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Hope for the next Pope? Nope.

I am with Garry Wills in finding myself unable to get too excited about the selection of a new pope:

[A] new pope will be elected by cardinals who were elevated to office by the very popes who reaffirmed eternal truths like the teaching on contraception. They were appointed for their loyalty, as were the American bishops who stubbornly upheld the contraception nonsense in our elections. Will the new conclave vote for a man who goes against the teachings of his predecessors? Even if they do, can the man chosen buck the structure through which he rose without kicking the structure down? These considerations have given the election of new popes the air of watching Charlie Brown keep trying to kick the football, hoping that Lucy will cooperate.

The selection process is utterly bereft of the characteristics of participation and transparency that virtually all of us would demand as criteria of legitimacy in any other context. It is possible, I suppose, that the process will somehow misfire and yield a Pope who affirms values of openness and accountability. Now that would surely be a sign of divine intervention. 

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Agree. Garry Wills's new book, Why Priests? A Failed Tradition, was published yesterday.http://www.amazon.com/Why-Priests-Failed-Tradition-ebook/dp/B008EKMAKG/r... the first few pages he reminds us of what Jesus said about the Sadducees and Pharisees: "Everything they do is done to impress people. They enlarge their tefillins and lengthen their tassels. . . . Do not address any man on earth as father, since you have only one Father and he is in heaven."Wills asks: "What could be more against this teaching than popes who adopt the title, 'Holy Father'?"

I prefer Colbert for Pope -- and he schools Wills rather nicely here!http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/423715/february-1...(I think this is the closest that Colbert's onscreen and real life persona have ever come to meeting)

I wonder what Garry Wills would be like as pope?

Wills is right about the structure being more important than the person, unless the person has the sense to start dismantling the structure. I would never discount the actions of the Holy Spirit, but also think that the Lord helps those who help themselves. Dislodging autocracies is a tricky thing. Change will happen when the faithful get it together enough to give the bishops reason to change, through the exercise of their voices and their pocketbooks. I think he's off the mark on priests, though. Someone has to be designated to execute the sacred rituals. Doesn't have to be a celibate male, but it has to be someone.

John XXIII was elected by Pius XII, and if not by him by Pius XI. John himself was made a cardinal by Pius XII. Could he buck the structure without kicking the structure down? (There are those who say he didn't buck the structure, and those who say he did. And those, here and there, who say he didn't buck the structure but did kick it down anyway. We can ignore the last bunch even if they are prominent in this country.)I would think the cardinals getting ready for the next conclave know, better than anyone else, what's off the rails and are thinking in terms of who will fix it. The aura of perfection so many sycophants puffed up around John Paul II may have wowed them once, but now that Benedict XVI has restored the human dimension to the papacy perhaps the cardinals can do their job right. I am ever the optimist.

Whoops sorry, that first sentence should begin "John XXIII was elected by cardinals appointed by Pius..." (Hit submit instead of scrolling. Old age.)

Someone has to be designated to execute the sacred rituals. Doesnt have to be a celibate male, but it has to be someone.I hope you will consider reading the sample of Wills's book at Amazon. He reminds us in the first few pages that no one was so designated.

How sad, for both gentlemen.

Wills is right theologically. The Eucharist is essentially the Body of Christ which means all the fiathful as Paul calls us- the Body of Christ. Augustine states this in sermon 272 clearly. Orthodoxy refers to this sermon as proving Augustine believed in transubstantiation which is exactly the opposite. Wills is right about priests. This failed concept has brought about too many abuses whereby the

(continued, sorry)priests are sacralized and are not held accountable. It took Vatican II to make clear the opposite. So priests should refused to be called father in contradiction to the words of Jesus. Neither should the pope.

I was a young priest when I chose to write a master's thesis on the priesthood and (lacking skill in German or French) read everything there was in English on the origins of the priesthood as it was being lived in 1968. To my horror, I discovered that the priesthood as we know it reached an historical cul-de-sac sometime around the 300's. The national bishops' group asked biblical scholars to do the same study and I was comforted that those men, much more erudite than I, reached the same conclusion. The bishops then dumped the study. What Wills says is not exactly news, then. The problem began when it suddenly became fashionable to model priests after the Levites of the Old Testament. Since they abstained from sex while offering sacrifice, enforced celibacy could not be far behind. I disagree that we no longer need priests. What we need are priests and bishops who are not drowning in a huge sense their own essential difference from the ordinary flock. We need to get lay people, including women, into the leadership mix. We need married priests, male or female.

