This post is courtesy of Jason Horowitz and originally appeared on the Washington Post.
February 11, 2013
Yes, Pope Benedict XVI came into the Vatican with the reputation as God’s Rottweiler. Yes, he was an archconservative who seemed to care a lot more about liturgical orthodoxy than the plight of the church’s progressives. Yes, he never escaped the shadow of the superstar and sanctified pope who preceded him. And yes, he largely failed in his placeholder pontificate to establish an emotional connection with the billions of people he led as the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
But Benedict’s astonishing announcement Monday morning that he would be the first pope since Pope Gregory XII in 1417 to resign the papacy spoke directly to his less acknowledged, but perhaps more enduring and important legacy: transparency advocate.
The pope who came to prominence for his theological genius and doctrinal enforcement ruled as an advocate for good governance and basic accountability principles within the Roman Curia, a gerontocracy populated by department heads who operate with little to no accountability.
By telling cardinals Monday that “in order to govern the barque of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary,” Benedict, 85, essentially argued that something as mundane as management was important enough a cause for which to sacrifice the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.
“The pope made his decision out of love for the church,” Greg Burke, the communications director for the Vatican, said. “It was a decision made out of humility and responsibility.”
In his eight years as pope, Benedict became most known for his public relations fiascoes, ranging from accidentally insulting Islam to unknowingly lifting the excommunication of a Holocaust denier to suggesting condoms were acceptable for male prostitutes. His tin ear to the modern universe and his lack of magnetism made him an easy mark, but they also acted as distractions from his efforts within the church hierarchy.
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