Church needs a pope who can recognise all the gifts of the faithful
OPINION:The Catholic leadership needs to appreciate and even encourage a range of views rather than sternly enforce a narrow orthodoxy
History has bestowed on the papacy an external magnificence which is difficult to reconcile with the ideals put before us by Jesus of Nazareth. Although the pope himself may not care for the splendour of his surroundings, his curia make effective use of this magnificence to further their institutional supremacy. The new pope needs to be someone who can live and teach the Christian faith in the spiritually unpromising surroundings that history has bequeathed to him.
It is a pastoral duty for the pope to recognise publicly that members of the church who sincerely hold views that are liberal by his own personal standards belong to the church just as much as those who hold traditionalist views; and that, in spite of the fact that their convictions may be discomfiting, they at least deserve recognition as authentic and valued members of the church.
It is a daunting task that faces the man who is to be elected shortly; and he will need all the support that Catholics, and especially the bishops, can give him. Pope John XXIII showed, in spite of resistance from the curia, that reform is not merely possible but actually attractive.
At Vatican II the doctrine of collegiality was proclaimed in spite of curial opposition. It is time to revisit that doctrine and to extend it beyond what was possible in the 1960s.
There is one activity that demands not simply reform but radical renunciation, and that is the persecution inflicted upon men and women (mainly priests and sisters) who have been severely and unjustly punished for their efforts to bring their Christian faith to bear on the world of today.
Curial, and by implication papal, harassment of faithful Catholics must be abolished root and branch and apologised for in a spirit of repentance. Even a traditionalist pope can do this without any compromise of his principles or damage to the authority of his office, however embarrassing it might prove to be.
We need a pope who will convey to his Catholic brothers and sisters, and to the world at large, what it means to represent the inclusive, merciful and loving character of Jesus of Nazareth, God’s self-revelation to all human beings.
We live in a world where there is no shortage of legal restraints, condemnation of offenders, anger, blame, scapegoating and punishment. Bad news flourishes in the secular media. Christians, however, have inherited a legacy of good news, together with a mandate to bring it to the attention of the whole world with joy.
The principal bishop in the Catholic Church should not be someone who sees his duty primarily as a stern enforcer of a narrow orthodoxy and a sponsor of unbending and sometimes antiquated laws.
Christians have been given a joyful message to proclaim to the world. They do not need a leader who sits in gloomy judgment on the world that they have been sent to evangelise, but one who appreciates this and who acts upon it in a spirit of joy and hope.
The vocation and bounden duty of the Christian Church is to present the message that Jesus of Nazareth has given to the world. It must do this without obscuring it with the concerns of people who appear to be preoccupied with relatively peripheral matters, and with their own authority rather than with the effect that the Gospel is, or is not, having on the world.
The rulers of the church cannot do this effectively, if their attitudes and behaviour alienate not alone its own members, but also those who do not belong to it. The misguided attempt to force certain intransigently conservative views upon the whole church, in the name of a narrowly conceived orthodoxy, gives an impression of despotism rather than of firm government.
It makes the Catholic Church gratuitously unappealing and it distorts the good news Jesus brought to the world. Reform of the institutional church is an act of fidelity to the Gospel.
* Fr Gabriel Daly is a theologian and Augustinian priest