A wise and seasoned former colleague of mine (a priest) once told me that he doesn't expect much from leadership on that level (church hierarchy, the Pope), and he is pleasantly surprised if he gets it. I have kept that advice in mind ever since and have not been disappointed. And except for rare, but shining, instances, I have not been pleasantly surprised either.

No doubt what Wills says about scripture and the early Church is true. But as Catholics, we consider the tradition itself as a form of revelation, no? So Wills could be right and the priesthood still of value (especially if it is not limited to celibate males with four years of post-graduate education). Even in the secular understanding of the sacred, there is a soul who is designated to perform a ritual, and in the witnessing of it, the participants enter into the experience of the sacred. (Think the ritual of the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which certainly qualifies as a sacred event.) That's what we need to get back to, without all the claptrap of monarchy and clericalism.

Everybody wants to go back to some era when it was the "real" church, it seems. For Wills, sometime around the first Pentecost, I think. For the pope, probably around the fourth century -- though Bavaria in the 1930s is a close second. For others the Middle Ages, still other the years before Vatican II and others right after Vatican II. Nostalgia seems to be everyone's preferred theological lens. I just wish I could go back to this morning's Mass and fix the music...

After watching Wills on Colbert, I wish to say, as emphatically as possible, that I am not with him.

I prefer Colbert for Pope and he schools Wills rather nicely here!David Gibson,I think he "schools" Wills with the kind of things we learned in grade school and high school in the 1950s, such as Jesus made Peter the first pope when he said, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church." I thought Wills' appearance was unfortunate, but kind of for the same reason the author of The Rape of Nanking would certainly have declined to appear in a five-minute spot on a comedy show. Those interviews on The Colbert Report are often worthwhile when they sound like a bad idea, but there are just some topics that aren't appropriate.

God bless Gary Wills. He's practical, historical, and Intelligent. He also, most of all. knows how to put a little humor in it. I love the football and Charlie Brown.

I am trying not to be quite so gloomy as Eduardo and Garry Wills, keeping always before me the surprise of John XXIII. I fully believe that the conclave will be enlightened by the Holy Spirit. But I'm afraid I don't believe there's any law, divine or human, that assures us its members will take her advice.

My first remark was about the article in the NYT. I just saw the Colbert interview, and I think that I could never accept his stance on Transubstantiation. The Eucharist and the Mass is my greatest anchor in my faith.

For subscribers only, John Baldovin's review of Garry Wills's 'Why Priests?':http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/cult-hit

The spiritual traditions that I am most familiar with, Catholic and First Nation, specifically Oji- Cree all have a pretty strong component of ritual attached to them and somebody needs to lead this rituals. Usually, there is some kind of process and the leader of the ritual is somebody who lives the life and is recognized as such by the community. I am with Jeanne on that point. There is the sacred and we need to be brought into that space. I would bet that even in Christian traditions that have no ordained ministers such as the Quakers, they still have preferred "go to" people to lead services.

The celebration of the Body of Christ in remembering and proclaiming the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is quite sacred, redeeming and fruitful. We just do not need narcissists taking it over.

The announced resignation of Pope Benedict has set in motion the process of selecting a new Bishop of Roman and leader of the Catholic church. Cardinals will gather in early March and enter into conclave and proclaim during the election process that they are voting for the individual whom they believe God has directed them. There is an absolute conviction that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Cardinals in this process.In his act of resignation, the Pope has made an ecclesiological act. He has reminded the church that becoming Pope is not an ordination, nor by the way is becoming a cardinal. There is no ontological change in becoming a Pope. The Papacy, or better, the Petrine ministry is an office presently attached to the Bishop of Rome. It is not a personal office as in priestly ordination of Episcopal ordination, even though it is always personal. One need not be Pope for life as Benedicts action reminds us.I am wondering if another ecclesiological truth should also now be recovered. Sadly, one has the impression from numerous media reports that the Cardinals under 80 will select the next Bishop of Rome and Pope. While this perspective is true for the process of selection, the Cardinals if fact must attend to the whole communion which is the church and act in harmony with this communion. The media reports paint a picture of a very exclusive hierarchical and clerical church. In fact, the Cardinals are attentive to the developments, challenges, questions and issues facing the global Catholic communion which has become more and more diverse. The Cardinals bring into the conclave the real Catholic communities around the world who enter into the guidance of the Holy Spirit directing each Cardinals vote.Perhaps this is an opportune time for the Catholic faithful around the world to become even more involved in the process of selecting the successor of Peter. Perhaps in the next two weeks Catholic can write, e-mail or text the different Cardinals and communicate the sensus fidelium, the experience, wisdom and insights of the various local churches who are THE CHURCH. Let the faithful be heard. We are a church of clergy and laity and the Spirit works throughout the body. Voting for the Pope is the responsibility of the cardinals, choosing a Pope is the responsibility of the whole church.

