Giving Up Power

So by this point, it’s become pretty wide-spread knowledge that the Pope is giving up his seat to retire. A lot of people are making a big deal out of how this hasn’t happened in six hundred years and they aren’t sure how to take this news. There are so many uncertainties surrounding this event. It’s especially worth noting that in the anti-Catholic and anti-deist groups, there’s a lot of vitriol towards the Papacy. And I don’t think it’s deserved in this instance.

As a non-Catholic, I really don’t have much of a horse in this race. And as secularist, I especially don’t ascribe to any metaphysical implications of these events. That being said, I don’t want to denounce the beliefs of others just because I don’t share them. I’m speaking from a purely humanist standpoint, and one who has watched in recent days as the Catholic Church become surrounded by the new of abuses and controversies.

And while a right and a wrong don’t cancel each other out, I think it’s worth noting when an organization does something right. Lord Acton said ‘Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely’ and I think most would agree there’s some very real truth to that sentiment. But it isn’t about the Power of the Papacy; it’s about giving up that power.

A common complaint lodged against politicians of most every persuasion – from school board members to tyrannical dictators – is they do not relinquish power (see complaints against the Supreme Court of the United States for prime examples). Once a person has power, they often never give it up. And in the case of such sweeping power as the Papacy, it has never been given up in over six hundred years.

Until now.

This isn’t a commentary on the policies and practices, actions and dogma, of the Catholic Church. This is simply recognition of a guy doing the nearly-unprecedented: giving up nigh-absolute power.

That’s a really cool thing to see happen.