Why the Pope and the rest of us should work on until we drop dead

Pope Benedict XVI: Scotland visit confirmed.
Hand of God: Pope Benedict XVI announced surprising decision this week© Rob & Lisa Meehan

Devil’s Advocate is a regular column assuming an alternate viewpoint on a topical subject of the week.

Let’s be upfront about this: I’m not best versed in the intimate details of the relationship between the Pope and God.

However, as somebody who has handed in his resignation before – and who will doubtless be told to do so again – I can only wonder at the fear Pope Benedict XVI must have felt as he handed in his notice.

At least the rest of us can simply send an email to the boss explaining succinctly that you’re off. Or, if you're without access to a computer, fire off a text saying something like: "thats it had enuf bc u smell so bad ;-) not really lol but i am resigning soz hope u find some1 btr :-(".

But for Benedict, it could not have been nearly so simple a process. Just imagine the silence as he finished his prayer explaining the reasons for him departing his post: it was probably even tenser than those moments before Dermot revealed that Rhydian was only runner-up in the 2007 series of The X Factor.

Just like Rhydian, the Pope is withdrawing from public life and leaving millions feeling desolate by the news, surely planned out well in advance by a cunning master of events.

Because, just like Simon Cowell, God also knows a thing or two about a shock twist, and – obviously inspired by Cowell’s no-holds-barred antics – He/She has obviously decided to try and up Her/His game to match the reality TV svengali.

However, though I guess Benedict can’t be held ultimately responsible, it still feels like he could have stood his ground a bit more, given the circumstances. Even if his health had diminished, surely the honour of his position would mean that he should still grab on to it for all it’s worth?

After all, wouldn’t you, under the circumstances? Perhaps it's hard for some to imagine what it would be like to be in his boots. It’s hard to think of a secular comparison for non-believers, but perhaps a rough equivalent would be really fancying Scarlett Johansson, then being made her PA at an advanced age (say 78, while Scarlett, for the purposes of this example, is the same age that she was in Lost in Translation).

I’m not sure why you’d be hired as a new PA at 78, any more than I know why a new Pope would be chosen at 78, but there you are – and by goodness aren’t you excited to get the job?

As someone who worships the ground that Scarlett walks on, there is literally nothing better that you can imagine doing on this earth. Your help – ie arranging waxes, dry-cleaning her wardrobe, choosing out the best skin-tight bodysuit for The Avengers – helps bring joy to millions.

Sure, after spending some time with her, your body starts to give way, but whose doesn’t? And remember, this goddess chose you. Some might claim that giving up the position is a slap directly in her face, and vilify you for your decision.

Not me, however, not at first. I can see where you’re coming from. For a second I almost sympathise. Your body is past its prime, and it’s not getting any better. You’re feeling weary, you’re feeling old, and the demands on your time feel like they will be too much to bear.

But then I look at this current shambles of a society, full of shirkers getting something for nothing, then I start to get angry. We all need to pull our socks up, and just because you don’t feel your best... Well, who does right now?

For example, I have a cold right now, it’s only getting worse, but you don’t hear me complaining, do you? I just had to go to the toilet to go and blow my nose for several minutes, but you won’t find me moaning about it, oh no! Why, what I wouldn’t give to be PA to Scarlett – to be flown around the world, to have people waiting on me hand on foot, to have millions who would love to hear me tell my tales of being so unimaginably close to her.

Just because you have been working the rest of your life, that doesn’t mean that others won’t benefit from your continued work, and that flinging aside what some consider a sacred duty isn't a selfish thing to do.

Whether you’re the Pope or Scarlett Johansson’s PA, you still have something to offer this world – and at the moment you’re needed more than ever. The retirement age has been rightly raised, but under the current circumstances the entire concept needs abolished. We all need to work on until we drop.

That way, we wouldn’t have people thinking they can live off others because of their contributions in the past, when what really counts is the here and now. And we wouldn’t have others letting down those who had personally chosen them, simply because they question their continued purpose. Don’t give up on Scarlett – after all, she will never give up on you.

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