Pope Benedict XVI’s humble courage

Andrew Medichini AP Pope Benedict XVI walks away after addressing the crowd from the window of the Pope’s summer residence … Continued

Andrew Medichini


Pope Benedict XVI walks away after addressing the crowd from the window of the Pope’s summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, the scenic town where he will spend his first post-Vatican days and make his last public blessing as pope,Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013.

Like scores of fellow Catholics, I was initially unnerved by the pope’s decision to resign. The more I think about it, though, the more sense it makes. At 85, Pope Benedict XVI realized that he simply couldn’t continue to do what’s necessary for the communion of faithful.

A strong administrative steward (butler and bank controversies aside) and a brilliant theologian, Benedict’s fulfillment of duty over the past 8 years has been truly impressive, albeit neither flashy nor duly appreciated. One of Benedict’s first undertakings was to address the child sex abuse scandal that recently plagued the church. Benedict moved swiftly and decisively. As a close confidant of Pope John Paul II, Benedict was familiar with the toll it was taking on the church, mincing neither word nor action: declaring the abusers “gravely immoral” and removing the likes of Father Marcial Maciel from active ministry. Pope John Paul was purportedly in shock and couldn’t fathom the evil required.

Nearing his end of days, John Paul aspired to show the face of God, emphasizing the sanctity of life to show that all life was paramount. His ailing health became an asset enabling him to embody the church’s pro-life doctrine, an undeniable example of the fragility and impermanence of the human condition. But his denial and infirmity may have inadvertently prevented timelier action.

As the controversy consumed the church, then Cardinal Ratzinger, witnessed the consequences first-hand. When he became Vicar of Christ, Benedict spent an inordinate amount of time readdressing issues left behind by his predecessors. Benedict instituted behind-the-scenes reforms and mechanisms aimed at preventing a repeat of the misdeeds of those vile few. The true impact of his contributions is yet to be seen. It is impossible to deny, though, that God’s Rottweiler cracked the whip.

In the corporate world, we see CEOs who know when it is time to pass the reins. We also see CEOs who continue long past their prime. Bill Gates handed Microsoft over, whereas Steve Jobs arguably left Apple too late. We can argue their respective leadership skills, however, one clearly bridged the transition while the other, simply, didn’t have a continuity of operations plan.

And now we see the pope, holding one of the most storied and impactful leadership positions in history, a visionary and servant leader, emerging, as a spiritual symbol of courage. Perhaps after deep reflection, Benedict decided that the church needed to bridge a leadership transition smoothly so that the progress and reforms instituted could continue, unaffected. Crises arise and fester when leadership is incoherent and incompetent; so too does spiritual decay.

The pope has dedicated 85 years to the ministry of Christ. It’s inconceivable to think he woke up one day and decided he was too tired to continue. Perhaps God is simply doing what he has done for millennia, using the humble as shining examples, a Christian grace, to be revered and replicated.

One of Benedict’s greatest contributions may well be his voluntary resignation: a status quo reset for the greatest of all CEO torch passes. Greater papal self-awareness could become the new norm. His actions could also pave the way for future popes to resign – engendering Benedict a trendsetter.

He has set the stage for the next-generation to take the mantle and lead Catholics globally. In a world increasingly turning away from God, Benedict’s example should well inspire greater leadership for the Apostolic church, particularly during periods of tumult.

It was with great humility that Benedict resigned. It would have been easiest to ride out his tenure in a limited fashion citing doctor’s orders. He chose a difficult and controversial path instead – one not taken in nearly 600 years. No doubt it weighed heavily and was made only with great deference to the larger needs of the church’s more than 1 billion followers.

By breaking with tradition, Benedict encompassed the nature of a leader who understands deeply what the job of the pope means. He refused to let the pressures of convention confine what he believed to be necessary. Instead, Pope Benedict, not the perceptions of and by others, defined his service and his tenure, and in doing so, defines the indelible mark of his legacy.

While Pope John Paul exemplified the human condition and the tenet of universal suffering, Benedict exemplifies a fundamental tenet of God’s nature – to reject the trappings of prideful arrogance and choosing instead to offer the church the divinely inspired representation of utter humility.

In the end, one of Pope Benedict’s most lasting teachings will remind us that to be a trendsetter necessitates we are first and foremost humble servants of Christ. “It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue in my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ.”

Coleman is a writer and a security analyst who has co-founded two technology startup firms. He has a Masters of Public and International Affairs in Security and Intelligence Studies and a Masters of Business Administration in Finance.

  • villandra

    It may have been a good decision to step down – or, then again, it could have been an effort to kill an incipient gay sex scandal in the Vatican that for some reason the Catholic Church couldn’t or didn’t dodge. In any case, nothing will ever get Pope Ratzinger my respect.

    What is ailing you? That creep hasn’t earned ANYBODY’s respect, and it’s hardly like the Washington Post to think he has!

