The Pope just ended his reign. And now he's vacationing in his summer home. That's a sentence you rarely see as we're unaccustomed to Popes clocking out. It's a funny thing, global power and world leadership. Some say they are handed it by a higher power, others work hard their whole lives for it. Either way anyone who gets there will always say the same thing. They can't wait until they quit. Wait. That's another job. Garbage collecting.
The announcement by his Holiness to abdicate his position caused quite a stir. No Pope has ever done that. Some say it's been 600 years, but that abdication was during the Western Schism in the 14th century where they had up to three Popes at one time fighting to claim leadership of the church. Kind of like an episode of Family Feud but World War sized. Based on which country you talked to, no one believed the other Popes were legit, so with no crisis shaking the leadership of the Church, this is a first.
The Pope speaks for 1 billion Catholics. It takes a lot of chutzpah to give that up.
Of course the position of world leadership is not for the faint of heart. Particularly offices that are held for life, like King, Supreme Court Justice, or celebrity train wrecks. I'm not saying there's nothing unusual about this. I'm just saying think of all the king's who have quit. OK, I'll give you more time.
It makes one think that you don't attain these positions of power without years of careful work, masterful abilities at your trade, and brilliant skills at keeping bad news out of the public eye.
That being said, his Holiness is also named in a lawsuit with two other Vatican officials filed 10 months ago for being aware of the accused priest, the late Rev. Lawrence Murphy, as being one of the worst sexual predators on record, believed to have molested up to 200 boys at a school for the deaf in Milwaukee decades ago, letting him be transferred and taking no action upon learning about it. Not to mention his signed memo overriding and stopping any action against him.
Add in Cardinal Mahony from Los Angeles, who church records now show famously shell gamed known pedophile priests all across state lines for the last 20 years to help avoid prosecution and keep their stories out of the public eye. This is a problem as the buck stopped at Cardinal Ratzinger's desk (His Holiness) at the Vatican during this time as all reports of abuse were centralized. So he was aware of this too. On top of this bad news, a secret Papal Dossier called the "Relationem," requested by his Holiness was presented to him on Dec. 17, 2011. It reportedly names cabals of corrupt power in the Vatican using sex and blackmail to secure and gain control. The Italian papers say he resigned the day he read the report. Who wouldn't? Leadership of one seventh of the world should be fun and require no jail time, shouldn't it?
I'm not saying this is the reason why he retired when the rule is you die in office. I'm saying he is surely stepping down to, as the Vatican puts it; to write, play piano and spend time with his cats.
The rope-a-dope, made famous by Muhammad Ali when he fought George Foreman, is a boxing strategy a fighter chooses that purposely puts him in a losing position. No one could believe Ali was doing it. Here was the world's most famous, most powerful, most brilliant boxer, clearly giving up in front of a monstrous powerhouse. Foreman rained down punishment round after round until he was exhausted. Only after tiring Foreman did Ali knock him out and reveal his genius by this winning strategy.
Sometimes you have to appear to lose something to win.
The glory of His Holiness, the face of God on Earth will now be living in a monastery cloistered at Vatican City. If he had died in office, of course, presidents, kings and dictators would come to pay their respects. What happens when he resigns? Some guy smashes his ring with a hammer and he goes to collect his mail. That's a shame. Can you imagine what that ring would get on eBay? It might pay off a good number of those sex abuse lawsuits.
When you get this job you want to make your mark and leave a legacy. So why not be remembered as the guy that quit?
Pope Benedict XVI will be remembered as a champion of the conservatives and disappointment to liberals who wanted change. It's a shame he's leaving under a cloud of scandals.
Rope-a-dope is a clever strategy if you can pull it off. The question is who wins here? The world? Or the Pope?