- The news of Pope Benedict XVI
resigning as Pope took me by surprise because being raised a Catholic I
was always taught the Pope is Pope for life. Pope Benedict XVI is the
first Pope to resign in nearly six centuries so for modern day Catholics
this sort of thing doesn't happen.
- I was born when Pope John XXIII was Pope he was considered by
many to be the most progressive Pope in our modern era. He brought about
Vatican II but unfortunately he died before the changes went into
- Pope Paul VI was the next Pope and many Church historians feel
he did harm to Vatican II. He pulled in the reins and rescinded many of
the changes that Pope John XXIII wanted to see come about. In the 1960’s
many Catholics were very disappointed with the little progress that
came out of Vatican II.
- Pope John Paul I was the next Pope but he was Pope for only 33
days. His death came shortly after he announced plans to clean house at
the Vatican. His death became fodder for all sorts of documentaries and
books for the conspiracy minded.
- Pope John Paul II was then elected Pope and many considered him
the greatest modern day Pope. He was only 57 years old when he took
over and he ruled the Vatican during the fall of the Soviet Union.
- The world also witnessed his declining health and the
deterioration of his mental capacities due to the ravages of Parkinson’s
decease. Some say Pope John Paul II’s failing health was the reason
for the Vatican’s slow reaction to the world wide coverage of the
pedophile sex abuse scandals at the hands of Priests.
- The sex crimes against innocent children by Priests cost the
Church Billions of Dollars that were paid out to the victims. How the
Church handled those crimes is still the subject of outrage throughout
Europe and the United States.
- Pope Benedict XVI was fully aware of the numerous child sex
abuse cases that came to his desk at the Vatican when he was a Cardinal
under Pope John Paul II. He later found himself the focus of those
atrocities through the worldwide media shortly after he became Pope.
- Under Pope Benedict XVI watch there were financial scandals,
leaked documents aimed at embarrassing the Pope and money laundering at
the Vatican Bank. The Italian newspapers also ran stories of power
struggles among various cardinals at the Vatican. It is now
understandable why the current Pope would want to step down and the
world now waits in anticipation as to who will be his successor.
- I grew up in Shenandoah a small coal mining town in north
eastern Pennsylvania in the United States. There are many Catholics in
the coal region of Pennsylvania and many Catholic Churches. The changing
demographics in the coal region have caused many churches to
consolidate and many catholic schools to close. It is mostly due to a
lack of vocations, church attendance, donations, and serious financial
issues among the churches and schools.
- The students who attend the parochial schools are getting a
decent education compared to the public education system. However, for
the majority in the coal region a catholic school education is beyond
their reach due to poverty. If the majority could afford such an
education the catholic schools would not be closing.
- There are no simple answers in raising our national education
standards either. Our public schools are failing due to a substandard
education system. The catholic schools are certainly doing a much better
job when it comes to educating our youth and it is mostly due to the
low enrollment numbers. The teachers can take more time in helping the
students with their individual needs. The teachers in the parochial
schools are less burdened with overcrowded classrooms and with unruly
- The national teachers unions are also the greatest impediment
in reforming the public school system. It is harder to get rid of the
mediocre teachers in the public sector who seem to be the most protected
by the unions.
- The Roman Catholic Church is not just facing monetary
challenges in our region it is also facing a daunting challenge in
making itself relevant.
- Pope Benedict XVI does not recognize the declining numbers in
church attendance as a crisis for the Church. His response was our
church will be much smaller and much stronger. That response angered
some Cardinals especially some American Bishops who see strength in
numbers. They are also looking for ways to bring back the wayward
Catholics to the catholic faith.
- One problem facing the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. and
Europe is that the church is losing its relevance for the average
catholic. The modern day issues in a fast changing world seem to be jet
streaming past the outdated mandates of the Roman Catholic Church.
Today’s Catholics also have to deal with putting food on the table,
daunting unemployment, paying their mortgage and bills. The 24/7
worldwide news stories make us more informed about world events but it
can also make us more cynical when it comes to corruption and cover-ups.
- I do not see a religious crises taking place in our country and
abroad but rather a spiritual crises. Religion may not be the answer
for many in our information age but at the same time there is a deep
spiritual hunger in the world. The more humanity evolves spiritually the
greater the divide will become between institutionalized religions and
personal spiritual growth.
- Pope Benedict XVI failed to understand that people in our
modern era are searching for ways to connect to their spiritual nature,
not artificial, non-substantive, religious mandates, that have no
relevance in their daily lives.
- The failure of the Roman Catholic Church to connect with the
modern era was not Pope Benedict XVI personal failure but rather the
failure of the Roman Catholic institution as a whole. I do not see a
brighter future for the Church if they continue to be non-progressive in
a progressively changing world.
- Here in China where I live and teach there are approximately 12
million Catholics and the Churches and Schools are thriving. They don’t
seem to have the same difficulties facing the Catholic Church in the
U.S. and Europe.
- A couple of my students here in Suzhou, China mentioned in my
class about the Pope resigning and the issues behind his resignation. I
told them my history of being raised Catholic and some of my students
seem somewhat perplexed as to how people could believe in such things
especially in China.
- In a somewhat humorous way when the subject of Catholicism
comes up in my class I simply tell my students that I am a recovering
Catholic and that I have to take it one day at a time. I am not a
practicing catholic or a religious person but I am spiritual by nature.
- I believe that in some ways my coming to China was my salvation
and I am supposed to be here. I am here at this particular time and
place in my life for a particular reason. That is not a religious belief
or a religious practice it is just something I have come to understand
on a spiritual level.
- I like to tell my students "when you move in the direction of
the flow you will find it takes you in the direction of your true
destiny." Then in a humorous way I tell them "when the student is ready
the master will appear."
- My students always laugh and say “you are our master Mr. Tom.”
Thomas F O’Neill