I was talking to the local baptist minister yesterday, Rob, who’s doctorate was in Catholic Ecclesiology. He confessed that he was disappointed in the Pope’s decision to resign.
During the late tenure of Pope John Paul II, as the man got increasingly frail and unable to speak properly, Rob suggested he showed a vulnerability in church leadership that is rarely seen or acknowledged. That you could be a spiritual leader with a broken body, and limited physical or intellectual strength. It was a testimony to what the church sees as important.
Pope Benedict’s declaration that he did not have the physical or emotional strength to continue doing his job properly, seemed to be a claim that it was his physical or emotional strength that was important. A very different view from his predecessor.
I’ve not a lot to add to that, other than it is a fascinating angle, and one I’ve found rather affecting today.
There has been inevitable speculation online as to whether the Queen will also resign. Countered by declarations that, of course she won’t. I suspect she will not, either. Having seen what her uncle’s abdication did to her family, I believe those who say she holds a very dim view of it.
But that reminded me of a previous conversation I had with my wife. The Anglican church is currently in hot water over the issue of Women bishops. It is being held hostage by a very well organized and uncompromising minority, and is looking increasingly medieval and irrelevant as a result. But, she pointed out, the supreme governor of the Church of England is the Queen. Okay her practical authority is not strong in that role, but her job is to provide spiritual protection and oversight. So perhaps the issue with women bishops is more about petty politics than about anything the church would actually claim is significant.
Musings on Leadership
Both issues seem to speak of a disconnect between the claims of the churches and their practical reality. Claims are made about what is significant, but it is difficult to follow those through.
It is difficult, I think, because churches are ultimately human institutions, and they succeed or fail in the same way all institutions do. So while it is possible to appear as if you take the teaching seriously, behind the scenes you’d better function with a bit more realpolitik. Particularly around leadership.