For almost two millenia the mandatory retirement age for the Catholic Church’s spiritual leader was death.
As a card-carrying Catholic, I studied this.
Now it seems we need to start a retirement fund for the position, as Pope Francis like his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI stated he was thinking of stepping down.
Since St. Peter in the year 30, 262 Popes have served the Catholic Church until death. Pope Celestine V in 1294 due to poor health and Pope Gregory XII in 1415 stepped down to end the Western Schism.
So why now do we have one Pope who resigned and the current Pope contemplating his leaving the Papacy?
Well certainly times have changed since Pope Celestine V stepped down in 1294 due to advanced age and illness, but the institution is under siege on many fronts.
The historical sexual harassment charges are gaining new-found strength in the #MeToo era as authorities are beginning to look for ways to question officials in Vatican City about what the leadership knew of the problem and the policy of moving problem priests around to circumvent prosecution.
This is a major reason ex-Pope Benedict XVI still resides within Vatican City and its sovereign immunity, to ward off any prosecutors’ queries from outside the Papal City.
The Vatican Bank has also drawn greater scrutiny in the last decade for money laundering and ties to organized crime in Italy and elsewhere.
Pope Francis was supposed to be the beacon of light, a breath of fresh air to clear out the years of subterfuge and corruption, being the first Pope to come out of South America.
He appears from recent statements to be overwhelmed with the position. with no ability to change the institution from the inside. Perhaps he feels there are better things he can do with his life outside the Vatican’s walls, that’s if he is allowed to leave in retirement.