Of course, all sorts of wonderful and awful (sometimes depending on your point of view) happened this year. This year has been so interesting that it's ending with Pope Francis demoting the highest-ranking American in the Vatican.
The Pope has removed Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke from his seat as the head of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's supreme court. Now Father Burke is the chaplain of the Knights of Malta, a position that carries much less responsibility than the one from which he was just removed.
Now, it's not the first time a Pope has removed a cardinal from such a high perch, although the move doesn't happen very often. However, when a Pontiff removes a prelate from a high position in the Vatican, he usually assigns that priest to another post with a similar level of responsibility. It's very infrequent for the head of the church to demote someone of Burke's power in the way Pope Francis has done.
What makes this move really unusual, though, is the Pope's reason for it. Are you ready for this?: The Pope thought Cardinal Burke's stance on homosexuality was too hard-line. Even for a man who said "Who am I to judge?" when asked about gays, demoting a Cardinal for his views on the issue is at least a little surprising, if not a shock.
How conservative is Father Burke? Seven years ago, he denounced a Catholic charity for allowing pro-choice advocate Sheryl Crow from performing at a benefit concert. Needless to say, he also wasn't too happy with her advocacy of stem-cell research.
How ironic is it that the Pope is now showing more tolerance and even acceptance of LGBT people than so many anti-LGBT lawmakers and activists in--let alone the man who had been the highest-ranking Cardinal from--the United States?
These are interesting times, indeed!