The conventional wisdom has it that Benedict’s resignation sharply reduced the aura of the papal office, showed a tender realism about old age, and made clear that even ancient Catholic practices could be changed. That is all true, but the event’s significance is more visceral than that. It has caught the mood of the church, especially in North America.
Resignation: that’s what American Catholics are feeling about our faith. We are resigned to the fact that so much in the Roman Catholic Church is broken and won’t be fixed anytime soon.
So if the pope can resign, we can, too. We should give up Catholicism en masse, if only for a time.
We are in the third week of Lent, a six-week season of reflection and personal sacrifice when Christians prepare for Easter by taking stock of their religious lives. In recent centuries Roman Catholics have observed Lent by giving up a habit or pleasure, whether red meat, chocolate, soap operas or Facebook, to simplify their lives and regain their independence from worldly attractions — their religious freedom, if you like.
Two years ago, Stephen Colbert gave up Catholicism itself. As the comedian told it, he swore off Catholicism on Ash Wednesday and made it as far as Good Friday, when he went on a “Catholic bender.” His riff inverted the old saying that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. Mr. Colbert beat the pope to the punch.