Let Us Know: What Qualities Do You Seek in the Next Pope?

A week from today, Pope Benedict XVI will resign. Already speculators have saturated Catholic conversations with who the next pope will be. Bondings 2.0 wants to know what qualities, visions, and backgrounds our readers desire in this person. For your reflection, we’ve excerpted from pieces by Catholic writers on their ideas about the next pope. After reading, we hope you will add your thoughts in the comments section below.

Sr. Maureen Fiedler, host of the radio program Interfaith Voices, writes at National Catholic Reporter:

“We also need someone who accepts and preaches the Gospel value of human equality for women and men, people of all races and ethnicities, and people of all sexual orientations.

“So we need a ‘gutsy’ pope: someone who would open up all roles in the church to anyone who qualifies spiritually and would not rule anyone out based on gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Such changes would likely mean standing up to lots of Vatican bureaucrats…

“But you know, most of all, we need someone who can relate to people so well that he is willing to host a picnic in Vatican Square, or maybe a potluck somewhere. I’d bring some great hors d’oeuvres.”

Maryland parish priest, Fr. Peter Daly, also writing at National Catholic Reporter about his desire for a pope with experience as a parish priest:

“The Benedictines have a saying about the selection of a new abbot: The abbot should be ne numis sapiens, ne nimis sanctus, et ne nimis sanus — not too healthy, not too wise and not too holy. In other words, they should select a regular guy. That’s what I hope for: a regular guy…

“I hope he has a lot of nieces and nephews who have challenged him around the dinner table and in family gatherings…Perhaps one of those nieces and nephews has come out to him as gay and he has had to love them still.

“I hope we get somebody who is in touch with his own humanity. It would be nice if he was a man who admits that he, too, is a sexual being who has struggled with human desires and impulses like everybody else.”

Lastly, E.J. Dionne writing in The Washington Post calls for a nun to be elected pope (and we at New Ways Ministry heartily echo his sentiments):

“It is time to elect a nun as the next pontiff…

“Matthew 25:40 contains what may be the most constructive words ever written: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these my brethren, you did for me.’ More than any other group in the church, the sisters have been at the heart of its work on behalf of compassion and justice…

“The church needs a leader who has worked closely with the poor and the outcast, who understands that battling over doctrine is less important for the church’s future than modeling Christian behavior — and who sees that the proper Christian attitude toward the modern world is not fear but hope.”

What do you seek in the next pope? What qualities does that person need to lead the Catholic Church forward on LGBT issues?  Is there a particular person who models for you what a good pope should be?  Who would be your choice from the current College of Cardinals? Please leave your thoughts, idealistic ones and practical ones alike, in the ‘Comments’ section of this post.  We will try to follow-up on  our readers’ input in a future post.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

0 replies
  1. Terence
    Terence says:

    I want above all, someone who will do what the office primarily demands – a pastor, a servant of the people, not a doctrinaire ideologue. Someone who will give concrete expression to the conciliar promises of collegiality at all levels, and to create a genuinely listening church. Someone who can understand, by listening to the experience of Catholics living in the real world, that the doctrine on contraception as given by “Humanae Vitae” has never been shown to have been accepted (or “received”) by the church as a whole, and is therefore of doubtful vailidity. Someone who understands, by listening to Catholics with real world experience of loving, committed and faithful intimate relationships, and by paying proper attention to professional theologians outside the rarified atmosphere of the Vatican ivory towers, that the entire structure of Vatican sexual doctrine is grievously disordered, and needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.

    With regard to LGBT pastoral care particularly, I want to see a pope who will pay proper attention to the whole of established teaching on the subject, and not merely the bits about genital acts. There’s the grossly ignored insistence that “homosexual” persons should be treated with respect, compassion and understanding – and it is impossible to understand people without sincere, empathetic listening to their concerns and experience. Then there’s the decree that we should be free from all forms of unjust discrimination, and free from all forms of violence or malice, in actions or in speech. These precepts are not simply not actively promoted, with the frequency of diatribes against equal marriage – they are direcly contravened, in the church’s own practice of discrimination, and the indirect support given to proponents of criminal penalties, extending in some cases even to the death penalty.

