The resignation of Pope Benedict the 16th was treated by both the newspapers and television much like the wedding, the divorce, or the accident of a well-known celebrity; and a little bit like an enigma of "titillating" interest, as to the reasons for his resignation, as well as whether the Pope was pressured into resigning under the weight of scandals, or if his resignation was an admission of his inability to tackle the problems that are discrediting the worldwide authority of Roman Catholicism - and other "spicy" reasons.
In the cultural "example" of Modernism - the "way" of our life today - everything functions and is judged on the basis of the quantitative (measurable) magnitudes of impressiveness. Impressiveness is a marketable item, which can be measured (by percent ratings based on viewing, listening, reading, recognition etc.), which means: it can be counterbalanced with money; the sale of impressions can yield profits in the range of a huge industrial unit's or of an internationalized commercial enterprise.
What is even more perilous: After years of living and taking in - on a daily basis - this exclusive "way" of being informed, we are inevitably but also unwittingly losing the ability to spot what really pertains to our lives - to the essentials of our lives. The Pope is not just a picturesque figure in our cultural "paradigm"; he is an institution which determines that "paradigm" - that is, the "way" of our life - in whichever "faith" or faithlessness we may have classified ourselves. The concepts of "infallibility", of "expertise", of opining "ex cathedra", of "propaganda", of "controlling people's beliefs"; the prioritization of "efficacy" and "organizational power"; the use of the institutions of power in order to impose "truth" and numerous other, like issues were all born of institutional "Papacy" and have shaped the civilization of the now globalized West.
During specific, historical circumstances and necessities, and with the cosmogonic population changes which gave birth to the meta-Roman West (the Barbarian West), the Papacy for the first time in human History gave birth to what we call "ideology"; "faith" lost the inference of "trust", and it took on the significance of an individual "conviction". "Trust" was the feat of a personal relationship - the priority of an empirical searching - whereas "conviction" related to a noetic certainty and psychological self-suggestion. For an individual to be reassured by noetic certainties, these had to be guaranteed by an expert - an "infallible cathedra" - whose opinions had to have an authoritative character.
Thus, the struggle for an empirical search for the "meaning" (cause and purpose) of existence and coexistence - as well as the criterion for categorizing needs and evaluating qualities - was re-shaped, into an administered ideology "from higher up" which secured the possession of the "truth", at the price of subservience to the institutional carrier of "infallibility". The papal model stamped European History indelibly: Protestantism would later replace the Pope's infallible patronage with Scriptural infallibility (Sola Scriptura); [OODE note: Zealotic] Orthodoxism with its infallibility of Scripture and Fathers; Sovietist Marxism with its "infallible cathedra" of Moscow (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) which had its own Holy Bibles and its own selected priests...
However these were not the only historical emulations of the Vaticanian prototype. The Papacy did not merely graft an institution into European History; it also grafted a mentality: The "truth" could now be imposed, through the use of any kind of power (the end justifies the means - cum finis est licitus, etiam media sunt licita). In the 11th century, when the remnants of Latin Orthodoxy were marginalized and the colonist Franks took control of the Papal throne, Gregory VII unleashed the infamous "dictatus papae" - an archetypal example of every form of absolutist authority. At the beginning of the 13th century, Gregory IX establishes the "Holy Inquisition" - History's first institution of judicial control, not over one's acts, but over one's beliefs. Twenty years later, Pope Innocent IV, with a Papal Bull, introduces the use of torture "as a method of interrogation" at the trials of heretics. Following the eruption of Protestantism, Paul IV in 1557 instituted the "Chart of Forbidden Books" (Index Librorum Prohibitorum), yet another first in the History of institutionalized control of personal reading. And in 1622, Gregory XV founds the "Propaganda of Faith" (Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide) - the premiere of methodical "brainwashing" of the masses in the History of Europe.
Throughout those centuries, the Hellenic East was not a sinless portion of Christianity; its opportune difference however was that it had never institutionalized its own sins. It remained, until 1453, the West's cultural contradiction, by having preserved the criterion of discerning between the ecclesiastic social opus and the person-centeredness of a "natural" (barbaric) religion. However, even that discernment was swallowed up into Modernity, by the globalized Western "paradigm". Now, the fundamental novelty that the Papacy had wrought upon History - the altering of the ecclesiastic example into a person-centered religion - has become a self-evident given, in every Christian-labelled "confession".
The erstwhile Hellenes had coined the word "ecclesia" to denote - very specifically - a congregation whose goal was to reveal collectivity as the "common feat" of moving from the "community of need" to a "community of what is true" - whether it pertained to the "polis" (city), which sought to realize the immortal "way of governing everything", or to the "eucharistic" (thanksgiving) community which aspired to the Trinitarian model of Love as the fulfilment of existential freedom.
Today, we in the Balkan south who call ourselves Hellenes - a deplorable province of Papacy's "paradigm" - have even highlighted in our Constitution the topical estrangement of the ecclesia, which is now referred to as the "predominant religion".
But "religion" will forever be a barbaric term, involving an instinctive urge for self-protection, an armor-plating of the ego with infallible certainties and legalistically certified "virtues". The Papacy has solidified (in the West at first) that person-centered, idealistic utilitarianism, which in turn naturally produced (with a more consistent realism) historical-materialistic utilitarianism, to wit: capitalism and socialism, with a multitude of "Protesting" offshoots.
The religious offspring of the person-centered "paradigm" are clearly in the throes of a historical termination: the parliamentary system, ideologies, the globalized economy...
What new things are to emerge and when, remain unforeseen but not unrelated to Papacy.
Translation by A.N.