God tells the Pope to stay

Yahweh has spoken at the Vatican, telling Benedict that quitting is for wusses, and that he has to stay.

That, at least, is the message I gleaned from The Weather Channel, which reports that lightning struck St. Peter’s Basilica only hours after His Holiness announced his resignation.

Lightning struck the St. Peter’s Basilica Monday, hours after Pope Benedict XVI announced that he will resign as leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics on February 28. In this photo taken by Filippo Monteforte, the St. Peter’s iconic dome received a direct hit from lightning during stormy weather.

The link above includes a BBC video report showing the strike, and here’s Monteforte’s photo:

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As for why the Pope resigned, the Weather Channel also gives the gory details of his health.

When he became pope at age 78, Benedict XVI was already the oldest pontiff elected in nearly 300 years. He’s now 85, and in recent years he has slowed down significantly, cutting back his foreign travel and limiting his audiences.

The pope travels to the altar in St. Peter’s Basilica on a moving platform to spare him the 100-yard walk down the aisle. Occasionally he uses a cane. Late last year, people who were spending time with the pontiff emerged saying they found him weak and too tired to engage with what they were saying.

The Vatican stressed on Monday that no specific medical condition prompted Benedict’s decision to become the first pontiff to resign in 600 years. Still, Benedict said his advanced age means he no longer has the necessary physical strength to lead the world’s more than one billion Roman Catholics.

That Benedict is tired would be a perfectly normal diagnosis for an 85-year-old pope, even someone with no known serious health problems and a still-agile mind.

He has acknowledged having suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in 1991 that temporarily affected his vision, but he later made a full recovery. In 2009, the pope fell and suffered minor injuries when he broke one of his wrists while vacationing in the Alps.

A doctor familiar with the pope’s medical team told The Associated Press on Monday that the pontiff has no grave or life-threatening illnesses. But, the doctor said, the pope – like many men his age – has suffered some prostate problems. Beyond that, the pope is simply old and tired, the doctor said on condition of anonymity.

According to the pope’s brother Georg Ratzinger, the pontiff was told by his doctor not to take any more trans-Atlantic trips. In fact, the pontiff’s only foreign trip this year was scheduled to be a July visit to Brazil for the church’s World Youth Day.

Experts weren’t surprised the pope’s health problems were slowing him down.

“In someone who’s 85 and has arthritis, the activities of being a pope will be a struggle,” said Dr. Alan Silman, the medical director of Arthritis Research U.K. He said Pope Benedict most likely has osteoarthritis, which causes people to lose the cartilage at the end of their joints, making it difficult to move around without pain.

“It would be painful for him to kneel while he’s praying and could be excruciating when he tries to get up again,” Silman said, adding that for people with arthritis, even standing for long periods of time can be challenging.

Silman said some drugs could help ease the pain, but most would come with side effects such as drowsiness or stomach problems, which would likely be more serious in the elderly.

The doctor said it isn’t clear whether the pope’s arthritis would worsen with age. “It could be it’s as bad as it’s going to get,” he said. “But it already sounds like he has it pretty bad and continuing with all the activities of being the pope won’t help.”

Joe Korner, a spokesman for Britain’s Stroke Association, said having a mild stroke also could be a warning of a possible major stroke in the future. “I would imagine the pope has been warned this could happen and that he should make some changes to his lifestyle,” Korner said, including reducing stress levels.

His Holiness, it seems, is simply wearing out; that is, God isn’t helping him much.

I wonder if someone has done the experiment with Popes that British scientist Francis Galton did in an 1872 study of the royal family. Galton reasoned that since people were always praying for the longevity of the Royals (e.g., “God save the Queen”), and if prayer were effective, then royals would live longer than a not-as-often-prayed-for “control” group, i.e., members of the British gentry and clergy.  This was the first test of the efficacy of prayer, although in those days it would have been seen largely as a joke. (Galton, by the way, was Darwin’s cousin, and a polymath who made major contributions to genetics and statistics, as well as developing fingerprints as a forensic tool. He also was a compulsive “measurer,” and secretly recorded things like the relative beauty of women in various British towns.)

As Bill Peddie’s website reports, Galton showed that prayer didn’t work, in fact, as in the recent cardiology study (or as with Oscar the Therapy Cat), prayer seemed to kill people!:

Just for the record as examples of his data, the 97 cases of members of the Royal family were recorded as having an average life span of 64.04 years, the 945 members of the clergy in his sample having an average lifespan of 66.49 years and the 1,632 members of the gentry a life span average of 70.22 years.

28 Comments

  1. TJR
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Or maybe God is saying “good riddance to the antichrist”.

    God is a protestant, after all.

  2. abrotherhoodofman
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I think it was Zeus.

    Yahweh is more of a passive-agressive type.

    • abrotherhoodofman
      Posted February 13, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      (with 2 g’s, even)

  3. Occam
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Cf. this Borowitz Report:

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/borowitzreport/2013/02/popes-decision-to-come-out-of-retirement-stirs-controversy.html

    Regarding Galton’s longevity comparison applied to popes, one of the difficulties would reside in defining an adequate control group.

