The current contretemps over Benedict is a symptom that the role of the pope has grown too large. 

One can accept all the dogmatic formulations about the papacy and still think that its role has become hypertrophied in the modern church. 

The popes sought protections from their real enemies (Freemasonic, Nazi, Communist) by making the pope a symbol of Catholic identity. I remember in the 1950s learning the song : 

Long live the pope,

His praises sound

Again and yet again.

His rule is over space and time,

His throne the hearts of men.

All Hail, the Shepherd King of Rome,

Our theme of loving song.

May all the earth his glory sing

And heaven the strain prolong. 

A bit excessive.

 John Paul used his theatrical skills and his ability to work the media to call attention to the Gospel, but he also called attention to himself. 

The modern papacy has centralized the administration of the Church. Until recently, the pope appointed only a minority of bishops. Governments had a huge role, and the representative of the Empire had a veto power over papal elections. The selection of bishops was taken out of the hands of the laity (who were often no longer Catholic) and clericalized. But with the centralization came the responsibility to oversee the episcopate, and in this the Vatican has failed. But bishops are unlikely to criticize, much less discipline, their fellow bishops, remembering the proverb about glass houses. So no one is maintaining standards, and the law of entropy sets in, as the Church loses zeal and is reduced to a creaking bureaucratic machine. 

The era of change after Vatican II has paradoxically made the papacy even more important: what changes are within the pale of Catholicism and which are not, which lines of change are fruitful and which are dead ends. Before, various human cultural traditions bound Catholics together, but those traditions vanished overnight. Now who can say what is Catholic and what is not? The logical place to look to for an answer is Rome. 

With all eyes on Rome, the slightest failure of a pope will be noticed and magnified. Human beings have always had trouble with the virtue of chastity, and do not like to be reminded of its requirements. When a sinner discovers that he is being admonished to take the mote out of his eye by authorities who have an enormous beam in theirs, he is inclined to rebel. We have been warned about those who bind heavy burdens and lay them on men but do not lift a finger to lift them themselves, however we are also warned to listen to them because they sit in the chair of Moses. But this is not a happy or stable situation, and not conducive to building up the Church in the love and friendship which are its essence.

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