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What should Americans look for in the next pope?

I admire the courage and humility Pope Benedict shows in stepping down. But looking forward, like any good American, I want to know: how will this change affect us? I took a run at that question for the Guardian, and you can read my answer on their Comment Is Free site today. Short version:

The American church desperately needs some confirmation that the hierarchy "gets it": no more blaming the media for being out to get the church; no more suggesting that the abuse was a matter of too many gay men in the seminaries; no more promoting and protecting compromised leaders. A new pope could stand for accountability.He could remove those hierarchs most implicated in the sex abuse scandal. And he could develop new criteria for bishops, calling for men whose gifts and inclinations are more pastoral than political. The kind of bishops needed in the 21st-century church, especially in the rapidly changing church in America, will be dedicated to repairing divisions, not deepening them.

Read the whole thing here. What are you hoping for?


Commenting Guidelines

My perfect pope would declare freedom of speech for all and enshrine it in canon law. The CDF would be limited to going after those who do things that are judged to merit condemnation; those who only say things but who do not act would be left in peace. Catholics would be encouraged to express ideas freely, good and bad ideas alike. Dialogue would thrive. Divisions would be exposed and explored, but through love and prayer, by the Holy Spirit they would be healed. Through creative discussions, Catholics would think of new ways to be in the modern world. The entire Catholic church would be like one big Commonweal. The pope would listen. He would learn from the church. His rare decisions would be informed by the counsel of many holy men and women. There would be no fear, only joy. Christ would visibly be with us and people would flock to join.

We certainly must give credit to Joseph Ratzinger for finally overcoming Cardinal Soldana, Maciels patron and beneficiary, and censuring Maciel. Jason Perry , in his NY Times oped, says that as a final act he should remove Soldano as dean of the Cardinals. Gary Wills chimes in with an op-ed in the same newspaper saying that he has little hope in the next pope since he thinks he only has the authority and that is the fundamental error. "A gift for eternal truths is as dangerous as the gift of Midass touch. The pope cannot undo the eternal truths he has proclaimed." Precisely why infallibility is a farce. So the new pope should ratify the commission of Paul VI and acknowledge the good of contraception. If nothing else to quiet the American bishops.

I would like to see a pope who recognizes that the next pope should be elected by a more representative group than the non-elected electors making up only 0.000005% of the faithful.

The Church is not about the Pope but about facilitating or mediating or actualizing a relationship with Jesus Christ.I would hope the new Pope would embrace simplicity and focus on the sacraments and the Bible. Following that emphasis, he should separate sacrament of holy orders from administrative offices.He could institute some important symbolic moves such as appointing women to key roles of leadership within the Curia. Curial functions are not necessarily connected to the episcopacy. We need the voices and thought of women in these roles.I do not think he has to be a world class scholar but he does need to be able to listen to the many voices of talented lay and religious theologians and scientists in the Church. He needs to have the gift of wisdom and clarity of vision and more importantly the will to carry these out.In some ways, I admire Pope Benedict XVI and respect what he did and his writings and book on Jesus of Nazareth. He was not, however, a strong leader. I don't know that democratic structures are the solution. Even in our democracy the strong and powerful STILL access the levers of power and I see little evidence that democracy has had the effect of enabling poor and marginalized to have access to those levers. The fact that this situation exists, as well as the shameful condition of homelessness, unemployment and poverty is something that we, as lay Catholics, are responsible for. Let's clean up the mess in the "secular" world and leave the internal Church mess to the leadership. Granted they have been doing a poor job....but so have we.

Quot homines, tot pontifices

How about this: instead of having a designated household preacher and always hearing from the same guy, the new pope would hear from a different preacher every day. There are enough visiting priests and deacons that it would be possible to never repeat. After a while, he would start to get an idea of the mind of the Church. He would experience unity in diversity.

Claire --You are asking for structural change. I mean you're asking to put counter-ideas systematically into the minds of the members of the old boys club. But the rules of the old boys club do NOT permit the articulation of different opinions because different opinions lead to confusion! Confusion is to be avoided at all costs!! The Holy Spirit told us to avoid confusion. Didn't He/She/Whatever?

" the Church is not against homosexuality. Can one be against the fact another is born blind?"Nice piece of hate speech, in denial of the fact that homosexuality is a mode of seeing, just as hetero- or bis-sexuality is. Pity the poor blind who cannot grasp this." homosexuality is the disunion of the bodys evolutionary intent and the mind" -- "an error in genetic code," -- is this some sort of Jackson Pollack exercise with pseudoscientific jargon? -- listening with the third ear is sounds as if you are expressing a strange degree of body-mind dissociation -- "I certainly did not follow the Church on much while in college and that certainly applies to birth control. That said, watching Europe generationally wither away it is hard not to see some wisdom in the Churchs position." Yes, the last resort of the humanae vitae gang: "let's outbreed the pesky immigrants."

Greg Burke, the Vatican Communication Director says that he "assumes" that Benedict's title after Februry 28 will be "Bishop of Rome Emeritus" and not "Pope Emeritus" had expected it would be just "Cardinal Ratzinger"

Ross Douthat's brief for a young and energetic pontiff, and some striking thoughts on the spirituality of a pope in decline. "When I am weak, it is then I am strong."

Over at Rorarte Caeli, they have worked out that only 12 of he 117 cardinals entitled to vote have ever celebrated an Extraordinary Form Mass since the Ordinary Form Mass was introduced forty years ago. Philippe Cardinal BarbarinRaymond Cardinal BurkeCarlo Cardinal CaffarraAntonio Cardinal Caizares LloveraVelasio Cardinal De PaolisJohn Cardinal Tong HonJuan Cardinal Sandoval iguezGeorge Cardinal PellAlbert Malcolm Cardinal RanjithJean-Pierre Cardinal RicardFranc Cardinal RodAndr Cardinal Vingt-Trois causes some uneasiness for traditionalists.One commenter suggested that the conclave should elect Bishop Fellay.

The Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi,may be right in thinking that there may follow a flood of other resignations. When the man at the top leaves, the move is likely to reverberate through the whole of a bureaucratic structure like the Curia. A little fresh air would be welcome.

"The Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi,may be right in thinking that there may follow a flood of other resignations"That suggests (or, at least, suggests that Fr. Lombardi wishes) that the next pope will not be a caretaker, and continuity will not the watchword. We'll see what happens.