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Tim Blagg

Pope Benedict’s decision

I don’t understand negative response

I’m not sure I understand all the negative fuss over Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to retire.

Yes, I get it that it’s practically unprecedented ... he is the first pope to voluntarily step down since Pope Gregory XII in 1415. And he only did so because he was forced to, as a step toward ending the insanity of the Avignon papacy, which ended with — count them — three popes!

But after my original shock at hearing the news, my next reaction was “why has it taken so long for a sitting pope to make this decision?”

After all, folks, we live in an age of medical treatment that makes it very possible that we can live longer lives than ever before.

But, as the evidence should remind us, that doesn’t mean long and productive lives ... just long lives.

That’s all medicine can promise.

So, if the brain fails before the body does ...

Does the Roman Catholic church really need to deal with a pope who’s been gaga for decades?

Here in the U.S., we got that lesson in 1919, when Woodrow Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke. For months afterward, his wife Edith pretty much ran the country in her husband’s name, keeping knowledge of the seriousness of his condition secret.

As knowledge of that filtered out after Wilson died, we were galvanized into passing the 25th Amendment, which allows the president to be removed if he or she becomes incapacitated.

Such provisions are more important today than they were then. After all, dementia or Alzheimer’s can sneak up on a person, gradually eroding their ability to perform their duties.

The church, like other major institutions, really needs to step back and reconsider its basic rules ... Benedict stepped down voluntarily, after all. What would happen if a pontiff began to act erratically, ordering the church to begin worshipping Satan or issuing papal bulls that attacked its basic beliefs?

In this day and age, that’s not a scenario that could only happen in a Hollywood movie.

I think the church should honor Benedict for giving it a long overdue wake-up call.

Blagg has been Editor of The Recorder since 1986. He lives in Greenfield and is a military historian with an interest in local history. He can be reached at: tblagg@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 250.

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