Monday, February 07, 2005

The Pope's Conscience

"Let's leave [the question of a papal resignation] to the pope's conscience.... He knows what has to be done."

And with that, the writing is on the wall as to the future of the pontificate of John Paul II. It's one thing if such a provacative comment comes from a pundit, or one of those low-runged and unnamed Vatican officials, but when it's said on-record by the Cardinal-Secretary of State to His Holiness, the deal is done, as Cardinal Sodano made clear to the assembled press when leaving the pope's bedside earlier today.

The handlers of the pope are being assailed in the Italian press. Only a week after a Sunday Angelus given by a hoarse Holy Father from his apartment window, yesterday's encounter from a window at the Gemelli was led by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the Sostituto, Wojtyla chiming in only for the "Pater, Filius, Spiritus Sanctus" of the blessing. While giving that blessing, a white sheet of paper obscured the pope's mouth. Come on, the man doesn't need a piece of paper telling him what to say -- and to think that he would after 60 years of priesthood and 26 as pope is an insult to his intelligence -- hence the wildfire speculation that, yes, John Paul II pulled a Milli Vanilli and was made to lip-synch the blessing. (No Ashley Simpson-style hoedown, however, I am sorry to relate.)

If the pope cannot speak, he can't communicate, therefore he cannot exercise reasonably the power of supreme governance which belongs to his office alone. In the prism of his favored analogy of these last years, the suffering witness he has provided through these years has been a blessing, indeed -- but Jesus was delivering messages from the cross to his last breath. This is the tragic edge of a "live by the sword, die by the sword" mentality: that the one who overflowed his office and made the papacy bigger than it was before he entered it (if such a thing was possible), the most prolific, visible and visibly in-command world leader of a generation, is now irrevocably a prisoner of his own body, as all those thoughts, all those visions which have led the masses through deacades and engendered change in the world have no way of being related to a wider stage.

At the universal level, the church can't be governed solely by the facial expressions of a frail pope -- and now, even his closest circle of aides have resigned themselves to that reality.

There will obviously be more to come on this....



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