Today was Pope Benedict’s last day acting as the leader of the Catholic Church. It is a momentous occasion, and I’ve invited the Negotiating Space Senior Vatican Correspondent, Bernadette, to guest blog with some insight on the event.
Being a Feminist and being a Catholic are two identities that many people question when I claim both. I came to feminism through both the beauty and the challenges that I have found and fallen in love within my Catholic tradition. I’m not alone, many women have been “doing” Feminist Theology for years, but it seems that a lot of people in the political (read: secular?) areas of feminism may not realize that. I think it is for these reasons, and maybe a few more, that Nicole asked me to be on the panel for her next podcast as well as to give a brief peek into some of the talk about the big Catholic news of the month.
Quick, since I am sure the basic facts have been represented in almost all major news sources, we haven’t seen a papal resignation in six hundred years. The previous popes that have resigned did so under strange political goings on….like schisms and multiple men claiming the title. At first, most of the Catholic blogs (or the ones that I read) assumed there was something more to the story that would come out in the next few days. What did he do? What are we trying to cover up now? Is this going to lead to a greater divide?
I woke up Monday morning, having gone to bed the night before praying for the same thing I’ve been praying for years. “And, please God, as if I haven’t asked for enough, some change in your Church would be more than welcome.” I don’t think Pope Benedict decided to resign because I have been saying this prayer daily for years at all. (I also hope God appreciates my bluntness….) What I do know is that every Catholic has been asking for “movement,” be it systematic change, a change in consciousness, or a tightening of tradition. Every prayer sent by every special interest group was answered; it is what comes next that is going to be difficult for the Church and her people.
I don’t agree with all of Benedict’s theology, bluntly, I don’t agree with most of his politics and theology. That being said, I am grateful that he has carried on the tradition of the Second Vatican Council that Pope John XXIII started when he called “for the world to listen to the Church and the Church to listen to World.” Pope Benedict’s resignation brought the Church forward a few years (I’m not going to pretend we have yet entered the twenty first century though). Think about it…to resign from a position that many others have held onto until death because that was tradition is BIG. To know oneself is a pretty key facet in being a successful spiritual leader. Pope Benedict has come to realize that at this time, he is not the most well suited [person] for the position. Thank you! Whether one agrees with his work, theology, or politics at all is beyond the point, we have advanced to a point where we can recognize human limitations, even in a spiritual leader.
The Spirit has been moving on the ground in and amongst many special interest and grassroots Catholic organizations within the years since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Her work was bubbling, now it is coming to a slow boil and maybe a dash of modernism for flavor. What is the rest of this month going to be like for the Catholic Church? I wish I could tell you or guess myself. Benedict will keep writing (hopefully less cautiously), a new title and position will be created for a retired pope…that will be really interesting to watch…and maybe most importantly our world is even smaller than the last time a Conclave took place to choose a new leader. What is it going to be like with the advent of new media types, an expanded Asian presence in the College of Cardinals, with the very clear tension that exists within cardinals of the Americas and Europe amongst themselves on some current social issues?
Fun. It is going to be fun. And stressful, enlightening, historical, and formational to say the least. It is a new day in the Catholic Church, and that can’t be said very often!
This week’s episode will feature four women talking about how their religious identity empowers, inspires, and coexists with feminism in their lives.
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