Profile of the Pope the Church needs today

We welcome our new Pope Francis

May God abundantly bless him in his life and ministry!

We need a pope able to think, willing to learn

From the National Catholic Reporter, 12 march 2013

We need a saintly pope, many people say. Perhaps. But I can't forget the advice of Teresa of Avila, doctor of the church. Given the choice between a saintly confessor and one who is a good theologian, trust the theologian, she wrote. Piety is skin without beef if it lacks understanding. That is why the recent Catholic Scholars' Declaration calls for intelligent leadership in the church, as I will explain.

I was teaching sacred Scripture in the major seminary of Hyderabad, India, when in 1968 Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical Humanae Vitae. Its condemnation of artificial means of birth control was a devastating blow to married couples and their pastors in India. I was all the more appalled when I found out that this decision had been taken in spite of the papal commission's findings. A majority had recommended allowing the responsible use of contraceptives. How could a pope be so unwise, I thought? Three months later, I understood.

As a delegate of the Indian Catholic Biblical Association, I attended a meeting in Rome. Pope Paul VI granted us an audience. I stood close to him. I saw his haggard face and read the anxiety in his eyes. The pope was riddled with fear. It dawned on me that Paul was mentally paralyzed: unable to really grasp the intellectual reasons for changing the church's traditional stand on birth control. His fear would lead to more disasters.

At the Bishops' Synod of 1971, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops asked for a study of women's ministries in the church. The question also arose in India. In a research paper for the All India Consultation on New Ministries in 1975, I concluded: "It is the social 'myth' of women's inferiority that has kept women out of the ordained priesthood." Unknown to me, the Pontifical Biblical Commission had, during the same year, reported to Paul VI that there are no scriptural objections to ordaining women as priests. Other churches began to ordain women. True to form, Paul panicked.

His encyclical Inter Insigniores of 1976 tried to slam the door shut. It was accompanied by a document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that listed the traditional arguments: Jesus did not want women; it has never been done before; women cannot represent Christ; and so on. Now what is significant in all this is that Paul made such a crucial pronouncement on women's role within just five short years: between 1971 and 1976. And he made it against the advice of his own appointed experts.

The discussion truly was a new question at the time. When I explored the issue in 1975, researching libraries I found that up-to-date publications hardly existed. It was a case of theology having to reexamine the sources.

I do not blame Paul for feeling surprised, even alarmed. Ordaining women as priests would imply major changes. He was right to hold back before committing the church to a definite course. His unforgivable mistake was to refuse to give time for more study and refuse to keep an open mind. Because he did not grasp that he might be wrong, he resorted to suppression. It was a path two of his successors would follow: overly single-minded John Paul II and medieval thinker Benedict XVI.

I am one of the 160 theologians who endorsed the recent Catholic Scholars' Declaration on Authority in the Church (see We represent more than 100 universities in more than 20 countries. We have come to the conclusion that at the root of today's lack of reform in the church lies an abuse of authority inspired by fear and by lack of what may be called collective intelligence.

In today's world, we have to depend on the wider intelligence of others. We submit ourselves to surgery trusting the knowledge of doctors, nurses and medical researchers. We fly from one city to the next relying on the competence of pilots, aircraft engineers and air traffic controllers. This is why Vatican II told leaders to involve the intelligence of the wider community of faith -- which has not happened. To quote the declaration: Bishops should be elected democratically; the laity should be involved in decision-making; bishops' conferences should be given more autonomy; a Synod of Bishops should exercise real authority.

The academic scene in the church is littered with cases of pioneering theologians censured and dismissed from their teaching posts. They include moral theologians, Scripture scholars, feminists, liberation theologians, church historians and ecumenists. But these are the very professionals whom we as a believing community need to map out new paths in a complex world.

The systematic persecution of our professional thinkers endangers the survival of the church.

Leaders also need flexible intelligence. They should be able to cope with what scientists call a "paradigm shift": looking at facts from a totally new perspective. When Galileo proved that the Earth moved round the sun, he was silenced. The stumbling block was the literal interpretation of Scripture: "The sun stood still in heaven for a full day" (Joshua 10:13). Darwin's theory of evolution was rejected because it contradicted the six-day creation story. The conflict was only resolved by the paradigm shift of appreciating "literary forms."

