Pope Benedict's announced retirement has sparked abundant reflection. I could care less about the media hype. It will sell for them just like any other big story. The Church will follow its norms and elect a new Pope. Benedict will fade away for a while. Then he will pass away, there will be pomp and a solemn funeral, and a media will slobber and slander again. It will be what it will.
What concerns me is the decision itself. Here is a man who was thrust to the Throne of Peter (which we celebrate today). Here is a man who accepted and fulfilled his mission. And when his strength began to decline, when he realized his health would start to be an impediment, man of God that he is, he decides to step aside and let someone else bear the cross.
That mind-boggling humility leaves a lasting impression. We have seen over the past few years men who have fought and killed to hold on to power, only to be imprisoned or murdered by their own people. Then come Benedict who renounces power because he loves his people. He saw that there was something in the way of being able fulfill his mission, so he relinquished the mission for love of the mission. That's courage.
It is inspiring to me, and should be for future popes and all who have been called to serve God's people.
Fr Marcial Maciel was a man who too was unable to fulfill his mission, albeit for different reasons. He was unable to control the desires of the flesh, was dependent on narcotics, at least during periods of his priestly life, fathered at least three children with two women, molested seminarians, and was absent from all contact with his congregation for long periods of time. Any honest man would see that this type of behavior was no way near the ideal of priestly life, not to mention a founder of a religious community. Any honest man would step aside and let someone else take the reins.
But Maciel was not an honest man. He deceived his followers from the beginning. He deceived himself and his Lord. He should have resigned years before he was forced to a life of prayer and penance. He was not a courageous man.
The more I reflect on Benedict's decision, the more I wish Maciel had done the same for the good of the Church.