  • ethereal_reality

    Oh please, this Pope was in the Hitler Jugend. He’s a despicable human being. Good riddance!

  • MissClarty

    “Courage” to pull off a get-a-way from prosecution/persecution for protecting the priet/bishops/cardinals rapists and doing it with a straight face. lol

  • MissClarty

    When you say the so-called pope won’t commit suicide because it is a sin what about all the people he killed as Hitlers Jugerd and rapist priest protector – that’s not a sin?????? huh Not confusing to sane minds. He is sin because Satan is his bed partner – can’t you hear him breathing harder.


    Remember that there is forgiveness and there can be change.

    That said, I that Ratzinger was just being essentially lazy – and totally selfish. I think he just wanted a vacation. A long, paid vacation (with some good food and wine, of course) and that’s why he resigned before Easter – despite the fact that it’s a pretty important holiday with the whole Catholic crowd and pretty much all Christians.

  • MissClarty

    How can Ratzinger burn in hell when he doesn’t believe their really is a God. Ratzinger has entertained satan without true thought of God. As all the people that died because of him at Hitlers Youth. Ask all the kids raped and molested. Those acts were of Satan not God.

    Are we to believe what our eyes see or out eyes see. Whisper that.

  • It wasn’t me

    Oh please stop praising this protector of pedophiles

    he was nothing like that you describe

  • Truth & Justice

    One little, two little, three little bigots,
    Four little, five little, six little bigots,
    Seven little, eight little, nine little bigots,
    Ten little bigot boys

  • Truth & Justice

    One little, two little, three little bigots,
    Four little, five little, six little bigots,
    Seven little, eight little, nine little bigots,
    Ten little bigot boys

  • Truth & Justice

    One little, two little, three little bigots,
    Four little, five little, six little bigots,
    Seven little, eight little, nine little bigots,
    Ten little bigot boys

  • Truth & Justice

    One little, two little, three little bigots,
    Four little, five little, six little bigots,
    Seven little, eight little, nine little bigots,
    Ten little bigot boys

  • Truth & Justice

    A person who is bigoted.
    zealot – fanatic

  • Truth & Justice

    A person who is bigoted.
    zealot – fanatic

  • leibowde84

    Truth and Justice, was your comment directed at the Pope? I don’t get it.

  • leibowde84

    So, you are calling the Pope a biggot? Because nothing of what MissClarity said qualifies her as a biggot. It has been admitted that the Pope failed to turn over suspected pedophiles to the authorities. That is wrong no matter who you are or how you look at it.

  • J. Davis

    And at the beauty parlor they said he was abducted by aliens who were here to have sex with older women. They said he made a deal so that everyone on Alderbran would vote for Obama . . . .

  • koookooolarue

    God, I wanna puke after reading that. Don’t you Catholics have any sense of shame??

  • Rongoklunk

    I would rather be a bigot than a believer in the patently absurd god hypothesis –which, in order to believe, has to be pushed into the heads of little children before they’re smart enough enough to reject it. One day there will be a law against it. Children should be allowed to at least be in their teens before being brainwashed into god belief. At least at that age they’ll be able to evaluate it before buying into it, which is not the case in right now in America. Shame on us.

  • Rongoklunk

    Humble Courage? Humble Courage? You’re talking about a bloke who thinks he’s god’s mouthpiece. He thinks he’s closer to the creator of the universe than anyone on the planet. Unless of course he’s come to his senses and is only too aware that there’s nobody up there. Thousands of us have already come to that conclusion on our own. I guess his very role may have shown him that god is just imaginary, because no god would have ever shown up to say “Hi pope, I’m God, it’s nice to meet you.”

    Mother Theresa went through the same agony. No matter what she did to please him, he never even bothered to say Thanks. It really hurt. She thought god was real. So does the pope. They both may have learned that God is just a character of our collective imaginations. Because that’s almost certainly the truth.

  • patriot1

    To Rongo: And what if you find out after you’re dead that you were wrong. Will you come back and tell us?

  • Rongoklunk

    Now you’re being silly.

  • Rongoklunk

    How banal.

  • ThomasBaum


    You wrote, “One day there will be a law against it.”

    You should know that quite a few people died just for what you seem to be yearning for, do you realize this?

    You are entitled to your belief but that does not make it true.

    Have you or anyone else noticed that some of the fundamentalist atheists and some of the fundamentalist theists seem to be two sides of the same coin?


    Old age and poor health are very good reasons to retire but in this case is there more than what meets the eye?


    Who do you think started the ” DON’T GIVE COMMUNION TO KERRY ” movement when Kerry was running against Bush ? His purpose was for Bush to get elected so he pick the new Supreme Court justices. It was BEN16 in his previous office with a memo to the USA cardinal as well as a follow up memo. There is more then old age and poor health to his retirement but he will be untouchable inside the Vatican borders..

Read More Articles

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

Why I Want to Be Culturally Evangelical

I’ve lost my faith. Do I have to lose my heritage, too?

What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.