Monday, 11 February 2013

Nothing became his tenure like the leaving of it

There will be time enough to debate the record of Pope Benedict XVI and, indeed, the position of the Roman Catholic church in society. However, the Pope's decision to retire while he was still in good mental and physical health for a man of his age is not only a bold move (the first time that a Pope has resigned since 1415) but also a progressive one. Before the improvements in medicine and in public health of the last century, it could be expected that the grim reaper would take off most people while they were still compos mentis. Nowadays, dementia is looming larger as a scourge of old age. It is said that the late John Paul II had lost his mental grip in his latter years and that the then Cardinal Ratzinger was one of those who advised him to retire. Now Benedict has himself set the precedent, making it easier for his successors to step down in dignity when and if they find that the office becomes too much for them.

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