There comes a time in everyone’s career when it is appropriate to retire. Some politicians and other officials can never seem to grasp that notion and Pope John Paul II is the mascot of this issue. At age 84, he was once again admitted to the hospital under intense medical care for a respiratory infection. This condition, coupled with his Parkinson’s disease, has the media perching like vultures every time the Pontiff coughs. In situations like this, it is best for the official to retire in order for a more efficient candidate to take over for the best interests of the people he or she serves.
The pope was admitted to a Rome hospital on Feb. 1 due to breathing difficulties. This incident is merely one of many times the current head of the Roman Catholic Church has been hospitalized. The public’s reaction is one of little surprise; the pope’s condition is feeble and on constant decline.
The pope’s unstable movements and nearly inaudible speech show he is weak. In such circumstances, how can such a vital job be properly performed? Under Vatican rule, a pope may reign until he dies or chooses to abdicate of his own accord, which has not happened in over 500 years. Since Pope John Paul is in such poor health, it would be in the best interest of the Vatican if he were to step down.
This event seems unlikely; thus, the pope is essentially wasting the Vatican’s time. He should have the best interest of his establishment and whom he serves in mind. He would not want to squander valuable time while he is unable to perform. An official unable to fulfill his duties and who requires his establishment to cover for him should not hold office.
It is not that advanced age is a reason for resignation, but how well a person is able to carry out his duties. The same concept would apply to a 40-year-old with severe cancer – taking an office of great importance would not be practical. An elected official should be able to work to the best of his ability, which is why he would be chosen.
Following the pattern of Pope John Paul II is Chief Justice William Rehnquist. This 81-year-old who has served on the Supreme Court for 33 years suffers from a number of ailments including thyroid cancer. There was much speculation as to whether or not Rehnquist would be able to swear in President Bush on the date of his second inauguration in January. Rehnquist did attend; however it was with the aid of a wheelchair. Like the pope, there is no need for anyone to remain in an official position for such an extended period of time. Fatality or falling into a comatose state should not serve as the only two justifications for resignation.
For example, former Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, served until he was 100 years old. It had been reported for some time before his retirement that Thurmond missed important votes and fallen asleep in meetings. He served as senator for 48 years, marking the longest held term in the office as well as making him the oldest senator in American history.
If all officials remained in term for as long as these people have, there would never be any change or progression. The stagnation in which these leaders sit arguably brings their respective establishments to a standstill, as their political immobility hinders advancement.
The pope is expected to be released from the hospital in the upcoming week, and this stubborn pattern will endure.
If the Vatican tradition holds true, he will most likely live out the end of his days in office. As to the long-awaited and burning question of who will succeed Pope John Paul II, perhaps we can only look to “The Da Vinci Code” for answers.
Jesse North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.