AMHERST – Father Vernon Driscoll of Holy Family Parish, Amherst, supports Pope Benedict XVI’s retirement announcement.
The pope surprised the faithful and non-faithful alike with his announcement Monday he’d be stepping down at the end of February. Roman Catholic cardinals will gather in March to choose his successor.
“He’s sending a great sign,” said Father Driscoll.
The almost unprecedented retirement – modern popes have always served until death – frees up Benedict’s successors to make a similar choice in the future. Driscoll seems to believe this is a positive development for the church. He said making decisions becomes harder with age; that a default ‘no’ becomes easier than contemplating the repercussions of a yes.
Among the contenders for the papacy is a Canadian, Marc Ouellet.
“He is an international figure, for sure,” said Driscoll.
The priest said Ouellet speaks five languages and is said to have learned Spanish in three months while serving in Colombia.
Driscoll said it’s a difficult task balancing the diverse cultures that make up global Roman Catholicism, and that meeting the needs of first world Catholics, while also leading third world Catholics – which he said often have more traditional views – is a challenge.
“It’s a delicate line, to say the least,” said the father.
Catholicism is not adverse to change, according to Driscoll. If they need something, they create it, he said. The priest pointed to the taboo against cremation that existed when he was ordained – a taboo that’s now gone.
“It’s very, very common,” he said.
The father couldn’t address specific lightning rod issues and the impact a new pope might have on everything from the role of women in the church to the use of condoms to prevent HIV infection, but earlier in conversation he noted the widespread effect one individual can have, as well as the vast amounts of knowledge we have gained recently when compared to century’s past.