Maybe if the role focused more on ministering rather than cultic things (not excluding them, but not putting them in first place, either) then the title "Minister" would be more appropriate. The Protestants learned that quite some time back even if the "low church" ones did downplay the cultic things.BTW, John Allen doesn't think that all is lost (but, then, he is the internal church mouse optimist, as well): http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/why-resignation-may-mean-conclave-o...

I'm not holding my breath waiting for the cardinals to rescue the Catholic Church. Not going to happen for all the reasons written above. I have a deep belief that the narrative of the future of Catholicism, and Christianity for that matter, will be written, for better or for worse, by just regular folks, not irrelevant and alienated hierarchs.If the Holy Spirit even still bothers with the conclave she would contrive the election of a humble man who would recognize that the only way to save the church, the only way out of the mess that Ratzinger and his "brother bishops" have led the church to, is to LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE!Will the church have the wisdom to avoid the certain fate that the forces of evolution seem ready to extract from Christianity? I don't know if there is another J23rd out there - after all, geniuses of the human heart like that only come around every millennia or so.The best hope for the Catholic Church would be for the cardinals to have the humility to acknowledge their historic failures of the last fifty years. I just don't think they have it in them - I really believe that they believe they have been doing just a superb job!My sainted sixth-grade teacher, Sister Mary Adelaide, [referencing Aquinas, I think] always told us that "Grace builds on nature." All the evidence around us tells us that the cardinals' true nature is to seek after power and privilege. The cardinals are not the stuff of apostles.

Knowing that our primitive ancestors in the Christian faith did not have "priests", and knowing how the "priests on pedestals" mentality contributed to the widespread clerical sexual abuse of children, episcopal coverups/etc., and papal indifference to all the aforementioned, why the hell does the Church of Rome continue to refer to its ordained frontline clergy as "priests". As the good sisters taught us kids in parochial school more than 50 years ago, a "priest" mediates between God and Man by offering "sacrifice" to God on behalf of the people. Arguments for some kind of organizational/institutional hierarchy aside, such ecclesiology is the perfect setup for all the crap we've seen revealed in recent years (no thanks to the Church of Rome's leaders, by the way).Jesus never identified himself as a "priest" but only as a "prophet". Peter and Stephen acknowledge Jesus as "prophet". As noted, Jesus did not descend from the priestly line in Judaism. Baptism conferred priesthood (or at least admission to a priestly community) in primitive Christianity. At least Vatican II retrieved the term 'presbyterate' from the primitive churches. As Kenan Osborne has noted in his PRIESTHOOD: A HISTORY OF THE ORDAINED MINISTRY IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, liturgical presidership was based on a person's community leadership. Today (and I guess going back perhaps hundreds of years), this picture is reversed: community leadership is based on one's liturgical presidership. I've heard that B16 has discouraged use of the word 'presbyter' in Catholic discussion. We need to jettison use of the form of address "Father". Absent anything better, I prefer the term "Pastor" as used in some other Christian denominations. Rome's protestations to the contrary, we do have de facto women liturgical presiders in the wider Catholic world. Do we address these presbyters (or "priests") as "Father"?I hope we get a pope who FINALLY moves the Church of Rome forward in the spirit of Vatican II. We must face our history, good and bad, and take corrective measures as necessary. We may need the transcendant --- but not the way in which it's been understood and exercised.

