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"The Pope's Resigation: Not What You Think"

"The Pope's Resigation: Not What You Think"

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An article from the online publication International Political Economy talking about Pope Benedict XVI's resignation.
An article from the online publication International Political Economy talking about Pope Benedict XVI's resignation.

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Published by: National Catholic Reporter on Mar 01, 2013
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International Political Economy

Analyzing the effects of politics on business and markets.

Special Report
February 27, 2013

THE POPE’S RESIGNATION: NOT WHAT YOU THINK
Guy Fricano A Vatican observer suggests that Pope Benedict's resignation was not driven by the sex scandals or the leaked Vatican papers. Instead, the Pope has been involved, since at least 1962, in limiting the power of aged clerics.

Marvin Zonis + Associates, Inc., (MZ+A) helps firms assess, monitor and manage political risk. “Political risk” refers to the uncertainties that arise from instances of political instability (such as riots and coups), poor public policy (such as inflation and currency crises), and weak institutional frameworks (such as discriminatory regulations and ineffective legal systems). “Political risk management” refers to the development of processes, structures, and knowledge that allow firms to deal effectively with political risk. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and education purposes. To SUBSCRIBE to the email distribution list, please submit your name, title, company information, telephone number, fax number and email address to werner@marvinzonis.com. You will be added to the list immediately. To UNSUBSCRIBE to the email distribution list, email werner@marvinzonis.com and indicate your request to be removed from our distribution list. You will be taken off immediately.

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Marvin Zonis + Associates, Inc.

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International Political Economy
THE POPE’S RESIGNATION: NOT WHAT YOU THINK
by Guy Fricano

Throughout the United States and Western Europe, much media coverage has attempted to portray Pope Benedict XVI’s unexpected announcement of resignation in terms of the sex-abuse scandals and leaked Vatican documents that have revealed new insights into the fractious internal dynamics of the Vatican and of the leadership of the Catholic Church. Some of these reports have portrayed the Roman Catholic Church as suffering from a dwindling of followers resulting from the supposedly devastating effects of these events upon the image of its institutional leadership. These interpretations resonate with our shared outrage over the sex-abuse scandals, and they effectively compel consumers to buy newspapers and magazines, but they do not impart a realistic understanding of their long-term effects upon Catholicism, the Vatican, the Catholic Church hierarchy, or the legacy of Benedict XVI’s papacy. The sex-abuse scandals and the leaked documents will prove transitory and rather inconsequential for the long-term future of the Church and its hierarchy. The history of Catholicism already shows that fractious internal relations are nothing new to its leadership and divergence in opinion has been, and continues to be, the subject of considerable debate behind Vatican walls. The participation of Catholics in Europe may be waning, but Catholicism remains the most common faith throughout Latin America. Well-established immigration patterns suggest its numbers will increase modestly over the next few years within the United States and it is rapidly gaining converts in Africa. With over 1 billion adherents, Catholicism may be the most widespread global religious tradition and it is growing, not shrinking. The papacy is the world’s oldest surviving leadership succession and the Catholic Church is the world’s oldest surviving global institution. It has survived millennia of infighting as well as Roman persecution, loss of the holy lands, centuries of Muslim invasion and occupation, the fall of Constantinople, secularism, fascism, communism, and modernism, among other threats that have come and gone. The sex-abuse scandals of the early twenty-first century will not compare to any of those in terms of immediate or long-term significance. While Catholics in predominantly protestant societies (e.g., the United States) have adopted post-reformation expectations of their religious leaders being holier than they are, Catholics in predominantly Catholic societies perceive a separation between person and sacred office. Being more familiar with the evil, hypocrisy, and manipulation of religious beliefs for base gains, laity in predominantly Catholic societies want, but are less likely to expect, better behavior from their religious leaders. Consequently, they will interpret the sex-abuse scandals as revealing what has been known for millennia within predominantly Catholic societies: The institution is human, and therefore as corrupt as the humans who occupy the sacred offices of its leadership. In the long term, Catholic laity will respond with disgust and indignation more at the individuals involved with the sex-abuse

Marvin Zonis + Associates, Inc.

