Today Pope Benedict XVI announced that he was resigning on February 28, 2013 due to health concerns. Sadly, Benedict likely will most be remember for the way he left, since he is the first pope to resign from the papacy since Pope Gregory XII in the 1415. Some conservative Catholic theologians do not believe that any pope should resign. Beyond his resignation, Bendict’s will be remembered for a staunch conservative theology on social issues coupled with a very progressive ideology in the realm of economics.
Benedict repeatedly spoke out against homosexual relationships calling them a “manipulation of nature” that was to be deplored. In his Christmas message in 2012 Benedict claimed that gay marriage threatened to destroy the “essence of the human creature.”
Benedict also reinforced the Catholic Church’s ban on women priests, accusing a group of Austrian clerics that he would not tolerate their “disobedience” on the issue in 2012.
He also refused to lighten any restrictions on the use of contraceptives. While condoning the use of condoms in some “exception cases” like male prostitution, Benedict said condoms are not a “real or moral solution.” Benedict’s stance was criticized by those who believed condoms could stop the spread of Aids in Africa where the Catholic Church has a significant presence.
Finally, Benedict was a harsh critic of Islam. In 2006 Benedict quoted a medieval emperor who said, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” Benedict later clarified and apologized, in part, for those remarks, but always maintained that Catholicism was the only “true” religion.
However, when it came to economics Benedict was arguably more progressive than President Obama.
As documented by Think Progress, Benedict said that economy “cannot be measured only by maximization of profit but rater according to the common good.” In 2009 Benedict called for stronger protections for labor unions and the elimination of world hunger through “wealth redistribution.”
As to health care, Benedict said that nationals have a moral responsibility to “guarantee access to health care for all of their citizens, regardless of social and economic status or their ability to pay.”
Benedict’s remarks on social issues were called draconian by liberals, while his economic beliefs could be called purely socialist by many conservatives. Benedict managed to disagree with both sides of the political spectrum, and there must be something right about that.