With all due respect for Garry Wills, the historical Jesus is arguably best understood as an example of a shaman.Now, all men and all women have the potentiality to become shamans. However, most men and most women do not develop this particular potentiality to the degree that the historical Jesus did, because they develop other potentialities instead to a far greater extent than they develop this particular potentiality.But in my estimate, the Jesuit spiritual director Anthony de Mello (1931-1987) from India did develop his shaman potentiality to an extent comparable to the extent to which the historical Jesus developed his shaman potentiality. I base my estimate of the extent to which Tony de Mello developed his shaman potentiality on his own perceptive comments in works such as THE WAY TO LOVE: MEDITATIONS FOR LIFE (reissued Image, 2012) and other works and on his spiritual conferences during his lifetime.Nevertheless, I agree with Garry Wills that there is no hope that the next pope will be significantly different from the two most recent popes.

I talked to three persons about the pope's resignation.- The first one said: "I am very excited. It gives a sense of possibility."- The second one said: "Yes, I heard about it, but frankly, no matter who is the next pope, I doubt it's going to make any difference for us in practice."- The third one said: "Why did he resign? He said that he was no longer strong enough. Could it be that the forces of evil are closing in around him? That does not seem very auspicious."

I think that it is worth noting that we know very little about the community structures and liturgical practices of the early Christians. So while the Church's account of its origins in the primitive church is idealized and unhistorical, I'm not sure if it makes sense to posit a different idealized, equally unhistorical model of what the earliest church was like.(Especially if it means talking about shamans. Good Lord, Lemon!)

My colleague John Baldovin's "Commonweal" review of Wills' book concludes:"Garry Wills is an erudite man (in typical fashion, he provides his own translation of Hebrews in an appendix) as well as a polished and persuasive writer, and he raises important questions about the ordained ministry. Yet Why Priests? exudes the same angry and bitter tone as his 2001 Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit. Once again he has taken a sledgehammer to an issue that requires a much more delicate instrument. We clearly need a good, serious book that moves the ball forward on the theology of ordained ministry, especially in relation to Christian worship. Sadly, this is not it."The erudite exegete of the "Declaration of Independence" and of Lincoln's"Second Inaugural" does himself no credit by the cavalier reference in his op-ed piece to "weird arguments contained in the anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews." So much for biblical inspiration.And though Wills extols one of Newman's essays, he might re-read the one that brought Newman into the Catholic Church: his "Essay on the Development of Doctrine," including the doctrine of the priesthood.

The last Pope who embarked on a program of "openness and accountability" ended up with his Papacy cut rather mysteriously short.

It's very surprising to me that a distinguished Augustine scholar like Wills would turn into a literalist-fundamentalist in his old age. True, some very basic questions about the priesthood need to be asked desperately, especially questions about bishops. Here again we have that same old theological epistemological question rearing its persistent head: what can we know theologically and how can we know it?

Here's an informative article from Reuter's about what does and doesn't happen at a conclave.http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2013/02/13/discreet-papal-campaign-b...

Just watched the Wills interview. He seems to me pretty much like a Congregationalist. At this interview he denied three sacraments (if my count was right). He has every right to do so. As did Luther. But after doing all this, is it meaningful to call yourself a Catholic (in any meaningful way)? Just saying

To Anthony Andreass: your observation in trenchant. But Wills is still making "first half of life" statements, and asking "first half of life" questions, much like the institution he so rabidly criticizes. He is actually more similar in modus operandi to the institutional RCC than he thinks. Much like Bill Donahue and Christopher Hitchens were more or less the same, despite their cable talk show blowharding.

@ Brian Pinter. You are wise beyond your years.

What Gary Wills is saying is not new. Many Catholic theologians who are not intimidated by the magisterium have been saying this for a long time. Vatican II introduced the term "Presider" but the old regal chuch advocates ignored that and reverted to the priest, bishops and popes as semi-gods. E.G Maciel, JP II...

Brian Pinter,Since I have willy-nilly entered "the second half of life," what are the "first half of life" questions?

