Church-state separation never seems more a reality in America than when the media begin to appraise both the qualifications for a new pope and the challenges he -- whoever "he" turns out to be -- must face.
How are American newspapers and networks covering the Conclave? Poorly, if at all.
The wire services routinely refer to Benedict XVI, now the pope emeritus, as the first pontiff to abdicate in 800 years. But few of the news stories go into just who this earlier pope was, and why he chose to end his papacy. Which is understandable. The big story of 1294 is scarcely breaking news today. But it's a pity more attention isn't paid to the abdication of Celestine V, now St. Celestine, aka Celestino. Because history can prove instructive.
The media, of course, is calling it a resignation. But it not so much a resignation of a political office as it is a renunciation. The 85-year old pontiff’s decision to renounce the power and prestige of the papal office is so unexpected, almost unprecedented, as to take the world by surprise.
While he could not match the charisma of his predecessor, John Paul II, Benedict XVI has been a successful papacy.