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Can the Pope Quit?

As new information and new scandals continue to bubble up, more and more people are calling for the pope to resign for his role in the protection of a German priest accused of molesting children. But, the pope is appointed by God, through the college of Cardinals. Can he just decide to quit?

Technically, yes. The last pope to resign was Gregory XII, who decided to call it quits in 1415, as part of the agreement ending the Western Schism and the French reign of everyone's favorite part of high school European history, the antipopes. But that is about it for popes who left office for political considerations (another pope resigned simply because he didn't like it), and the Vatican, according to The New York Times, is not giving any sense that they are thinking about retirement:

Vatican officials and experts who follow the papacy closely dismiss the idea of stepping down. “There is no objective motive to think in terms of resignation, absolutely no motive,” said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, in an interview before Friday’s disclosure. “It’s a completely unfounded idea.” Friday’s disclosure is not likely to change that position.

The princes of the church — the cardinals who elected Benedict five years ago — have been virulent in their rejection of criticism of the pontiff. Last week, the dean of the cardinals, Angelo Sodano, told the official Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano that it was not Jesus’ fault that Judas betrayed him and not a bishop’s fault if a priest shamed himself. “And certainly the pontiff is not responsible,” said Cardinal Sodano, who referred to church criticism as “petty gossip” before the pope’s Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square — although on Friday, the Vatican spokesman adopted a softer tone in a Vatican Radio address.

So, despite mounting scandals, don't look for the pope to step down any time soon. If God gave him his job, it seems, only God can take it away, not some pesky newspaper reporters.

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