by Michael Moynihan
If the pope were a CEO he would have been fired years ago as he oversaw the decline of the Catholic Church and covered up its worst abuses. Michael C. Moynihan says good riddance to the failed pontiff.
Pictured: Pope Benedict XVI leaving at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, June 16, 2010. The Vatican announced Monday that the Pope will resign on Feb. 28, 2013. (Gregorio Borgia/AP)
In March, a cough of white smoke from the papal conclave will announce that the College of Cardinals, acting in collusion with God, has appointed his latest representative on Earth. In 2005, in a time of profound crisis for the Church, German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger received the nod, becoming Pope Benedict XVI. Today, he abdicated that role--after conferring with the ultimate boss, who can be rather forgiving of sin--citing his deteriorating health. In a statement, Benedict said that medical problems had created an "incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me." It was the first time a pope had abandoned his post (recall the stooped and sickly figure of Pope John Paul II, loyal servant until the end) since Pope Gregory XII forfeited the job in 1415.
Benedict's brief tenure was riven by conflict and controversy. The slow erosion of Catholicism's influence predated his reign, of course, but he did little to reverse to trend--and he might very well have expedited it. Indeed, if Benedict was the CEO of a powerful international, peddling a product that a significant population of the world couldn't live without, and presided over a continuing slide in that product's market share (for lack of a better phrase), he would have been relieved of his duties years ago.
In 2010, the National Catholic Register wrote that the Church's difficulty retaining members amounted to one of "the largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in church history." Add to this mix the Vatican's lumbering response to an unprecedented shift in cultural mores and a spreading inter-Church sexual abuse scandal, which implicated not only dozens of child-rapist priests but countless senior Church figures complicit in covering up their crimes.
The sex abuse scandals weren't the proximate cause of the Vatican's waning influence, but it was an accelerant. In Ireland, where the Catholic Church long exerted outsized influence, a massive sexual abuse scandal and cover-up has seen trust in the Vatican--along with church attendance--drop. This trend is mirrored in other places where scandal has dogged the Church.
Perhaps there is little that Benedict could have done to reverse these trends, but his own commitment to deflecting criticism often looked to skeptics like criminal complicity. When I spoke with filmmaker Alex Gibney, director of Mea Maxima Culpa, a documentary on various Catholic sexual abuse scandals, he argued that while Benedict might have been personally offended by the abuse of children, he was ultimately more concerned with the church's reputation, ensuring that he protected perpetrators over the victims. And throughout the film, as the pious are confronted by serious and undeniable allegations--like the case of Rev. Marcial Maciel, a devilish rapist protected by then-Cardinal Ratzinger--they respond that such criminal matters be dealt with "internally" (i.e., secretly and with the judgment of God, not the courts).
SOURCE: The Daily Beast