches?  Is it because you actually don’t have a clue about Christianity?  Or because, deep in your heart, you think non-Catholics can’t be Christians?

    • subotic says:

      11:33am | 12/02/13

      @Wayne Kerr, I never read your posts but dude you are wrong. 

      Catholicism has more to do with ancient pagan religions than it does with ancient Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek texts, and all the worship/belief that through Christ’s alleged sacrifice that man will enter the kingdom of heaven doesn’t change that fact one little bit.

      I didn’t spend my formative years being indoctrinated & whipped by Catholicism education without growing up to despise it and wanting to see every last piece of that evil empire destroyed by all means necessary.

      Sooner the better…

    • Bruno says:

      12:00pm | 12/02/13

      That man will forever be remembered in human history even by his haters and enemies. The leader of one of the greatest institutions in history, if not the greatest. What will you lot be remembered for? Internet ramblings by angry people who have no voice in the decision making of destiny and so they come on websites. Don’t worry I feel the same. You’re the government’s personal credit card no more no less, worth little more than a piece of plastic, there will be no great mournings when you die, not many will care, won’t be on tv, in the news, nothing, no-one will remember you eventually. Don’t pretend you don’t want to be. We all want to be remembered. Unless of course we’re that much of a failure which I will give you the benefit of the doubt on. So leave the old bloke alone and those who find comfort in the institution he led.

    • Rob says:

      12:24pm | 12/02/13

      We saw the Pope at the Vatican just before Christmas - he looked like a frail old man who would struggle to make it to next Christmas, although it hadn’t occurred to me that retire was an option in that role.
      It is also apparent that the strength of the Church (numbers wise) lies in Africa and Sth America - not sure if the Church is ready for an African Pope (Cardinal Arinze?), but the odds against Pope Pell are astronomical - it would need the direct intervention of the Great Sky Fairy!

    • Al says:

      12:37pm | 12/02/13

      Bruno - just because you are remembered in history doesn’t mean you are good or great.
      Go and read a history book and see just how many nasty, evil and even stupid people and institutions are included.
      (BTW: I am not trying to imply that Benedict is actualy nasty, evil or stupid, just pointing out the huge error in your argument).

    • Pedro says:

      03:01pm | 12/02/13

      From Christopher HItchens

      He was wrong twice. In the first place, nobody has had to strive to find such evidence: It has surfaced, as it was bound to do. In the second place, this extension of the awful scandal to the topmost level of the Roman Catholic Church is a process that has only just begun. Yet it became in a sense inevitable when the College of Cardinals elected, as the vicar of Christ on Earth, the man chiefly responsible for the original cover-up. (One of the sanctified voters in that “election” was Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, a man who had already found the jurisdiction of Massachusetts a bit too warm for his liking.)

      Advertisement There are two separate but related matters here: First, the individual responsibility of the Pope in one instance of this moral nightmare and, second, his more general and institutional responsibility for the wider lawbreaking and for the shame and disgrace that goes with it. The first story is easily told, and it is not denied by anybody. In 1979, an 11-year-old German boy identified as Wilfried F. was taken on a vacation trip to the mountains by a priest. After that, he was administered alcohol, locked in his bedroom, stripped naked, and forced to suck the penis of his confessor. (Why do we limit ourselves to calling this sort of thing “abuse”?) The offending cleric was transferred from Essen to Munich for “therapy” by a decision of then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, and assurances were given that he would no longer have children in his care. But it took no time for Ratzinger’s deputy, Vicar General Gerhard Gruber, to return him to “pastoral” work, where he soon enough resumed his career of sexual assault.

      It is, of course, claimed, and it will no doubt later be partially un-claimed, that Ratzinger himself knew nothing of this second outrage. I quote, here, from the Reverend Thomas Doyle, a former employee of the Vatican embassy in Washington and an early critic of the Catholic Church’s sloth in responding to child-rape allegations. “Nonsense,” he says. “Pope Benedict is a micromanager. He’s the old style. Anything like that would necessarily have been brought to his attention. Tell the vicar general to find a better line. What he’s trying to do, obviously, is protect the Pope.”

      This is common or garden stuff, very familiar to American and Australian and Irish Catholics whose children’s rape and torture, and the cover-up of same by the tactic of moving rapists and torturers from parish to parish, has been painstakingly and comprehensively exposed. It’s on a level with the recent belated admission by the Pope’s brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, that while he knew nothing about sexual assault at the choir school he ran between 1964 and 1994, now that he remembers it, he is sorry for his practice of slapping the boys around.

      Very much more serious is the role of Joseph Ratzinger, before the church decided to make him supreme leader, in obstructing justice on a global scale. After his promotion to cardinal, he was put in charge of the so-called “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (formerly known as the Inquisition).

      In 2001, Pope John Paul II placed this department in charge of the investigation of child rape and torture by Catholic priests. In May of that year, Ratzinger issued a confidential letter to every bishop. In it, he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of the rape and torture. The accusations, intoned Ratzinger, were only treatable within the church’s own exclusive jurisdiction. Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden. Charges were to be investigated “in the most secretive way ... restrained by a perpetual silence ... and everyone ... is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office ... under the penalty of excommunication.” (My italics). Nobody has yet been excommunicated for the rape and torture of children, but exposing the offence could get you into serious trouble. And this is the church that warns us against moral relativism! (See, for more on this appalling document, two reports in the London Observer of April 24, 2005, by Jamie Doward.)

    • Rob says:

      03:34pm | 12/02/13

      @ Pedro.

      Christopher Hitchens does not know what he is talking about.

      The pope is Christ’s representative on earth. Infellaciable.

    • Levi says:

      07:46am | 12/02/13

      Cue regular leftist Punchers hurling insults at the man.

    • Chillin says:

      08:10am | 12/02/13

      The irony is the nutters it brings out accusing religious people of being nutters.

    • gobsmack says:

      08:28am | 12/02/13

      Good riddance to the useless old so-and-so.

      The creepy old man acted more like a fashion model than a religious leader.

    • NSS says:

      08:59am | 12/02/13

      Tends to be the rightists doing the religious insult hurling, I find, Levi.

    • Rhino says:

      09:20am | 12/02/13

      I never could understand why the man with the ear of god, always needed to ride about in an armoured car.

    • simonfromlakemba says:

      09:21am | 12/02/13

      How would that be any less typical then what you have wrote?

    • subotic D.D. says:

      09:26am | 12/02/13

      The Pope cannot decide however to ordain women as priests, because most simply, Jesus did not do that and the Pope would be going beyond his mandate.

      Jesus did not allow his followers to fiddle with kids.

      The Pope? Well….

    • Levi says:

      09:30am | 12/02/13

      How do you define creepy? And what evidence do you have that he is useless? Have you met him.

      I’m no supporter of religion of any denomination but the latest round of Catholic bashing in Australia is almost as similar to the kind of crap the Irish copped here and in the USA over Catholicism throughout the 1800’s and 1900’s. Just lay off it. I don’t see the same degree of unfettered criticism of religionists in Australia who advocate “beheading of infidels”.

    • Chillin says:

      09:39am | 12/02/13

      @NSS

      You obviously don’t get out much.

    • Paul says:

      09:45am | 12/02/13

      Levi, is your surname Ticus, by any chance?

    • Modern Primitive says:

      09:59am | 12/02/13

      I’m offended by this, you’re discriminating against righties who want to hurl insults.

    • Economist says:

      10:11am | 12/02/13

      Cue the queue of qualifying, quarantining of opinions before they’re even made. No quaereing or quodlibeting here please. Quietism is preferred.

      It’s not a matter of insults, but this is a brilliant piece of fiction by Bernard that glosses over the fallibility of the Catholic Church, and the fallibility of the men that claim to represents God’s authority on Earth.

      That it’s motives have been questionable, that atrocities have been made under it’s authority, that are anything but Christian. That for thousands of years it collaborated with Kings and governments to maintain exclusive power and only challenged the authority of Kings and governments when its own authority was being questioned.  That it destroyed civilisations for the purposes of extending its power, that conversion was essential.

      Yes, lets not acknowledge it’s past. That claims of “no Pope has ever, in his office as Pope, contradicted the teaching of the Christian faith”
      when its representatives have changed the rules when it suits them.

      When it is men being “political” in who will be the next Pope rather than actually being ordained by God or JC themselves. that far from being democratic, the selective society of it’s senior members is as corrupt as selecting members of any politcal party.

      No the Catholic Church has been integral in shaping our history in re-writing it to suit their agenda, and has far from been a force for good, like all religions. Precisely because decisions are made by people, not an all seeing omnipotent God.

    • NSS says:

      10:55am | 12/02/13

      @Chillin. You were saying?

    • Nostromo says:

      11:16am | 12/02/13

      @subotic: And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3)

      Perhaps he just got a little carried away with the interpretation…? <G>

    • Davo says:

      11:30am | 12/02/13

      Big YAWN !
      Who cares if the leader of a group of zealots who seek to change historical fact, wants to leave his position?
      Happy retirement, he made his mark by retiring instead of dying on the job.

    • St. Michael says:

      11:31am | 12/02/13

      @ Economist:

      “That claims of “no Pope has ever, in his office as Pope, contradicted the teaching of the Christian faith” when its representatives have changed the rules when it suits them.”

