When they first announced the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, I was more than a bit skeptical. Why, after 600 years, does a Pope need to resign when so many died in “office.” So I did a little research and found, as usual, a scandal was involved which I previously blogged about a few days ago. In my research, it was reported that Vatican officials did not want anyone elected who was Italian or lived in or near the Vatican. The new Pope would have to have “clean hands” and not be implicated or associated with anyone in the sex scandal he would have to “fix.” Knowing that Easter is around the corner and the pressing concern of the Church to elect a new Pope, so much so they waived the customary wait for the conclave, I figured it would only take two days to elect someone, and it did. The skeptic in me still thinks they had someone in mind the whole time and they put on a “show” of a few votes and black smoke to make us think it wasn’t decided until yesterday.
As I sat with my family at dinner, we discussed what I had learned about the recent scandal and what the media was saying about a new Pope. Where would he come from? Who would it be? There were rumors of various Cardinals who were being considered. They mentioned our Cardinal, Timothy Dolan, and another from the Boston diocese. I said I hoped they weren’t going to select an American Cardinal. Too much had gone on here over the past ten years or so regarding the pedophile priests and countless victims. I felt that too many, in the American churches, either knew or the scandal, participated in the cover up, were involved in the abuse, and tried to make it go away instead of contacting the authorities and having these priests prosecuted. Timothy Dolan does not have clean hands. He actually paid guilty priests $20,000 to leave the church rather than go through a whole process of excommunication or defrocking…whatever they want to call it. Imagine paying pedophiles $20,000? Yeah that was a quick solution to his problem of clearing up corruption, but what about the victims? Many had to sue the church to get any sort of compensation for the abuse they endured, but the pedophiles walk away with money in their pockets! As we discussed all this, with me doing most of the talking, we got around to where they would find a Cardinal who could come in and clean house. I suggested they might pick someone from South America. My older daughter scoffed at me. Why there? I said because 40% of Catholics are Hispanic and that is a good reason for me.
Well yesterday the cardinals elected a new Pope. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, is from Argentina. Pope Francis is the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. He is the son of Italian immigrants. So the Church managed to find someone who is not only from Latin America, but of Italian descent too. He is a Jesuit. The first Pope who is both a Jesuit and from the Americas that has ever been elected. He chose the name Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. St. Francis and his followers lived a lifestyle of poverty so as to devote themselves to caring for the poor, the animals and even the environment. In following with this tradition, Pope Francis lived in a small apartment and is said to have taken public transportation even though, as Cardinal, he would have been afforded much more. He wanted to be “one” with the people and has often spoken about the unfairness of poverty.
However, there will not be any radical or progressive changes under his reign because he is a conservative. He has spoken out against abortion and euthanasia. He believes homosexuality is immoral. He opposes same-sex marriage. Though he argued against it in Argentina in 2010, he was not successful. He also opposes adoption for same-sex couples, saying it would deprived children of having a mother and father, which is what God intended.
Now what? Well I hope they give Pope Francis a few days to settle in to this enormous role before that dump that 2 volume, bound in red, scandal investigation in his lap. Three Cardinals prepared it and it details who and what was involved in the current sex scandal crisis facing the Church. It will be his job to read it and to figure out how to properly deal with and end the corruption. I actually feel sorry for him. It’s not like this is the first or last scandal facing the Church. They haven’t even resolved the pedophile priests scandal. Church scandals and corruption go back in history almost to the day Peter picked the rock out on which to build it. They are good at covering up scandal. They have had a lot of practice.
I hope that this isn’t just another scam. By that mean, I hope the “Church” didn’t select this new Pope for “show.” I hope he is allowed to handle things the way he sees fit and not the way he may be advised to handle it. After all, if he follows his advisors, who may well be residents of the Vatican, how will things changed? How will they get “fixed?” The Pope may have clean hands, but what about the people who will be surrounding him and filling his ears with what they want him to know? I guess we will have to see what he has to say, what he does, and how he will lead the Church from here on in. It may be too late for anyone to undo all the damage and corruption that has been done and restore morality and confidence in the Church. But, in the spirit in which I have been raised, I will pray to God that Pope Francis can accomplish something that no one before him seems to be able to do…rebuild faith in the Church.