    The principles of listening and collegiality also demand that instead of prohibiting all discussions on married priests and women’s ordination, any new pope should directly encourage such discussion. We know that substantial numbers of bishops in some regions would welcome the opportunity to welcome back into active ministry good priests who have left to marry. There is no reason at all why they should be excluded, while we welcome married men from the Anglican and other denominations, or married men in our own Eastern rite churches. While the arguments for women priests may be debatable – they should at least be debatable, and there are strong grounds at least for approving women deacons.

    Above all, if the papal office genuinely is that as the Vicar of Christ, as claimed – then his first concern should be to practice and proclaim the Gospel of one Jesus Christ, not the arcane structures of canon law and Vatican bureaucracy, designed more than anything else to sustain Vatican power and privilege.

  2. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    I’d like him to be P.P., a pastor of pastors. That includes holding the local Churches in unity as he witnesses to and inspires us to proclaim the gospel while transcending divisive politics.

  3. Richard Judkins
    Richard Judkins says:

    One who will leave the Vatican and move back to the Lateran. One who will dismantle the curia. One who will be Archbishop of Rome and quit meddling in affairs overseas. One who will join the other traditional patriarchs of the church, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and be first among equals instead of a monarch reigning over a kingdom. The world desperately needs this. Be a pastor.

  4. Richard
    Richard says:

    Seriously…leave the post vacant for the next 20 years and the Church may become truly Synodal. Power would be returned to the Synods of Bishops around the world and Catholics may actually come to believe they have a right to think for themselves.

    The principle of subsidiarity promulgated by Vatican II may then actually have a chance of being put into practice.

  5. Vena Eastwood
    Vena Eastwood says:

    The thoughts of a Women Pope isnot realistic at this point, although I agree it should happen one day. It would be more realistic to get some women into the Vatican to bring some balance and common sense into all deliberations. I don’t me flower arranging or menu suggestions! How can an all male oragnisation make balanced decisions for the whole when half the worlds population and possibly more that half the Catholic popuation is female?
    Don’t get your hopes up the last Pope who wanted to reform the Curia, died mysteriously after 30 days!
    the crowd of cardinals in post at the moment are mostly conservative, and Benedict now feels he can safely resign and maybe even work the strings of the “Boys in red dresses!” Sorry to be cinical but I have been dragged backwards 50 years with this pontificate

  6. tomfluce
    tomfluce says:

    All the wishful thinking in the world will not bring changes we want. Without developing a unified network throughout the world of people who want the kind of pope/church we read about in liberal journals, without a realistic plan for putting effective pressure on the church from the inside, we liberal reformers will get no further now than we have in the last 50 years since Vat. II.

    First of all, we do have some solid foundations in Vat. II for “collegiality” and other ways to work within the church. But many of us were excommunicated or simply abandoned the church–that unfortunately is the only pattern currently for dealing with conscientious objections. We didn’t populate the seminaries to become members of a hierarchy to balance the severe fundamentalists who now have control. We didn’t amass fortunes to influence our views such as the conservatives. The deadly silence imposed on all levels of the church is effectively working now. That has to change, from within.

    The retirement of Brother Ratzinger is part of a reasonable plan to consolidate the power of conservatives he and Brother Wojtala built in naming a majority of cardinals about to elect the next pope. He can preside over this transition basking in the accolades for his “humility”, his erudition, his orthodoxy. Scary is the thought that Brother Turkson, the fierce anti-LGBT African cardinal could be elected pope. What better way to promote orthodoxy especially wiping out LGBT’s than to have an African?

    I have a proposal that has no takers yet: “The Least Harm-Dissenting In Love”, a movement within the church, people still in the pews, of LGBT’s and Allies, and all other liberals using their numbers/weight to simply bring opponents to the table via moral, loving pressure using everything including non-violent direct action.

    I think the first thing that should be established out of this movement would be the “Galileo Reconciliation Commission” wherein dissenters would agree to stop doing the harm caused by silence, excommunication, firings, and inflammatory pronouncements. Then a process would be begun whereby a better way to deal with dissent than the Galileo way. Brother Wojtala “forgave” Galileo long after his sins. He even apologized. But that is no way to deal with dissent. Remember Brother Giordano Bruno burned at the stake 413 years ago? Excommunication is a modern version of rubbing out dissenters.

