Faculty Members Weigh In On Pope’s Resignation
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 02:02
For the Church to address its globalization, however, a number of issues need to be tackled. Pope stressed that the governance of the Church—transparency, use of power and accountability—must undergo significant reform. “The concern that Benedict had was primarily with secularization in Europe and in the developed world,” Pope said. “His mission was to try to re-Christianize Europe. It didn’t work—the forces are huge for secularization.” Pope said that this trend away from the Church worsened under Benedict’s governance, in part because of the clerical sexual abuse scandal, which surfaced under his leadership. “He was not really a promoter of transparency in the Church, and he did not really hold bishops accountable for protecting sexually abusive clergy,” Pope said.
A change in leadership may also be the optimal time to address issues in terms of how the Catholic Church is perceived. “From a North American perspective, there’s the issue of sex and gender,” Pope said. “I find that the biggest hurdle for young Catholics … is the Church’s attitude toward sex, generally, and especially toward gays. People at BC—students I’ve spoken to ... many, many regard the Church as homophobic and as impossible for them. Not the majority, but many.” He noted that the Church has a tendency to send out mixed messages about homosexuality—saying, on the one hand, that sexuality was a gift, and on the other, that homosexual people could engage in no sexual conduct whatsoever. “What we need is a constructive sexual ethic, that allows people to be responsible, committed, and sexually intimate,” Pope said.
Apart from the Church’s social teachings, Imbelli said that fighting a decline in followers was a problem of great significance, and pointed to questions about evangelization in the face of increasing secularization. Especially in the West, he said, Catholic leaders are examining the question of “how to proclaim the gospel—how to present Jesus Christ—in a way that is both faithful to the tradition and yet attractive to the men and women of the 21st century.” Pope concurred, discussing the issue of vocations in the Catholic Church, and the declining number of men entering ordination. “Parishes are lacking priests—that means there’s no Eucharistic celebration … you can have the Catholic faith diminishing because of that lack of access,” Pope said. “How do you deal with the crises of clerical vocations?” Ordaining women or married men in an effort to increasing the number of priests who can serve, Pope said, are questions the new pope will have to take under consideration.
Additionally, Imbelli noted that, especially in the U.S., the issue of collegiality in the Church has been brought up—people are looking for more participation in the Church, rather than just a top-down mentality. In addition to a call for more accountability and transparency, desire for collaboration is a significant structural issue that the Catholic Church faces.
Pope also pointed to relationships with the Islamic world as an important area upon which the new pope should focus. “The pope has got to be someone who can reach out to Islam and help promote an understanding of Christianity among Muslims as nonviolent, and as … cooperative, as respectful—and communicate to Christians in the world a reverence for Islam, and a commonality with Muslims as monotheists, and as all part of the family of Abrahamic faiths,” he said. “That’s something this pope was not very good at.”
The legacy that Benedict will leave behind, therefore, is mixed. “[Benedict XVI] is probably the most theologically sophisticated pope that we have had in hundreds of years,” Imbelli said. He said he thought that Benedict’s writings, even those completed prior to his appointment to the papacy, would continue to influence the Church. “The sermons that he preaches—the homilies—I think are just magnificent. They have great spiritual depth, and I think they will be a lasting legacy.”
On the other hand, administrative issues may be what is most significant about Benedict’s term, at least in the short run. “I personally think God gave the Church a poor administrator precisely so that these problems could come to the surface,” Weiss said. “[These problems] cry out to be dealt with … Benedict’s poor administration was God’s gift to the Church.”