      All due respect, but that’s an incredibly simplistic sledge.  The first thing is that the Church’s beliefs and teachings have altered over time - you can see the first such evolution in the Book of Acts, which more than anything else talks about the struggle between Peter and Paul over whether to accept gentiles into the Church - a struggle that Paul won when he convinced Peter they should be accepted.

      Or for example, up until Galileo’s time the Church believed—like everyone else, secular or religious—that the Earth was the centre of the universe and everything revolved around it.  That would be because the Ptolemaic model of the universe was still scientifically supported.

      I grant you that the Church initially proscribed Galileo’s books—and bear in mind Urban VIII, the Pope who did it, originally was a big supporter of Galileo, a patron of the arts, the Pope who basically allowed Bernini to do his finest work—but it, too, got around to accepting Copernican astronomy pretty shortly thereafter.

      The point being: Christian teachings evolved over time, much as scientific ones have.

      And if you want an example of scientific representatives “changing the rules when it suited them”, look no further than the ongoing controversy over who invented calculus: Leibnitz, who came up with it first, or Isaac Newton, “father of modern physics”, who came up with calculus second but by dint of his position essentially changed the rules of acceptance of discovery to suit his own purposes?

      Or shall we talk about how several of the people mentioned above—Newton, Galileo, and Ptolemy—all faked their data in support of their preconceived conclusions, not the other way round as noble scientific principle would demand? That the same thing was done by Dalton and Mendel, so much so that no modern chemist has ever been able to replicate Dalton’s experiments?

      I grant you the article is a diabetes-inducing love letter to the Catholic Church and is trying to play on the cult of personality that some idiot Catholics buy into surrounding a particular Pope.  Even so: the generalist assertion that all the Popes were cynical power freaks and did nothing else of value is an ignorant assertion.

      Take Urban VIII, who was Pope when Galileo was proscribed and who is also accepted as conducting nepotism on a grand scale.  Against those sins, consider his 1638 bull: that natives who joined mission communities in South America were forbidden to be enslaved by secular groups.  That act alone saved thousands of indigenous lives, since they otherwise would have been taken by secular slavers.

      Indeed the Jesuit Order itself was often the only force standing between the indigenous populations of North and South America and their slavery.  The fact that it kept interfering with slaving activities, and secular expansionism by Portugal and Spain, was a reason the Order was suppressed.

    • Chris L says:

      02:03pm | 12/02/13

      @Levi - We’re not allowed to criticise him?

      Political Correctness gone maaaaaaad!!!!!!!

    • Stained says:

      03:31pm | 12/02/13

      @ Levi: Wow you don’t know much do you?  Labor was borne from the Catholic Church!!!!!
      Back in the 60’s you didn’t go far in the South Australian railways if you weren’t a tyke!

    • Stained says:

      03:32pm | 12/02/13

      @ Levi: Wow you don’t know much do you?  Labor was borne from the Catholic Church!!!!!
      Back in the 60’s you didn’t go far in the South Australian railways if you weren’t a tyke!

    • Tommy says:

      07:52am | 12/02/13

      What an amazing man. To give up a position of such power, respect, and authority requires so much humility. God bless him!

    • Ffgurg says:

      08:33am | 12/02/13

      I know all these words, but they make no sense put together in a sentance. Did you use a variant of the “Deepak Chopra quote generator” to make this comment?

    • barry from adelaide says:

      09:14am | 12/02/13

      For an 85 year old to retire due to ill health doesn’t seem particularly amazing or humble.

    • Tommy says:

      09:46am | 12/02/13

      Ffgurg, if hey don’t make sense together, I suggest you go back to school.

      The gross intolerance of atheists never ceases to amaze me.

    • gof says:

      10:55am | 12/02/13

      #Tommy
      “The gross intolerance of atheists never ceases to amaze me.”
      I have the same problem with Coalitionists.

    • KJ says:

      11:12am | 12/02/13

      Tommy, the whole history of the Catholic church is built on intolerance

    • Nostromo says:

      11:25am | 12/02/13

      @gof: I am outraged at your intolerance of Liberaluvas & also at the previous offense/discrimination of lefties/righties & the general gross intolerance going on around here, HMPH!

      (as an aside, anyone wanting to get a good grasp of traditional politics & power structures in the Vatican, and the Catholic church in general, should watch The Borgias)

    • ?? says:

      11:55am | 12/02/13

      i hate reilgion/faith knockers. god also has an A list in this life, and the knockers are clearly not on it. so, all they do is fill up their mindless little lives with booze, drugs, materialism, sleeping around and struggling every single day of their lives.  just shut up and get back to work, nobody cares what you think or have to say.

    • Meph says:

      12:41pm | 12/02/13

      “nobody cares what you think or have to say.”

      Shirley not a very “christian” attitude to have. I do however smell a troll.

    • Chris L says:

      02:05pm | 12/02/13

      “The gross intolerance of atheists never ceases to amaze me”

      Whereas nowadays I don’t find the gross intolerance of religion even slightly amazing any more.

    • ruby says:

      02:58pm | 12/02/13

      @  KJ says: 11:12am | 12/02/13
      Tommy, the whole history of the Catholic church is built on intolerance

      Surely you mean the whole history of MAN is built on intolerance !

    • Pot Stirrer says:

      07:53am | 12/02/13

      Great article. No doubt the media will still try and speculate whether the next Pope will be conservative or liberal though

    • Anon from SA says:

      09:00am | 12/02/13

      Really!?

      Did you read it?

      1. “no pope has ever ... contradicted ... the Christian faith” just changed it to suit himself when needed.

      2. “the pope cannot decide ... because ... Jesus did not do that and the pope would be going beyond his mandate” but plenty of popes have made up stuff, like no contraception, that Jesus didn’t mention regardless,

      3. “the ... pope is less about making up rules than ... preserving .... faith” except when he is making up rules based on his faith.

      Enough.

    • Shane* says:

      07:54am | 12/02/13

      Thanks Bernard, but I don’t think you’ll find too many sympathetic ears on The Punch.

      Even if Benedict was effectively CEO of the world’s largest feeder, counselor, educator and provider of healthcare, he will still be lambasted in this thread for failing to do more to punish sex offenders. It’s not entirely unfair, but it does lack a certain understanding of the limitations of his office.

    • Bomb78 says:

      02:13pm | 12/02/13

      Funny how 7 hours after Shane*‘s comment, there is plenty of bitter spats above, but no response here. Probably says a lot about the quality of ‘debate’ on The Punch currently. .
      The greatest sadness as a Catholic is that the actions of a few pedophiles, covered up by many men who should know better, foul the good works undertaken by millions of Catholics world wide.

    • Al says:

      08:02am | 12/02/13

      “no Pope has ever, in his office as Pope, contradicted the teaching of the Christian faith” HAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!
      You have heard of the papal approvals of a few things called the Inquisitions right?
      You know those papal sanctified torture, murder and humiliation of the innocent people based on anonymous accusations, political beliefs and confessions gained through torture.
      I believe that that would fit the bill as being contrary to the teachings of Jesus.
      And that isn’t going into the massive accusition of wealth, prosecution of Jews and Protestants (and unbelivers), kidnapping of children etc.

    • Tommy says:

      08:46am | 12/02/13

      Al, you are so ignorant of history. The Spanish Inquisition was a political movement, not sanctioned by the Pope, by the Spanish monarchy of the time, which used the Spanish church to help preserve their authority.

      There is a world of difference between Popes doing bad things as men and as administrators of the Church, and using their position as Pope to attack teachings of the Church.

      Go and do some research before, and preferably instead of, making such ignorant and ludicrous statements.

    • Alex says:

      08:59am | 12/02/13

      You totally missed the point Al.

      Bernard said there were unfortunately men, with weaknesses, that did the wrong thing. But that only shows more wonder that at the same time they did not contradict the deposit of faith. That means they did not overturn any official doctrine of the church and change it, despite the pressure and influence of society and even others within the church. Just like our own time when the Church is seen as archaic and lost because it won’t agree with contraception, divorce and practising homosexual acts. It’s a constant preservation of the teachings of Christ regardless of the moral quality of the Popes.

      Do some brief reading and educate yourself about what the deposit of faith is - you’ll see Bernard is right, and maybe you were a bit quick to repeat the tired truism that we’re all human…

    • Mi says:

      09:01am | 12/02/13

      Al - typing laughter in capital letters sure does help your point across.

    • Al says:

      09:42am | 12/02/13

      Tommy - you do realise that there were a number of other inquisitions (not just the Spanish inquisition) which were DIRECTLY instigated by the pope don’t you?
      Oh, and do you understand the concept that what is actualy considered fundamental tennets of the religion have changed over time by the popes as well?

    • Al says:

      09:59am | 12/02/13

      Alex - so you are saying that despite changing papal rules, and approving conduct that is directly contradictory to the teachings of Jesus and even engaging in this cinduct themselves they “did not contradict the deposit of faith”?
      I can only think of one word appropriate to describe that and it is ‘delusional’.
      Go and have a look at the papal bills that have actualy changed the doctorines of church throughout history and you may be surprised. Sure some were latter overturned by a latter pope, but that doesn’t mean the original change didn’t happen.

