Over the past months, America asked several prominent Catholics in the United States to look ahead to the challenges that will face the next pope. These American Catholics come from various parts of the country and represent a variety of perspectives. They are theologians, teachers, activists, writers, students, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, priests and religious sisters. Each was asked to consider the agenda for the church as it moves into the 21st century. The question was stated simply: What should the next pope do?
The Rev. Peter C. Phan, a Vietnamese-American, is chair of Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Journeys at the Margin: Towards an Autobiographical Theology in American-Asian Perspective.
I wish the next popean Asian, I hopewill not issue so many lengthy and turgid documents (leave that to theologians) that very few people will read. Rather, concentrate briefly, pointedly, clearly on how to be a disciple of Jesus in the 21st century. On the level of church organization, I wish that the pope would require curial officials to spend at least a month every year doing mission in inner-city parishes or in mission lands, where they have to cook and clean for themselves, survive with the barest necessities and preach the Gospel in an unfamiliar language to people who are hostile or indifferent to it. Having three meals a day served, enjoying all the comforts of life, being given V.I.P. treatment wherever one goes, and having everyone hang on each and every word one uttersthese things, though they do not necessarily corrupt one’s morals, do skew one’s theological perspective.
Kathy Coffey, a mother of four, is the author of a number of books, including Dancing in the Margins: Meditations for People Who Struggle With Their Churches. She lives with her family in Denver, Colo.
Show us the compassionate face of Christ. Inaugurate a time of healing. Some of us have grown dispirited and others downright disgruntled. We have turned in disappointment from heavy-handed pronouncements, so let your first word be one of welcome. Open your arms wide to the former priests, the divorced and remarried, the gays and lesbians, the women and young people, the silenced theologians and other religious traditions. Restore us all to our rightful places at the family table. It may get noisy and argumentativebut what healthy family doesn’t? After the welcome and healing balm, turn to other agendas. Restore the full equality that Jesus envisioned for female disciples, winning back the alienated.
Tom Beaudoin is assistant professor of theology at Santa Clara University and the author of Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X. He lives with his wife in Palo Alto, Calif.
Pope John Paul II renewed the worldwide church through his travels. May his successor continue this renewal by fostering spirituality and theology reflective of a global Catholic Christian faith.
And then, in the name of Jesus, may the bishop of Rome fashion a rhetorical whip of cords to expel Eurocentric idolatry from a church whose good news cannot and should not be reduced to a product that one culture or ecclesial office sells to another.
Doris Donnelly, professor of theology at John Carroll University, in University Heights, Ohio, directs The Cardinal Suenens Program in Theology and Church Life.
As far as I can tell, a manual for writing to the pope does not exist. If it did, it would suggest brevity. So my suggestion, in one word: Trust. Whom to trust? First, regional bishops who know best the lay of their land and their people. Second, theologians who seek new expressions of truth. Third, the religious experience, the God-experience, articulated in varying ways by men and women of different faiths because the Spirit’s wingspan is wider than we think. Mistrust will disable, dispirit, depress. Trust, and only trust, allows us to eat from the same loaf and to drink from the same cup without fear.
The Rev. Richard P. McBrien, the Crowley-O’Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, is general editor of The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism and author of Catholicism.
(1) Choose the name John XXIV. (2) Remind all members of the Curia that they are servants, not supervisors, of the bishops. (3) Establish a task force to review the structure and operations of the Roman Curia with a view to retaining only those offices essential to the service of the worldwide episcopate. (4) Offer missionary opportunities in countries with the greatest need of priests to curialists whose positions would be eliminated. (5) Build on the foundation laid by your predecessors and become a hands-on bishop of Rome, with a view to making the Diocese of Rome a model for all others. (6) Show the world the face of Christ in every public appearance and utterancenamely, one of compassion, patience and forgiveness, but also one of unmistakable disdain for hypocrisy, self-righteousness and legalism. (7) Create new opportunities for women to exercise real authority in the church, and at the same time be open about your own friendships with women - and not just nuns. (8) Limit the number and length of your formal public pronouncements. If you must write or speak about human sexuality, pass the early drafts by some trusted married couples who have never heard of Natural Family Planning and who have doubts about the wisdom of obligatory clerical celibacy, at least for diocesan priests. (9) Make it clear that you intend to be the Holy Father of all Catholics, that you take your ancient function as pontiff, or bridge-maker, seriously, and that you will not favor one faction over others in your pronouncements, policies and appointmentsor in invitations to your dinner table. (10) Ask the various national episcopal conferences to begin devising planson a truly consultative basis with laity, clergy and religiousfor the selection of bishops at local, regional and national levels, and inform them at the same time that you intend to remove the process of episcopal appointments from papal and curial hands within three years or less.
