Monday, February 25, 2013

Politics & Prayer in Filling St. Peter's Chair

The occupant of Saint Peter's Chair holds the most visible and powerful position in all of Christendom. Therefore, the selection of Pope Benedict VI's successor is a matter of concern for all intelligent Christians, no matter what their denomination. Given the decisive role that John Paul II played in the downfall of Eastern European Communism, it is arguable that whoever becomes the next Pope is a matter of concern even for every human being on the planet.

My hopefulness about the Papacy skyrocketed with Benedict's resignation, signifying as it did, I think, that it is possible for the ancient and venerable institution that is the Roman Catholic Church to make needed changes. If a Pope's physical and mental capacities are no longer equal to the tasks set before him, it is good that this can be admitted honestly and the underlying truth of the situation handled through his resignation. The alternative, namely for Benedict's work, in the face of his incapacity, to be handled through the inevitable machinations of a power elite surrounding and covering for him, would NOT a good thing. So, Benedict's resignation is a very good thing, perhaps his strongest legacy, hopefully setting a precedent for all his successors to follow in similar humility.

My hopefulness about the papacy just plunged with the news that the winsome leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has been forced to resign. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, just two weeks away from the Papal conclave, tendered his resignation after decades-old accusations suddenly, mysteriously came to light. The timing cannot be mere coincidence, but suggests that Vatican politics is rearing its ugly head. Cardinal O'Brien had just admitted in a BBC interview that he believes that priests should be allowed to marry, as they had been permitted in the early church (listen here: BBC interview).

Of course, whenever even just two humans gather, the politics of power come into play. Politics cannot be avoided, but they can be waged in a good-hearted and transparent way, thoroughly grounded in prayer. Therefore, may no Cardinal speak or act, except as the Holy Spirit prompts him. Christendom's supportive prayer might now become that all the inevitable political behavior involved in the upcoming Papal election serve God's purposes. May the next Vicar of Christ be the man who is most Christ-like. May the Vatican's political processes serve to identify that man, and that nothing other than God's will be done. The future and flourishing of all Christianity is at stake.

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UPDATE Normally reliable sources are providing contradictory information on the details in this story, such as whether Cardinal O'Brien will participate in the Conclave or not. I humbly call an end to my attempts to pass along the latest versions, and commend the whole matter of the Papal election to every reader's prayers.


  1. I agree that O'Brien's resignation seems forced and wonder who else among the electing cardinals has something that could/should require their resignations?