And the judgment I am passing today is on all media who use the word 'surprise' or 'shock' in their descriptions of the just announced resignation of Benedict XVI as Pope. The guy is 85. There is no surprise and even less shock when an 85 year old says they are going to retire. PS I am also passing judgment on media (such as our own Stuff.co.nz ) who say this move could "plunge" the Catholic church into "turmoil." The canonical procedures are clear and well-known. There will be no turmoil, just prayer and booking of airline tickets to get the voting cardinals to Rome for the enclave. Incidentally, just as Damian Thompson points out that the Catholics of England and Wales will have no say in the election so we could point out that the Catholics of Aotearoa New Zealand will have no say either, our only Cardinal, Tom Williams being over the age of 80). I am feeling quite judgmental about this without a shadow falling across my conscience :)
With that plain and wilful disobedience on my part confessed concerning Romans 14:13, "Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another", I return to my meandering discourse on the 14th and 15th chapters of this great epistle. Only briefly today as other concerns press on me, including running the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Races at the Anglican Centre. Made the pancakes last night. If pancake making is a requirement for papal office, then I am in. First thing I will change is the Infallibility thing. Otherwise some terrible mistakes could be made, as many commenters here could predict. However I am not a shoo in for office as already Richard Dawkins is a candidate with odds of 666/1. I digress.
The second part of 14:13 continues, "but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another."
Here is Paul at his pastorally sharpest edge. All sincere Christians who honour the Lord are entitled to have their differing convictions recognised and provided for, he has been saying till this point. That is, "equal but different" could be the slogan of the Paulinist church of Romans 14:1-12. But is that how humanity operates in a community, let alone the church? No! Among us some of us are 'strong' and some are 'weak'. Theoretically we should relate in an egalitarian church; practically some are stronger than others, some are weaker than others. So Paul says we need to make allowances for 'the other', in particular by not putting a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.
What does this mean for 21st century church life and our engagement with difference in views over human sexuality? More when I can come back to this. But offer your answers in comments.
Epilogue: Back to the Pope's retirement. It is wonderful to see that the two great tasks of his office are simply stated in his announcement,
"in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel"
The strength of the Roman church lies in that phrase: a simple determination to continue its (Petrine) way and a clear, unwavering conviction that its mission is simply to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Would that all churches and church leaders were of similar steadfastness and focus.