    • Tommy says:

      10:50am | 12/02/13

      Al, please give specific examples of:

      1. “a number of other inquisitions (not just the Spanish inquisition) which were DIRECTLY instigated by the pope”

      2. “what is actualy considered fundamental tennets of the religion have changed over time by the popes as well”

      You obviously don’t understand the concept of supporting claims with evidence. But then again, I’ve found that critics of the Church tend to oppose it out of a guilty moral conscience rather than out of any genuine intellectual objections.

    • Alex says:

      10:56am | 12/02/13

      Al, so very sure in your ways, so, let’s say, dogmatic.

      Please respond to Tommy, please do.

      I do hope in the next few days you appreciate the learning curve you are about to embark on about what the deposit of faith means.

    • Al says:

      11:25am | 12/02/13

      Tommy:
      1) Just from a quick internet search, but also supported by documentary evidence from the Vaticans own records:
      The Medieval Inquisition was a series of Inquisitions (Catholic Church bodies charged with suppressing heresy) from around 1184, including the Episcopal Inquisition (1184-1230s) and later the Papal Inquisition (1230s). The Medieval Inquisition was in response to large popular movements throughout Europe considered apostate or heretical to Christianity, in particular Catharism and Waldensians in southern France and northern Italy. These were the first inquisition movements of many that would follow.
      The Cathars were first noted in the 1140s in southern France, and the Waldensians around 1170 in northern Italy. Individual “Heretics”, such as Peter of Bruis, had often challenged the Church. However, the Cathars were the first mass heretical organization in the second millennium that posed a serious threat to the authority of the Church. This article covers only these early inquisitions, not the Roman Inquisition of the 16th century onwards, or the somewhat different phenomenon of the Spanish Inquisition, which was under the control of the Spanish monarchy using local clergy. The Portuguese Inquisition and various colonial branches followed the same pattern
      2) Fundemental tennets that have changed, lets see the Bible is no longer considered the literal word of God in all aspects, that’s a simple one.
      Also, rainbows are no longer considered as a sign of Gods covenent with his people but is recognised as a natural phenomena, before this acceptance it was heresy to suggest otherwise. Various other changes to what is and is not included as part of the core religous doctorine (i.e. the bible). Changing the religous doctorine actualy changes the faith.

    • Tommy says:

      11:46am | 12/02/13

      1) Both of the inquisitions you mentioned were completely de-centralised, the comments you made about “papal sanctified torture, murder and humiliation of the innocent people based on anonymous accusations, political beliefs and confessions gained through torture.” simply do not apply.

      2) The Bible has never been officially considered by the Church to consist entirely of the literal word of God - again, check your facts. Augustine in the 4th century, as well as some of the first Popes, held the current view of the Church, that is, that each part of scripture is the word of God, but it can be interpreted in the literal, spiritual, and fuller sense. Indeed, the refusal of the Church to compromise its core moral and theological doctrine is a key part of why it has had the credibility to survive for 2000 years, and in my view will ensure it survives until the end of humanity.

    • Alex says:

      11:49am | 12/02/13

      Dear Al, you haven’t answered the question. You firstly go back to the Inquisition - thanks for that. We’ve dealt with that and moved on. The Inquisition was never part of Church doctrine. No dogmas, no formal statements, no ex cathedras, no dogmatic constitutions.

      You then seem to think that you know about what dogma is, again without doing any homework. Typing some words in google and clicking the top link does not get you a pass grade…  Show us where in Catholic doctrine is used to be stated that Catholics should interpret all of the Bible literally. Then show us where in Catholic doctrine it used to be stated that the belief in proved science, such as the cause of rainbows, was heretical if it clashed with the Bible’s figurative meaning.

      Oh, and good luck. Don’t search for those things too long.

    • St. Michael says:

      12:01pm | 12/02/13

      “Then show us where in Catholic doctrine it used to be stated that the belief in proved science, such as the cause of rainbows, was heretical if it clashed with the Bible’s figurative meaning.”

      Well, there was this fellow named Galileo Galilei…

    • Al says:

      12:07pm | 12/02/13

      Alex - I am not going to waste my time traveling to the Vatican to get access to the documents (which would likely be denied to a non-Catholic anyway) to support the points that have been recorded outside the church such as punishment of people who proved that rainbows were not a sign from god but a natural phenomena.
      Besides, what they say on paper is nowhere near a revealing as the hypocricy and recorded history of what they have actualy done. Including changing the doctorines, they are regularly reviewed and adjusted.
      Perhaps you should have a read through the history of science and how many who were pioneers in science AND members of the church were persecuted for being engaged in heretical activities.

    • HC says:

      12:23pm | 12/02/13

      @Alex and Tommy

      I don’t think the victims of the various Inquisitions appreciated the difference between a catholic clergyman torturing them to confess to heresy who was doing so under the orders of a Pope or a King.  The fact is if the popes of the time didn’t directly order the Inquisition they certainly supported it and contributed substantial resources to it.  Trying to wriggle your way out of the sins of the Catholic Church instead of owning up to them just makes the entire Catholic institution look childish.  We all make mistakes - some religions more than others and yours (if you’re Catholic) has been especially cruel to mine (Jewish) over the centuries whether papally condoned or not and for no other reason other than we were different to you.  I mean it took you lot nearly 2000 years to stop falsely blaming us for crucifying your god!

    • St. Michael says:

      01:04pm | 12/02/13

      @ HC:

      “”[The Jews] ought to suffer no prejudice. We, out of the meekness of Christian piety, and in keeping in the footprints or Our predecessors of happy memory, the Roman Pontiffs Calixtus, Eugene, Alexander, Clement, admit their petition, and We grant them the buckler of Our protection.  For We make the law that no Christian compel them, unwilling or refusing, by violence to come to baptism. But, if any one of them should spontaneously, and for the sake of the faith, fly to the Christians, once his choice has become evident, let him be made a Christian without any calumny. Indeed, he is not considered to possess the true faith of Christianity who is not recognized to have come to Christian baptism, not spontaneously, but unwillingly.
      Too, no Christian ought to presume…to injure their persons, or with violence to take their property, or to change the good customs which they have had until now in whatever region they inhabit.
      Besides, in the celebration of their own festivities, no one ought disturb them in any way, with clubs or stones, nor ought any one try to require from them or to extort from them services they do not owe, except for those they have been accustomed from times past to perform.
      ...We decree… that no one ought to dare mutilate or diminish a Jewish cemetery, nor, in order to get money, to exhume bodies once they have been buried.
      If anyone, however, shall attempt, the tenor of this degree once known, to go against it…let him be punished by the vengeance of excommunication, unless he correct his presumption by making equivalent satisfaction”
      —Sicut Judaeis, under Calixtus II, 1120.  That was a direct response to what the Crusaders did on the way to Jerusalem, and coming with full Papal authority.

      Also note that Pinchas Lapide credits the Catholic Church and Pius XII in particular as being instrumental in saving at least 700,000 Jews from the Holocaust.  And that’s before you get to Catholics (overwhelmingly, Polish Catholics) like Maximilian Kolbe who spoke out against the Holocaust and against Hitler’s mad genocide.

      It’s Nostra Aetate, a Vatican II document, that lays out explicitly that Christianity does not hold present-day Judaism, or indeed all those present at Christ’s condemnation, responsible for his death.  Benedict himself even repudiates the historicity of the much-maligned verse that brought this about.

      Would you condemn present-day Catholics for the sins of their ancestors? The Vatican got around to saying it was wrong to do that sort of thing about seventy years ago.

    • HC says:

      02:11pm | 12/02/13

      @St Michael

      I’m not condemning Catholics the people, I’m condemning the institution they belong to for its endorsement or support or even just deliberate ignorance of anti-Semitic activities under its domain.  They are 2 very different things and the people do little to hold the institution to account.

      And Pius XII is mercurial to say the least and that 700,000 figure is not to be attributed to him personally nor the institution of the church itself since this was primarily carried out by individuals of their own accord and is counter-argued by various positions the Papacy took that highlights a gross inconsistency in the church’s response to the Holocaust.  For example, in 1940 Pius XII did nothing to prevent Jews in Spain from being deported to Germany after being asked to intervene and the same for Jews in Lithuania and while Pius XII personally intervened on occasion there was no concerted effort by the Catholic Church as a whole to rescue Jews (and others) from Nazi Germany only Catholic individuals with consciences.

      At best, the Pope’s reaction to the Holocaust was complex and inconsistent.  At times, he tried to help the Jews and was successful.  But these successes only highlight the amount of influence he might have had, if he not chosen to remain silent on so many other occasions.

    • St. Michael says:

      03:29pm | 12/02/13

      “I’m not condemning Catholics the people, I’m condemning the institution they belong to for its endorsement or support or even just deliberate ignorance of anti-Semitic activities under its domain.  They are 2 very different things and the people do little to hold the institution to account.”

      It seems to me you are condemning Catholics the people, because you noted two sentences later that “the people do little to hold the institution to account”.  Which is it?

      I also pointed you to a thousand-year-old document that basically is the Pope himself saying “Hands off the Jews”.  That is neither endorsement or support, and I don’t quite see how you get “deliberate ignorance” into that without a pretty good foundation of evidence otherwise.

      “And Pius XII is mercurial to say the least and that 700,000 figure is not to be attributed to him personally nor the institution of the church itself since this was primarily carried out by individuals of their own accord and is counter-argued by various positions the Papacy took that highlights a gross inconsistency in the church’s response to the Holocaust.”