Janet E. Smith holds the McGivney Chair of Life Issues at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Mich., and is the author of Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later and Why Humanae Vitae Was Right.
Never could I have imagined a pope as wonderful as Pope John Paul II. So what my impoverished imagination envisions is a pope with dark skin, a deep beautiful voice, a broad, gorgeous smile and the catechism tucked firmly under his arm; one who comes from a world from which we have had no popes as yet; one whose roots are in a different continent and culture; one who has experienced a church not of division and dissension and flight from the church, but of vibrant growth and enthusiasm. Let him love what is ever ancient and ever new, and I shall love him, for he shall continue the renewal.
Roberto S. Goizueta is professor of theology at Boston College and author of Caminemos con Jesús: Toward a Hispanic/Latino Theology of Accompaniment.
The pope should be a leader and servant of the people of God. Though these roles would seem to conflict, a characteristic common to both is the ability to listen. Such listening does not mean simply heeding public opinion polls. It means trusting that God is indeed present and revealed in the sensus fidelium, in the lived faith of the people. Such trust implies, in turn, a real willingness to listen to those pastoral leaders who themselves are closest to the people. More than ever, those leaders are lay men and women, so more than ever, the pope should be willing to listen and engage the lay leadership in the church, for it is here that the church’s future is being forged today. Finally, the ability to listen implies opening the heart, especially to the cries of the poor in our world. At a time when the seemingly infinite promise of technology and the information age is proclaimed from every media pulpit, those cries are no longer merely muffled; they are altogether silenced. The pope should therefore first listen to the excluded ones of the world, for it is there that God’s call to the entire church is first made audible.
Sara Butler, M.S.B.T., professor of theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers, N.Y., serves on the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.
May the next pope follow the example of Pope John Paul II and establish personal ties of trust and understanding with the heads of other Christian churches and ecclesial communities, and may he courageously take up the challenge of finding a way of exercising the primacy...open to a new [that is, an ecumenical] situation (Ut Unum Sint, No. 96). For his primacy to be accepted by other Christians as a ministry of truth and unity, the next pope must continue to convene the bishops of the church in various ways for discussion, consultation and common decision-making. By their exercise of collegial responsibility, the bishops will demonstrate that Catholic unity protects catholic diversity in fidelity to the Gospel.
Paul Wilkes is the author of many books on Catholicism, among them The Good Enough Catholic and Beyond the Walls: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life. He lives with his family in Wilmington, N.C.
The new pope’s first act could be so simple, yet so powerful. He should invite to the Vatican the 100 Catholics who were once considered the church’s major criticspeople like Hans Küng, Charles Curran, Leonardo Boff and Andrew Greeley.
Sitting before a single loaf of bread at a sumptuously set table, he could say: You love the church. I love the church. We all want it to be the means that will help people to be close to God. In that we can all surely agree. We have differed in our methods and sometimes bitterly disagreed. But I, like you, am imperfect. Allow me now to bless this bread and share it with you as a symbol of unity and our need for God in our lives.
After we have broken this eucharistic bread and eaten together, let us be transformed by each other’s presence, by God’s presence. Let us go into the world with a new and common bond among us: to live and tell of the good news, as best as each of us can.
Please forgive me for any past offenses this office has inflicted on you. And I forgive you, my brothers and sisters. The Holy Spirit is with us all; what need we fear?