New scientific insights demand a revised approach to sexual ethics. Hanging on to medieval concepts such as a fixed "natural law" blocks new creative responses. Flexible intelligence reexamines traditional views and grasps that a fresh perspective on ancient questions may hold the answer. The last thing the church needs in our time is the dogged tenacity of closed minds.

Intelligence involves searching, reasoning, discovering unexpected relationships. Intelligence means learning. That is why, while others may call for a saint, I pray for an intelligent pope -- whose integrity and courage will make him a saint.

John Wijngaards

Dr John Wijngaards

Academic Signatory of the Declaration on Authority

More data on him here.


The Pope the Church needs today should be:

1. A Collegial Pope: He creates a permanent Synod of Bishops, who are chosen by the different Bishops’ Conferences. The Synod will also include ex officio all the Patriarchs in communion with Rome. These and not the Vatican bureaucrats will advise him on matters that concern the whole Church. He may not go against the opinion of the majority. He will also motivate all the bishops to have a similar permanent synod in their dioceses, constituted by presbyters, religious and laity. These persons will be chosen by the presbyters, religious and laity of the diocese respectively.

2. A Theologically Open Pope: There are many questions on which even Catholic scholars are divided: ordination of women, sexual ethics, etc. The pope will do the needful to deepen the study of these questions, take the findings to the permanent Synod of Bishops, and if need be consult all the bishops and come to a decision.

3. A Pastorally Sensitive Pope: There are many rules and impositions that do more harm than good: mandatory celibacy for Latin priests, the New English Missal, etc. The pope will do the needful to deepen the study of these questions, take the findings to the permanent Synod of Bishops, and take a decision.

4. A Servant Pope: He will promote greater simplicity among the bishops and priests, so that we are seen as real imitators of Jesus, who though rich became poor for our sakes. For the same reason he accept as bishops candidates who are truly chosen by the locan church they are meant to lead, and will motivate all the bishops, including the bishop of Rome, to accepted a term of office. This will provided the Church new leadership.

Dr Subhash Anand, Professor emeritus of Indian Philosophy and Religion of the Pontifical Athenaeum Jnanadeep Vidyapeeth in Pune, India.

Academic Signatory of the Declaration on Authority

More data on him here.


I would hope that the new pope will respect and fully impement the collegiality called for by Vatican II.

I would also hope that the new pope will no longer have the classical mind set of a fixed universe with everything designed by God and from which clear and certain deductions can be drawn. That world is long gone and it is necessary for the hierarchy to acknowledge it.

I would also hope that the new pope will be moderate and will give theologians a fair hearing.

Dr Thomas A Shannon, Professor Emeritus of Religion and Social Ethics at Worcester MA, USA.

Academic Signatory of the Declaration on Authority

More data on him here.


What should a modern pope be like?

For centuries the Church has been moving forward amid frictions, tensions, jealousies, infighting, and many other impediments to an easy and palatable organization.

The first thing to examine is the purpose of the papacy.  As Head of the Catholic Community, the pontiff's role is essentially a spiritual one but in today's world it is no longer possible to remain at this level and one has to admit that the Bishop of Rome should be “tuned” to the world.  It is of no use to compare Pontiffs and play their way of being different against each other.  Also the distinction right or left should not play a role in this matter, even less conservatism and liberalism.

So what should one be looking for in a Roman Pontiff?

<1>A leader who can deal with persons, understand them, and feel with them.  Because no-one can claim to be a specialist in “persons”, the Roman Pontiff will have to surround himself with credible advisors to give him the tools needed to deal with human beings.
<2>The Roman Pontiff has to be a good administrator.  Too often we hear of infighting among people of God even at the highest levels.  This does not lead anywhere and vying for positions of power should be an attitude totally extraneous in any church official.  The Pontiff should guide his flock with both firmness and gentleness, but in a professional way.
<3>The Roman Pontiff should be someone who is not afraid to stand up for Christian values in our world today.  But this brings with it the absolute need to listen to the world and see how best the Christian message can be imparted.  The content will always remain the same, the presentation has to be made in such a way that all find in the message the real and deep Christian message and its values.
<4>The Roman Pontiff should be  a younger person who has appeal to the youth of today. The Church really is a Church for Old Men. The young people of today often see little attractive about an out-of-touch organization.
<5>The Roman Pontiff will have to give a listening and loving ear to those disadvantaged in society.  Words alone are not sufficient: prophetic actions have to be taken to show that the Church is indeed open to all, especially the poor, the sick and disabled, the marginalized, although it is easier to stand at the side of the powerful and wealthy of this world.  The Gospel message is clear and loud in favor of the poor, marginalized, sick and disabled. A return to the radical message of Jesus is an absolute for a pontiff in today's world.
<6>The Roman Pontiff will have to act in a courageous way when dealing with the local Churches. More and more power of decision has to be left to Episcopal Conferences without always referring matters, even the most sensitive ones, to Rome. 
<7>This will mean a complete overhaul of the Curia where more openness should be the rule to guide in the selection of the people working in close collaboration with the Roman Pontiff.  The basis for selection should be human and spiritual qualities irrespective of race or gender.