    Or we can continue on calling ourselves Catholic and be shoved outside with the official church–not just hierarchs but the largest church in the world full of adherents. But isn’t there a way for us to “own” the church also?

  7. C McAuley Hentges
    C McAuley Hentges says:

    We need a pope who will relinquish the monarchical power gained over the years, but is foreign to the origins of Christianity. 1. We need a pope who will establish a permanent synod of bishops that meets at regular and frequent intervals, that can call a council with a super-majority of votes. The composition of the synod should quickly be broadened to include clergy and laity in substantial numbers. 2. We need a pope who will convene a truth commission with outside representation that will investigate, hear public testimony, and make recommendations for reform to the synod. They should begin by looking into the priest sexual abuse scandal, Vatican finances, money laundering, corruption in the curia. We need a pope who will completely reorganize the curia, make its membership inclusive of all constituencies in the church, and break its stranglehold on power and access to the pope. 3. We need a massive declassification of documents in the Vatican library, and we need to allow access to documents to all qualified scholars. Declassification of all documents should be mandatory after a certain number of years. We nee a freedom of information act for all Catholics at all levels of church governance. 4. We need a pope willing to enact major reforms: full inclusion of all people regardless of race, sex, class, national origin, sexual orientation, etc..; end to creeping infallibility; end to silencing of scholars and dissidents; reform of theology, esp. on sexuality and ecclesiology; 5. genuine ecumenicism that imagines the goal as a new Christianity, not Catholic hegemony, in the spirit of Vatican II; liturgical reform that looks to the present and future, is inclusive of all sexes and cultures in its forms, language and participation, with genuine respect for the authority of bishops’ conferences as authorities on liturgy; 6. We need a pope who will achieve genuine inclusion of young people wherever possible in the life of the church, not just ski trips and preach-fests; 7. genuine subsidiarity in all church governance; 7. We need a pope who will call religious communities to accountability when genuine corruption occurs (e.g. Legionaries), and will not harass religious for engaging in their mission and voicing dissent, (e.g. LCWR); 8. We need a pope who will not engage in political intrigues with powerful nations and business interests. I’m just warming up, but I’ll stop before I draft the working papers for the next council. I don’t know everything the church needs. Even if I were a linguist, I wouldn’t know what is best for every culture in our global church. Mostly we need a pope who knows that about him/herself, and is willing to build a genuinely participatory church. We can say what we need, no matter how unlikely we are to get it. We can act. We can work from the inside or the outside as our consciences and circumstances allow. We can affirm each other in the choices we make, and in the work we do. Change can come quickly; no one expected Vatican II. We can pray and organize.

  8. tazman42
    tazman42 says:

    I want a Pope who will Model Jesus in his actions toward all people and, be concerned with people not archaic rules of OT Biblical (levitical ) legislation. One, who can view the Wold in Light of the Beaditudes, One who will accceipt the sinfulness of the Institutional Church and charge all Bishops and curia to REPENT publicly for them.

  9. Joseph
    Joseph says:

    I will side with the Nun. How about, for starters, we move away from celibacy. Then cut the malarkey about condoms in Africa when it is apparent that this may be the first line of defense against the spread of AIDS..


  10. Thomas Flint
    Thomas Flint says:

    Is there any candidate that has an appreciation of love of nature? A Green Pope would be wonderful, teaching love of living beings, human beings, and other living things. The love of life is the most serious challenge facing the human race. Especially, the challenges that technologies pose to human dignity, and survival.

    I wish the pope would be more like the Dalai Lama or Pope John XXIII, and teach by example that religion is about spiritual transformation and goodness and love of living beings.

    I hope he has a Good Heart.

  11. Terry
    Terry says:

    I would like to see the next Pope appear in public from time to time in a business suit, like most other male heads of state. No other such person wears a white dress wherever he goes. I think that would be a huge statement of how he views himself and his office. Every other bishop and cardinal dresses like a man, unless he is performing some official function.


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