Dolores R. Leckey is senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center in Washington, D.C., and a former director of the Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women and Youth at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
I am imagining the white smoke has already drifted high over the pines of Rome. The church, both gathered and scattered, has breathed a collective sigh of relief. Now what? After the politicking and prayers, the betting and benedictions, what is the new pope to do?
Go on a 30-day Ignatian retreat, of course. With Jesuits aplenty in Rome and beyond, this should be no problem. Because the retreat is full of surprises, there is no way of knowing what mission may emerge for the pope. But I can imagine him, full of resurrection joy and trust, deciding to consult all the faithful about what they think God is up to in the church and in the world. And I can imagine the new pope asking the women of the church, experienced in matters of consultation and participation, to assume leadership for the project and to report directly to him. The details of subsidiarity can be worked on later.
Ron Hansen is Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., Professor of Creative Writing at Santa Clara University and author of many novels, including Mariette in Ecstasy. He lives with his wife in Cupertino, Calif.
The first thing I would like to see changed is the current restriction limiting priesthood only to those who are male and celibate. Also, the questions of Humanae Vitae should be revisited. A culture of suspicion, particularly concerning the American church, seems to exist in the Curia now. I find it unnecessary and in many ways evil. I hope the next pope will ratify the brilliant new English-language Sacramentary that has been waiting, unused, for too long. And I would like to see intensified an ecumenical outreach, especially to those Protestant denominations with which we have much in common.
Lisa Sowle Cahill is professor of theology at Boston College and author of Sex, Gender and Christian Ethics. She lives with her family in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
The next pope should rush the phalanx of Vatican handlers to make sure any prophetic ideas get implemented in the real life of the churchtuned of course to local needs. For instance, women’s leadership is increasing in just about every culture. John Paul II hailed women’s liberation, condemned discrimination and violence, praised women’s public contributions, upheld our rights in society. Where is the church equivalent? I harbor no illusions about sudden ordination, but why not change regulations barring women from the permanent diaconate and other customarily male roles? The pope needs to get past the curial power brokers, though change will be tough.
Joan Chittister, O.S.B., is director of Benetvision, a research center for contemporary spirituality, in Erie, Pa. She is the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Called to Question.
The next papacy will inherit a parallel priesthood in Opus Dei, a body of very educated laity, a declining institutional system, an alienated renewal movement, a visionary theology, a globe in transition on every level and an increasingly stronger women’s movement worldwide. This collection of opposites, this clash of ecclesial worlds, will require great breadth of vision, real catholicity in the truest sense of the word, genuine pastoral understanding and the ability to distinguish between what is central to the faith and what is conformable to a system once effective but now more and more distant from a world in flux. As a result, ideology will be far less defining of this papacy than will be the concept of collegiality, the desire to hear the cries of the whole church, so that a church that is clearly not uniformcannot be and should not becan nevertheless be united in the spirit of the Jesus whose law was love.
Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal.
Not since the Second Vatican Council began has the Catholic Church stood on the threshold of such enormous opportunity. The next pope will have his work cut out for him. He will inherit an office that has accrued a centralized authority and international stature previously unknown in the church. Filling John Paul’s very big and very visible shoes would be an impossible task. The new pope should not try. Carving out his own style of papacy should begin with restoring to the world’s bishops’ conferences the authority that was snatched from them by the Vatican under John Paul II. The next pope should keep in mind that there is in fact a local church. By stepping back from centralization, local bishops may be freed up bureaucratically and psychologically to tend to the crises of their dioceses. In the United States and in Ireland, this could mean more expedient tending to the sexual abuse scandals. In the African church, this could mean more openness on the debates surrounding the AIDS crisis and social disarray. The Catholic laity has not always been served by an episcopacy that has had to keep one eye looking forward and one back at Rome.
John Paul’s was a long papacy, and doubtless many cardinals will enter the conclave feeling the pangs of pontiff fatigue, but will that translate into ballots cast for a safe (old) candidate or one who has shown some leanings away from the direction in which John Paul took the church?
Perhaps we’ll get both. Angelo Roncalli was, after all, one of the safe guys.