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    Thursday, April 07, 2005

    Of Popes and Things: Woke up this morning to the sound of NPR pontificating about the pontifical succession. There are two points of conventional wisdom often repeated this past week about the election of the new pope which just aren't true.

    The first is that the next Pope has to be a Cardinal. Not true. Any Catholic can be named Pope. That person just has to be approved by the Cardinals. Of course, human nature is such that the Cardinals historically limit themselves to their own. But, an accidental Pope is still possible.

    The other is that the Cardinals will choose a quiet, stodgy insider to give the Papacy a rest after the vitalilty of Pope John Paul II. There's a good chance they will elect a stodgy, boring insider, but who are they kidding about the need for a rest? This Pope lost his vitality years ago when his Parkinson's destroyed his ability to effectively lead the Church. The Vatican has enjoyed complacency for too long. Exactly what it needs is a mover and shaker - someone who isn't afraid to roll up his sleeves and clean house. The American hierarchy, for one, needs some major renovation. And that doesn't mean making superficial in the ritual of the mass, or making the parents who coach CYO basketball take ongoing sex abuse prevention courses. It means bishops need to be accountable for the bad management that made the sex abuse scandals possible. They need to be told by their boss that asking people to pray for them in these difficult times is not enough. They need to take responsibility for their decisions and ask forgiveness. And they need to make it clear that they're willing to fairly investigate abuses of power among the clergy now and in the future. This they have not done.

    Of course, the American Church is just one small part of the Church at large, and although our sex abuse scandal may not be relevant to the world Church, the corruption of absolute power that is its cause is relevant. If Catholicism is to remain vital in the 21st century, the Vatican is going to have to reform its own totalitarian tendencies. Here's hoping the Cardinals choose wisely.

    posted by Sydney on 4/07/2005 09:08:00 AM 0 comments


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