I have just seen, on a news report, that The Pope has resigned. It claims that it was over instances of sexual abuse by members of the priesthood, and many other issues where the church has let down its ovine following. So why did this former member of the Hitler Youth, and Army deserter, feel that he must resign? Was he personally responsible for these deeds, or is it just a case of ‘the buck stops here’? ( Later News programmes claimed he was unwell, and no longer fit enough to continue…)
Is it just a job then, one that you can walk away from? I am not a Catholic, and I am not even a believer in God, any God. But I would like to have felt that the head of a church with 1.8 Billion followers, 20% of the entire population of the world, might have taken the role a little more seriously. It is not the same as being the manager of the local Tesco, or even the head of a huge corporation. You cannot just quit, when what you represent is revealed to be built on hypocrisy and lies, corruption and cover-ups. You have to take the responsibility, surely, and argue your case, defend the core beliefs, or something, don’t you? Apparently not.
You can just jack it in, pass the grief onto the next mug who wants the fame, and the bullet-proof car. Why bother to justify your existence, speak up about the good things, and contrast them with the bad, when you can just wander off into the sunset, with your name inscribed on a wall somewhere in the Vatican? Surely this singular action speaks volumes about everything that is wrong with the Catholic Church, and with all organised religion, of any persuasion? All the purity has been wrung out of it, and all that remains, is commerce. And in the true commercial tradition, the leader has to go, to fall on his sword, redeeming the errors of others by his departure. If this was Microsoft, or BP, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But this is the Catholic Church, supposed cornerstone of Christianity, bringer of civilisation to the heathen, and forgiver of all sins. Can you see the irony, or is it just me?
So, what’s next for Benedict XVI? Will he go back to his given name of Joseph Ratzinger, and return to a life of obscurity and retirement in his native Germany? That seems unlikely. Yet I would imagine that his future employment options will be limited, given his age, and somewhat restricted CV. After all, there is really only one job on the planet that he is uniquely qualified for, and he has just resigned from it. This also means that he won’t be eligible for benefits for some time, as he made himself ‘knowingly unemployed.’ Maybe the Italian, or Vatican governments will see him all right, with a modest pension, and a council flat on the outskirts of Rome. He could get a minibus to the day centre, enjoy a hot meal, and play bingo on Wednesday afternoons, with the rest of the unemployed clergy.
What do we know of the wage structure, employment conditions, and pension arrangements for Popes anyway? They are hardly a matter of public record, or the subject of discussions down the pub. For all we know, he may have been tucking it away nicely for many years, saving up in the Vatican Bank’s equivalent of a ‘Liquid Gold ‘ account, preparing for a day such as this one. He might have had a ‘golden parachute’ clause in his contract, or be in receipt of a ‘golden handshake’, to go with his carriage clock, and the large ‘sorry you’re leaving’ card, signed by all the gang from work. They might even do him a deal on his low-mileage, one-owner Popemobile. Something tells me that he won’t need to be worried about his winter fuel bills, or where he is going to find the cash to pay his home carer. There is undoubtedly a book deal in the offing, and perhaps film rights too. If so, I have a good suggestion for the title, and I don’t even want paying for it.
‘Once a deserter, always a deserter’. How does that sound Joseph?
***UPDATE*** 22/11/2013 Someone in America has written a book with the same title as this post. It looks so good, I even bought a copy, with my own money! Here is an Amazon link.