  4. Nicolas Perrault
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches”

    Attributed (falsely?) to Benjamin Franklin

    “Lightening conductors are more useful than churches”

    Truly attributed to your faithful readers

    • Alektorophile
      Posted February 13, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      As somebody (I don’t remember who) said about churches and religion in general, the day they put a lightning rod on St.Peter’s was the day catholicism acknowledged its defeat to science. Not showing a lot of faith in your god, eh Popey? Next we’ll find out he got a flu shot, too!

  5. Posted February 13, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    As for the Pope retiring? Well why not? Who needs him? I can’t believe all the eulogies I’m hearing from the Protestants. Particularly our Reverend Dave Cameron the UK Arch Orifice Licker. In the UK we got rid of the thieving Popery to the betterment of our nation. But never mind the old paedophile protector has slung his hand in (forgive the expression)who really knows why? What a Gay Day is all I can say.

  6. Posted February 13, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t that cheating? They put up lightning rods to attract this kind of attention!

    Which isn’t showing much faith btw.

    Perhaps their god was trying to burn the thing down, time to close up shop?

  7. Posted February 13, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    If YHWH is trying to clean house…well, his aim is excellent; his timing is miserable (waaaaay late); and his munitions are woefully underpowered.

    Apparently, he still hasn’t found a way to overpower these newfangled “lightning rods”.

    A deity of just slightly more power would have launched a micrometeorite at the Vatican at a substantial fraction of the speed of light. Unstoppable, controllable devastation, and no doubt as to its origins. For bonus style points, all such strikes could be launched from the same constellation…say, Draco, Sagitta, or even Crux?

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Kevin
      Posted February 13, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      He has a problem with iron. You know, iron chariots and all in the Bible.

      One wonders why he created it in the first place?

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted February 13, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      Actually a superior deity would have flooded the earth and started again… oh.

  8. Druie Cavender
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    As you probably know, there is a published double-blind, placebo-controlled study that scientifically proves that prayer has no effect:

    Benson, H. et al. Study of the therapeutic effect of intercessory prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: A multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer. American Heart Journal 151:934-942, 2006.

    I have sent this paper to many of my religious friends and colleagues.

  9. Marta
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been reading the Clerical files released by the LA Archdiocese a few weeks ago (after a monstrously prolonged and expensive effort by Cardinal Mahony to fight their release). A steady diet of them will make you weep, but in one of the files, a victim writes a letter to the Vatican addressed “Dear Pope”. It struck me as funny, since the Popie is usually addressed as “Your Holiness” in these letters.

    The funny ends right quick after the salutation, being as how the author was writing to the Pope to tell him about the priest who raped her.

  10. SLC
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Relative to Francis Galton, he was a terrible racist and father of the eugenics movement.

  11. shazam
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    You’d think that if gawd really wanted him to stay on as pope he’d shout from the heavens:

    STAY, YOU MOTHERFUCKER!!! THERE ARE MORE RAPES TO BE COVERED UP… YOU CAN’T GO YET, MKAY?

  12. Bonzodog
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    They have chosen the next Pope already …

    Just for Jerry!

    • Posted February 13, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      :D

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted February 13, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • SA Gould
      Posted February 13, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      First Monopoly, now the Catholics! Cat-lovers rule!

    • Posted February 13, 2013 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • Posted February 14, 2013 at 2:43 am | Permalink

      “Her catiness” looks young enough for the job. Thanks, that made my day.

  13. Matt G
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Life expectancy is higher than ever, so this “oldest pope” excuse doesn’t hold much water with me. I just read that germ line removal can prolong life. Of course that was in C. elegans but I’m sure Ratzinger wouldn’t miss his….

  14. Pablo
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Galton showed that God doesn’t want us to live beyond 65. He knows what’s best for the economy and the environment, so stop cheating death godless fools! Thy will be done.

  15. Diana
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    It was “god’s” way of saying, “Don’t let the door knob hit you in the ass.”

  16. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    My favorite pope-resignation jokes.

    The San Francisco Chronicle’s “Bad Reporter” cartoon says that JJ Abrams is going to take over the Catholic church and “reboot” the franchise by 2015 (Abrams is now doing both Star Trek !*and*! Star Wars).

    A local friend said something about this setting the bar very high for giving up something for Lent.

  17. salahhe
    Posted February 14, 2013 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    I think Luke got to him.

  18. drawingbusiness
    Posted February 14, 2013 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    I saw this posted by a friend on Facebook, who used it to suggest to me (somewhat jocularly) that God really does exist. My first question of course was: how often does lightning strike the Basilica when a Pope _hasn’t_ just retired?

  19. WiseApe
    Posted February 16, 2013 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I’m not normally one for conspiracy theories but how else do you explain the following sequence of events:

    Tony Blair resigns as Prime Minister;
    Tony Blair converts to Catholicism;
    top job in Catholicism becomes available?

    Pope Blair!


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