Habemus Papem

Contributing Columnist

By the time you read this we indeed might have a new Pope.  You ask, what does this mean to the folks on Longboat Key?  Sometimes the good people here are shielded from world events on their five star island playground.  I suggest that events like the election of a new Holy Father do matter to all of us, not just to the seasonal crowds who attend mass at our local parish, Saint Mary, Star of the Sea.  Last weekend the Wall Street Journal proclaimed in its Review Section, What to Look For in a New Pope, “The Cardinals now gathered at the Vatican are choosing not just a new pontiff but a future course for their embattled Church.” (WSJ March 9 – 10, 2013) The Journal offered six views on what sort of leader that leader should be.  A sampling,

From Peggy Noonan (WSJ Opinion Columnist), “The next pope should be a man who can greet the world with a look of pleasure on his face, with a smile of joy.  He should not come forward with the sad, bent posture of one who knows the world is in ruins and only the facades remain.  He should be joyous anyway.”  She goes on, “When you open and clean a beautiful old mansion that hasn’t been cleaned in a long time, it will raise a lot of dust.  But the dust isn’t new dirt; it is just proof that a cleaning is going on.”  Ms. Noonan  suggests , “At the same time the new pope must bring Catholicism back to basics, not to elaborations on a theme but to the theme itself.  The modern Church, at the very highest levels of its thinking, in the writings of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, has become somewhat abstract and cerebral.  Such things have their place, but for now, in the ruined world, what’s needed is a reintroduction of Christ to the rising and post-Christian nations alike, always with an eye to meaning, meaning.”  Peggy says, “it would be good to see him smile, embrace the world, wade in, as if his love of life itself is a proclamation of the realness of God and an appreciation of the vivid world He gave us.

A short stop at Saint Mary’s, here on this Key would give one a vivid look at a beautiful reintroduction, for some, of that Christ, if only in art.  Take a look at that lovely mural some day.

George Weigel (Author of “Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church) weighs in,

“When conceived in strictly functional terms, democracy demeans itself, and the gears of democratic politics too often freeze, as we have seen in venues ranging from the U.S. Congress to the Greek Parliament.  Democracy is more than the institutions of democracy; it takes a certain kind of people, living certain virtues, to make democracy work.  That’s been the teaching of the last two popes, and the next pope should drive home the message to democracies old, new and aborning.”

“In dong so, he would usefully deepen the debate over some of today’s most devisive public policy issues by posing several Lincolnian queries.  Can democracy ‘long endure’ if public policy measures human beings by their utility (and this by their ‘cost’) rather that by their inalienable dignity?  If utility is the measure of man, no one is safe and the chillingly wicked, eugenic notion of ‘life unworthy of life’ seems less a bad memory from the pre-Nazi past than a contemporary standard by which to measure health-care resources.  Thus the new pope would make a major contribution to shoring up the cultural foundations of the democratic project if he would press the case for the inalienable right to life while expanding the Church’s already-extensive services for women in crisis pregnancies and those in need of compassionate, dignified end-of-life care.  In doing so, he would model a more humane approach to life than the cold pragmatism now eroding the moral fabric of western democracies.”

James Carroll (Boston Globe Columnist) writes of a Catholic Gorbachev,

“The man who steps into the Shoes of the Fisherman should be a leader who can do for the Church what the last general secretary of the Communist Party did for the Soviet Union.  A Party functionary tapped by the Politburo to shore up the Soviet Empire, Mikhail Gorbachev dismantled it instead.  If rigid Moscow can be efficiently upended, less by an individual than by historical forces that he was wise and brave enough to recognize, so can Rome.  The Catholic Church and Soviet Communism stand at opposite moral poles, but one remains what the other was: a command society defined by its rejection of democracy.  The priestly sex-abuse crisis is the Church’s Chernobyl spreading radioactive ruin.  The new pope must do as Mr. Gorbachev did – challenge his ruling elite, lay bare his power center’s secrets and sideline the bureaucracies that oppose reform.  He must understand that the Church will not succeed in standing against the principles of accountability, transparency and electoral governance that have transformed human aspiration around the globe.

If the Kremlin’s military die-hards could be disarmed, the Church’s war with modernity can be called off.” Carroll continues, “ The ethical sphere in which a pope acts couldn’t be more different from what confronted Mr. Gorbachev in the fading days of Soviet tyranny.  Yet facing a Catholic version of such obsolescence, and retrieving Gospel virtues as the truest measure of the Church, why could the Vicar of Christ not do as much?”

Indeed, before we do go to press, We Have a Pope.  This news was announced in  Rome on March 13th.  The new Holy Father is Cardinal Bergoglio from Argentina.

He has taken the name Francis I, and has given his first Papal Blessing Urbi et Orbi, to the City and the World.  Francis I is a Jesuit and has most recently been Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

In his first address to the people of Rome he asked for their prayers for him.


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