Il a pris le parti de démissioner.
ee lah preel paar-teed day-mee-seeyuh-NAY. Click below to hear this.
He made up his mind to resign.
Plenty of people resign from committees, chairmanships, jobs, and even washing the after-dinner dishes. But few of them become famous. One President of the United States did, in 1974, when he resigned the presidency. That was Richard Nixon. I was in France that summer, and the daily question in the grocery store to “l’Américaine” (that was me, or alternatively, my housemate that summer and friend, Carolyn) was Qu’est-ce qu’il va faire, votre Président? My stock answer, of course, was Mais je ne sais pas! (If this event was not part of your history, you can read about it here.)
Démissioner means to resign. When you do it, you are giving up a mission that you had previously been charged with. You un-mission yourself. Nixon was the first–and is so far the only–American President to step down from office, and it was shocking news at the time. But even that can’t match a more recent, and much higher-profile, resignation: that of Pope Benedict XVI. Other popes have resigned, but it hasn’t happened in six centuries. That’s a long time.
I can’t imagine that the Pope took the decision lightly. I do imagine he spent a good deal of time on his knees. He was faced with a hard choice: live out his papacy in continually declining health, increasingly unable to perform his duties, or step aside for a younger, healthier, more vigorous pope? Would he be seen as a coward for quitting? Would he be turning over the office to someone who would undermine all he had been working for? Or would his departure be seen as an act of grace, courage, or generosity?
The phrase used in French when you make up your mind or decide to do something is prendre le parti de faire quelque chose. Literally, it is to take the party of doing something. Not a whoop-de-doo party with balloons and music, but more like a political party. You are taking sides, choosing among options, none of which may be perfect or clear or completely desirable. But you do decide, and you take a stand, and you do what you feel is necessary. That is your parti pris, your choice, your decision.
Alternate audio file link: il-a-pris-le-parti