So, Joseph Ratzinger has announced his resignation as Pope, and the news media are abuzz with speculation about who his successor will be.
Ratzinger’s Papacy was certainly controversial. His membership of the Hitler Youth raised a few eyebrows. That was a little unfair, as he had very little choice in the matter, and his family would have been threatened if he had refused to join. Indeed, there is evidence that he and his family were opposed to the Nazis. My criticism of him in this regard is that he was in a position to know that the Nazis were by no means atheists, as he claimed on a recent paid holiday to the UK.
The criticism of his handling of the child abuse scandal within his church is on firmer ground, though there is still a degree of hyperbole. It would be wrong, for example, to assert that he is himself a “kiddy fiddler”, but it is true that his lackadaisical attitude to paedophile priests, both before and during his reign, meant that more victims suffered, and for longer, than if he’d acted promptly.
Some people are lamenting the departure of a Pope so adept at bringing the Roman Catholic Church into disrepute, but I’m looking forward to a whole new era of scandal especially if, as is being mooted, the next Pope comes from Africa, a region in which the Catholic Church has particularly bloody hands.
Meanwhile, rumours abound over the precise reason for Ratzinger’s resignation, since “failing health” hasn’t tempted his predecessors to quit. Perhaps he has had a better job offer!