As Pope Francis continues to be a nightmare for Roman Catholic apologists, whether it being affirming the faith of Joe Biden and saying he would never refuse him communion, endorsing civil unions for gay couples, or releasing his most outrageously blasphemous statement, rumors are swirling at the Vatican and in Italian media that the 85-year old spiritually decrepit pontiff he may soon be stepping down, the result of declining health and pulling a few power moves.
Of first concern is his ailing health. Last year Francis had 13 inches of his large intestine removed, spending over 10 days in the hospital, and he is now for the last month he has been having much difficulty walking, resulting in him using a wheelchair whenever he goes.
More importantly, last week, he announced a papal consistory, which is a formal meeting of the College of Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church. His goal in doing so is to create 21 new Cardinals, the vast majority who would be under the age of 80 and therefore would be allowed to vote in a conclave to pick his successor.
It is thought that given the current College of Cardinals only has 67 members right now who could vote, Francis is ‘stacking the deck’ with numbers so that they would in turn vote for someone who continues his work, rather than a hardline conservative who would repudiate much of the liberalism and progressivism he’s been spewing the over last 10 years.
Francis having a hand in picking this successor would not be unprecedented. Benedict XVI stepped down in 2013, becoming the first in 600 years to do so. Francis has praised his actions, suggesting that they “opened the door” for future popes to do the same, though Benedict only planned his exit, not who would take over. When Francis first became the leader of the church, he speculate that he’d have a short papacy- perhaps two to five years- but is now fast approaching a full decade.