April 11, 2008
By Daniel C. Maguire, Professor of Moral Theology, Marquette University
Hanging over my desk is a picture of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. He is standing in St. Peter's Square beside my nine year old son, Tom. We met there by chance and he consented to the photograph. I introduced myself as a Catholic theologian and he revealed that he knew my work, though it was clear he was not enthused about it.
Traditionally theologians are the in-house advisors to bishops and to popes. Fulfilling that role, I would suggest this agenda for Pope Benedict's first visit to the United States.
(1) Catholic liturgies traditionally open with a confession of sin. So should the pope's visit. His first act should be an apology for the endemic and criminal sexual abuse his priests have inflicted on the children and men and women of this nation. There should be nothing hedged or indirect as his previous allusions to this have been. Forthright confession, like lightning, clears the air, and unless he does this, all his other words on this visit will be like "tinkling brass and clanging cymbal," in the words of St. Paul.
(2) Pius XII suppressed criticism of the Nazi holocaust so that Catholic churches could continue to function and provide the sacraments to the people. In many part of the Catholic world today the lack of priests has shut down churches. At the same time theologically trained women and married men are offering themselves for priestly service and being refused by the Vatican's insistence that only celibate men can be priests. Since celibacy has nothing to do with priesthood-and mounting evidence suggests it has not been a glorious success- the pope should end this ill-fated experiment by ordaining the first woman in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York and suddenly the bare choirs of Catholic churches throughout the world could fill, rise for the Sanctus, and sing again.
(3) Next the pope should offer public prayers to Saint Antoninus, the Dominican Archbishop of Florence who was canonized as a saint in 1523. St. Antoninus was a distinguished theologian who approved of abortions when necessary to save the life of women, a large category in the medical conditions of his day. The pope should acknowledge this suppressed pro-choice tradition in Catholicism and announce that pregnancy decisions are best left to the pregnant women, not to government agencies and distant male judges and clerics.
(4) Next the pope should acknowledge that The Catholic church is not the one and only true church. He should affirm the authentic gifts of other world religions. He should then join hands with them in a massive effort to save a world in terminal peril from ecological disaster, lethal and spreading poverty, and addiction to the state sponsored violence that we call war.
(5) With this done -and by now the world would be listening-the pope should resurrect that Catholic teaching that it is joy not misery that God wills for us all. In so doing he should propose a toast. That would be a very Catholic thing to do. With all the condemnations the Catholic Church has uttered, it has never condemned the wine that the psalmist says "brings joy" to the hearts of people. What other church has a solemn blessing for beer in its official prayer book! Who else can boast the religious orders that produced Benedictine and Christian Brothers' Brandy! So with a glass of Benedictine raised high, the pope should toast the best hopes and ideals of humankind and invite all peoples to join together to celebrate the beauty that life should be and can be on this generous host of an earth. He could then return to Rome with his blessed mission truly accomplished.
(Read in TomPaine.com)
Send this page to a friend!