Resignation and Continuity
I’ve always believed that the Church is more a political entity than a faithful one. Ever since my sister’s Confirmation, when there were three collections, and the sermon admonished parents that every firstborn should be sent to seminary, I have been convinced that church and faith are entirely separately. Reading through history, it’s clear the papacy is more of a political organization than anything else. The wars, the influence over entire countries to go to war seem more the actions of an organization obsessed with power than one that existed to help people.
With Ratzinger bucking the trend of holding the papacy till death, it is even more clear that what should be the peaceful fading away of an old man who has done his service will be turned into political jockeying. One of the more interesting political side effects of Ratzinger’s decision to resign will be that he will continue to influence the policies of the church until his death.
The new Pope will be in a much different position from previous popes, who had free reign to set policy as he sees. In this case, there will be Ratzinger’s supporters and the ex-pope himself around to ensure that edicts put in place will stay there. Unlike previous new popes, there will be no clean break in policy. The man who is now closest to God among all other men will be within a stone’s throw of the man who was closest to God a couple months ago.
The question here will be whether the papacy can continue to move forward with, or will the previous pope continue to be pope. Much like an an employee who suddenly sits up straight and closes the Facebook window when the boss walks in, will the future pope be influenced by the unspoken power dynamic of having a previous pope alive?