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'Looking Back' with Margaret O'Brien Steinfels

Our web-exclusive feature continues. In our 2005 series of articles titled What Next?,Commonweal asked five writers to look at the challenges the then newly elected Benedict XVI was likely to face. Weve been checking back with those writers to get their thoughts on whether the hopes they laid out eight years ago have been realized.Featured now is Margaret O'Brien Steinfels. An excerpt:

In 2005 when I commented on his election, my advice to Benedict was, loosen up. I was referring to the appointment of bishops and the state of the local church. I wrote then that the bishops are the point where the local church meets the Vatican [and where] the engine of Catholicism ha[d] seized up. Then and now, the U.S. bishops are seriously hampered by their lack of credibility and authentic authority. If anything, the situation has gotten worse: The clerical sex abuse crisis keeps turning up in the headlines, while the bishops have painted themselves into a corner over contraceptive coverage in the new health care regulations and their crusade for a Fortnight for Freedom last summer was all leaders and no troops.

Read her entire reflection here,along with previous installments in the series from Robert P. Imbelliand Richard R. Gaillardetz. 

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And I look forward with an equal lack of enthusiasm toward the next pope. The liberals lost and the conservatives won. Now a group of men handpicked for their "orthodoxy" by two popes will gather to choose the next pope from among their numbers. Unless somebody has been hiding out in that elect number, his true opinions hidden, it is going to be same old, same old.

To Benedicts successor: Better bishops attuned to the true needs of the local church will not resolve every problem facing the Catholic Church, far from it, but better bishops would go some way in curtailing the lemming-like march over the cliff.I don't understand this comment. Who are the lemmings? (I hope you're not referring to millions of Catholics who have left the Church. They made their choice, not as lemmings, but as human beings endowed by the Creator with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.)(DOLAN for Pope!)

Apt phrase, all leaders and no troops.To put it in Biblical terms, maybe it's time for the sheep to go in search of the strayed shepherds. But I fear it would be a futile quest. If the people are dismayed by recent events and pronouncements and are disinclined to trust the bishops, those gentlemen have long mistaken cocksureness for God-given moral authority, which must be continually earned to be effective, and believe the only role of their flock is to baa and obey. They won't listen.

Dolan for pope? Never. He's a cartoonish buffoon.Mary McAleese for pope. She would be more of a leader than anyone who is currently in contention, except for Diarmuid Martin on whom I'm putting my money with Paddy Power.

John Prior --I don't think the bishops have strayed. They have turned into sheep.

Except for Archbishop Gomez. HE recently turned back into a bishop.

"Dolan for pope? Never. Hes a cartoonish buffoon."See these Christians, how they love one another!