What's next for the Vatican?
Students discuss Pope's resignation
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 23:02
Catholic Church in need of direction
At the end of the month, Pope Benedict XVI will resign as leader of the Catholic Church, the first pontiff to end his tenure in such a way since 1415. It is apparent that the pope is not as spry as he once was (and he wasn’t too spry to begin with; he took the position at 78 years old in 2005), so this decision makes sense. Theological infallibility won’t exactly do him much good if he finds himself in geriatric care in the next few years.
I commend Pope Benedict for recognizing his corporeal limits, but his resignation comes at an important crossroads for the Catholic Church. The Church today boasts nearly 1.2 billion followers worldwide. That’s over 10 times the number of adherents from just a century ago, according to The New York Times.
Moreover, demographic trends show that there are over 200 million more Catholics in Latin America today than in Europe. Nevertheless, European cardinals retain half the votes that will choose the next pope come March. If the cardinals elect someone from outside of Europe, we could easily interpret the choice as an acknowledgement of demographic shifts in the past few decades.
While there is no official campaign for the office of pope, several “front runners” have been identified in recent weeks, including Canadian Marc Ouellet, Ghanaian Peter Appiah Turkson and American Timothy Dolan. Whomever the church chooses will likely indicate the direction the Church hopes to go in the next generation. In 2009, Turkson suggested that condom use was worth considering for married couples in which one partner was H.I.V. positive; Dolan, on the other hand, is perhaps most famous for leading the charge against the Obama administration’s rules regarding birth control in the Affordable Care Act. Were the Church to select someone like Dolan over Turkson, it would no doubt indicate a desire to move in a theologically — and, perhaps politically —conservative direction.
The Catholic Church is facing an identity crisis. Last year, we watched as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops derided the Obama administration for requiring employers to provide birth control when over 97 percent of Catholic women surveyed have admitted to using birth control. We watched as Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller led an investigation into alleged “radical feminism” being taught by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (or nuns, as they’re referred to in everyday parlance). We even witnessed Pope Benedict during a pre-Easter homily give a scathing indictment of reform-minded priests seeking to end priestly celibacy in spite of continued sexual abuse scandals within the Church’s highest ranks.
There appears to be a huge discrepancy between the Church’s ivory tower leadership and its followers; this division becomes even more evident when one looks at different priestly orders within the Church. I recall being derided by fellow Catholics when I was in high school for studying under the tutelage of the Jesuits, an order that was supposedly “too liberal” and didn’t speak out enough on hotbed political issues like abortion. The Catholic Church is the single largest religious organization in the world (as well as its most charitable), but in the next few years it desperately needs to come to terms with what it wants its mission to be.
If the Church wants to continue to grow in the next century as it did in the last one, it ought to stick with the reform principles first espoused in Vatican II 50 years ago. It might try changing its rhetoric toward homosexuals and women, and it might consider addressing the financial woes that Catholic schools have been facing internationally. Alternatively, the Church could continue its hardheaded stances and ignore the material conditions in which its adherents live today. If it continues down this path, then I suppose its dogma will remain unsullied, but it will also have to settle for a much smaller and much more ideologically rigid congregation.
Bub is a junior majoring in English, political science and history.
Hope for the pope found in unity
When I found out Pope Benedict XVI was resigning from the Vatican, I was just as shocked as everyone else. No one alive can remember when the last time the pope resigned (try 1415). Of course, the pressure now is on the College of Cardinals to decide on a successor.
As much as every journalist writing on the big news at the Vatican likes to pretend they understand what is going on and who the next pope will be, let us not forget that the pope is supposed to be ordained by God. I suppose that makes journalists prophets.
Instead of making predictions or casting prophecy, I would rather discuss what I would like to see in the new pope.
In particular, I want to discuss my hopes for increased dialogue and unity between all Christians in addition to increased interaction between the Vatican and leaders of other faith traditions.
Roman Catholic dialogue with Islamic clerics was closed after Pope Benedict made controversial statements about Mohammed in 2006.
Later, dialogue was reopened in 2009 but was quickly closed in 2011 after the pope called for protection of Christian minorities in Muslim countries.