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Meditation 1031
What I'd want in a new pope

by: John Tyrrell

Your thoughts on this Meditation are welcome. Please use the contact page to provide your comments for publication.

Today, is International Women's Day and in the Vatican, the day is being observed by the cardinals (every one a man) of the Catholic Church voting to determine the date on which they will start the formal process to select a new pope - a man of course.

I have no say in the matter, but what would I like to see in a new pope?

Quite simply, one who recognizes that he is head of the Roman Catholic Church, and nothing more. He should not be trying to force his view of what is right or wrong on the rest of us.

For example, the UN Commission on the Status of Women is currently meeting. The Vatican has joined with Islamic states in an attempt to eliminate language in a draft final statement that says religion, custom or tradition must not be used as an excuse to avoid a government's obligation to eliminate violence against women. Essentially, the Vatican is arguing it should be legal to use religion as an excuse to justify violence against women. This is the kind of thing the Vatican under a new Pope has to stop doing. You can't mend fences with Islam by supporting their most morally repugnant policies. You can't claim the moral highground when you use your religion to cover-up wrong doing. You can't play the religion card to justify violence.

Cardinal Ouellet, the Canadian cardinal who is on the pre-conclave short list of possible candidates, speaking about the sexual abuse scandals in a recent interview said "what was done by the Catholic Church, which is not yet perfect, but could be also of example for others in society." What was done by the Catholic Church? Let's just recall what actually went on. The Vatican announced, after a quarter century of obfuscation and dilly-dallying, that there would be a policy developed, and six months of wheelspinning later announced the policy would be that each bishop would be responsible for his own policy. And some of those bishops (cardinals among them) are still shuffling pedophile priests and covering-up. Cardinal Ouellet, a papabile, thinks this could be an example to others in society? What is he thinking?

We don't want your example, Cardinal Ouellet! We don't want the next Pope to try to be an example for us. Whether he can measure up as an example to Catholics... that's for them to decide.

To the new pope: We want you to stop trying to influence lawmakers to legislate Catholic morality. We want you to stop spending tens of millions of tax-deductible dollars (donated by followers who intended it to go to church operations and charity) trying to influence the political process. We want you to stop arrogantly thinking of yourself as the world's spiritual leader. You are not. You are the head of the Catholic Church. Just try to do that job.

And success in that job, in cleaning up the mess left by the last two popes, might actually give a new pope some moral authority beyond the Church.