guardian.co.uk on tumblr
  1. Photo

    | 11 notes
    Pope Benedict’s resignation: a stunning shock
by Andrew Brown

Pope Benedict’s resignation has been planned for some time – Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, knew about it before Christmas – but it is still a stunning shock to the outside world. No pope has willingly resigned since Pope Celestine V in 1294. Pope John Paul II hung on for years while dying of Parkinson’s disease, while the machinery of the Vatican rotted about him.
During the decrepitude of John Paul II, Pope Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger, was his right-hand man. It may be that his experience then planted in him a wish to leave office while he was still able to discharge his duties. Modern medicine does not work well with autocratic regimes traditionally renewed by death or disease, and the papacy remains the last absolute monarchy in Europe.
In Benedict’s resignation statement can be seen an implied rebuke to his predecessor, who argued that clinging to life and power for as long as possible was itself a form of witness to Christ’s suffering. Benedict, however, says: “I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world … both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.”
Nothing is known in detail of the 85-year-old pontiff’s health that would force his resignation.
Benedict leaves a church battered in the west by child abuse scandals and a shortage of priests but still growing fast in the south. In the Middle East, its historic homeland, Christianity is now persecuted with almost unprecedented savagery.
In the US, Germany and Australia, there is an endless and bitter struggle within both clergy and laity between liberals and conservatives. For Benedict, western Europe had been largely lost to Christianity, and was once more a mission field which would have to be reconverted. But it’s hard to see any signs of either planning or success in this task, despite the unexpected triumph of his visit to Britain in 2010. He stood on the side of reaction, and for many of his opponents epitomised it. But he did not manage to damp down the rebellions against compulsory celibacy in the priesthood, which have shaken the church in German-speaking countries. In fact, by his personal support of special arrangements for former Anglican clergy, he may have weakened the tradition of clerical celibacy.
He maintained his predecessor’s hostility to capitalism, and to the sexual revolution. Neither of these things are likely to change under a new pope.
The long planning means that the succession will go as smoothly as possible but it is always difficult to predict the outcome of the conclave in which cardinals elect a pope. As the last two have not been Italian, it may be that the succession will move towards Africa and away from Europe altogether. An African would mean a greater focus on the relationships with Islam, perhaps at the expense of the relations with the rest of Christianity.

    Pope Benedict’s resignation: a stunning shock

    by Andrew Brown

    Pope Benedict’s resignation has been planned for some time – Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, knew about it before Christmas – but it is still a stunning shock to the outside world. No pope has willingly resigned since Pope Celestine V in 1294. Pope John Paul II hung on for years while dying of Parkinson’s disease, while the machinery of the Vatican rotted about him.

    During the decrepitude of John Paul II, Pope Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger, was his right-hand man. It may be that his experience then planted in him a wish to leave office while he was still able to discharge his duties. Modern medicine does not work well with autocratic regimes traditionally renewed by death or disease, and the papacy remains the last absolute monarchy in Europe.

    In Benedict’s resignation statement can be seen an implied rebuke to his predecessor, who argued that clinging to life and power for as long as possible was itself a form of witness to Christ’s suffering. Benedict, however, says: “I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world … both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.”

    Nothing is known in detail of the 85-year-old pontiff’s health that would force his resignation.

    Benedict leaves a church battered in the west by child abuse scandals and a shortage of priests but still growing fast in the south. In the Middle East, its historic homeland, Christianity is now persecuted with almost unprecedented savagery.

    In the US, Germany and Australia, there is an endless and bitter struggle within both clergy and laity between liberals and conservatives. For Benedict, western Europe had been largely lost to Christianity, and was once more a mission field which would have to be reconverted. But it’s hard to see any signs of either planning or success in this task, despite the unexpected triumph of his visit to Britain in 2010. He stood on the side of reaction, and for many of his opponents epitomised it. But he did not manage to damp down the rebellions against compulsory celibacy in the priesthood, which have shaken the church in German-speaking countries. In fact, by his personal support of special arrangements for former Anglican clergy, he may have weakened the tradition of clerical celibacy.

    He maintained his predecessor’s hostility to capitalism, and to the sexual revolution. Neither of these things are likely to change under a new pope.

    The long planning means that the succession will go as smoothly as possible but it is always difficult to predict the outcome of the conclave in which cardinals elect a pope. As the last two have not been Italian, it may be that the succession will move towards Africa and away from Europe altogether. An African would mean a greater focus on the relationships with Islam, perhaps at the expense of the relations with the rest of Christianity.