The Roman Pontiff should be a man of prayer, guiding his flock on the path of holiness in humility and gentleness.  This may call for greater simplicity in pontifical pomp and be more down to earth.

Deirdre Carabine & Michel Lejeune

Professor Dr Deirdre Carabine is currently Vice-Chancellor at the Virtual University of Uganda.

Academic Signatory of the Declaration on Authority

More data on her here.


Professor Dr Michael Lejeune is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Virtual University of Uganda

Academic Signatory of the Declaration on Authority

More data on him here.


I believe the Church today needs a reforming pope in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council who will take seriously the teachings on ‘the People of God’, the ‘collegiality’ of the bishops, and dialogue with the modern world. He needs to recognise that the Church is a global institution and needs to break out of its European straight-jacket and Roman centralism. The voice of the people of God in Africa, Asia and Latin America needs to be reflected more in the decision-making of the Church.

One of the great gifts which Pope Benedict bequeathed to the Church was the ending of a medieval European monarchical model of Church governance. In the twenty-first century, with well over a billion members, there is a need to begin the process of decentralisation in the Church so that the pope is no longer regarded as a monarchical leader but as the first among numerous fellow bishops throughout the world. Rome might have been the centre of the Roman Empire in the first century but it is not necessarily the centre of today’s globalised world. He should ponder the implications of that.

An awareness of the need to decentralise the Church leads to a serious reconsideration of the damage that has been done in the past half-century to the teaching of Vatican II on ‘collegiality’. The pope can be regarded as the ‘first among equals’. Just as Paul dissented angrily from Peter and from James, yet all played their part in developing the life of the Church in the first century, so there should be no dictatorial sanctioning of dissenting bishops. Instead they should be encouraged to contribute to debate in the Church on controversial issues in the belief that in the end the Holy Spirit will guide the College of bishops. In the spirit of Vatican II and a ‘people of God’ model of the Church, it is surely also  right that local people should have a stronger say in the appointment of their bishop.

Thirdly, a reforming pope should recall the recognition at Vatican II that the Church should be humble enough to listen to and dialogue with the world. Scientific advances in the half century since Vatican II have been astonishing. The pope needs to ‘open the windows’ of the Vatican again and not be afraid to tackle difficult issues. But he will fail in this task if theologians and dissenting voices are prohibited from debating such issues as happened in the case of women priests. The pope needs to listen to the sensus fidelium over such issues as contraception and clerical celibacy. In my view, too, the pope ought to encourage much more dialogue with human scientists over the whole issue of homosexuality and the extent to which individuals are born like that rather than acquire it.

In sum, we need a listening, encouraging, affirming and facilitating leader not a dictatorial monarch.

Prof Dr Michael P. Hornsby-Smith is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Surrey, UK.

Academic Signatory of the Declaration on Authority

More data on him here.


