40 Myths About the Catholic Church–The Church is Irrelevant

“Nobody cares about the Church anymore.  It’s old fashioned and irrelevant in this modern age.”

This one’s so easy it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.  Just this week the Cardinal electors gathered in Rome to select the man to succeed Pope Benedict XVI.  Every secular news agency in the world had reporters on hand.  NBC News had at least three reporters in Vatican City along with camera operators and other support staff.

The US president was in a meeting and was interrupted to be informed that white smoke had come from the chimney in Rome.  Catholics, friends of Catholics, even enemies of Catholics were anxious to hear the news.  Who would be the new Pope?  That doesn’t sound irrelevant to me.

Of course there are a lot of people who are anti-Catholic for one reason or another, many of them fallen-away Catholics.  But even those folks recognize that the Church is important.  Otherwise, why would there be hundreds of anti-Catholic books, magazines, and web sites?  If no one cares, why is anti-Catholicism such a thriving industry?

Here’s the thing, whether you like it or not, the Roman Catholic Church has a huge influence on what goes on in the world.  Here in America, where so many nominal Catholics disagree with some of the Church’s core teachings, it may not be evident.  But, in parts of the world where Catholics still act like Catholics, what comes out of the Vatican has an influence on the way people live their lives.  What the Pope says may not impact all 1.2 million people who call themselves Catholic, it certainly does impact hundreds of thousands of us who still believe what the Church teaches.

Over the next few days, hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people will watch the events televised from the Vatican.  Some will cheer, some will cry, some will scream at their TV screens, but they will watch, making the Church far from irrelevant.

40 Myths About the Catholic Church–The Pope is Running Away from Something

Myths about the Church can spread quickly.  Where most of them have been around for quite a while, this one is relatively new.  Since no Pope has retired in 600 years, Benedict must be running away from something.  He must have something to hide.

Here’s what Peter Stanford of the London Telegraph wrote on February 17:


Dan Brown couldn’t have made it up. The ecclesiastical earthquake of a pope resigning has been attributed, variously, to Benedict nursing a fatal illness; to a head injury during his trip to Mexico last March that convinced him to abdicate; to being forced out after an acrimonious meeting with a group of senior cardinals two days before he announced his resignation; to his looming disgrace over either dodgy deals done by the Vatican Bank, past cover-ups of paedophile priests, or an “explosive” forthcoming report by a team of cardinals on a tendering scandal; and to a strategy to secure the succession for his favourite.

This is from a website called Removing the Shackles:

(Reuters) – Pope Benedict’s decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with security and privacy. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say.



Let’s start with a few simple facts.  First, Benedict is 85 years old.  He is the oldest man (at age 78) to become Pope since Clement XII in 1730.  Second, he is the CEO of the largest organization in the world.  Third, it’s painfully obvious that his health is deteriorating.  If I were him, I would have retired a long time ago.  

Being the Pope is a demanding job.  The politics within the Vatican must be incredible.  There are a lot of Catholic clergy, from deacons all the way up to Cardinals who think they would be a better Pope than Benedict.  With over 1 billion Catholics around the world, there is no shortage of criticism of every little thing he does.

Much of the criticism from outside the Church is directed at Benedict, no matter where the perceived shortcomings are located.   He may be ultimately responsible, but there’s just too much going on in the Church to lay everything in his lap.  That’s what Bishops are for.

The fact is that most people, even some Catholics, don’t understand the role of the Holy Father or how he is chosen.  When the Cardinals meet to select a new pope, they are sequestered (no, not that kind of sequester), isolated from the outside world.  They meet, and pray, and eventually the Holy Spirit leads them to make the correct choice.  Obviously, the Spirit has moved in Benedict XVI, convincing him that it’s time to go.  His work as Pope is done.  These ARE NOT manmade decisions.  If you believe otherwise, you don’t understand how the Church works.

As quoted above, some geniuses are suggesting that since there is a lawsuit pending in the United States against the Pope and the Church, he’s going into hiding in Vatican City which has no extradition treaty with the US.  Regardless of the merits of the legal proceeding, does anyone really think the US government is stupid enough to demand that the 85 year old Pope come to America to possibly be arrested?  Even this administration isn’t that ignorant.  By the way, the comments I quoted were two of the few that I could post on a family blog.

Does the abuse scandal weigh on the Pontiff?  Of course it does.  It weighs on every member of the Catholic clergy including yours truly.  As the man at the top (2nd only to Jesus himself) Benedict must feel more remorse than you and I can imagine.  That kind of pressure tends to wear a man out.  He has apologized publicly for the scandal.   He has met with victims and their families.  And the Catholic Church in 2013 may be the safest place on earth for children following the changes that have been put in place on Benedict’s watch.

I think it’s absurd to suggest that the Pope isn’t simply retiring because he’s tired.  It is possible that he has a serious illness that the Vatican isn’t telling us about.  Some things are best kept secret.  Benedict knows that the process of selecting a new Pope will be speeded up because there won’t be the usual waiting period that must be observed after a Pope’s death.  Maybe he doesn’t want the Church he loves to be without a leader any longer than necessary.

Personally I think that our Holy Father is setting a precedent and that it won’t be another 600 years before we see a Pope retire again.  After more than 1/2 a century as a priest, Bishop, Cardinal, and Pope, it’s time to give the man his gold watch and let him rest.

This just in:  Today, in his final public appearance Pope Benedict XVI gave a hint of the reason for his retirement.  As I mentioned above, Vatican politics can be brutal and it’s up to the Pope to keep things in line.  Apparently Benedict feels that a younger man would be better able to keep a lid on things.  Check out either of the links below for highlights of the address.