IPE, February 27, 2013

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International Political Economy

scandals, and less with the institution or the religion. Pope Benedict will remain free of that disgust since none of the leaked papers provides any strong evidence that Benedict XVI was involved or complicit with sexual abuse. And in time, it will become obvious that Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy will be remembered increasingly for the precedent he set in this unexpected announcement and decreasingly for the sex-abuse scandals. Benedict XVI’s resignation, in fact, has practically nothing to do with infighting or the sex-abuse scandals, but rather, the importance of anti-oligarchical orientation within his legacy. As a young theological consultant at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), Joseph Ratzinger was part of a power-clique that believed reform was needed to prevent the doddering elderly from becoming dead-wood bureaucrats. Several age-related factors were believed to contribute to bureaucratic uninvolvement, including fatigue, disinterest, senility, and health problems all of which interfered with travels to Rome required to participate in papal elections or other important bureaucratic processes. This anti-oligarcical impulse was related to non-specific concerns about institutional corruption as much as a specifically Catholic history of underlings, relatives, lovers, or others attempting to manipulate the power of uninvolved cardinals for their own purposes. This school of thought held that an age cap on serving as a cardinal or pope could therefore streamline established processes governing Catholic hierarchical leadership. Such drastic measures were never taken due to intense opposition by elderly cardinals who liked their power as it was as well as others who imagined such reform as a Trojan horse through which a young and ideologically radical cabal could usurp power inherited legitimately through established traditions of leadership succession. However, significant reforms were successfully introduced in 1970 that imposed an unprecedented age cap on certain processes related to papal succession. While a cardinal could serve until death, he could only vote until age 80. In turn, this limits the pool of most eligible candidates for the papacy. Though the College of Cardinals could select an outsider, this has not occurred since 1378. Cardinal Ratzinger was aged 78 when elected as Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. He presently is 85 years old. There is no age restriction upon papal reign. In fact, when his predecessor, Pope John Paul II turned 80, Ratzinger announced that the pontiff would never resign. Benedict XVI thus has credibility as an anti-oligarchical reformer who loyally supported a pontiff who was aged, yet conscientious in the exercise of divine authority. When Benedict XVI publically announces he can no longer lead and is relinquishing his position, he's using the teaching authority of the papacy to practice what he and like-minded insiders have been preaching since the Second Vatican Council. He is setting a precedent that successors will be obligated to account for in their own reigns. Additionally, he will remain alive to observe – and comment if necessary – upon the fidelity of successors to that precedent -retaining the theological and academic authority he carved out as Joseph Ratzinger, an insider-expert on the Second Vatican Council. His successor will begin reign under Ratzinger’s watchful eye, and will be accountable to his commentary.

Marvin Zonis + Associates, Inc.

IPE, February 27, 2013

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International Political Economy
Those looking for a sober understanding of the controversy’s long-term effects upon Catholicism, Benedict XVI’s papacy or the future of the Catholic hierarchy shouldn’t believe the media hype. In a few decades, few will remember the sex-abuse scandals, and fewer will care. Nobody will be concerned about the infighting, which will undoubtedly continue (usually discreetly) with regard to all issues that concern the institution’s power-brokers and outrage the laity. Given that such infighting has taken breathtakingly violent forms in the distant past, any honest historian would consider private disagreements such as those in the leaked Vatican papers as a comparatively innocuous indication of the Catholic Church hierarchy’s long known face-saving culture. However, as medical advances increase the lifespan, and popes live longer, the influence of the precedent set by Benedict XVI’s resignation will become increasingly important with each passing succession. In time, the unexpected announcement will become more accurately understood in terms of the previous five decades of anti-oligarchical reform. As that reality shifts into focus, so too will the retrospection that the sex-abuse scandals rocked the institutional church like a drop of water would have rocked a frog on a rainy day. Sober observers will recognize it now rather than later, regardless of what popular media outlets are reporting in the meantime.

Guy Fricano, Ph.D., is a long time Vatican observer. He can be reached at guyfricano@hotmail.com.

Marvin Zonis + Associates, Inc.

IPE, February 27, 2013

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