Why is it that whenever we see an article by a Catholic on term limits for popes, it always from a liberal who is probably put out that Pope John Paul has reigned for close to three decades? Peter Steinfels joins the litany of those who think that old popes should be put out to pasture. He begins with an anecdote from a priest working in Rome implying that there are powers behind the throne running the Church. Cue the scary music.
He bows to the pope’s witness to the salvific meaning of suffering, but quickly veers off into a discussion of the Lateran Pacts that ended the Holy See as a ruler of land and people and elevated her to her current position above politics and as a theological and spiritual guidepost for the world. Steinfels doesn’t quite see it that way.
The anniversary of the Lateran Pacts was a reminder of the other dimensions of papal leadership: the pope as diplomat, as world actor, as steward of a vast, diverse and in many ways seriously divided Catholic people - in sum, the pope as moral guide by means of policy and institutional direction and not only by means of personal example and theological messages.