      I had some difficulty parsing this sentence.  My main point is: the 700,000 comes from an Israeli, i.e. Jewish, historian.  Not from the Church. Indeed if the Church was as morally bankrupt as you suggest I would’ve expected its own estimates to be higher than that.  But it’s objective scholars making the estimates, not starry-eyed Catholic theologians.

      As to the objection it was individuals doing it of their own accord: the problem with that thesis being that many did it as a direct expression of Catholic faith and Catholic teachings in particular.  St. Maximillian Kolbe, for example, typifies the theology of the time: “Yes, it is necessary to do this [assist the Jews] because all men are our brothers.”

      “But these successes only highlight the amount of influence he might have had, if he not chosen to remain silent on so many other occasions.”

      If, if, if.  Go read Harry Turtledove if you want alternate history, not to mention that hindsight is always 20-20.  As it is, I can think of a rather big potential “if” had Pius XII gone harder or began shouting from the rooftops that Nazism was murdering Jews: Hitler’s army rolling into the Vatican, obliterating all of its nineteen-hundred-year-old repositories of history, art, and literature, and having a jolly little book-burning party right in the centre of St. Peter’s.  Possibly followed by beheading Catholic priests en masse (you’d be familiar they were prisoners in Auschwitz along with the Jews, yes?) He’d done the latter many times in Germany already.  Did you ever consider the idea that Pius XII was playing a delicate diplomatic game to try and keep the Nazis out of the Vatican so the Church’s underground railroad could continue to run? It’s not like the Swiss Guards could keep a column of Panzers from shelling St. Peter’s Basilica.

    • Nathan Poe says:

      08:03am | 12/02/13

      The Pope is such an important man. His values and decisions are infallible. Just look at his views on contraception and homosexuality. It’s so good to see someone leading the Christians of the world in the right direction. Best of luck to him.

    • cityboy @ Sydney says:

      08:39am | 12/02/13

      You are pulling our collective leg there, Nathan….... right?

    • David says:

      09:44am | 12/02/13

      Maybe if the Church was more open to the issues you have raised we would not have the problems in the world we currently have. Over population in some parts of theworld through a lack of contraception, the issues homosexuals face everyday from people such as yourself. The Church is stuck in the 19th century with some of it’s ideals and needs to move forward into the 21st century and away from the era of burning heretics at the stake. Just look at how the Vatican aided the Nazis to escape Europe after World War 2 and they are yet to apologies for helping mass murderers escape the Allies who were going to bring them to justice. The continual denials, even up until current time, of child abuse from those within their ranks whilst the evidence was undeniable. Now is the perfect opportunity for the Church to get it’s house together and join the rest of us in the 21st century. You are welcome to join us Nathan Poe when you have finished filming ConAir

    • Davo says:

      11:32am | 12/02/13

      Sorry mate, I am really sorry for you

    • St. Michael says:

      12:10pm | 12/02/13

      “His values and decisions are infallible.”

      Well, no, and the Catholic Church itself does not hold that either.

      I won’t trouble you with restating the whole Wikipedia article on Papal Infallibility (ex cathedra, doctrinal only, etc, etc), go and read it for yourself.

    • James1 says:

      03:33pm | 12/02/13

      Look up Poe’s Law, gentlemen.  That should give you a clue that “Nathan Poe’s” post is actually a parody.

    • Colin says:

      08:12am | 12/02/13

      I had a Pope lawnmower once. It always used to go on the first pull. I also used to mow my neighbour’s grass.

    • John says:

      08:49am | 12/02/13

      I had a Pope garden hose. It was full of hoies, holier than thou, in fact.

    • Colin says:

      09:34am | 12/02/13

      @ John

      Ah, the Pope garden hose; I had one of them too. It used to burst all of the time and spray everywhere - especially when anyone touched it.

    • religion is a joke. says:

      10:40am | 12/02/13

      Especially when the kids touched it , right?

    • Colin says:

      11:18am | 12/02/13

      @ religion is a joke.

      “Especially when the kids touched it , right?”

      Well it was so seldom touched that it was anyone, really.

    • Your name:KJ says:

      11:29am | 12/02/13

      Too many kinks in Pope garden hosies.  You could say they were kinky

    • Christine says:

      08:18am | 12/02/13

      Thank you for your article Bernard. Well done!

      Pope Benedict at 85 has obviously made a difficult but wise decision following medical advice and prayerful consideration.

    • DaveM says:

      08:19am | 12/02/13

      When the going gets tough, the pathetic get going!  I guess he doesn’t have to answer for all the abuse inquiries now, how convenient!, Can we get our money back? ( i.e $127 million dollars for the pope’s Australian holiday!)

    • SAm says:

      11:41am | 12/02/13

      Pretty sure a commision into some rogue priests at the arse end of the world isnt whats spooked him..

    • sha says:

      08:23am | 12/02/13

      Not catholic.not interested.See no real worth in the office of the pope.Bemused and confused about the hytsreria surrounding the pope on my visit to the Vatican where I did see pope john Paul waving from a window.the nuns fluttering around me were acting like teenage girks at a Justin bieber concert.Ridiculous.

    • Mee says:

      09:02am | 12/02/13

      Sha - Why did you bother going? So you could tell people how ridiculous it was? You’re a sad sad person.

    • Chillin says:

      09:03am | 12/02/13

      Not Catholic. Not interested, bemused and confused BUT you went to see the Pope in the Vatican…

    • Alex says:

      09:04am | 12/02/13

      Catholic. Interested. I think the girls at the Justin Bieber concert are ridiculous.

    • KJ says:

      11:33am | 12/02/13

      Sha didn’t say the visit to the vatican was to see the pope but that the pope was seen while visiting the vatican.  You don’t have to be Catholic to visit the vatican.  It can be appreciated for its archtectural values and place in history.

    • John says:

      08:24am | 12/02/13

      This news has push terror down my spine.
      There is only one more pope! meaning the end is near.
      Peter the roman will be the new pope.

      “In the extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit.[70]”

      .
      268   112 Peter the Roman, who will nourish the sheep in many tribulations; when they are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The end.”

      Jesus is coming with in the next 20 years? Judgement day with in 20 years?

    • subotic says:

      09:22am | 12/02/13

      Will Elvis take the place of Jesus in a thousand years?

      A growing boy needs his lunch…..

    • St. Michael says:

      11:42am | 12/02/13

      Oh for Christ’s sake, this again ... what next, the old Pope Joan story?

      These are the “prophecies” of St Malachy, which the Church doesn’t endorse or accept - in fact it’s generally thought to be a 16th century forgery, mostly because every Pope up to 1590 has an explanation for the cryptic phrase said to describe the Pope, but every Pope afterwards has none - i.e. the damn thing was written in the 1600s and postdiction was applied to make the prophecies fit prior to that date.

    • subotic doesn't believe says:

      12:48pm | 12/02/13

      These are the “prophecies” of St Malachy, which the Church doesn’t endorse or accept

      And because The Church ® doesn’t endorse or accept it then it can’t be true….

    • St. Michael says:

      01:09pm | 12/02/13

      So, subotic, on one hand you don’t want to believe in the God worshipped by an irrationally-based church that clings to the views of what you’d probably call a madman and his followers, but you are now endorsing as true the irrational prophetic views of another madman who turned out to be a saint of the same said church?

      It’s not just the Church who disregards it.  Every reputable scholar who’s looked at the documents says the same thing.  That’s the main reason the Church takes that view.

    • subotic says:

      02:21pm | 12/02/13

      Mick, honest to sweet baby Elvis in the manger, there’s no “want” involved. I have no belief in the teachings of the Catholic church. None. In it, or it’s adopted triune Mesopotamian mountain demon.

      Nor am I “endorsing” St Malachy by saying that someone should be allowed to believe in that diatribe. The point is the “freedom of belief” bit. Regardless of what it is. 

      But, in all honesty, believe me…. Tar. Brush. All.

    • Bored says:

      02:23pm | 12/02/13

      Subotic

      I was wondering why so many insects around us feed off the dead smile

    • DaveM says:

      08:25am | 12/02/13

      With the boss giving up, can we now close down the catholic business!, We could save trillions of tax payers money around the world, if we sell off all the catholic property we could feed the world! ( p.s. can I have his million dollar gold ring?)

    • Bomb78 says:

      02:21pm | 12/02/13

      And what does the said ‘trillions’ go towards DaveM? Schools, hospitals, poverty programs. Plenty of nuns working for food and board in Africa. You keen to volunteer on the same conditions?

    • Suzanne says:

      08:31am | 12/02/13

      First Pope to resign in over 600 years.  Sorry there is more to this.

      He is not in hospital, he is mobile.  Smoke screen

    • Kika says:

      09:27am | 12/02/13

      It does seem odd, doesn’t it? Given his butler was stealing his secrets so somebody somewhere knows something and he quits. Weird, isn’t it?

    • kyra says:

      10:04am | 12/02/13

      dementia/alzhiemer’s maybe?

