When I was growing up Catholic, one of the favorite stories about being Catholic versus Protestant was given by Sister Josita. Sister Josita was a member of the Sisters of Charity, a very large woman with an equally commanding voice to match her size taught 7th grade at Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Whenever there were unruly students that other teachers could not handle, they were transferred to her class and immediately learned that she could handle a paddle better than any batter from her favorite team, the Cleveland Indians.
Despite her propensity to wield a mean and powerful stroke, she did so judiciously and in an era paddling was not questioned.
She was a favorite and both boys and girls previously unsuccessful in other classes thrived in hers.
Sister Josita loved the Catholic Church and appeared to love being a nun. (I had the very good fortune to meet her when I was well into my thirties and she had retired.)
Guess we were lucky with Sister Josita. She allowed us to debate Catholicism in her class. With the mental acuity of 7th graders hoping to decimate 2000 years of Catholic teachings, Sister Josita knew how to respond to our questions and challenges to Church doctrine.
On the topic of evolution, she said, "I’d rather know that I came from the likeness of God and not from a monkey." On being Catholic, "On their deathbeds, a Catholic turned Protestant will always want to become a Catholic again---once a Catholic you are always a Catholic."
Though I don’t totally agree with Sister Josita, it is most definitely hard to drive Catholic teachings out of a person once they have been exposed to them. Kind of like that recovering alcoholic. Once an alcoholic has been exposed to AA, drinking is never the same.
I am not a practicing Catholic today--- not because of any bad experiences. I still don’t understand atheists and would never call myself an agnostic. Rather, I just have a different view of Christ and God. And I most certainly do not agree or understand the Catholic Church’s view of married priests, role of women, and LGBT members of the Church.
However, though I have investigated other organized churches, I knew that once a Catholic well other churches for me just are not the same.
The Catholic Church’s view of the world is sought out. People either agree with Church teachings or those that don't spend a lot of time attacking them. To be loved or to be hated by so many people makes the Church a relevant institution.
So when the Pope resigned---love him or hate him---his resignation caught world attention because the Pope’s view of the world impacts world thinking.
Unlike the more charismatic John Paul II who chose to grow old and die in public view, Benedict XVI recognized his own frailties and knew he just was not capable to lead any longer and his resignation caught world attention even from those who are not Catholic.
Supposedly, more of an intellectual, Benedict was a humble and reluctant man when drafted to be Pope. To step down was a courageous decision, which will assure his name in history.
The more liberal news media likes to draw attention on Church scandals, and though not a scandal, this upcoming selection of a new Pope is an event the entire world takes note of.
The Catholic view of the world may change as a hopefully a less conservative person takes charge. But regardless, the selected Pope will make decisions, which will be discussed by Catholics, non-Catholics, agnostics and atheists alike.
The world preoccupation with Catholic Church intrigue again demonstrates the continued relevance of the Catholic Church’s opinion on spiritual and social issues.