Interesting review of Wills's new book at New Republic by Kevin Madigan, "Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard and author of the forthcoming Medieval Christianity: A New History (Yale University Press)."Madigan concludes with this:"While quite intriguing to contemplate, Willss suggestion will never be seriously considered, either by Catholic priests or many parishioners. It is likely to be dismissed, therefore, as unrealistic, impractical and possibly unkind. This is a shame. Whatever one thinks of his proposal, Willss demolition of the many myths surrounding the origins of priestly status and function is in itself crucially informative and enlightening, especially for practitioners of Catholicism."http://www.newrepublic.com/article/112294/gary-willss-why-priests-review...

It is possible, I suppose, that the process will somehow misfire and yield a Pope who affirms values of openness and accountability.EduardoThis seems to miss the point since the RCC is first and foremost Christ's Church on earth and thus accountable to Him, not the laity. From the Catechism '...our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it...' Unless I'm mistaken, your view of accountability treats the laity as God.

"... the RCC is first and foremost Christs Church on earth and thus accountable to Him not the laity.....your view of accountability treats the laity as God."The Pope isn't the RCC, though, right? He is a part of it, just like the laity. Why wouldn't the leadership be accountable to the rest of the membership? Isn't that a basic element of leadership? Seems like any other view would be treating, not the laity, but instead, the Pope, as God.

Fr. Imbelli, I am quite confident you have entered the second half of life, but it should be stated that age has nothing to do with it. Richard Rohr describes those in the second half of life this way: they no longer need to divide the field of every moment between up and down, totally right or totally wrong, with me or against me. People in the second half of life don't have the need to use religion as a belonging system or a mode of condemnation. They also let go of infantile thinking, and the need to have certain kinds of authority, "daddy/mommy" figures. They are compassionate and embracing, forgiving and wise. We are attracted to such people because of their open-heartedness and ability to give and receive love. They are wounded, sometimes deeply, but have allowed the wounds to be transformed into something life giving. They are not transmitting their hurt, anger, rage, and pain to others. I pray that we will someday have a Pope and church leadership which has entered this second half of life, but the institution as a whole is very much "first half of life" - concerned about structure, identity, rules, who is in/out, why we're better, why God loves us the most - the thoughts and arguments of teenagers. But one never knows. We might get there someday.

Benedict has given the SSPX a final chance (according to Rorate)"Rorate can independently confirm the report --hinted at just now in Le Forum Catholique -- that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has sent a letter with a final offer to the Society of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX): resume the dialogue with the Holy See by February 22, or else the Holy See will make an offer of reconciliation and full communion to individual SSPX priests. (What kind of offer or structural basis will be offered is unclear.)http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2013/02/a-last-chance-for-sspx-plus-ssp...

One of the people posting on Le Forum Catholique says that the letter setting the February 22 deadline was sent at the beginning of January - not since the Pope's resignation.How accurate that is, I don't knowhttp://www.leforumcatholique.org/message.php?num=705325

How can anyone say it's their last chance? A pope is not bound by another pope's threats, but only by Jesus' forgiveness formula: seventy times seven.Maybe the next pope (DOLAN) will forgive everyone who was threatened, investigated, hassled, silenced, intimidated, excommunicated, etc. by the John Paul II / Benedict XVI regime.

Gerelyn, I guess he practical question is whether Benedict will take any action during his final week as Pope if the SSPX doesn't sign the Doctrinal Preamble by February 22. To do that, there would have to be a document already prepared and awaiting his signature.

That Reagan and John Paul II brought down communism is a shallow interpretation. Communism was clearly not working and the video tape brought reality to the Russian people never allowed under a managed news USSR. (The same reality is the reason people in the church have confronted the Vatican in the last 50 years. Rome cannot spin anymore.) The pope and Reagan just happened to be the leaders at the time.

Bill--Do you have any contemporaneous support that, in the 1980s, you believed Communism was clearly not working? It's funny, we all Reaganites "now", though I recall 40% of the country did not vote for him "then."Methinks I must still be in my first half of life.

Oh thats a good one Bill; the VCR brought down soviet Communism. Hmmm. Reagan, Thatcher, Gorbachov, John Paul II, even Boris Yelstin, none of them had any bearing on the matter? Wow.In any case, the cardinals will implore the Holy Spirit to guide them in selecting the next pope, they will listen carefully and then we will have a new pope.As for the ever pressing issues like bc pills etc., the new pope will no doubt give those matters all the thoughtful consideration they deserve.

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About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the John P. Wilson Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.