    • Ally says:

      10:42am | 12/02/13

      Yes, it’s obviously a conspiracy and not at all related to the fact that he’s 85. There are reports his doctors have banned long haul flights, he’s admitted that he’s no longer up to the demands of the job:

      “However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

    • NSS says:

      02:20pm | 12/02/13

      His predecessor was obviously too ill to continue in the role in anything other than name for some time before he died and the world knew it. I suggest this is an attempt to avoid the same situation, where the Cardinals and Vatican officials were playing puppeteer. To me, it’s a wise move. CEOs should step down before they are carried out.

    • DaveM says:

      08:31am | 12/02/13

      Good riddance, One less EVIL man making decisions for the stupid.

    • Chillin says:

      09:21am | 12/02/13

      Yes leave that for the ALP.

    • Zack says:

      10:12am | 12/02/13

      At least he doesn’t get a $600,000 yearly pension with perks funded by the taxpayer smile

    • fml says:

      12:30pm | 12/02/13

      @zack,

      You’re right, your figure is missing at least three zero’s…

    • DaveM says:

      08:44am | 12/02/13

      This would be a good time to SHUT DOWN the catholic church all together now that the coward leader has given up.

    • Blazes says:

      08:51am | 12/02/13

      The greatest thing about Pope Benedict was his ability to discern right from wrong based on sound theology, and not looking at opinion polls in some western countries to determine teaching on same-sex marriage etc. Unlike so many modern religious leaders, he never fell for the logical fallacy of Argumentum ad Populam.

      One of the great things about the Church is that it is not the least bit like a political party. It’s great when organisation genuinely pursue truth, as the Church does, rather than being committed to gaining members/power and nothing else, like the ALP. I’m confident his successor should also have this attitude, which is so badly needed in the moral relativism of the 21st century.

    • David says:

      09:49am | 12/02/13

      Pursue the truth? Just like they way they swept child abuse allegations under the carpet in the same manner. Please tell me how a priest can give advice or pass comment on marriage when they cannot have that same life experience

    • Austin 3:16 says:

      10:32am | 12/02/13

      Hey aren’t we having an inquiry into child abuse in this country ? An inquiry largely brought about by the Church suppressing information and stymieing investigation.

      You’ve described a great institution there Blazes, such a pity it doesn’t exist.

    • Blazes says:

      10:43am | 12/02/13

      1. A fair point about child abuse, I didn’t say there aren’t incompetent or even evil people inside the Church. Being made up of humans, of course this is the case (by the way, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Cardinal Pell or Pope Benedict ever did anything wrong on the child abuse scandal). But pedophilia is a problem throughout society, not just in the Church.

      2. Jesus didn’t have a married life experience, and yet he still passed comment on marriage. So your 2nd point is just plain silly.

    • Mark990 says:

      12:39pm | 12/02/13

      Pursuing the Truth?!?!? The entire basis for all religions is “faith” which is pretty much the opposite of seeking out truth. “Believe this. Don’t ask why. Just have faith”.

    • Blazes says:

      02:08pm | 12/02/13

      Mark990, if you honestly think that, all I can say is that you have obviously met very few religious people. Maybe get out of your little inner-city leftist circle and meet some normal people.

    • Austin 3:16 says:

      03:00pm | 12/02/13

      —pedophilia is a problem throughout society, not just in the Church—

      Yeah but covering up child abuse and protecting the abuser seems to be a Church speciality.

    • Blazes says:

      04:47pm | 12/02/13

      Not necessarily, Austin, see the example of Peter Roebuck, and some of the cases in the boy scouts for instance.

    • Christopher P. says:

      08:51am | 12/02/13

      No loud chatter please; George is very busy polishing up his revised CV in his Roman palace retreat!

    • Mick S says:

      08:52am | 12/02/13

      Frankly, I am more interested in who will coach St. George Illawarra next year than who will be the next pope.
      On the other hand, I could never understand how Anglicans can avoid the embarrasment of knowing that their church was founded by an English king who wanted to change wives more times than the pope thought was a good idea.  Scarcely the basis for a religion.

    • P. Darvio says:

      08:58am | 12/02/13

      Yes - there is still time - but nothing will happen.

      http://www.smh.com.au/world/pope-still-has-time-to-act-on-sex-abuse-says-group-20130212-2e9fw.html

      “No matter how tired or weak Pope Benedict may be, he still has two weeks to use his vast power to protect youngsters. Before he steps down, we hope he will show true leadership and compassion and take tangible action to safeguard vulnerable children,” read a statement by SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
      “Imagine the shock waves - and the hope - that would be generated if, in his waning days, the pontiff demoted, disciplined, or defrocked even a handful of bishops who are concealing child sex crimes. And imagine the deterrent that would be to present and future cover-ups,” they stressed.

    • T says:

      08:58am | 12/02/13

      This is probably the only article on the punch about religion worth reading and perhaps the only written that is not negative. God bless the Pope. I just pray that the next Pope will be just as benevolent.

    • davo says:

      11:50am | 12/02/13

      Lots more NOTHING coming right up !

    • Douglas Lawrence says:

      09:00am | 12/02/13

      Interesting “Australia-centric” comments there from over the Tassie ... next Pope will be from New Zealand surely!

      That speculation aside, while the facts show - and the media isn’t showing yet - that because of this Pope, who met with victims and tackled this tragic and previously misunderstood social problem, going further any other institution in the world to put in place vital reforms to protect children - systems of safeguarding that are exceptional and recommended for other institutions to follow - making the Church transparent, accountable, and one of the safest places for young people, we are better off because of this Pope ... see http://www.amazon.com/Catholic-Voices-Putting-Church-24-Hour/dp/0232528632 

      We have the media to thank for helping with this process but now they need to tell us the full story about the present situation if comments like the above are still being made in relation to the safety of our children.

    • Wayne Kerr says:

      09:00am | 12/02/13

      Well according to the prophecies of St Malachy the next Pope will herald the downfall of Rome and the Vatican.
      End of days if I understand it correctly
      Stay tuned folks.

    • Chillin says:

      10:23am | 12/02/13

      You believed in Y2K and the Mayan calendar too I imagine.

    • Wayne Kerr says:

      11:37am | 12/02/13

      @Chillin, my post was meant to be sarcastic. {sigh}

      Nope didn’t believe in the Mayan Calendar.

      Y2K, the only reason we didn’t have problems was because of the years of work IT geeks like me carried out to avoid any problems.  Yes it was totally blown out of proportion by the media but that doesn’t mean there definitely wasn’t real risks

    • The Galah from Hervey Bay says:

      09:03am | 12/02/13

      Pope Benedict has paved the way for the election of a non-european Pope simply by being Non-Italian . Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson , is current front-runner but the Conclave is notorious for electing members of the Roman Curia’s Vatican administration. Personally , i would be delighted to see Cardinal Turkson elected as leader of thw world’s largest Christian church. At 64 years of age , Peter Turkson has the physical and mental capacity required to deliver fresh leadership and necessary decision making in the 21st century.

    • Trevor says:

      10:36am | 12/02/13

      Ah yes, an african pope. The executiuon of homosexuals can go worldwide!

    • The Galah from Hervey Bay says:

      01:16pm | 12/02/13

      Trevor…it would be a shame if constructive comment was diverted from these columns because zealots troll with the purpose of denigrating the genuine commentary .

    • Austin 3:16 says:

      03:06pm | 12/02/13

      Gee Galah, it’s a commentary on which bigoted old man in a dress gets to lead a backwards and repressive cult.

      You want to be constructive how about supporting EEO or LGBT rights ?

    • Tim the Toolman says:

      09:08am | 12/02/13

      “Popes are not liberal and Popes are not conservative; Popes can only pass on what was given to them.”

      And are thus, more or less useless in fixing up the archaic, backwards doctrines of the Catholic Church.  Still, I suppose someone has to sit atop the piles of cash like Scrooge McDuck and tell people how they’re all evil degenerates each year.

    • Modern Primitive says:

      10:11am | 12/02/13

      You know we have freedom of religion now, right? If you don’t like the churches teachings you can ignore them and let the Christians get on with it.

    • marley says:

      10:21am | 12/02/13

      Actually, I’d have said that if Popes “can only pass on what was given to them” then they are, almost by definition, conservative.

    • Tim the Toolman says:

      04:16pm | 12/02/13

      “You know we have freedom of religion now, right? “

      But not freedom from religion.  We’re still stuck with them avoiding tax and funneling money etc…not to mention their involvement in schools trying to indoctrinate children.

    • Josie says:

      09:08am | 12/02/13

      So it begins..the vultures come out…I love reading your atheist, bigotry comments. You can all give your opinion, cry that Catholics (because we are talking about Catholics, not Jehovas Witnesses as they are the ones who literally believe in Judgement day - you are so smart I though you would know that?) are mean because they don’t condone gay marriage, or some priests are guilty of paedophilia, they don’t allow abortions etc etc.
      Don’t tarnish all Catholics with the same brush please - it shows not only your ignorance but your immaturity and frankly it is ridiculous.
      You won’t change my opinion or respect for the man who decided that the best person for this job needs to be young in mind and body and is choosing to step down. What is his crime specifically? 
      Put your little claws away guys..do you have to ruin and comment on everything? Surely some counselling is in order for all this built up hatred?

    • Tim the Toolman says:

      09:59am | 12/02/13

      “What is his crime specifically?  “

      Really?  Do you want to go into that?

