It may come as a surprise to many Catholics (and more so non-Catholics) that I meet the minimum requirements to become pope. I am a male. I am a Catholic. Given this and my self-proclaimed moral superiority to at least one of the 115 Cardinals who participated in the conclave, I could have thrown my hat into the ring.
The “moral superiority” begs explanation. I have never actively engaged in the protection of pedophiles from criminal prosecution, unlike our own former leader, Cardinal Roger Mahoney. This is not to suggest I am without sin. It is to say my sins have been largely centered on the more mundane venial sins — smoking, missing church and slipping on the occasional Lenten fast.
My undergraduate degrees are in philosophy and religious studies, a worthy start I think. I taught religion, served as a campus minister and was even a Catholic high school principal. It may not be the best résumé for the highest office in the church, but it’s a start.
What can you expect from me if I were ever elected? My first proclamation would be, “Women can, will be and always should have been ordained priests.” My second would be, “Do you really think this celibacy thing is working out? Priests can marry.” My third and final initial proclamation would be, “If all of the closeted priests opened their doors at the same time, the Vatican flag would be torn to shreds by the gale force winds created. Homosexuality is not a choice. All are welcome in our church.”
How might this be possible? My election would be, admittedly, a long shot. It would take some serious intervention on the part of the Holy Spirit. Even then I think my chances would be slim. But I have to say the thought of living in Italy has its attractions, and I haven’t given up hope entirely.
What I do know is that in college I dedicated myself to a church that was compassionate, kind, intellectual and progressive. In the 25 years since, the church has become rigid, doctrinal and completely out of touch with any thinking person. How the Jesuits have survived escapes me.
The church has drawn in on itself over the last two decades. It has become rigid, unyielding — an insect. Insects, while hearty on the outside, are easily broken, their exoskeleton being no match for even the slightest pressure from outside forces.
But Christ spoke of a body, the Body of Christ, His Church — soft, malleable, flexible, able to withstand the forces of the world while living and working in it. The church is not served by those who fortify against the evils of the world but rather by those willing to walk among it, unafraid, able to bend and bear the beatings and berating the world offers at times. It is also served by those willing to recognize and acknowledge their own sinfulness.
I will not be moving to Rome, but I hope that the next man to wear the “shoes of the fisherman” — Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio — will be of this world and in it. Christ never placed Himself above; He was of this world and put Himself in it. That is my simple prayer for my church.
I pray the new pope will more accurately embody the life and ministry of the one man that matters most to me, to my family, to the church — Jesus Christ, who, I am convinced, never looked good in red.