What kind of Pope do I believe the Church needs today?  Instead, I will defer to someone infinitely more qualified than I, someone whose work I have studied for decades, and someone who I am sure would eagerly speak out on this topic if he were able to do so: Father Andrew Greeley.  In 1996, in his novel White SmokeFather Greeley envisions such a candidate, Cardinal Luis, and has him speak about the future of the Church prior to the conclave (pp. 140-143):
I am compelled to say that the present is one of the most exciting and challenging times we have seen in the last nineteen hundred years. It is, to use the Greek word, a kairos, an appropriate time, a pregnant time, a time of great grace and promise which we must not ignore.
Only now do we begin to realize what a critical turning point in our history was the Second Vatican Council. . . . Like the council we must be open and sensitive to the "signs of the times," . . .  Like the Council we should realize that a large number of our lay people are well-educated, intelligent, and dedicated and eager to help us. Like the Council we must listen to the Spirit wherever the Voice of the Spirit is to be heard. The pope must listen to his brother bishops, the bishops must listen to their brother priests, and the priests must listen to their people. Only when we are ready to admit the possibility that the Spirit speaks wherever She wishes to . . . will we be able to discern the work of the Spirit in the world. . . .
Above all we must not be afraid. We must not be afraid of our well educated laity; we must not be afraid of the artists, scholars, and thinkers . . . from whom we can learn so much, even if just now they are angry at us; we must not be afraid of the new cultures from all over the world we are only now beginning to appreciate; we must not be afraid that the Lord will not continue to protect us; we must especially not be afraid of the demands of women who have always given so much to the Church and now as fully equal human beings can give us so much more; we must not be afraid of the new insights into the nature of human nature that science has made available to us. We must not be afraid to make ourselves the patrons of social justice all over the world.  . . . We must change in order to remain the same. We must not confuse what is essential in the Church with that which is mutable, no matter how ancient it may be. . . . And no custom and no tradition, no matter how new, should be abandoned until we carefully consider the costs of doing so. . . .
I candidly believe that we are our own worst enemies because we have often seemed to worship not the Father in heaven but our own institutional being. We should not, my fellow Catholics, worship the Church. . . . We must listen to our critics, to those who hate us, to those who will not listen to us, because God's spirit might well be telling us through them something we desperately need to hear. . . .
So many of our lay people believe that ours is a Church of rules, that being Catholic consists of keeping rules. . . . In fact, we are a Church of love. . . . [W]e exist to preach a God of love, we try to be people of love, and we want our church to be, insofar as we poor humans can make it, a Church of radiant love.

In Greeley’s fictional world, Cardinal Luis is elected and assumes the name John XXIV.

Prof Dr Ingrid Shafer is Emerita Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Oklahoma, USA.

Academic Signatory of the Declaration on Authority

More data on her here.


Father Andrew Greeley


I do not seek a Brazilian Pope, nor an African or Australian. I seek an Italian Pope who would be a real Bishop of Rome - the more Roman the better - , someone who respects the autonomy of local Churches and would thus help us get rid of the medieval Christianity of the German Holy Roman Empire. If a Pope of the old system who fought so much for power, chooses to resign, it is a sign that the system can no longer continue as it is. Either the cardinals and bishops perceive this change while there is time, or it does not matter whom they choose to be Pope. For then we will have an exchange of the same for the same, and nothing will change. And the Church will be plunged increasingly into crises, conflicts and scandals of all kinds, from political and economic to moral ones.
I believe that a Brazilian or African who has joined those who play the game of the old system will be more Roman than the Romans are - with great inconvenience for the whole world and not only for Rome. I hope that the Spirit will at least once intervene a little and overcome the normal run of a system where the person elected chooses those who elect him and is then confirmed by them, and so the game goes on for ever and ever . . .

Spanish original

Yo no quiero un papa brasileño, ni africano, ni australiano. Quiero un papa italiano que sea obispo de Roma (cuanto más romano, mejor) y que respecte la autonomia eclesiológica de las Iglesias locales y en ese aspecto nos ayude a poner fin à la Cristianidad medieval del Sacro Imperio Romano Germánico. Si un papa como ese, que luchó tanto por el poder, llega a renunciar, es signo de que ese sistema no puede más seguir como está. O los cardenales y obispos perciben eso y cambian mientras es tiempo, o poco importa lo que ellos escojan. Será siempre el mismo de lo mismo y no cambiará nada. Y la Iglesia cada vez más afundará en problemas, contradicciones y escándalos de todo tipo, desde económicos y políticos hasta morales.
Pienso que en ese sistema cualquiera brasileno o africano escojido entre los que han entrado en ese juego será más romano que todos los romanos, pero con la inconveniencia de que para el mundo intero y no solo para Roma. Espiero que el Espíritu pueda al menos una vez intervir un poco y cambie la orientación normal de un sistema donde el elegido escoje sus electores y eses lo confirman e así va por los siglos de los siglos . . .

Benedictine monk, Dr Marcelo Barros de Souza is Latinamerican Coordinator of the Ecumenical Association of Men and Women Theologians of the Third World (ASETT). He was ordained a priest by the famous bishop Dom Hélder Câmara in 1969. For ten years (1967-1976) he was the bishop's secretary for ecumenical affairs.

Academic Signatory of the Declaration on Authority

More data on him here.


The next Pope needs to be a citizen of a modern democracy who understands and appreciates how government needs to serve the people.

