The pope of tomorrow according to the progressives

Source: FSSPX News


In Le Monde of April 3 and 4, 2005, the journalist Henri Tincq named “the five challenges for the pope of tomorrow”. For him, the next pope will have to respond to the following questions: How to decentralize the government of the Church? How to avoid a split from modern society? How to overcome the lack of vocations? How to re-launch ecumenical dialogue? How to improve relations with Judaism and Islam? – Here are the main points of this lengthy article, which outlines implicitly the typical profile of the pope the modernists would like.


  • To decentralize Roman power

 (…) Will the successor of John Paul II be sensitive to the demands which aim at the decentralization of the Catholic system of authority? This would mean a limitation of the range of competence of the Roman Curia, through larger delegations to national bishops’ conferences, through a reform of the procedure of nominations, through a new application of local and episcopal synods. Independent of political constraints which have disappeared and of conservative opposition, the Church today appears freer than ever to reflect on the conditions of her mission, her development, on her institutional reform, on her adaptation to cultures and to the needs of man in the twenty first century. Will the new pope know how to take advantage of such a situation?


  • To make up for the split from modern society

  (…) The next pope should not distance himself from the following positions:  firstly, the recognition, with neither ulterior motive nor nostalgia, of the pluralism of religious and ethical choices; secondly, the rejection of the privatization of the faith and the marginalization of the Church; thirdly, the possibility left to this Church of playing her role of questioning the foundations of culture, of society and of ethics.

 Without constraining anyone. Because the Christian faith can no longer be thought of as a rigid system, closed and opposed to other concurrent verities. She must take into account that Catholicism is in the minority in the world. The Church can no longer be considered as the place of faith welcomed by, practiced by and proposed to the whole of society, without this proposition appearing to be the expression of a hegemonic will.


  • To unlock access to ordained ministries

(…) Unlocking access to ordained ministry eventually to the benefit of married men, will probably be one of the first questions about which the pope will have to arbitrate. An intermediary solution could be the extension of the functions of the deacon and the access of women to the diaconate, which would only be a return to the time of the primitive Church. France numbers 1,325 deacons against 11 in 1970. Each year more permanent deacons are ordained than priests. Vatican II restored permanent diaconate for men and even possibly married men. Ever since, the meter is blocked. The reason is simple enough: if you extend the functions of the married deacon, it will be hard to prove the pertinence of the celibate priest.

On the other hand, the issue of the priestly ordination of women is out of the question at the highest level of the Catholic Church. Not only because John Paul II absolutely forbade it (Ordination sacerdotalis, 1994), but also because, unlike the ordination of married men, that of women does not depend upon ecclesiastical discipline, but upon tradition and dogma. The priest celebrates the Eucharist "in persona Christi" and can only be a man.


  • To re-launch dialogue with separated churches

(…) How will the next pope be able to re-launch the ecumenical dialogue? Under what conditions will it be possible to restore the atmosphere of trust of the 1960s, outside of the naivety which would consist in believing that all difficulties could be resolved, in the dialogue between theologians, by acts of contrition and kisses of peace bringing about fusion? John Paul II showed a way to go about this, but he did not have time to explore it, though at least he had the merit of breaking the ground. This action was born from the realization of the "obstacle" on the road to union represented by universal primacy of the bishop of Rome, that is to say the pope. He proposed a common reflection from the ecumenical partners on the exercise of this universal primacy.

We know what impact such an initiative could have at the level of the internal ruling of the Church. It would also have its repercussion in the relations with the other churches in the search for a model of "communion". Must this model be founded on the bishop of Rome (the pope), as the Catholic tradition demands, or must it favor an "ecclesiology of communion" as the Orthodox wish, since for them the notion of universal jurisdiction does not exist, and they will never accept a primacy of power of one Church over another? Is the bishop of Rome ready to accept only a primacy of honor, a role of coordinator or intercessor, without claiming a worldwide primacy or a personal infallibility which the other confessions do not acknowledge?

This is one of the great debates to come, which will certainly not be solved within the duration of the new pontificate, even if it were to be long. How could the pope renounce his universal magisterium tomorrow? What can he concede as limits to the exercise of his own power for the superior sake of unity? Will Rome accept to bring again under discussion the structure of Catholic authority such as it had been elaborated during the second millennium up to Vatican I (1870)? Will it ever manage to define itself otherwise than as a center, with the local churches remaining on the periphery?  Will the pope succeed to limit his role to that of being a Patriarch of the West, even if he ranks first among his peers? The re-unification of the Christian families depends upon the answer to such questions.


  • To deepen the meeting with Judaism and Islam

If the reunification of the Christian denominations will loom on the horizon of the new pope as a definite emergency, we find it hard to imagine that the successor of John Paul II would not continue to widen the space for the dialogue with monotheistic religions. This pope, who initiated the unprecedented meeting of all the great religious leaders in Assisi (Italy), paved the way for meetings with Judaism, Islam as well as Buddhism. He did make some decisive accelerations in this interreligious ecumenism which his successor, in spite of the repulsions of the traditionalist circles, can only seek to carry on, and even to amplify.

The "spirit of Assisi" means that in looking for the truth in the other traditions, we deepen our own. John Paul II repeated this evident truth about the Jews, "eldest brothers" of the Christians. In the meeting with Judaism he took irreversible steps. If we remember especially the proclamations of "repentance", we will also recall the first visit of this pope to the synagogue of Rome, the acknowledgment of the historical and spiritual filiation between Judaism and Christianity, the effort made by Rome for the Church to rediscover her Jewish roots and purge from her texts any anti-Jewish allusion. We will also recall the recognition of the state of Israel, after years of indecision. Not only has a thirty-year-old peace been established between Judaism and Christianity since Vatican II, but a radically new page has been opened in their relationship, and it will probably be impossible to turn it back. (…)

 Is the space for dialogue more open with Islam? This is beset by problems which have less to do with the past than with a present profoundly afflicted by Islamist extremism. The anti-Christian attacks in Algeria, the assassination of the Tiberhine monks or of Mgr. Claverie, have exposed the limits of a dialogue with Islam which in the tradition of the Orientists (Louis Massignon, Louis Gardet), had identified itself with an exchange on the values of tolerance and civilization.

 The crimes committed in the name of a perverted Islam, in Algeria, in Egypt, in Asia, up to the 9/11 attacks, the persistent discriminations against the Christian minorities in some Muslim countries (from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia) are signs of a crisis of civilization which threatens the old equilibrium of Islamic and Christian theologies. The skeptics camp is growing. (…)

 The room for maneuver was defined by John Paul II, who was well aware of these ordeals. He often said that we must encourage the moderate Muslim leaders and defend the stakes of civilization, while supporting the presence of Christian minorities in Islamic countries. There should not be “either capitulation or irenism,” he wrote in the encyclical Redemptoris Missio in 1991, but a reciprocal witness, with a view to overcoming prejudices, intolerance and misunderstandings.

 Barring radical and unlikely changes, we may surmise that his successor will resort to the same method in a relation with Islam which resembles an exercise of walking on a tight rope.