As a Catholic I was stunned when Pope Benedict decided to resign from his role as Bishop of Rome.
For those who are not Catholic, I will try to explain a few things to help make sense of Catholic tradition. The Apostles were the first Bishops of the Church founded by Jesus Christ. When Judas committed suicide, a new person was appointed to take his place. That person was Matthias. St. Paul earned his spot as an Apostle because he was appointed directly by Jesus – and if you do not believe me, then go read the Acts of the Apostles because it is all spelled out in the Acts of the Apostles. The authority of St. Peter was confirmed when the Apostles met to discuss the issue of the necessity of circumcision for entry into the Church. It was held by that gathering to be unnecessary. The statement of St. Peter in this matter could be seen as the first every Papal statement considered to be infallible. There is a succession of Bishops and there is a succession relating to the Bishop of Rome, which was the Bishopric of St. Peter. This is why the Bishop of Rome, speaks from the Chair of St. Peter.
Not everything stated by a Pope is infallible. It is only in certain circumstances when certain language has been adopted that will identify what has been said as coming from the Chair of St. Peter. This is perhaps one of the hardest concepts to explain to a non-Catholic.
Issues such as priestly celibacy are matters of discipline. The Bishops have continually affirmed the requirement of priestly celibacy, but even I would like to see the Church once again accept married men into the priesthood. Please note I said married men, not that men can marry after they have become priests. There is a very big difference!! However, the issue of women priests is one that remains not up for negotiation – check your Bible because Jesus did not appoint any women as priests.
Just like St. Peter the current Bishop of Rome is the first among equals. His role is pastoral as well as management. The new Pope has a very big job ahead of him. There are many issues to be tackled.
I am pleased to know that Angelo Scola was not elected, and for that matter I am pleased that no Italian was elected to the role. They are all too close to any known corruption in the Vatican. The man who has been chosen is one who had eschewed coming to the Vatican if it was not necessary. He has not been involved in the petty politics, and for that matter he did not do any of the politicking that was obviously done by Angelo Scola (a fact that makes Scola totally unsuitable for such a position). One of the first tasks will be to tackle the Vatican bank, as well as the scandal behind Vatileaks. I hope that he is ready to apply the broom to those responsible for such bad behaviour.
It is not the first time that the Catholic Church has been riven by corruption. If one looks back in history, there was a time, somewhere around when Martin Luther caused the big split that the Church was also riven with scandal. Some of the scandal was pretty hot, but thankfully the Pope who was so seriously bad never had the opportunity to make statements considered to be infallible, and in one case a very sudden death prevented the acceptance of a Scripture translation that was considered inaccurate.That period of time also included the period when the Borgia family had a lot of influence in Europe.
I am still learning things about the man who has been chosen to be Francis I after St. Francis of Assissi. You might find that there will be some who will mention some of what took place in Argentina during the junta of the 1970s. This man, as head of the Jesuits did the right thing when he banished the two priests who were teaching Liberation Theology. He had to toe the line, yet I know that these priests were also brave in how they handled the situation. They would constantly ask questions about those who had become the disappeared.
When I was living in Canberra, I had the privilege of hearing a very elderly priest by the name of Fr. Kevin, a man who won my admiration over his concern regarding myself one Sunday morning (it is an odd story and in the circumstances of the story I have the greatest of respect for Fr. Kevin). Well Fr. Kevin spent some time in Argentina during the period of the junta and he told us about the risks taken. Think about that… because what they did was very brave.