Sunday, March 3, 2013

A few ideas for Pope Novus | Commonweal

NOTE: This is a wonderful article over on Commonweal by Peter Steinfels called "Shock Theraphy: Could the next Pope learn from Benedict?" It is well worth your time.  I'm only partially quoting it here.  What really caught my attention were his suggestions about some of the things that the new Pope, or "Pope Novus", could learn from the Pope Emeritus actions in relinquishing the power of the papacy.  

I particularly like his thoughts on the role of women.  One of my long-held contentions has been that if we really believe what we say about priestly ordination - that the fact that women cannot be ordained is about theology and not sexism - then why aren't women welcomed into more leadership roles in the Church that do not require ordination?  For example, in a proper sense, there is nothing about being a Cardinal that requires ordination.  Being a Cardinal is an honorific bestowed on people by the Pope and while Cardinals have nice red hats, they really only have one job - to elect a Pope.  Why not make some women Cardinals?  Wouldn't that be a show of integrity in putting our money where our mouth is?  Invite women into a very powerful role of leadership - the power to have a voice in the selection of a Pope.  Steinfels addresses that possibility below, among others.

Read on and let me know what you think. - FT

EXCERPT: Between Easter and Pentecost [the new Pope] can deliver the necessary shock therapy. To begin, Pope Novus, as we might call him, should declare that his predecessor's wisdom in resigning reveals a permanent insight into the realities of a modern papacy. Henceforth, popes will either serve a term of twelve years or resign at the age of eighty-two, the choice depending on each pope's reading of the church's needs at the moment. Papal interventions to determine the church's choice of a successor, something Benedict has adjured but another pope might not, will be formally prohibited.
Because the beginning of a papacy is the opportune time to deal with the delicate question of such transitions, Pope Novus should move to make future conclaves more representative. He might create a new position of “cardinal electors”; their only function would be to vote in a conclave. Cardinal electors would constitute one third of those voting. They would include the heads of the ten largest religious orders. The rest would be chosen biannually—and their names kept in petto—by the presidents of the bishops conferences of each continent. The number of cardinal electors would be proportionate to each continent's Catholic population. At least half of them would be women. Heads of Vatican offices, although eminently eligible for election to the papacy, would not participate in the conclave unless they had become cardinals while serving as ordinaries.
The specifics are arguable, but the general idea is clear: continuity but not cloning.
Reforming the tenure and election of popes would signal that the church is open to change, even though it only affects the future. That needs to be complemented with a dramatic gesture of immediate consequence. One idea would be a papal establishment of a massive Catholic Pietà Fund to be devoted to the health, education, and safety of women around the world. The goal would be to raise $1.2 billion, or a dollar for each of the world’s Catholics. While pledging to maintain the church's role as a steward of artistic heritage, Pope Novus might initiate this fund by offering to sell one or several of the Vatican's signature artworks (the Pietà itself?). Perhaps Catholics or others could outbid buyers to keep these objects in Rome. In any case, contributions to the Pietà Fund would become a feature of papal journeys and international events like World Youth Day. Would this diminish Peter’s Pence? On the contrary, it would probably swell it. And by placing administration of the fund in the hands of Catholic women, Pope Novus would also signal openness to reexamining the role of women in the church. Had John Paul II taken a dramatic initiative like this early in his papacy, the church's voice on several major issues would have won a much greater hearing.
Two other initiatives could be reserved for Pentecost, May 19. On that day, the pope would invite bishops, theologians, and knowledgeable laity to submit their thoughts on two topics. One would be very practical: how to make the world synods of bishops an effective institution. The other would be very fundamental: aggiornamento and ressourcement on the church’s understanding of sexuality.
Pope Novus would pledge to act within several years to reform the synods. He would be wise to warn that the discussion of sexuality would take time and no one should expect hasty conclusions about specific norms.
Is all this fantasizing? Obviously. Is it fantastic? These initiatives are moderately disruptive insofar as they admit of change in the church, hardly a heretical notion. They are only slightly more controversial in encouraging broader participation in the shaping of that change. They are otherwise open-ended—and about as unthinkable as a pope resigning.
Pope Novus, whoever he turns out to be, will preach many words between his election and Pentecost. They will evoke familiar images and stir familiar sentiments. But unless they are accompanied by a few vivid, imaginative, and substantial initiatives, they will wash over the listening world and the listening church, with at most an arresting phrase or two lodged in our hearts. We will stumble on. The church does not live by popes alone. The opportunity to build on Pope Benedict's startling gift will have been squandered.

1 comment:

  1. This is really something to pray about!! It seems outrageous but I think it is an affective move forward for the Church in keeping up with today's society. It changes so fast at times and the historic Church needs to keep steady with these changes and it will solve a lot of the "issues" in the Church today.