      “Surely some counselling is in order for all this built up hatred? “

      No, just the dismantling of the most dishonest, corrupt organisation the world has known would be good.  Lying, promoting ridiculous superstitions that cause untold suffering, actively torturing people through history and doing so for nearly 2000 years.  Yeah, wonder why people would be annoyed with that group.

    • Josie says:

      10:35am | 12/02/13

      @ Tim - Aww I was wondering when you would show up! My mornings entertainment! I love how you quote two things out of that paragraph - that’s all you got?

    • Chillin says:

      10:37am | 12/02/13

      Have they done any good Tim, fed the poor, housed the poor, clothed the poor????

      Can’t think of anything?  Continue with your false hysteria then.

    • Tim the Toolman says:

      04:34pm | 12/02/13

      “Have they done any good Tim, fed the poor, housed the poor, clothed the poor???? “

      You think murderers often aren’t good fathers?  Don’t do charity work?  Should we just excuse the murderers and rapists?

      “I love how you quote two things out of that paragraph - that’s all you got? “

      Very well:

      “the vultures come out”

      You start off confrontational, like most religious people.

      “I love reading your atheist, bigotry comments. “

      You accuse atheists of bigotry yet require special exemptions from legislation to practice your ongoing discrimination.  The next part is grammatically illegible…I don’t know what you’re rambling about.

      “Don’t tarnish all Catholics with the same brush please”

      The institution is at fault.

      “You won’t change my opinion or respect for the man “

      Once again, religious mind set.  Regardless of logic, or reason, you’ve made your mind up.

      “do you have to ruin and comment on everything?”

      One could ask the same question about the religious demanding that others conform to their ways, often murdering them if they don’t acquiesce.  Don’t think that because your particular brand of lunacy is currently more moderate that we forget how vicious you can be.

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      09:09am | 12/02/13

      “No institution can claim a more ancient status than the catholic church & the papacy”
      Wrong.
      Judaism & Hinduism are two religions which can lay claim to ‘ancient status’ 1000s of years before Christianity.
      Though not a religion (which requires the belief in some other-worldly, super-natural, omniscient, omnipotent being) Buddhism was in existence for at least 500 years before Jesus started his teaching. Interestingly, cutting out the God bits, Jesus’ teachings are almost identical to those of Siddhattha Gotama who became known as “The Buddha”, which simply means “The Enlightened One”. He was not, is not, nor ever will, be a “God”. In fact he taught quite the opposite & that people should be Self-reliant.
      How come Jesus’s teachings are identical to those of Siddattha? Other than being, as claimed, a carpenter, what did Jesus do before he started his teaching at about 30? Did he, in fact, travel to India & study the teachings of Siddhatta, adopted them & added them to his deeply ingrained Jewish beliefs.
      In 325AD there was the 1st Ecumenical Council at Niceae. One of the attendees argued that as “Jesus was the only begotten Son of God” he must not have existed before God created him. How many millions of people refer to God as “My Father in Heaven”. That does not mean that God is, in fact, their biological father. Jesus may, note that, may have referred to “my father in heaven” but you can guarantee that if he had claimed that Yahweh (God) was, in fact, his biological father his fellow Jews would have probably stoned him to death for blasphemy. They would simply have accepted that when he referred to ‘my father in heaven’ (if indeed he ever did) he was referring to a spiritual father.
      Nathan Poe: Even the Catholic Church has long since abolished the concept that the Pope was infallible. The Infallibility of the Pope was in religious terms a very new concept & in their hopeless attempt to re-unite the Anglican & Roman Churches some years ago they (the RCs) agreed to drop that ridiculous claim.

    • NSS says:

      09:10am | 12/02/13

      I tend to think that if the Pontiff can remove the celibacy rule for priests he can also decide to ordain women. Jesus had female disciples but the culture of the time did not permit women to hold authority. The Church has simply chosen to continue the tradition. It’s not an article of faith, in my opinion, just a convention.

      It will be great if the Catholic church does elect a more progressive and liberal Pope this time. Doubt it, however. Inertia and its power structure will see to that.

    • Interloper says:

      02:49pm | 12/02/13

      A good point, NSS. I’ve always thought the ‘Jesus didn’t, so we can’t’ argument pretty flawed also. Jesus (so far as we know) didn’t have any dark-skinned apostles either. Or clean shaven ones, probably.

    • Al says:

      04:30pm | 12/02/13

      Interloper - re “Jesus (so far as we know) didn’t have any dark-skinned apostles either.”
      Shouldn’t that (also) be Jesus (so far as we know) didn’t have any caucasion apostles either? After all, they were all from the middle east.

    • Interloper says:

      05:07pm | 12/02/13

      @Al,

      Yes indeed.

    • AdamC says:

      09:15am | 12/02/13

      I am not totally convinced by this argument that the Pope must always, uncritically accept prior interpretations of scripture. All religions evolve over time and texts are interpreted differently to suit changing societies. Even in the Catholic Church!

      Of course, that is not to say that the Church, or its leader, should start changing their beliefs just to suit atheists, lefties, gays and the rest who are not Catholic and do not believe in God.

      Both Benedict XVI and John Paul II were Popes who managed to reach out to people outside the Church without sacrificing the Church’s values and beliefs.

      I hope the next Pope follows that model.

    • Interloper says:

      02:53pm | 12/02/13

      It’s not usually a matter of interpreting scripture, more that of approving theology (a body of scholarly work).
      When the facts change, the Church’s opinion does eventually change. For this reason, I expect that eventually homosexual relationships will be accepted by the Church, once they realise that they are natural and therefore God-made.

    • Vatican HR Dept: says:

      09:32am | 12/02/13

      JOB OPENING!!!
      Dont miss your chance to be part of this wonderful organization, with lots of perks and tax benefits. including life in the here and now, and the possibility of life in the here after!!
      Suitable applicants would ideally be an elderly, single male who enjoys wearing extravagantly embroidered silk gowns, bedazzled and diamenty encrusted hats and Versace ruby red slippers.
      experience in relocating employees who enjoy sexual encounters with children(to locations without extradition treaties of course), waving and the ability to keep a straight face while living in a palace collecting tax free money under the guise of “charity” is a must!
      MS office and an understand of how AIDS spreads not a requirement.

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      01:35pm | 12/02/13

      Vatican HR Dept:
      Just a wee mistake in what you say!
      “The possibility of life in the hereafter”
      It is Guranteed! All Popes are Guranteed automatic entry into Heaven, Paradise or whatever name you want to give it. They are all, according to themselves, Guaranteed a Seat on the Right Hand of God. He must have one hell of a big right hand.
      Doesn’t matter if as, an adult like Pius, was it the XII? did you actively supported what Hitler did or were just a youngster & Voluntarily (NO it was not compulsory but it helped you & your family get extra benefits if you did join) joined the Hitler Youth. It doesn’t matter if, as Bishop, ARchbishop, Cardinal etc. you actively protected your fellow-priests, monks, nuns etc. when they got caught indulging in a bit of illegal, criminal hanky-panky with little boys & girls you are Guaranteed a spot in Heaven. It doesn’t matter if you took part in that sort of naughtiness the Guarantee stands.
      Why can’t these lace, satin, silk & kid-shod (Yes, they kill baby animals to make those shoes & do it especially for the Pope), jewel-encrusted, ermine & gold-trimmed dresses the Pope & his Cardinals deck themselves out in just wear simple, no nonsense clothes instead of decking themselves out like pathetic old (they are all old) Drag Queens?

    • Vatican HR Dept says:

      02:27pm | 12/02/13

      Robert S McCormick:

      Pope Formosus would disagree, then agree, then disagree again…?

    • Brendan says:

      09:34am | 12/02/13

      A great man. The Church will miss its German Shepherd.

    • David says:

      09:35am | 12/02/13

      The Catholic Church needs to elect a younger Pope who can re-generate interest and belief in the church’s teachings. Under Benedict the church has gone backwards and has lost touch with it’s people who it needs to have to spread the word. Many Catholics I know thought the election of the current Pope was a mistake for the church in this modern era. The next Pope needs to be aged between 50-60 and be more media & technology savvy, people friendly and be able to communicate better with the world. The new Pope must have a clean history and free from any dirty political background like the innuendo that has surrounded Benedict’s alleged facist links. The move back to more latin was a mistake and needs to be corrected. With so many modern faiths in this world the Catholic Church needs to show that it can be progressive and address the issues of today by playing a more active role in society or it will be left behind. One thing of note is that the Pope’s retirement comes not long after all the Vatican documents were released by one of his most trusted aids.

    • Arti says:

      09:36am | 12/02/13

      Please don’t try to pass off your opinion that the Pope was leader of the church for the first 1000 years of Christianity as fact. The Orthodox Church does not and has never considered the Pope to be the leader of the Church.

    • Iggy Crash says:

      09:45am | 12/02/13

      Just a fact check. Pope Gregory stepped down in 1415 to end the schism.

    • Tony G says:

      09:48am | 12/02/13

      The Catholic Church is the greatest load of mythical nonsense ever devised on humanity. Ritualistic silliness by men who want power and control.
      All religions are man made.

    • chuck says:

      09:50am | 12/02/13

      Pity some of our politicians and judges don’t take the hint too!

    • dafall says:

      09:59am | 12/02/13

      Ex Benedict?

    • Alan says:

      10:45am | 12/02/13

      @dafall

      Best comment yet!