The modern world has governments that are mostly democracies.  A democracy controls the elections of its leaders and has structures of shared governance, e.g. courts, parliament, etc.  Almost all Catholics today live in democracies and understand the need for a government that serves the people.   Monarchies and dictatorships have often required the people to serve the government.

Modern democracies began in Europe, with the Swiss Cantons, the Dutch Republic, the French Revolution. It was also part of the formation of the United States of America.  John Adams, the second President, wrote:  “Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men…”  The Founding Fathers of the USA added the Bill of Rights, because they understood that all governments can be corrupted by power.    Thomas Jefferson, the third President, wrote: “A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.”   Modern democracies involve all of the voters in identifying the leaders and priorities of goals.

The Catholic Church is not a democracy in the secular sense of the term, but its mode of governance can and should be democratic. At present the government of the Catholic Church continues to be an absolute monarchy in the style of the ancient Roamn imperialism and the medieval European governments from which it copied its mode of operation.   The early Church operated with diverse systems of collegial cooperation.  Clearly the congregations elected their own elders and the bishops.  The Second Vatican Council attempted to re-introduce some structures that would provide shared governance at least through collegial meetings and voting on issues.  The Catholic Church needs a modern structure that clearly will involve all of the faithful in defining the faith and practices of the Church.

Today there is an increasing gap between some of the teachings interpreted by the hierarchy and the beliefs of the people, e.g., on birth control.  Such gaps would not occur if there were democratic structures in the Church providing opportunities to listen and to cooperate.

That is why I am saying that the next Pope needs to be a citizen of a modern democracy who understands and appreciates how government needs to serve the people. Surely this is what Christ would have wanted for our day. Such a Pope will re-organize the Church from an absolute monarchy into a modern democracy that values honest representatives and serves each of the faithful.  The Church must be of the faithful, and for the faithful.  It must no longer be a structure of one monarch imposing on the faithful.   The Church is primarily the community of the baptized with the faith of the people.  The Church should not be reduced to decrees from one man without knowledge or concern of the people who receive the decrees.

Dr David Stronck is Professor Emeritus of Teacher Education at the Californian State University, East Bay, USA.

Academic Signatory of the Declaration on Authority

More data on him here.


What does the Church need tomorrow from any future pope?

From the point of view of moral theology – and as was remarked already decades ago by Richard McCormick s.j. – the imbalance within the Roman Catholic Church with regard to the issue of authority is more like a stale-mate: since the vast majority of those who see themselves as part of the so-called magisterium claim that by that very status they are in possession of the truths of faith and morals, any suggestion containing a difference to such claimed truths must be an error. In particular debates around moral questions, this boils down to a classical ‘catch 22’: whatever reasons are invoked to maybe even reflect on the possibilities of difference or differentiation, the bottom line is and remains that difference from ‘truth as we teach it’ is in and of itself wrong. The claimed theological substantiation/syllogism for this is itself again an authoritarian mot-de force, as very aptly voiced in Donum Veritatis n° 34: “… Certainly, it is one of the theologian's tasks to give a correct interpretation to the texts of the Magisterium and to this end he employs various hermeneutical rules. Among these is the principle which affirms that Magisterial teaching, by virtue of divine assistance, has a validity beyond its argumentation, which may derive at times from a particular theology” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on the ecclesial vocation of the theologian, 1990).

In order to contribute leading the Church out of this self-destructing cul-de-sac, any future pope should first have an awareness of the roots of this magisterial authoritarianism as it was ‘canonized’ at Vatican I, ‘refined’ during the crisis over modernism, ‘applied’ in 1968 in n° 28 of the encyclical Humanae Vitae Tradendae and ‘solidified’ by Pope John Paul II, most remarkably and bluntly in his November 12, 1988 address at the occasion of 20 years of Humanae Vitae

Dr Jan Jans is Associate Professor of Ethics at Tilburg School of Humanities, the Netherlands

Academic Signatory of the Declaration on Authority

More data on him here.


I expect the next Pope to recognize the fact that the present highly institutionalized, centralized, hierarchical, homogeneous and monarchical Church is the result of various historical developments that happened in the last 2000 years and therefore it has to learn to recognize the ecclesial and cultural pluralism within the Church and thus give local Churches greater freedom of expression in every area of Christian life. Certain degree of de-institutionalization of the Church is extremely important.
I expect the next Pope to de-Europeanize the Church and appoint greater number of personnel in the Roman Curia from South America, Africa and Asia where the future of the Church lies. But while most of the world’s Catholics live outside Europe, most of the cardinals and officials in the Vatican offices come from Europe: while the Vatican is a global organization, it is often run like an Italian village.
I expect the next Pope to emphasise less on dogmas and doctrines and more on the historical Jesus and the gospels. Following Jesus should be the criteria for Christian discipleship and not adherence to doctrines and laws.

