With the announcement by Pope Benedict XVI on February 11, 2013 that he will resign as pope on February 28, 2013, virtually all 1.2 billion Catholics around the world have or will have thoughts about why, what it means for the Church in the future and related questions. This Catholic does, and I share some in this post.
First, though, I must explain that the thoughts presented here are grounded in the same philosophy and mindset that we discuss throughout our blogs and at www.jackhaffey.com, our home page. The mindset that we believe enables organizations to achieve their highest long term potential is a. outward-focused (focused on their stakeholder groups), b. long term and c. committed to optimizing the value they provide to each of their primary stakeholder groups, relative to all the other groups. This mindset applies to the Roman Catholic Church, and is in perfect harmony with its mission and its purpose.
So, we share our own first thoughts here. They are about some of the most pressing and central questions the Church has been facing. We share them humbly but firmly.
One of our grandchildren recently asked whether girls can be priests, because he has not ever seen one. I answered that the Church does not allow girls to become priests. He quickly responded, “That’s not fair. Lots of girls might want to be priests and they might be good ones. That isn’t right.” I think the Holy Spirit smiled at that, approvingly.
These thoughts below of course address only part of the larger mosaic that constitutes the mission of the Church here on earth. Yet these few subjects seem to us to be among the most pivotal on the question of how the Church best creates its future for all people affected by it. The 1.2 billion current Catholics really are The Church now of course.
This looks and feels like a millennial fork in the road for the Roman Catholic Church. So, we offer these first thoughts, knowing blog sites like this one reach only a few people.
Pope Benedict XVI’s Gift to the Church and the World:
A. The opportunity for the Church to choose a new pope who will center and re-center the Church on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and on the continuing guidance of the Holy Spirit.
1. Conservative and liberal in the Church must and will become, at best, of secondary importance in Church decision-making.
2. Of primary importance must be the clear centerpiece purpose, belief and value system upon which the Church was founded – and is universally known. That is:
a. Love God above all things.
b. Love your neighbor as yourself.
c. “…and the greatest of these is love….”
3. So, it is Love and all that goes with it, not fear and all that goes with it that is the original and forever purpose of the Church.
B. Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are, I believe, therefore saying and requiring, among other Love-grounded matters, that:
1. Priests should be able to marry.
2. Women should be co-equally able to become and be ordained priests.
3. Divorced and remarried Catholics should and must be declared and considered “fully in communion” (FIC) with the Church.
4. Gay and Lesbian Catholics should and must be declared and considered FIC with the Church (whether civilly married or not – no matter).
5. Prohibition of the use of birth control and all contraceptives should end.
6. If it is possible that life begins at conception, and if it is wise to do no harm on existence of life issues, then this most intimate and important life issue of prohibiting abortion should and must be retained, except for (1) When indirectly necessary to save the life of the Mother and (2) Upon full and competent study, perhaps in cases of rape and incest. These two categories demand full study and recommendations. Like all the thoughts, this thought is grounded in Love.
7. In general, the Church should be open to and fully inclusive (not excluding any individual or group) of all who want to be engaged, participating members of the Church, with love as the single criterion for Church decision-making on these matters.
8. The role of the Laity in the church has been reduced over the last 30 years. This non-inclusive, non-participative message is at odds with the fullness of meaning that accompanies Church pronouncements that the people are the Church. This trend should be reversed. A welcoming, inviting, fully engaged culture of Church should increasingly exist.
There are so many who can speak more knowledgeably about these and related matters. Surely that robust and respectful dialogue will be held. The Roman Catholic Church, in its human institutional, organizational, hierarchical culture and authority, accountability and responsibility existence is, like other institutions and organizations, subject to the pulls and tugs of liberal and conservative, orthodox and other political power behavior. This political power institutional behavior must be set aside in the process of choosing and electing a new pope. Love is the singular Holy Spirit-guided decision criterion each voting cardinal must use.
I believe this millennial moment is a singularly special one happening now as a gift to the church flowing from Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation. It needs to be one that is Holy Spirit-guided and therefore rises far above these understandable but counter-productive power struggle tendencies that burden so many institutions over time – including the Roman Catholic Church.