My church history colleague, Nick Thompson, has been having his 15 minutes of fame this week with interviews on various national media about the papal resignation.
Here’s a bit out of a quick piece he penned for the School of Theology blog:
“Unprecedented in modern times” “first pope in over seven hundred years,” “first pope in six hundred years” were already media clichés within hours of the news that Benedict the XVI was to resign the papal office at 8pm on 28 February 2013.
The fact that these phrases were recycled over and over yesterday doesn’t make them any less true. Benedict has made a radical decision. But it would be wrong to assume, as some of the coverage did, that his decision throws the Catholic church into some sort of theological or pastoral tailspin. It’s well recognised that Benedict XVI is a man of tradition, and anyone familiar with the rich, complex and extremely messy history of Catholic Christianity will know that (a) the church has survived far worse than this, and (b) it long ago developed fairly robust theological, legal and political procedures for dealing with failures and disruptions in the papal office.