    • Rita says:

      10:15am | 12/02/13

      The Church of England also has problems with handling the issue of pedophilia among their men of the frock. The fact completely ignored by our media.
      Just wondering…

    • Hymn 43 says:

      10:16am | 12/02/13

      Gnostic texts have recorded that Mary Magdalene was a disciple of Jesus. A close, and wise disciple unlike the others. Gosticism was wiped out by the Church after the Council of Nicea when Constantine needed political support. So what the leader of the Congregation for Doctrine of Faith might offer before he departs is why Jesus, who preached love and forgiveness, called for the slaughter of the gnostics, pagans, manicheans, bogomils, cathars, women and other heretics. Why was the Church so afraid of these people? What did these groups of people do that the Church couldn’t forgive nor love so had to burn them at the stake?

    • St. Michael says:

      12:28pm | 12/02/13

      Nice talking to you, Dan Brown.

    • My God says:

      06:11pm | 12/02/13

      It’s actually British progressive rock band Jethro Tull, Mick. its song writer, Ian Anderson has confirmed over time with his work a keen interest in the esoteric and mysteries. Maybe if you weaned yourself off the fiction and opened your mind you would discover a world of mystery and spiritulity all around you including in places the Church would not have us look.

    • Issa says:

      10:19am | 12/02/13

      Thanks Bernard. Well written article.

      Undoubtedly people will dispute the facts and article without much thought, research or true understanding of who and what the Catholic Church is.

      Benedictus qui venit

    • MJ says:

      10:20am | 12/02/13

      Honest question: what happens to him now?  I’ve never heard of a Pope retiring, so I really don’t know.  Does he revert to his old name?  Does he stay at The Vatican like a father figure (a bit like how the Queen Mum was still a senior member of the royal family when her daughter became Queen)?  It’s just hard to imagine him going from being the Pope to living in a German nursing home playing bridge in the games room with other German seniors, many of whom have probably spent most of the past decade revering him as the head of their religion.  I’m not Catholic and my question isn’t meant to be offensive, it’s just something I’ve been wondering about this morning.

    • David says:

      10:47am | 12/02/13

      I think he will return to Germany, he is no longer call Pope Benedict, he will go back to being called Cardinal Ratzinger, and on his death, he will thereafter be known as Pope Benedict again.

    • Alan says:

      10:52am | 12/02/13

      Excellent query MJ.

      Will he get perks such as a pension, car and driver, gold card, season ticket at Roma FC?

    • Davo says:

      11:47am | 12/02/13

      After 600 years, there are no pension arrangements for him, I hope they give him food and shelter at least!

    • Ally says:

      02:00pm | 12/02/13

      I believe it was said that he’s retiring to a monastery and will go back to being called Cardinal Ratzinger. So the same sort of life as any other elderly member of the cloth.

    • Saint says:

      10:38am | 12/02/13

      He was a bit young. Most of the other Popes are 100s of years old.

    • Greg says:

      10:41am | 12/02/13

      The Ten Commandments are the laws that liberate us from barbarism.

    • P. Darvio says:

      10:56am | 12/02/13

      Are these the same Ten Commandments that Fictional Moses Person brought down that Mountain, and then instructed his soldiers and priests to commit genocide, and then take all the virgin women and virgin female children as sex slaves?

      No wonder our society has so many problems - seems religion has a lot to answer for.

    • Al says:

      12:45pm | 12/02/13

      P. Darvio - don’t worry, as a quote from Red Dwarf “That’s genocide, not murder, I think thats OK.”

    • Bella says:

      10:46am | 12/02/13

      Good riddance. I hope this is the beginning of the end for the Catholic Church. Worthless, evil institution that brainwashes the masses.

    • gof says:

      10:59am | 12/02/13

      #Bella ,
      “Catholic Church. Worthless, evil institution that brainwashes the masses.”
      I agree! What religious denomination is the leader of the opposition again!

    • Interloper says:

      02:58pm | 12/02/13

      @gof
      Not just the leader of the opposition. There’s the shadow treasurer, the shadow communications minister ... and of course on the other side the defence minister, the communications minister, the agriculture minister ...
      Sorry, what was your point?

    • gof says:

      10:48am | 12/02/13

      Maybe he resigned out of good conscience! I mean how penance does a Pope have to pay for having a little naughty thought of that painting of Mary hanging on the ceiling?

    • Bear says:

      11:06am | 12/02/13

      Just a few millennia in purgatory. Especially if it’s the one with the big boobies.

    • gof says:

      11:42am | 12/02/13

      #Bear ,
      And what for shaved? I am not up to date with the current penance value.

    • Typical whinger says:

      10:52am | 12/02/13

      It’s all a leftist scam, don’t fall for it!

    • Deano says:

      11:04am | 12/02/13

      Cardinals, Popes, Bishops are modern day Pharisees that Jesus spoke about. Not all are bad but they put themselves above everyone and put heavy burdens on others that they themselves can’t carry out.

      Jesus, came to the world and became poor, humble and a servant, it’s a far cry from what is promoted by the Catholic Church who desire riches, power and glory.

      A side note, Jesus had brothers, Mary had sex with her husband.

    • Zeta says:

      11:11am | 12/02/13

      Catholicism is little more than a gnostic death cult elevated to the status of State Religion by degenerate Romans.

      Irrespective of who the pontiff is, the Church still stands for consolidating power into the same brand of feudalism it did 1700 years ago.

      If we have to be lead by despots, I’d like them to at least pretend to have elections.

    • St. Michael says:

      11:33am | 12/02/13

      They do.  It’s called a Conclave.

    • Zeta says:

      01:10pm | 12/02/13

      I mean elections people vote in, you know, democracy, the cornerstone of peaceful society.

      The conclave could be picking names out of a hat for all you know.

    • St. Michael says:

      02:03pm | 12/02/13

      Cardinals are people.  And democracy isn’t always the cornerstone of peaceful society.

      It also isn’t picking names out of a hat.  Records of the votes counted for each vote of the Conclave for the past, oh, nine or ten Papal elections at least are all on Wikipedia, go look them up.

    • fml says:

      02:14pm | 12/02/13

      I’ve watched angels and demons, it has helicopter crashes, burning of flesh and explosions in the sky. Oooh also a bunch of quests, sorta like the papal version of die hard 4.

    • Zeta says:

      03:25pm | 12/02/13

      Cardinals are people in only the barest definition. And they’re certainly not democratic. They’re not elected, they’re selected based on the Byzantine politics of the Holy See, they wield tremendous power, not just over the hearts and minds of Catholics, but as the effective dictatorship of an incredibly wealthy, tiny city-state.

      If there’s anything history teaches us about the Vatican, it’s that they lie. Frequently and easily. And why not? They don’t have to face the public every few years and have their inadequacies laid bare - they answer to an existential concept.

    • St. Michael says:

      03:40pm | 12/02/13

      Dude, if you like Angels and Demons, wait until you see what Dan Brown does with geology and biology in “Deception Point”, and with mathematics in “Digital Fortress”.

    • St. Michael says:

      04:52pm | 12/02/13

      “They don’t have to face the public every few years and have their inadequacies laid bare - they answer to an existential concept.”

      Ah yes, because the threat of a general election or indeed media exposure makes politicians in democracies honest men.

    • marley says:

      05:40pm | 12/02/13

      Well, all I can say is, if that Canadian gets elected Pope, I think it’s an excellent system.  If he doesn’t, well obviously, it’s “fixed.”  Otherwise, I really don’t care.  Does this mean I’m damned for all eternity?

    • Michael says:

      11:16am | 12/02/13

      “The role of the papacy exists to ensure that the official faith given by Jesus Christ is passed on, in its entirety, to every generation.”
      ...The fundamental teachings of Jesus and the teachings of the Catholic church could not be further apart…

    • Interloper says:

      03:01pm | 12/02/13

      That’s a bit harsh.

      Some of the practices might be. The vast majority of the teachings are pretty close.

    • SAm says:

      11:16am | 12/02/13

      Ah well, sure he has his reasons. Dont think I’ll get into some sort of religeous argument here but I couldnt help but notice the author’s mention of ordaining women priests as impossible because ‘Jesus didnt do it’. I dont think thats entirely true for one, and second, theres a heck of a lot that the church does that Jesus didnt do.
      Perhaps use some more clear rationale in the future?

    • Chris says:

      11:17am | 12/02/13

      I find the article shallow.  For one thing, teaching on sexual ethics is not core doctrine and it could be changed.  Orthodoxy is generally defined around the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds. 

      The real issue about sexual ethics and life issues is that the Church believes it is correct on principled grounds based in natural law philosophy.  Their position has nothing to do with “conservatism” as such.  Unfortunately these issues are rarely raised in the western media, let alone understood.

      The media tends to apply the label ‘conservative’ on the basis of a few litmus tests around attitudes to sex.  So for instance, Benedict’s stand for social justice or love or hope in his three encyclicals does not matter, because he did not approve forms of sex that preclude reproducation.  That means he is “conservative”.

