The resignation of Pope Benedict comes as a surprise. Now all eyes will turn to the College of Cardinals, which will elect his successor by Easter (this year, near the end of March).
Although I am not a Catholic, the news of the resignation was profoundly disheartening to me. Notwithstanding its flaws (or, more properly, some profoundly flawed leaders), the Catholic Church has been stalwart in standing as a bastion for eternal truths, even when they are not popular.
Here is just one example of why social conservatives will dearly miss Pope Benedict. In written responses to questions posed by EJ Dionne, he had this to say:
If it is true that a Christian faith taken seriously means nonconformity with a not inconsiderable number of contemporary social standards, then a more-or-less negative image is unavoidable. Nonconformists, after all, who enjoy general applause, are somewhat ridiculous figures, or at least unconvincing.
Amen. The Pope has, in fact, said that the role of the Church "is to recover the capacity for nonconformism." The left, of course, purports to celebrate nonconformists -- so long as they're refusing to conform to traditional standards. But in recent years, the domination of the culture by the left has been so complete that the only real nonconformity actually comes from churches and social conservatives.
As the College of Cardinals meet, it will be my hope and prayer that they pick a successor Pope with the moral courage and the moral authority to offer an alternative to secularism and competing orthodoxies -- rather than a "social justice" Catholic who uses his position to further a political agenda.
How can you tell what kind of Pope the Cardinals have elected? In a nutshell: The happier the press is, the worse the choice.