It's been an eventful week - Chris Huhne resigned, MPs debated and passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples Act)' the writ for the Eastleigh by-election was moved, Lib Dems launched a new Party Political Broadcast and there was a National Action Day which coincided with the first weekend of the Eastleigh Campaign...
...somehow in all that I've not quite managed to marshal my thoughts and compose a proper blogpost on any of the above subjects. And this one isn't either - instead it is some thoughts on the Papal Vacancy. Don't worry, I'm not throwing my galero in the ring...
Thought 1: News Coverage
I was working so my experience of the news coverage was limited but... I had picked up the Twitter rumour of Benedict XVI's resignation during a toilet break. Pretty much by the time I got back to my desk, there was a banner headline on every page on the BBC News website. Yep; every page - and a dedicated live text update page running video from BBC 24.
Now, I understand it was a genuine piece of news, and of huge interest not just to Roman Catholics but, did it really belong on the Business pages or, say, the Technology pages? I'm not having a moan about it being the lead news item (at least for a while) but it did seem a bit OTT - especially when it would soon enough appear on those pages in the "Most Popular" section listing currently popular articles.
Thought 2: Seven Years is Longer than 5 Minutes
I was surprised to discover he had been in post since 2005 - it doesn't seem 5 minutes since the last time the world was watching for a puff of white (or is it black?) smoke from the Vatican.
Thought 3: Respect where it is Due
Mitres off to a man who can turn round and say "I'm not up to this any more" - that takes a fair amount of guts for most people, and must even more of an intense decision when you're expected to stay in your post until you pop your clogs...
Thought 4: A Dignified Retirement Must be Preferable to Media Death
Talking of popping clogs; who knows what he factored into his decision but perhaps he has memories of the indecent media coverage of the last days of Pope John Paul II. Having the world's media camped outside your palace for days on end whilst you gradually waste away doesn't strike me as the most dignified way to go. Retreating to the seclusion of a Monastery somewhere semi-remote away from the public eye may seem somewhat more appealing.
Thought 5: I Am Now Officially Pope-Neutral
A friend, knowing I have a religious background, asked me if I was Pro- or Anti- Pope. At one time, I may have considered myself anti-Pope but the answer now is that I'm Pope-Neutral. By which I mean that I am neutral with regards my thoughts on the office of the Pope - not necessarily on it's incumbents and their pronouncements.
Aside from all the obvious issues - Catholic teaching on Birth Control (and particularly Condoms), their attitude to Abortion, the intemperate language used in connection with Homosexuality to name but three - I also have problems with the treatment of the Pope as a Head of State as well as the Head of a Church* and the undue power I believe the Vatican wields as a result.
The organisation of the Catholic Church may be archaic and arcane but that, in itself, is not a reason to criticise. But hypocrisy, intemperate language, teaching which institutionalises poverty or discourages the spread of HIV/AIDS, and the covering up of Child Abuse very much are.
*It's not just the Pope that falls into this category - but my Pro-Disestablishment, Anti-Monarchy views are well known...