"May God forgive you!" were the first words spoken by Pope Francis, to the conclave of Cardinals that had just elected him Pontiff. Although that may not have been any more than typically self-deprecating humor, it has perked a few ears about the priorities the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires may pursue in his new role.
Lifetime tenure enjoyed by Popes and US Supreme Court Justices, is a tricky thing, after all. Our own Earl Warren, the former CA Governor of Highway 13 fame, was thought to be a safe conservative choice for Chief Justice. He led the Court to liberal rulings in household-name cases like Miranda, Gideon and Escobedo, and upheld the landmark Civil Rights and the Voting Rights Acts. Ike later called that appointment "the biggest damn-fool mistake" of his Presidency. Pope John 23rd was expected to be a place-keeper, but promptly called the Second Vatican Council that broadly redefined the relationship of the Catholic Church to the secular world. Of course, those tenures do differ in that the Supremes don't enjoy any presumption of Infallibility, a proposition disputed only by Justice Scalia.
The new Pope, a Jesuit, gave us all a tantalizing glimpse into his priorities by adopting Francescan Order founder Francis of Assisi as his name. St. Francis and his followers famously take that vow of poverty very seriously, and focus their ministry, in particularly Christ-like fashion, on the needs of the powerless and poor (in treasure and in spirit). St. Francis is also the Patron Saint of Animals (the Most powerless), although he was better known for communing with them than advocating on their behalf for compassion or better treatment.
The Church of Rome (of which I'm not a member, and for the record Cardinal Cushing was not a direct relation) certainly faces numerous daunting and ongoing challenges. Some relate to Church teaching and philosophy, others to institutional actions and consequences. Among them are the following:
-o- the continuing pedophile priest scandals and their institutional cover-ups
-o- (related) declines in practicing membership and financial support, especially in the US
-o- social/sexual issues like contraception, abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, divorce
-o- celibacy and the shortage of new priests
-o- the role of women in the world
-o- the role of women in the hierarchy of the institution, exemplified by the American "nuns on the bus"
-o- the scandal-plagued Vatican Bank (money-laundering, secrecy, incompetent management)
-o- the Church's role in secular politics, on issues global and local
-o- so-called 'liberation theology' especially in Latin America, controversially holding that the Church should help to free its people from political, economic and social injustice.
Regardless of your own beliefs, the Catholic Church touches everybody's lives. So, readers Catholic, Other Religious and Unchurched alike -- what are your hopes for the new Pope? What do you think his impact will be how will his papal reign be defined and remembered? What do you think he will stay away-from or de-emphasize? The floor is yours we here at the DX do not require infallibility, but only the capacity to express an opinion.
Cliff Notes: Tell us, what do you think the new Pope will do?