Pope Benedict promised unconditional obedience to the next pope.
Here is a link to information about that:
He may have made this promise to show that he does not expect to retain the power he has had as pope after the next pope is selected, and to show that he will not try to be the power in the background that tries to control the next pope. He is saying, in effect, that he will give up his power and fully submit to the next pope like all other Catholic clergy.
Yet, what he is promising, to obey the next pope unconditionally, is no different than what other Catholic clergy and the Catholic Church in general are expected to do.
The Catholic Church teaches that God, through the Holy Spirit, will guide the selection of the pope and the decisions that pope will make. Therefore, as the Catholic Church sees it, the decisions of the pope are like the decisions of God and should be obeyed unconditionally. That is why Catholics are able to believe that the pope is infallible in official decisions about doctrine.
Yet to promise to obey a man unconditionally is wrong. We must always obey God first (Acts 4:19, 5:29), and only obey man when such obedience does not conflict with obedience to God.
In Nazi Germany, everyone in the military was required to swear an oath to obey Adolf Hitler unconditionally. Those who swore to obey Hitler knew who it was they were swearing to obey. In this case, Pope Benedict is promising to obey a man whose identity is unknown because he has not been selected yet.
It reminds me of the matter of UCG's ethics agreement that UCG ministers are required to sign. As I understand it, that ethics agreement requires the ministers to promise to support the decisions of UCG's leadership.
I wrote about the dangers of signing an ethics agreement in a series of posts last year. Here are the links to those posts, in order:
Friday, March 16, 2012
Would Jesus Christ Sign UCG's Ministerial Code of Ethics?
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Should COG Ministers Sign Ethics Agreements?
Sunday, April 1, 2012
Ethics Agreements Part 3 - Making Commitments
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
UCG Code of Ethics Agreement - Part 4
Now, one might say, a Church of God ethics agreement does not use the word "unconditional" regarding obeying the dictates of the Church leadership. Ok, but where are the conditions? Does it condition "support" only when such support does not conflict with the laws of God?
A promise to obey, even without the word "unconditional", is the same as a promise to obey unconditionally if there are no conditions in the promise to obey.
How can a minister promise to obey, without conditions, the human leadership of the organization that he is part of? This is done in the expectation that God will guide both the selection of the leadership and the decisions of the leadership so that such leadership will never carry out decisions that go against God's law.
Yet this expectation is contrary to the examples in the Bible and to Church of God history. Leaders in God's Church can and do sometimes make mistakes and bad decisions that go against God's truth and law, decisions a minister cannot actively support, promote, and teach without violating the spirit of God's law.
God has one standard, not separate standards for the world and for His people. "One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you" (Exodus 12:49). "You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small" (Deuteronomy 25:13-14). "Diverse weights and diverse measures, They are both alike, an abomination to the Lord" (Proverbs 20:10). What we teach the world and what we practice should not be two different things. If it is wrong for others to pledge unconditional obedience to their human leaders, it is wrong for us to pledge unconditional obedience to our human leaders. If there are conditions, such as, "only when such obedience or support does not conflict with the Bible", those conditions should be in the promise - otherwise the principle of unconditional obedience is understood and assumed.
Promising to obey and support the human leadership of a church, without the condition that one will obey only when such obedience does not conflict with God's law and word, is a danger and mistake, whether that church is a Church of God fellowship or one of the mainstream churches of this world.