It has been more than 598 years since a Pope has resigned as the most sacred head of the Roman Catholic Church; even God’s representative to the church on earth.
Pope Benedict XVI is the first pope since Pope Gregory XII in 1415 to resign as the Shepherd of the Church.
Resignations might be normal for leaders of business and industry or even pastors and leaders of other Christian denominations but not for Popes.
Although the Pope has stated his reason for resigning is not health related (as speculated by some) but rather a spiritual decision, many church leaders and pundits have speculated that it is actually due to political upheaval within the Vatican. If this is indeed the case, then this Pope’s resignation like that of Pope Gregory XII are for similar reasons.
Since Pope John Paul II, there has been a continual movement of conservatism; slow but sure.
Pope Benedict XVI has been even more out spoken and emphatic over matters of abortion, birth control, marriage, divorce and the celibacy issue of Priest and Nuns; as such the church (although somewhat reserved and unofficial) is very unsettled and dissatisfied with the current pope.
The Catholic Church like all Christian churches throughout the world has seen a major decline in attendance, baptisms, converts and subsequent new members.
The church has also had an increasing problem with recruiting new deacons, priest and nuns.
The problem is so bad that the church has reached outside of its own to other similar denominations such as Anglican, Episcopal and Greek Orthodox as well as Protestants who most have a surplus of Seminary graduates with more graduates than churches to fill.
This has resulted in the church even waiving the celibacy requirement and allowing those already married to enter the priesthood. Although this is publically denied, take it from this writer that within my circle of associated clergy this is common knowledge.
The church has indeed seen its share of problems in the past several decades; especially in the west. It is the west where the problem of pedophilia and homosexuality have taken center stage forcing the church to pay millions in legal fees and quiet out of court settlements to victims as well as massive relocations and church re-structuring.
There are the doctrinal issues of marriage and divorce as well as purgatory, confession and what genuinely constitutes mortal and venial sins (issues the church has struggled with for the past millennium).
As a priest acquaintance told me not long ago, “While every other denomination is trying to determine whether or not to allow gays in ministry, the Catholic church is trying to determine how to admit publically they have had them for decades”.
He went on to say, “While the other denominations ponder over the gay marriage issue, the Catholic church is still trying to determine if a Catholic and Protestant man and woman can actually be married in the sight of God or living in sin (even though legally married) and whether or not there is ever any condition for divorce?”
Then there is the young man who was baptized in the Catholic church, grew up in the church, was an altar boy, then deacon, attended seminary and ultimately entered a vow of celibacy to become a priest; he then finds a man from another denomination converts to Catholicism remains married and often even has children and yet he the devoted orthodox Catholic priest is not allowed any consideration of a wife.
Added to this, are the varying types of worship developed in the past two decades (many almost exact copies of protestant services) which seem to move further and further from the traditional mass and you get the potential for one of the most controversial conclaves in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.
Even more interesting are the prophecies of Saint Malachy, the 12th century Irish Archbishop of Armagh who among other things, seems to have accurately predicted the names and to some degree tenures of Pope John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
The potential of Bishop Malachy’s prophecies become even more intriguing when his list of future popes ends with a pope identified as "Peter the Roman", whose pontificate will allegedly bring the destruction of the city of Rome, the Catholic Church and usher the beginning of the Apocalypse.
For the record, the current leading Cardinal of consideration for the Papacy is named, “Peter” Turkson.
More about this Cardinal named Peter as well as two other current members of the conclave in contention named Peter in my next article.
Please stay here each week through the conclaves selection for news and this writer’s perspective on the selection of a new Pope.
© 2013 Dr. Lee W. Outlaw III