By: Natalie Nygaard
On Feb. 11, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from the papacy. His reasoning? “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”.
Benedict’s announcement triggered widespread speculation about other possible reasons to warrant his not-quite-unprecedented resignation in addition to the reason given by the pope. In response Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman said, “The pope is well and his soul is serene. He did not resign the pontificate because he is ill but because of the fragility that comes with old age.”
Traditionally, the pope remains in office until his death. The last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415, who stepped down to end a civil war within the Catholic Church according to CNN.
Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, was described by CNN as being “a popular, globe-trotting pontiff whose early youth and vigor gave way to such frailty in later years that he required help walking and was often hard to hear during public addresses.”
The real question is this: is it smart for the pope to resign if he knows he is not up to being pope, or should he have kept being pope as centuries of tradition dictate? His decision to step down becomes ironic when you consider that he has held very traditional views, except, it seems, on the sanctity of traditional pope doings.
But instead of focusing on these facts and debating the significance of Benedict’s resignation, the questions the major news networks are focusing on maintain the tradition of tabloid superficiality – What do you call an ex-pope? And what does a retired pope actually do?
Obviously, the proper name for an ex-pope (instead of “ex-pope” which does not convey the sanctity of his position) is, as dictated by centuries of tradition, That-One-Guy-You-Should-Know-But-Just-Vaguely-Recognize-Man. Like Superman or Batman, but less recognizable and preferring flowy robes instead of tights.
Or, you know, maybe Joseph Ratzinger? His name?
But more importantly, according to Google, Benedict is 85 years old. In his retirement, he will do what any self-respecting 85-year-old would do. Play bingo with his homies.