The First One Hundred Days: The Future Papacy, the Future Church
Catholics for a Free Choice, USA
April 19, 2005
Catholics for a Free Choice is deeply concerned that the election of Cardinal
Josef Ratzinger as pope is a strong indication of continued dissension within
the church. The cardinal's historic role as a disciplinarian means the tradition
of the punitive father is maintained within the Roman Catholic church.
As we move into a new era for the church, we look to the election of a new
pope as a starting point for the critical work that must be done to make this
church a home for all Catholics, particularly those divided from the church
during the last quarter century.
Today, Pope Benedict XVI has both an opportunity and a mandate to set a
tone for the future of his papacy and to redress wrongs done in the name of the
Vatican. Simultaneously, he must span the divide widened during the last papacy
between clergy and laity, men and women, north and south, right and left, gay
and straight. As Pope John Paul II exemplified the spirit of reconciliation and
relationship when he sat face to face with the man who shot him, the new pope
should extend the same courtesies, coupled with a genuine spirit of invitation,
to those who have been most hurt by church policies over the last years.
To this end, Catholics for a Free Choice has laid out a schedule for the next
one hundred days. We offer these recommendations and requests in the spirit of
moving toward a true engagement with the realities and suffering of our times
and mindful of the challenges that lay before us as we seek to heal the fractures
within our church.
The two most important issues the new pontiff must address are the clergy
sexual abuse crisis, the most painful error of the 20th century within the
church, and the church's need to work with civil society to stem the tide of
unnecessary deaths from HIV/AIDS.
During the first one hundred days, the new pontiff should immediately
meet with survivors of sexual abuse by the clergy. No child, no adult survivor
and no nun who faced this most profound betrayal of faith was ever able to
secure a meeting with the late pontiff. Now the Vatican should redress that
wrong and sit down in a private meeting to hear the grief, the pain and the
anger of those the church has most let down, including members of SNAP,
nuns, young people and adult survivors who have all been abused by Catholic
clergy. If the church ever needed a truth and reconciliation process, it is over
the scandal of sexual abuse. The Vatican telecommunications office, with the
full cooperation of the Vatican Congregation of Bishops, should schedule a
televised series of encounters between bishops and victims in which the
bishops will have the opportunity to tell the truth about their complicity
in this scandal and apologize to the victims. The victims would have the
opportunity to forgive these men and move on.
During the first one hundred days, the new pope should form a commission to
study the current church policy on condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS. Under
the watch of Pope John Paul II, Vatican officials and bishops spread
misinformation and even staged condom burnings in AIDS-ravaged Africa.
The new pope should immediately initiate an inquiry into the theological basis
for permitting the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, including
visits to regions particularly hard hit by the pandemic. However, people with
and at risk of HIV/AIDS should not need to wait for the results of the commission
to be able to protect themselves. The pope should lift the ban on condoms
immediately in order to err on the side of life.
During the first one hundred days, the pope should establish the
Pontifical Academy on Women's Rights in the Church. As a first step, the
Academy would serve as a registry for qualified women candidates for positions
that are already open to women. All Vatican officials and ambassadors will submit
their resignation from office to the new pope. At least 50 percent of those
resignations should be accepted and the posts filled with qualified women.
During the first one hundred days, the Vatican should open a dialogue
on opening the priesthood to married men. Under Pope John Paul II,
married priests who longed to be both priests and husbands were sent the
message that their desires for human relationships and love were not only
unworthy of the priesthood, but also unworthy of even dispensation from the
priesthood, rendering them to an ecclesiastical limboŚneither fully priest nor
fully husbands. The future pope should commission a group to discuss the future
and role of married priests with an eye toward returning them to ministry.
Pension rights should be immediately restored to married priests.
These acts of justice within the church should be matched by an expansion
of Pope John Paul II's commitment to peace and his clarion call for debt
forgiveness. and a clear and binding opposition to the war in Iraq. Let us
go one step further than the former pope and be clear that there is no
possibility of a just war by a superpower.
None of these steps would change church teaching; all of them are consistent
with current theological and disciplinary norms. None is radical.
The first one hundred days should culminate with a reconciliation mass in
St. Peter's Square. After undertaking the above activities and others, the new
pope should warmly welcome back Catholics to the church, with special
recognition of and an specific invitation to the women, the gays and lesbians,
the theologians and bishops punished and marginalized, the sexually abused
and others who have felt excluded.
At the end of the first one hundred days, this pope should articulate a vision
for the 21st century church that is inclusive, understanding, compassionate and
The text above is a press release from Catholics for a Free Choice.
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