Response to the Pope’s Resignation

by Kelly Ann

Yesterday morning, I think my jaw dropped when I heard that Pope Benedict had submitted his resignation.

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.

I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.

However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to steer the ship of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.

My immediate response was “good for him.”  I have tremendous respect that he was and is willing to recognize his limitations.  And that in so doing, while there has been precedent for papal resignation, that he defied 600 years of tradition and was willing to potentially disappoint 1.2 billion Catholics.

My secondary response was the question of whether or not a LDS church president would ever do likewise.  Our church shares the tradition of life-long callings and has had a number of ailing presidents – notably Kimball, Benson, and now possibly (rumored) Monson.   I would have an equal respect if the Prophet was ever to do likewise.

I am curious to know how other people here responded (although in googling for this post, I did come across some reactions at By Common Consent).

What do you think of the Pope’s resignation?

Do you think it is fair to make a comparison between the Pope and the President of the Church?

Do you think the President of our church would ever resign?

If so, how do you think it would be perceived in light of the papal announcement? 

Do you think there could be a particularly negative response given he would be following another tradition? 

And more generally, how do you think the church would respond if there were any changes to our succession in leadership.

I am left thinking about how if President Monson resigned or died, that although we say that any of the twelve could be come Prophet, that given our history, it is assumed that the senior member would become President.  Because I’ll be honest – I don’t like the idea of Boyd K. Packer as Prophet …  For that reason, it makes me cringe a little to think about Monson resigning or dying.  I would like to believe that in terms of succession, that some type of revelation will be waiting for us the next round.  And that as a church, we would positively respond to it.  But I am not so sure about that.

The other thing that intrigues me about the news reports about Pope Benedict is that titles of follow up articles tend to focus on people’s shock and disbelief and grief …  And while people are expected to drop their jaws, I also really hope that this is just the media exaggerating  and that Catholics will embrace this change.  I’ll admit that I am really curious to see who is chosen to be the next Pope.  It would be awesome if he was international.

I do believe that whether indirectly or directly that the way other church’s work does impact ours – at least for the correlary perception of members.

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10 Responses

  1. unknown says:

    President Monson is rumored to be ailing? This I had not heard. Can you provide more details?

  2. Caroline says:

    Kelly Ann,
    I too was shocked when I heard about the Pope resigning. I thought it was terrific. For a man to know his limitations, admit that he can’t perform as well as he wants to, and to consequently be willing to step aside — I admire it. I can’t help but hope that Mormon Church leaders are paying attention. There could be some real advantages to having more vigorous people calling the shots.

  3. spunky says:

    I also thought it was very interesting that the Pope announced his resignation. I read some theorists that his resignation was also a sign that he simply couldn’t handle the controversy that was growing regarding his controversial child abuse statements. Is this why he is resigning? And if so…. then should President Monson be as ill as some seem to rumour that he is (I heard he has Type II diabetes, but as a diabetic I don’t see that as a particular death threat), and he offers a resignation, is this because controversy regarding Prop 8 has depleted his health, or because he has had a change of revelation and can’t step back? I don’t suggest this is the reason or the case, I just wonder in the case of global and instant media if the pressure of being prophet, and the inability to “adjust” convictions of revelation (think of the march of Joseph Smith that resulted in the saints just turning back) make for a new age when papal leaders need to resign as a sign of piety.

  4. Diane says:

    I too was shocked (especially since I grew up Catholic) but I also admire the Pope for acknowledging his own limitations. I don’t think he wanted to hang on as his Predecessor John Paul had done..

    I’m not sure that in the Mormon church there would be any kind of precedence. To begin with the structure is completely different. This is neither good, nor bad, just different. The Pope is the literal head of the Catholic church. There are no counselors by his side as there is in the Mormon Church. President Monson has counselors in the Bishopric who would be able to take over if he would ever be incapacitated.

    I know that when President Benson was sick there was a big brouhaha as to who was actually running the day to day operations of the church because of this

  5. TopHat says:

    Kelly Ann, I think we were on the same wavelength that morning. My initial response was exactly, “Good for him for knowing his limitations!” and then, “Would we ever see something like that in the Church? Probably not.”

    Re: rumors: I had heard Alzheimer’s/dementia from people who were at a temple dedication and said he was getting rambly and repetitive at one point in his talk- like he forgot his place on the teleprompter as well as what he had already said. But still… I wasn’t there. So still a rumor.

  6. EmilyCC says:

    I was shocked with the Pope’s announcement and glad (I’m not a fan of his views on women, Liberation Theology or the pedophilia scandal).

    I hadn’t thought to apply this to Mormonism, but I’d like to see men feel like they had that option. It seems unfair to have this culture where a man must work so hard (in a suit, no less) until his dying day to be deemed a righteous servant.

  7. Maryly says:

    As a former Catholic, I, too was shocked. Then I thought, why not? Remember Elder Packer’s recent conference talk on homosexuality? It was immediately and heavily edited because it did not teach doctrine, but much damage had already been done. Maybe everyone in such a leadership position should evaluate his capabilities regularly with the help of an impartial physician.

  8. Kelly Ann says:

    Caroline, Yes, I agree that there are advantages to vigorous leaders calling the shots. In on of the BCC comments, someone remarked on the fact that while our church had a system of counselors and apostles who responsibilities could be delegated to when a Prophet was unable to do everything, that if you look at the well known example of Hinckley doing things in the background of Kimball and Benson, that while the Church was fine, that there were no real policy changes during this time.

    Spunky, I think you raise a good point about how people will question a resignation. I think the problem is that many people expect perfection with the Pope and the Prophet. And I am sure that if Monson were to step down, that rumors would be all over the place about to why. That most people wouldn’t be willing to just say it was for health.

    (As for the rumors, to those that asked, as Tophat mentioned, I have heard Monson may have early signs of dementia. I heard a first hand story on Facebook about he repeated some stories several times in a stake meeting. Granted I saw this happen once by an area authority, who was later taken to the hospital, but who did not have any long lasting problems from the incident. And while I don’t want to propagate rumors, I guess my hope is that if they are true, that Monson would feel able to step down while he was partially functional – because I don’t think it would happen if he developed full Alzheimer’s – because that would consist of essentially firing the Prophet. )

    Diane, I do think the structural differences between the Catholic and Mormon church are important in consideration to the question. But I also wonder if things will change given the intense media scrutiny. The brouhahas of yesterday become international news stories – and I can’t help but wonder if that will necessitate some changes.

    Tophat and Emily CC and Marily, I really hope that the Prophet would have the option to step down if need be.

    Finally, some of the news I read in regards to the Pope’s resignation, is that it wasn’t truly a surprise announcement and that preparations have been in motion for a time. So I can’t help but wonder if Salt Lake hasn’t had conversations already – what would we do if … whatever. I am sure that there is already a hat of names prepared for if an apostle passed away. I’d like to think that they actively think about all of the succession questions – even in times of non succession.

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