Once the shock of this morning’s announcement by Pope Benedict wore off, I realized I had to blog about this.
At this point, there’s not a lot that can be said about Benedict’s decision. He seems frail and, having witnessed the final years of Pope John Paul II, he doesn’t want to cripple the Vatican.Makes sense. Hopefully, there is no connection to the Vatican bank controversy, or the leak scandal involving the pope’s butler.
Both of these issues dominated 2012 for the church. Maybe they convinced Benedict that he was too tired to deal with this sort of stuff.
If so, it’s a commendable decision on his part.
So what would I write about? On the way to work, my mind drifted to an account I recently read of King Henry VIII and his descent into madness. Pope Clement VII plays a big role in the G.J. Meyer book, “The Tudors.”
He doesn’t come off well. Clement’s boldest move in the face of a fractured Europe and a king desperate for a divorce was to send stalling messages (In those days, a trip from Italy to England took months).
Meanwhile, Henry was emboldened and repeatedly thumbed his nose at the Vatican and Clement through repeated decrees weakening the church bishops and, ultimately, declaring himself as the supreme head of the church.
Clement generally gave Henry whatever he wanted. But after all the stall tactics were exhausted, when Clement was backed into a corner, he did rule against Henry and England left the church.
Clement’s approach was a far cry from Pope Benedict, who, like him or not, has a strict belief system that he doesn’t waver from.
Clement also found himself between the conflicts of King Francis I of France and Emperor Charles V, ruler of Spain. Again, Clement waffled, siding first with Francis, then brokering peace with Charles once he emerged victorious at the battle of Pavia.
In short, Clement did not win much and was not a strong leader for the church during his 10-year reign. For sure, he faced tremendous obstacles.
The Lutheran movement was a troublesome threat to the Catholic Church. But Clement overvalued the Vatican’s need for England. He overvalued the political alliances, which he couldn’t keep anyway.
The cost was the weakening of church principles.