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Why nonsense stories about Pope Francis’ resignation keep popping up

The Catholic Pope can still perform his papal duties as long as he is sane.

(Andrew Medichini | AP) Pope Francis seen in a wheelchair at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 22, 2022. Religion News Service columnist Thomas Reese predicts that despite the many rumours, Francis will not step down as pope.

If I had a dollar for every story I’ve seen about the possibility of the Pope’s resignation, I could travel to Rome to see the Pope at work.

Why are these stories so popular with journalists?

First, the stories are easy to write: just report the latest rumors from anonymous Roman clerics who have no real information but love to gossip. Include quotes from Italian journalists whose editors are not as strict about proof as American editors. Presto!

Of course there are good Italian journalists, but some lack basic journalistic ethics. John Thavis, the former bureau chief of the Catholic News Service, reported how in 2013 an Italian journalist decided to amuse himself by writing an entirely fictional story about how the cardinals viewed Cardinal Sean O’Malley as a candidate for the papacy.

This story was picked up by other outlets, prompting The Boston Globe to send a team of reporters to cover the conclave. Media coverage made O’Malley so visible that a poll found him to be the first choice of Rome’s commoners. In his Capuchin costume he reminded her of Padre Pio, the popular Italian saint.

A second reason these stories spread is that ordinary readers eat them up. We have an appetite for rumor and gossip about famous people. Publishers know this and give us what we want.

After all, every reporter is afraid of missing a story that ends up being true. Most reporters have taken the signs of Pope Benedict XVI’s imminent resignation. overlooked and do not want to be surprised again. How do you explain to your editor why you missed this story?

If the Pope resigns, I’ll end up looking like an idiot for writing this column.

Still, I am ready to get up and say it: the Pope will not resign.

Benedict’s resignation made it easier for every subsequent pope to resign. Under canon law, this has always been possible – historians even report that in the church’s 2,000-year history some 10 popes have resigned. The last resignation was just so long ago that many thought it was impossible.

Pope Paul VI said, for example, paternity could not be revoked. He also feared setting a precedent that would put future popes under pressure to resign. Are we seeing that today?

What made the resignation not only possible but necessary is modern medicine, which can keep the body alive much longer than it is physically and mentally possible for a human being to function as Pope.

Benedict had already indicated before his resignation: “If a pope clearly recognizes that he is no longer physically, mentally and spiritually capable of fulfilling his office, then he has the right and, under certain circumstances, the obligation to resign. ”

Pope Francis shares the same view. He feels that his election was a clear sign that God wanted him pope, and he cannot relinquish that duty unless he becomes unable to fulfill his papal duties.

As Francis recently told Brazilian bishops visiting the Vatican, “I want to live my mission as long as God allows me, and that’s it.”

The Pope has a lot of unfinished business and I don’t see him walking away from it. Some of its reforms are just beginning. And having started a worldwide synodal process, he will not leave it to someone else to finish it.

Apparently, the Pope is currently in a position to carry out the most important tasks of the papacy. Yes, he has a bad knee and is in a wheelchair, but there is no indication that he has any intellectual disabilities. He can think and speak clearly, meet people, and make prudent decisions.

Francis has been suffering from a bad knee for some time, but he refused to use a cane despite being in great pain. That was stupid of him. Everyone around him should have told him to use a stick. Instead, he continued to walk on his bad knee until he was forced into a wheelchair.

If he had still been subject to Jesuit obedience, his Jesuit superior and prefect of health would have told him to follow his doctor’s orders and use a cane. It remains to be seen whether the knee will heal on its own or whether he will need an operation.

What is clear is that even if he had to remain in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, as long as his mind remains clear, he could fulfill his essential papal duties. Remember, the United States had a wheelchair-using President who got us out of the Great Depression and got us through World War II.

To suggest today that the Pope cannot continue his work in his current position shows that the Pope is not immune to the prejudice that thousands of people with disabilities suffer every day.

There are thousands of Americans in wheelchairs who are doing very well professionally. Thousands more have bad knees. Saying the Pope should resign tells all these people that their positions are also at risk. Shouldn’t we be celebrating that there are many jobs these people can do successfully, including the Pope?

(The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2022/06/23/commentary-why-nonsense/ Why nonsense stories about Pope Francis’ resignation keep popping up

Joel McCord

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