I want the next Pope to recognize the Spirit of God that was at work in Vatican II and seriously consider and promote the openness that is found in its documents. That will give greater credibility to the Church among the younger generation.  The post-Vat II popes have reversed the development of Vat II, and gone back to pre-Vat II days; this has to be corrected and the insights of Vat II, like the Church is the people of God will have to be given greater importance.

I want the next Pope to work towards genuine dialogue with other religions, and true ecumenism which has suffered in recent years.

The new Pope will have to contend not only with a Roman Catholic Church marred by the sexual abuse crisis, but also with an increasingly secular Europe and America and the spread of Protestant evangelical movements all over the world.  He has to be someone who can carry the idea of new evangelization, relighting the missionary fires of the church and actually make it work.  Someone who will be “the church’s missionary in chief”, who can take the reins of government more personally into his own hands.  We would need a pope who has the courage to rethink the question of divorced, re-married Catholics, optional celibacy for priests, ordination of women and other issues which interest the people of today.
 We need someone with better management skills and a more personal touch than the present pope, someone who can extend the church’s reach to new areas like the young people.
The new pope will have to contend with a range of staggering practical challenges, including the shortage of priests and nuns worldwide, as well as a sexual abuse crisis that has undermined the church’s moral authority; the new pope needs the ability to navigate through the mess that has been created and lead the Church to its pure form intended by the Lord.
The new Pope has to be a deeply spiritual person, rooted in God and Christ and open to the Spirit. He should know the world and know the message of the Lord to communicate it effectively. He should be liberal enough to be relevant to the changing times without diluting the radical message of Jesus. 

Dr Joseph Mattam SJ is Emeritus Professor of Theology at Vidyajyoti University, Delhi, India

Academic Signatory of the Declaration on Authority

More data on him here.


Here are only a few points that to me are most important for the next pope to consider and put into practice:
Admit publicly and live up to the fact that the papacy is subject to the ecumenical council. Then act in the Spirit of Vatican II.
Right the many wrongs of your predecessor. Among the most important wrongs are the following:
* Reverse the blatantly unjust treatment of priests defrocked and/or severely punished because of their progressive ideas (for instance, re. women priests, married priests etc.), such as Roy Bourgeois, Tony Flannery, Bill Brennan s.j., and many others;
* Leave the American sisters alone so that they can continue their important work. They have been our example for living out the renewal of Vatican II.
* Clear up the scandal of clergy sex abuse without being afraid for the church's reputation which it has lost already..
* Be sure to remove the censorship of progressive theologians, such as Hans Küng, Elizabeth Johnson, Roger Haight, Charles Curran, and many others.
* Again change the recently introduced English text of the mass and the liturgy in general: This time the liturgy needs to include women: in the Scriptural texts chosen for the lectionary, in the language and in the images of God used. Women also need to be visible at the altar in leadership roles, not only subservient. The homilies need to have more depth--preached by well educated homilists--never mind whether they are priests or lay people. The question that needs to be thought through is: what kind of "God" are we presenting to the people (a monarch? a judge? or a loving compassionate God? God "up there" or God "among us"?....
The stifling atmosphere of fear among the clergy and theologians of being punished by the CDF simply has to change. Where is the joy of a life we were to have in abundance? Nowhere in our church...
Understand that there are no second-class citizens among us, the people of God: divorced Catholics, women, gay people, ALL are called to the table.
Get rid of the multiple entitlements of an absolute monarchy. What is wrong with a democratically administered church?
Tune down the outdated pomp, both in clerical vestments, processions, liturgical celebrations etc. Do we still need a High Mass?
Become independent of the curia.

Dr Gertrud Jaron Lewis is Professor Emerita at the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto, Canada.

Academic Signatory of the Declaration on Authority

More data on her here.


