Dominican Reflects on Pope’s Resignation

By Lauren Reiniger

February 27, 2013

Many devout Catholics at Dominican University were surprised by the pope’s resignation, but support his decision and are looking forward to seeing a more progressive and modern leader as his successor.

On Monday, Feb. 11, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from the papacy, with his retirement effective at the end of the month. This is the first papal resignation in 598 years. Being the oldest pope elected at age 78 in April of 2005, he announced his retirement after eight years in the papacy at the age of 85.

Some are still in shock at Benedict XVI’s decision to announce his resignation rather than remain pope until his death. Some argue that this will set the precedent for future popes to opt-out of their position as leader of the Catholic Church.

Sr. Diane Kennedy, vice president for mission and ministry, commented on the pope’s unorthodox decision.

“It’s a different world now than six centuries ago,” Kennedy said. “Once the possible is made actual, people can make new progressions. Being the pope of the Roman Catholic Church today is a very different role than it was six hundred years ago.”

Popes in recent times have a lot more on their plates to handle than previous ones. There may not be any major crusades to deal with in today’s society, but controversial issues such as birth control, divorce and gay rights are prominent issues to which the Church must address.

With a new pope to be chosen soon, some Catholics hope for a more progressive leader, while others would like a new pope who will remain traditional and conservative.

Missy Budz, president of Dominican’s pro-life club, Stars for Life, hopes for a traditional pope who will continue the teachings of the Catholic Church, especially in issues of contraception and birth control.

“The Catholic Church teaches that the use artificial contraception and birth control as a means to regulate and prevent the procreation of life is intrinsically wrong. Rather, natural family planning is an appropriate and moral way to achieve or avoid pregnancy while remaining open to the possibility of life,” Budz said.

Brent Smith, a university ministry student leader who is majoring in theology, believes the Pope made a difficult choice.

“Benedict XVI’s decision to step down was profoundly courageous and wise,” Smith explained. “During the last few months of the previous pope’s period in office, John Paul II became a symbol of lasting love by sitting speechless in front of his papal audiences, even as Parkinson’s disease, lasting injuries and old-age were the cause of his silence.”

Smith also believes that the leader of the Catholic Church must do more, saying, “The Church continues to change and requires an able leader.”

Kennedy also praised the pope’s decision to resign.

“I think it’s wonderful that he gave two weeks notice. It proved he’s a really modern man,” she said.

“He wisely decided as he felt his own mental and physical strength waning he could not continue to serve effectively as the leader of the Church,” Kennedy highlighted. “He could remain the symbol and maintain the aura of the papacy, but not the leader of the Church. So, I think his decision to resign was the most progressive thing he’s done.”

While the pope’s resignation doesn’t affect Dominican directly, Kennedy noted that under Benedict’s leadership, the Vatican has sharply criticized American nuns, including the Sinsinawa Dominicans, because of their strong focus on poverty and social justice, and less attention to issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

“The Vatican has censured the Leadership Conference of Women’s Religious (LCWR) for being too lenient,” Kennedy said. “Would a new pope perhaps change that climate in terms of the very profound questions and apparent differences between the Vatican and LCWR? A new pope could be good news!”

When the Vatican conducts it’s search for a new pope, 117 cardinals under the age of 80 will be eligible to enter the secretive conclave to elect Benedict’s successor. Church policy says the conclave has to commence between 15 to 20 days after the papacy becomes vacant, which will be official on Feb. 28.

However, since the Church is now dealing with an announced resignation as opposed to a sudden death, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the Vatican would be “interpreting” the law to see if it could start earlier, according to published reports. The Vatican appears to be aiming to have a new pope elected and formally installed in a solemn ceremony before Palm Sunday on March 24, so he can preside over Holy Week services leading to Easter.

Progressive Catholics at Dominican don’t want another traditional pope, and are calling for a more liberal leader and a more democratic style during the next election.

“As a young Catholic who struggles with various aspects of her faith, I pray that the Church and pope will make greater efforts to progress in the 21st century,” Megan Graves, junior and Sinsinawa Dominican associate, said.

“I hope that the global community has a say on who will become the new leader of the Catholic Church.”