Aside from the celibacy thing, I’ve always thought being Pope would be a pretty good gig. You get to live in one of the world’s best and largest museums, you’re the absolute monarch of your own sovereign country, your personal bodyguard has those snappy uniforms, you’re head of the only organization I can think of that dates back to the time when a Caesar ruled the known world, and about a billion people go along (more or less) with whatever you tell them because you theoretically speak with the voice of God. Let’s be real honest, even for a non-practicing Protestant like me, that sounds like a pretty sweet job. Plus, it’s a lifetime appointment, so it’s not like you’ve got some wackadoodle member of a House of Representatives running around trying to impeach you.
I’m not making light of Pope Benedict’s decision to resign. I think it shows a remarkable degree of self discipline to walk away from the kind of temporal authority that goes along with the fancy hats and armored thrones of his office. The guy was basically elected king at 78 – an age by which I plan to be either retired for over a decade, dead, or possibly both. By 85, I don’t think I can fault him for wanting a little down time before going off for a more personal and very final introduction to his maker.
Of course there’s more to the story than has come out in the media. Over two millennia the Catholic Church has gotten very skilled at guarding its secrets, so we may or may not ever really know what was going on inside the Vatican when the decision was made. I guess one of the perks of being the Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter is you really don’t have to justify yourself to anyone.
If the princes of the church are looking for an unorthodox candidate, I’m happy to throw my hat, as it were, in the ring. My Latin is a little rusty, but pope-ing it seems like good work if you can get it.