The courageous decision of Pope Benedict to resign offers our Church a Kairos moment of great importance. So we must now prayerfully urge and encourage our cardinals to elect a person (not necessarily a cardinal or even an already ordained bishop), known to be deeply spiritual, compassionate, and committed to justice in society and the Church, determined to eliminate pomp and careerism which are inappropriate to a follower of Jesus. This will be a person who has made an explicit commitment to put into practice the collegiality which was fundamental to the process, the style, and the commitments of Vatican II.
1. One early example of what this will involve in practice will be the convoking of a Synod of Bishops which will function in a similar way to the Synod of 1971 which had fruitful interaction between the bishops, widely-known theologians from different parts of the world, and authoritative experts including Barbara Ward-Jackson, and which issued its own document rather than merely submitting material to be drawn on by the pope and Vatican officials. The topic for this Synod should be “Gender and Sexuality”. Prior to this Synod the pope should implement the recommendation of the 1971 Synod (no 43) which proposed the setting up of “a mixed commission of men and women, religious and lay people, of differing situations and competence” to examine the role of women in society and in the Church. The remit of this “mixed commission” should be widened to include the various aspects of sexuality and gender issues which have become so urgent in today’s world. This “mixed commission” should include theologians and experts nominated by bishops’ conferences throughout the world and by various associations of theologians and other professional bodies.
2. A second example of what the effective exercise of collegiality involves will be the implementation of the provisions of the Vatican II document on the Liturgy (§22, §36, §38, §39, and §40), which gave a major degree of responsibility to national and regional episcopal conferences in reforming and adapting the liturgy and determining the extent to which vernacular language is to be used.
3. A third way of implementing collegiality will be ensuring that the members and consultors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will include recognized theologians from a variety of different theological traditions and nominated by episcopal conferences and theological associations in various countries and continents, as well as renowned experts on relevant areas of study.
4. A fourth urgent example of the exercise of collegiality will be the facilitating of a consensus of Church leaders from all over the world on the topics that are to be explored in future Synods of Bishops. My own personal hope is that these will include a Synod on prayer and one on social justice and respect for creation. To illustrate the kind of process that is required I suggest that the bishops, theologians, and experts who participate in the Synod on justice and creation would of course draw on the developing tradition of Catholic Social Teaching, including the major contribution of Pope Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate. But they would also take account of the contribution of the various strands of liberation theology and creation theology, and, particularly, of the direct experience of individuals, groups, and countries which have been marginalized or victimized by the present unjust economic and political structures of society or who have first-hand experience of the disastrous consequences of ecological damage.

Dr Donal Dorr, an Irish missionary priest, theologian, writer and social activist

Academic Signatory of the Declaration on Authority

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Today, the church needs to have a final pope, the last pope, in the person of Benedict XVI. The Bishop of Rome should go back to his original status as head of the Holy See, the diocese of Rome. In a return to ancient church teaching, he should be elected by the people and clergy of Rome. The imperial monarchy and curia should be closed down. The 110-acre Vatican City State would make an attractive museum and historical monument.
The Bishop of Rome could continue to serve as the chairman of the world’s college of bishops and the convener of synods. He could do this with an office and a couple of secretaries. He would be relieved of the obligation to make doctrinal pronouncements and to imagine himself to be infallible.
The next Bishop of Rome, however, will have to take care of some loose ends.
* A commission should be set up to examine the problems of titles and costumes in the context of the 21st century. For example, the titles of cardinal and monsignor, i.e., “my lord,” could well be dispensed with. Having a succession of higher and higher ranks only encourages mindless climbing of the career ladder.
* The Vatican archives should be opened completely for any and all legitimate scholars.
* Another commission should be set up to formulate an education program for Catholics in order to overcome their vast ignorance about scripture and the history of Judeo-Christianity.
* Yet another commission should examine the very questionable justifications for administrative matters such as compulsory celibacy for clergy and the refusal of ordination for women, as well as other similar matters. In the light of the advances in the status and accomplishments of women in this modern age, the church’s continued discrimination against women becomes ever more ludicrous.
* Finally, an audit commission should determine and make public all the assets connected in any way to the Vatican administration, including financial, real estate, and business assets. These should be turned over to a publically audited foundation the sole purpose of which should be improving the education and health care of needy people throughout the world.

* Once the Vatican monarchy has been discontinued, it will become necessary to return to ancient church teaching regarding the selection of bishops, meaning their election in each diocese. This will go a long way to restore the credibility of the episcopate and to subject it to the needed constraints of accountability.

Professor Charles J. McMahon Jr is Emeritus Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, USA.

Academic Signatory of the Declaration on Authority

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