I’ve been hearing that the incumbent pope, Pope Benedict XVI, had announced his decision to step down by the end of February. True enough, early this morning, the news was already filled with accounts of his final public speech. I must admit that I have not really been paying much attention to the papacy. And I have done so for many reasons.
I have lost my confidence and faith in the papacy a long time ago. And this pope, from all accounts, has not changed my view. I have long questioned the insistence on seclusion and cloistering, making a lot of things shrouded in mystery and secrecy. Nowadays, there are hardly any institutions that are immune or excluded from scrutiny and demands for accountability. The court of public opinion is becoming louder and louder.
Here are some things I am hoping that will change when the conclave meets and elects a new pope:
I’d like to see the long history of child sex abuses addressed appropriately, fairly, justly. It’s not good enough for the Pope to meet with a few of these victims and ask for their forgiveness. There has to be material change in the way such abuses are reported, investigated, corrected, and in a timely manner. Victims’ pleas need to be addressed appropriately as well. Not after thousands have been repeatedly tormented. No more sweeping under some grand ancient rug. No more looking the other way or pretending they did not happen. Perpetrators should be dealt with accordingly, not squirreled away from one religious house to another in an effort to avoid exposure.
I’d like to see better transparency on how funds are spent in the Vatican. After all, its coffers are filled with a significant percentage of all mass celebrations and donations from ALL Catholic churches, regardless of whether these churches are able to make ends meet where they are located. If all parishioners are contributing, then there should be an accounting of where the money is spent. I would like to see that funding for political campaigns of any kind be banned—yes here in the United States too. Political watchdogs had to expose Catholic organizations in their funding of Prop 8, together with the LDS Church and other Evangelical Churches.
American Nuns have long asked for a change in how they are treated as a religious group. Their relationship with the outgoing pontiff has certainly been strained as was their relationship with the previous pope. Nuns have been accused of going beyond their bounds of their holy existence supposedly limited to perpetual prayer and praise of the lord. Many nuns are equipped to take on neighborhoods steeped in poverty and all its ills. They strive to make a difference and they have, many times over, in education, health care, alleviating the suffering of the poor, the homeless, victims of AIDS, human trafficking and wars. But the nuns have been accused of promoting “radical feminist themes” that are incompatible with the congregation. For their organization to be taken over by the bishops as announced last year was a resounding slap and an effort to subjugate once again!
There are serious problems when an organization composed of mostly elderly white men cannot treat those who are not of the same gender, age, color, sexual orientation, or creed the fair and equal treatment they are entitled to as human beings.
Now is the time, more than ever, for the entire church to rethink its policies. I’d like to see a pope who is in touch with reality, who is connected to his “flock.” A pope who embraces technology. I’d like to hear that this pope will use a computer on his desk, a tablet at his bedside, even a smartphone in his pocket. He should see for himself how his entire congregation is viewed by the world. Not the pope who is always in seclusion, who has only scheduled appearances and has to speak through emissaries.
I would also like to see a younger, more energetic pope. Not someone who can be pushed around or manipulated. Someone who is charismatic and can engage and connect. Is it important for this pope to be holy? To speak eight languages? Maybe. It is more important for the position to have a good administrator, an organized, systematic, fair arbitrator who knows how to listen but decides for himself.
Picking a septuagenarian pope can be problematic. Don’t get me wrong. I love elderly people. My mother is well into her eighties and she’s still full of pump and gusto. But she tires by early afternoon and needs her nap. It takes her longer now to complete even a small project, let alone see one through by herself. It’s been like this for almost 10 years now. And so, I can just imagine how difficult and even overwhelming it may be for an elderly pontiff to have to deal with a scandal of these proportions and many concomitant challenges.
The Christian organization is shrinking, especially in Europe and North America. It is still strong in Asia, South America, and Africa. However, how much of these continents are going to be represented in the papal conclave? How many are women? None. Are there any women ordained yet? Not in the Catholic church. Not after Pope John Paul reinforced its ban.
I respect traditional mores. I am also very mindful of understanding how they came about and the cultural and historical constructs of the time. In so doing, I can also glean how certain practices were wholly relevant when the circumstances that led to their creation were all in place. However, over the centuries, many of these circumstances have long disappeared because of better understanding of events, scientific and industrial progress, acceptance of race, creed, color, gender and orientation. All these have shaped who we are today.
For this church to preserve its relevance, its members need to put away their blinders and look at issues as they are in the milieu they are in. Only then can they have a sensible and productive dialogue with the rest of the world. Only then can there be a chance that the world, most especially the young, might listen. Gone are the days of our parents’ era where all the church has to do is issue an edict and no one dare question the why’s and the hows. Our generation questioned a lot already. This generation not only questions. They demand accountability, transparency, truth.
Many Vatican observers note that many of the cardinals attending the papal conclave are appointed by Pope Benedict and also by Pope John Paul, who are both hard-line conservatives. Many are resigned to the election of more of the same. Well, I guess the bleeding out of the Catholic Church and the formation of independent religious organizations that address the pressing issues and thinking of today will continue.
It’s no wonder that the numbers of atheists and agnostics have risen exponentially. Or the rise in the spiritual-but-not-religious. Or that religiosity is seen as a bad thing now.
- Vatican Crackdown: American Nuns Reject Takeover But Seek Dialogue on Difference (Hufingtonpost.com)
- What American Nuns Built (Bostonglobe.com)
- A New Inquisition: The Vatican Targets Nuns (ncronline.org)
- Behind the Scenes at the Vatican: The Politics of Picking a New Pope (NPR.org)
- Sex Scandals Threaten To Mar Selection Of Next Pope (NPR.org)
- PEW: US Catholics Divided On Future of Catholic Church (NPR.org)
Other Related articles
- Pope Benedict Gives Last Public Prayer, Sermon Of Papacy (lezgetreal.com)
- Pope readies exit after emotional public farewell (rappler.com)
- Top British Cardinal Resigns, a Day After Charges of ‘Inappropriate Acts’ (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
- Tagle among 8 candidates to succeed Pope Benedict XVI (newsinfo.inquirer.net)