Despite Outrage from Critics, Popes Rarely Resign

NEW YORK (AP) - Only a few popes have resigned in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Don't expect Pope Benedict XVI to join their ranks.

The uproar caused by reports that Benedict and his aides were slow to defrock abusive priests cannot be explained as the church equivalent of Watergate with the pope in the role of U.S. president.

A pope is far more than chief executive of the worldwide church. For believing Catholics, he is the successor to St. Peter and vicar of Christ on earth who is expected to serve until death. Popes are elected by cardinals in a process the church believes is guided by the Holy Spirit.

The cardinals who chose Benedict in 2005 have been his most vigorous defenders.

Canon lawyer and professor Nicholas Cafardi says people calling for his ouster "have no idea the seriousness of what they are asking."

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