      Or they attribute all decisions of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith to him, when in fact decisions of the Congregation are taken collectively and in many ways accord with the policy of the pope of the day.  So he is “God’s rotweiler”

      Yet, having read numerous works by Benedict, I think the media is basically off beam about his supposed “conservatism.”  His interpretation of doctrine can be quite interesting: see for instance his view that Jesus in the resurrection did not have a material body but a “corporeality stemming from the Holy Spirit” (Eschatology:Death and Eternal LIfe.) My sense is that he is far less ‘conservative’ than John Paul II.  At least, Benedict emphasised the role of beauty, literature, and nature in a way JPII did not.  JPII was much more interested in the notion of truth and, of course, holding the line on contraception, abortion and all the rest.  Yet the narrative in the media is quite the opposite: JPII was a saintly man of the people, but Ratzinger is just an enforcer of orthodoxy.

    • Greg says:

      11:29am | 12/02/13

      Only he who believes is obedient. Only he who is obedient, believes.It is so hard to believe because it is so hard to obey.
      For those with faith, no explanation is necessary.Remember that what you believe will depend very much on what you are.

    • Speedy says:

      11:43am | 12/02/13

      I posted this on a site this was linked from but figured I’d post it here too…

      I totally agree that Popes can only pass on what was given to them by Jesus.

      But then why is it so much of what catholicism presumes to preach was not addressed by Jesus? After all Jesus didn’t presume to identify homosexuality as a ‘sin’ (and nothing in the 10 commandments explicitly addresses homosexuality).

      Jesus or the bible also never talks about family planning and I can never recall a pope going in and trashing the temple like Jesus did… If it was good enough for Jesus it should be good enough for the Pope.

      I saw a meme earlier today with a picture of Benedict with the words “Chosen by God” QUITS and found it quite amusing but it is also very accurate in showing the Catholic Church for what it is a Man-made organisation lead by a man (not by God, and interpretation of any religious foundations is hugely different than what any god may have to say).

      As a human organisation there exists an opportunity for the Catholic Church to make a choice to go back to the very basic principles of their religion of Love and Compassion and by doing so try to bring some peace and equality to this world and maybe, just maybe together we can put our energies and money into eradicating poverty rather than into outdated rituals that were designed to transition the religious beliefs of the populous from paganism to Christianity. 

      A lot of people have been declaring their religious sentiments so I might as well to: I’m agnostic.

    • St. Michael says:

      11:57am | 12/02/13

      “Jesus or the bible also never talks about family planning and I can never recall a pope going in and trashing the temple like Jesus did… If it was good enough for Jesus it should be good enough for the Pope.”

      Nitpick: Jesus of the Bible also does not trash the temple.  He throws out all the merchants making money off it, but because it’s a holy place: “Scripture says, my house shall be a house for all the peoples, but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”  On Jesus’ death the veil of the Temple is torn in two—which, if it literally took place, symbolises the fact that the separation between God and man that the veil represented is now gone.  But that’s all the damage done.  The Romans trashed the temple about 50 years later.

    • Interloper says:

      03:13pm | 12/02/13

      @ Speedy:
      1, Catholicism doesn’t identify homosexuality as a sin. It says that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered because it sees them as self-evidently not in accordance with nature. I think this is wrong, but my point is that Catholicism more than the other Christian religions is less about following the Bible literally and more about trying to figure out rationally what God would want.
      Many Catholics would agree that eradicating poverty is more important than the rituals. Look at Catholic institutions like St Vincent de Paul society and Caritas.

    • Philosopher says:

      12:07pm | 12/02/13

      I agree with Michael.  The faith of Christ and the apostles has nothing to do with the religion of Rome. The RC Church took over the cult of the Triune God in Rome.  The title Pontiff or Pontificus Maximus is a Pagan Roman title of the senior elder (5th in rank) who chose the priestesses of the Temple of Vesta.  The College of Cardinals who wore red and red hats is the ancient pagan system of cardinals of the Roman Curia long before Christianity. The system is based on the system of the worsdhip of the god Attis which became based on Rome.  The Easter cult is that of the killing of Attis and the Resurrection by the Mother Goddess Cybele. The very name Easter is the Anglo-Saxon word for the goddess Ishtar or Istar or Ashtoreth the consort of Baal. Any academic with a knowledge of the history of religion knows exactly what it is.

    • St. Michael says:

      12:25pm | 12/02/13

      Meh.  Adopting the uniform does not mean adopting the values of that symbol.  Hell, there were certain Native American tribes that had a swastika as their symbol, I didn’t see Hitler smoking peace pipes or wearing feathers in his hair.

      I mean, the English legal profession began wearing black robes as a token of mourning for Queen Mary II a few hundred years ago, you don’t think they still drink toasts to her memory do you?

    • James1 says:

      03:08pm | 12/02/13

      While your comment is true, Philosopher, that doesn’t make the Catholic Church extraordinary compared to other brands of Christianity.  All of them emphasise certain aspects of the New (and in some cases, Old) Testament, in the process overlooking the teachings of Jesus Christ.  For instance, no modern church urges slaves to be obedient to their masters, despite the New Testament telling Christian slaves to do so.  In that sense, no church is consistent with the teachings of Christ and his apostles. 

      You would be more accurate if you were to say “the faith of Christ and the apostles that my church emphasise has nothing to do with the religion of Rome”.  They are both drawn from the same books, they just emphasise different elements.

      However, my understanding is that Easter is drawn from the same root word as estrogen, and is the Christian version of ancient fertility festivals (hence the rabbit and egg motif - ancient symbols of fertility).

    • iansand says:

      12:20pm | 12/02/13

      A Pope getting retirement benefits?  Next they’ll be asking for penalty rates for working on Sunday.

    • Francis says:

      12:25pm | 12/02/13

      Bernard Toutounji takes many liberties with history. The papacy, as we know it, is the product of a long history of development and is modelled more on the role of “emperor” than Peter. In fact, in the New testament, there is no mention of a successor to peter, or to any of the apostles. Peter disappears without trace in the New testament and no one takes his place. In the early Church the Bishop of Rome was one of five Patriarchs. Not one of the other four would ever have regarded themselves as inferior to the Bishop of Rome.

    • iansand says:

      03:03pm | 12/02/13

      Except the Patriarch of Constantinople.

    • Rebecca says:

      12:32pm | 12/02/13

      Sheesh, he’s old and sick. I wouldn’t be able to keep it up either if I was that age. Let the man rest.

    • porloc says:

      12:37pm | 12/02/13

      Of course Popes change the basic faiths of the Church. Papal Infallibility and the Ascension spring to mind. The leanings of the Pope influence the Church - the reactionary Pius 1X and the Syllabus of errors, the fascist sympathies of Pius X11, the refreshing reformism of John XX111.The new Pope will be enormously important for the direction of the Church.

    • Dan Webster says:

      12:43pm | 12/02/13

      The Pinch is full of know all Atheists who worship Dope Dawkins.
      I shall now be burned on the net.

      It’ll be interesting to see who the new pope will be. Although for it to gain interest with western youth it needs to be done as a reality talent quest. “So you think you’re a Pope”. SMS or phone voting begins now (SMS costs & Calls costs are charged at higher than normal rates, please ask an adult for permission).

    • Rebecca says:

      01:16pm | 12/02/13

      Ha, so many possibilities. Vatican Idol, My Catholic Rules, Masterpope, Beauty and the Pope, Vatican City’s Got Talent, Preaching with the Stars, The Pope Factor….

    • Dan Webster says:

      01:35pm | 12/02/13

      @ Rebecca.

      Lol, those are great. Thanks for the giggles ; )

    • Grant says:

      02:40pm | 12/02/13

      @ Dan

      It is so disheartening to see this type of attitude towards someone who actively pursues scientific discovery and rational evidence. This belief, when in there are enough people is quite harmful.

      This type of attitude actively discourages further scientific inquiry, discredits current scientific discoveries and insults learning in general.

    • Interloper says:

      03:18pm | 12/02/13

      @Grant:
      Dawkins proselytizes for his particular belief system as much as any missionary, often resorting to crude generalisations and cherry-picked ‘evidence’.  It’s possible to strongly support scientific discovery and rational evidence and still think Dawkins is appalling.

    • Baloo says:

      12:59pm | 12/02/13

      I’m no religious man, but but I have to give respect to the Papacy and how it stands the test of time, plus the Vatican library would be amazing to see.

    • Ken Oath says:

      03:41pm | 12/02/13

      The reason religion was invented in the first place is because it gives half the people something to hide behind and the other half someting to argue about. You only need to read the comments here to see at least the second half is true.

    • Doh says:

      04:36pm | 12/02/13

      Thank you Bernard, for this measured summary.

      God Bless.

    • Carl Palmer says:

      05:47pm | 12/02/13

      Make that two

    • stephen says:

      05:17pm | 12/02/13

      I’m waiting for the dolls : you wind him up, and he falls asleep at the desk.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      05:41pm | 12/02/13

      This was not a very learned article on the Pope and his role. It can be picked apart on so many points, and shows such a lack of in-depth understanding of the history of the Vatican, its teachings and catechism, that one scarcely knows where to begin. So I won’t.

    • the aussie pope says:

      05:47pm | 12/02/13

      Tony Abbott will be the next POPE and Next PM !
      He will move the Vatican to Canberra so that he can do both jobs simultaneously !

    • the aussie pope says:

      05:49pm | 12/02/13

      Next Pope is Tony Abbott
      Next PM is Tony Abbott.

      Move the Vatican to Canberra so that Tony Abbott can do both jobs simultaneously

 

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