So, what is wrong with praying for his death? For relief from his manifest sufferings? And for the opportunity to pay honor to his legacy by turning to the responsibility of electing a successor, to get on with John Paul's work. Muriel Spark commented in Memento Mori, "When a noble life has prepared old age, it is not decline that it reveals, but the first days of immortality." That cannot be effected by the hospital in which the pope struggles.
Now, I'm not sure I'm up to arguing with the great Buckley. I've looked up to him for many years. And I can understand what he's saying. But doesn't this cross the line into the type of sentimentality that conservatives are always criticizing? The type that denies the reason and logic that Catholics always stress?
Rather than start name-calling, I'll defer to this elegant column by the elegant Peggy Noonan, to suggest the answer. Whether or not she's right is a mystery, but then so much of our lives, and what we believe, is. Excerpt:
But why, I said, does God allow this man he must so love to be dragged through the world in pain? He could have taken him years ago. Maybe, said [Michael] Novak, God wants to show us how much he loves us, and he is doing it right now by letting the pope show us how much he loves us. Christ couldn't take it anymore during his passion, and yet he kept going.
Which reminded me of something the pope said to a friend when the subject of retirement came up a few years ago: "Christ didn't come down from the cross." Christ left when his work was done.