God put them into that situation

Mary Ellen boiled down the irony of the pope’s retirement very neatly on Monday, but unfortunately in the rush of various flying missiles I didn’t get to it until today.

Guest post by Mary Ellen Foley

Somebody gets into a situation in which their health begins to fail, and if they stay in that situation, it might kill them.  They believe that God himself put them into that situation, but they just don’t feel that they can see it through — the strain is just physically too much.  And anyway, they’d prefer a quiet life, and they want to spend their time studying.

So if this person is a pregnant woman whose pregnancy is life-threatening, the Pope says she has to go through with it even if it kills her.

If this person is the Pope himself, however, he gets to retire.


  1. Thomas Hobbes says

    It is somewhat ironic. But I think that the analogy between the pope and the pregnant woman is imperfect. (All analogies are, I suppose). In the case of the Pope, there isn’t a “life” at stake. No “person” dies as a result of the Pope’s decision. But from the point of view of the Catholic Church, the zygote/embryo/fetus/whateverthing is a “life”, a “person” that deserves respect, protection, human rights, etc.

  2. says

    But maybe people do die as a result of the pope’s decision. Maybe his resolute courageous persistence in his job was necessary to the survival of some – a fetus, someone in a coma, who knows?

  3. Thomas Hobbes says

    I don’t dare count the number of people who’ve died when it comes to the Pope’s decisions (about abortion, AIDS in Africa, etc). I was just trying to see things from the Church’s point of view. As for who might die as a result of the Pope’s decision… I suspect no one. In this case, one old man is easily replaced by another.

  4. otrame says

    In the early 60s a guy wrote a book about a pope who, shortly after his election, gives away all the riches of the Church. Since then, every time they elect a new one, I think “Maybe this will be the one who sees what all that hoarded wealth has done to his church. Maybe this one will think ‘give all that you have to the poor and follow me’ “.

    Yeah, I know. But I like thinking about it.

  5. unbound says

    No analogy is ever perfect, but I think, in the end, this analogy fits very well, and the reality is actually even more damning for the pope.

    The pope always volunteers for the position. It is something he wants and desires (even if he wants to call it his god’s will). In the Catholic church, this is the absolute highest calling and duty that any catholic can perform in the name of their deity. Nothing in the catholic church is higher…not marriage, not child-bearing, not good deeds. Absolutely every pope has accepted the position understanding without question that they are to undertake this task until they die. Yet, when it becomes too much, he is allowed the option to pull himself out of that very scenario he voluntarily accepted. He is able to choose the time of his retirement at his convenience without consulting anyone else. No one is demanding that he stay to perform his duty (again, the highest duty that exists in the Catholic church), and no laws are being created in the vatican to prevent his retirement (i.e. to make sure he completes his duty).

    Contrast this with a woman. The woman does not always volunteer to be pregnant. For those that did not volunteer (i.e. raped), the Catholic church (in their perfectly twisted world) demand that they continue the pregnancy anyways. Those that do want to be pregnant desire to have and *to raise* a child. Sometimes the pregnancy is the first child for the woman, and sometimes it is another child. Unfortunately, sometimes the pregnancy does need to be terminated for the mother’s very life; a life that could be protected to potentially bring another child into the world later or a life that should be preserved to continue taking care of existing children (among other things, but something that the Catholic church should be supporting even in their naive black-and-white world). The Catholic church does not provide exceptions for this condition either. In fact, the leadership of the Church demands that the woman attempt to carry the pregnancy regardless of circumstance, and they happily promote the creation of laws to prevent women control of their bodies and very lives. Never, ever forget Savita Halappanavar…the Catholic church is absolutely complicit in the creation of the laws and culture that caused that death.

    Yes, the Catholic hierarchy is truly this disgusting and hypocritical.

  6. Francisco Bacopa says

    It totally pisses me off that Beyonce has given so much money to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Houston. There’s the Knowles-Rowlands Center for Youth, and the Knowels apartments for parents of children receifing treatment at St. Jo’s. She could have used this money to build an annex to the Ronald McDonald House which is affiliated with Texas Children’s and MD Anderson Cancer Center, the two most badass hospitals in Texas. Hitchens sought out MD Anderson for treatment, and if they couldn’t save him, no one could.

    We have to figure out how to stop people from donating to Catholic hospitals. They will kill a woman if they get the chance to do so with plausible denialability.

    BTW, didn’t mean to rag on Beyonce here. She is a local gal who made the big time and never forgot where she came from. She’s not Southern Black Gentry. Her family moved to the big city after WWII and achieved a middle class urban lifestyle pretty fast off the segregated towns of Brazoria County, TX and the swamplands of Louisiana.

  7. says

    While the link is between the two is good (though imperfect) and the irony is strong I just can’t shake the feeling that Uncle Joe’s age and health is a very tiny part of his stepping down. Even when I considered myself catholic that man gave me the heebie jeebies and I think there’s scandal brewing in the Vatican.

    I doubt there’s a single man in the Pope Games lineup that isn’t a liability to the church in some form. They’ve gotten away with things for over a thousand years, but hiding things in the modern age is proving challenging.

  8. says

    I take the point about the imperfections of the analogy, but still think it works because the issue is what the (apparently self-serving) Pope tells the world about God’s will, since as I understand it (and I wasn’t raised Catholic, so could have this wrong), the Pope’s job is to present the people with news about God’s will, in which context the Pope is infallible. Even the (so-called) logic of saving the potential infant in favor of the potential mother is secondary; it’s God’s will, and that’s that.

    On the level of “the Pope is the conduit for the news about God’s will” level, the two situations are equivalent. God wants the woman pregnant even if it kills her; God wants Ratzinger to be Pope until he dies (an unwritten rule, but one adhered to for 600 years, so I think we’re safe assuming it’s part of the Pope’s contract). Lucky for him, the (self-serving) Pope has the power to alter the news about God’s will so as to spare himself so as to prolong his life, and to let him choose how to spend that life.

    Which, by the way, looks like it gives him huge extra political power, because unlike any pope for ages, he has a say in who takes his place. He can’t vote; he’s over the age limit, and like the older cardinals, he can only advise, but this guy was, until a minute ago, considered infallible in these matters by the guys who *are* voting, so it’s surely valid to assume that his voice will carry great weight. And lucky him; he’s still around to tell them what to do about a successor, before he goes off to a life of contemplation and study.

    Exactly when does he stop being infallible, does anybody know?

  9. sailor1031 says

    Ah yes; how many times in imagination have I stood upon that bridge, watching the trolley beraing down on five hapless, unaware victims wondering why doG had placed me at that imaginary location at that imaginary time? Wondering what his message is to me and eying the (imaginary) fat guy pensively. Indeed doG works in weird and mysterious ways…or maybe I’m just overthinking this – ya think?

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