  2. Lochness monster as evidence against evolution … and five odder things kids are taught in some religious schools

    | 27 notes

    Johnny Scaramanga writes:

    Accelerated Christian Education’s fundamentalist curriculum is used by more than 50 British schools. It is known for silent classrooms where students teach themselves, using workbooks in isolated booths. Professor Harry Brighouse describes ACE’s view as “a teleological account of American history as leading to the ultimate fulfilment of God’s will”. You may be unsurprised to learn that ACE was founded in Texas. ACE made headlines last year for a science textbook that cites the existence of the Loch Ness monster as evidence against evolution. Despite this, government agency UK NARIC defended its decision to deem ACE’s in-house qualification, the International Certificate of Christian Education, comparable to A-levels. Incredibly, Nessie isn’t ACE’s most bizarre claim. Here are five more:

    1) God is a right-winger. “Liberals” are the root of all political evil. God’s values are rightwing, and anything else is a rejection of His will. On a politics chart, “right” is associated with “absolute” and “God”, while “left” is connected to “no values” and “atheism.” The term “leftwing”, we learn, exists because “left” means “sinister”, “to twist something”, or “to corrupt.” Jesus, by contrast, taught that “we should use what we have to earn a profit.” If your political views lean left, you are neither a true Christian, nor a good citizen.

    2) No transitional fossils exist. Despite the avalanche of transitional fossils, ACE still shouts about mysterious “gaps”: “Though evolutionists have been searching for transitional fossils for more than 100 years, they have found none,” narrates one Presenting Accelerated Christian Education video. Nope, none. Not only that, but we can be certain “no transitional fossils have been or will ever be discovered because God created each type of fish, amphibian and reptile as separate, unique animals.” I’m sure the scientists who excavated tiktaalik will be crushed to learn that their discovery doesn’t, in fact, exist. But even without fossils, evolution is thoroughly supported by DNA and a wealth of other evidence.

    3) Solar fusion is a myth. It is nuclear fusion that has enabled our sun to shine for billions of years. ACE are determined to prove that the universe is less than 10,000 years old, in line with their literal interpretation of Genesis. As a result, they teach that solar fusion is “an invention of evolution scientists … All other theories require the sun to use up all its energy sooner than the evolutionists’ invented timetable would allow.” This preposterous suggestion is part of a wider campaign to discredit mainstream science.

    4) Evolution is an absurd, deliberate lie. Although ACE make no bones about being Creationists, they sometimes claim they also teach evolution. While evolution is mentioned frequently, it’s only to ridicule it. We are told, “Even from a strictly scientific standpoint, the theory of evolution is absurd.” Evolution is described as “impossible” and not “true science”. Scientists, it seems, know evolution is one big hoax: “Because evolutionists do not want to believe the only alternative – that the universe was created by God – they declare evolution is a fact and believe its impossible claims without any scientific proof!” While the scientists push their “indefensible theory”, ACE sees the obvious truth: “We have a risen Christ, unquestionable proofs and, as if we needed it, God has thrown in a host of inarguable evidences all around us!” This line of thinking writes off the majority of Christians, who reconcile their faith with evolution, as not true believers. It also denigrates scientists as conspiracy theorists. This worldview is antithetical to reasonable education.

    5) Science proves homosexuality is a learned behaviour. “Because extensive tests have shown that there is no biological difference between homosexuals and others, these tests seem to prove that homosexuality is a learned behaviour. The Bible teaches that homosexuality is sin. In Old Testament times, God commanded that homosexuals be put to death. Since God never commanded death for normal or acceptable actions, it is as unreasonable to say that homosexuality is normal as it is to say that murder or stealing is normal.” Quite apart from the flawed logic here, scientific consensus points to a genetic component in sexual orientation. But faith is not enough for ACE – even science must be shown to support their prejudice. The curriculum is designed to mould minds not to question the Absolute Truth and this, simply, is not education.

  3. Photo

    | 17 notes
    

Should donkeys be banned from nativity plays?
Sad news of the day: The pope has declared the presence of donkeys and other animals at the birth of Jesus to be a myth. Should donkeys be booted out of the Christmas stable from now on?
Photograph: Jerry Young/Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley

    Should donkeys be banned from nativity plays?

    Sad news of the day: The pope has declared the presence of donkeys and other animals at the birth of Jesus to be a myth. Should donkeys be booted out of the Christmas stable from now on?

    Photograph: Jerry Young/Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley

  4. Quote

    | 14 notes
    Heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual: Jesus could have been any of these. There can be no certainty which. The homosexual option simply seems the most likely. The intimate relationship with the beloved disciple points in that direction. It would be so interpreted in any person today Paul Oestreicher in ‘Was Jesus gay? Probably.’ Read more here
  5. | 9 notes

    If it was really no longer acceptable, then there’d be no need to remind people. They’d carry the knowledge with them instinctively. In fact, of course, it’s only quasi-acceptable. Being gay is still seen as fine in some contexts, but not all. It’s acceptable in your proverbial Islington dining room (though perhaps not in the Islington registry office), fine according to the statute book, but not if you try kissing your same-sex partner in public. Or sit next to them on the bus. Or hold hands in the street.

About

We like opinions. Quotes, photos, cartoons, video and audio content (plus reblogs) from Comment is free, the Guardian op-eds desk. Curated by @guardianjessica, @bellamackie and @dawnhfoster. Get in touch: cif.editors@guardian.co.uk

People we follow

Stuff we like

Follow Guardian comment on Twitter