The situation the Vatican finds itself in is an odd one. This is because the Vatican defines itself as an interface between God and people. That is a permanently odd situation.

There is one thing you can say, and that is that Pope Benedict never mellowed into a beloved leadership figure. Wrong face for that job. He remained his pre-papal Ratzinger self in a way that most popes seem to move on from. But just about everything else there is to say about situation is complicated by this positioning. It’s not a conceptually resolvable fit, that juncture between imperfection and perfection. All the interesting things there are to say about the resignation and the replacement make the institution sound all too human, and if that’s all that’s going on there, what’s the point? If there is more than that going on, you’d think the upper half of the the Heaven-Earth partnership would find it effortlessly simple to have things come out properly, in which case all the politics are very much beside the point.

The big difference between faith and not-as-much faith is that in the not-as-much view, buzzing molecules lead to an appreciation of unpredictability. When you look at the way faith institutions explain things, at best you’re left with “God works in mysterious ways.” Not as much difference there as people seem to think.