It is the time of the voting for a new Pope to lead the Roman Catholic Church. And, as at every new beginning, there is a discussion of the problems that need to be addressed, and a few optimistic souls expressing that this might be the time that things really get fixed
Sally Quinn, religion writer for the Washington Post, said on TV this morning, “The problem here with the papacy is that it’s on the road to becoming irrelevant if they don’t make some drastic changes. And so I don’t know whether this conclave will be able to find somebody who can reform the church. The problem they have is power. Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And I think that one of the problems is there is too much centralized power and that the pope has a pipeline to God and then everybody else has to go through the pope, I think that has got to change. I think if these Cardinals are smart – they will realize that they need to have some kind of reform and they will realize it has to be decentralized.” [i]
Bob Schieffer quoted a statistic that 62% of American Catholics wanted priests to be able to marry. 64% want to ease the ban on contraception. Greg Tobin, an author of books on the papacy, said that in the next 20 years there will be an absorption of the Vatican II reforms into the Churches, but he really did not address Bob’s question. He cited the need for the Pope to be a figure that provides unity.
Others brought up the need to address the scandals, specifically the pedophilia scandal that is rocking the world. One contributor said he thought that 4%of priests were thought to have had pedophilia issues.
There are so many concerns and they are all valid.
I am going to make a prediction. Nothing will change. Now I hope I am wrong but mark my words. Church leaders will answer questions about sexual scandals, priestly celibacy, and women’s leadership among other topics with reassurances that they are greatly concerned about the scandals that are rocking the church and all the other issues brought up. They will say that they are going into this new period of selecting a new leader under the prayerful guidance of the Holy Spirit and all topics are available to be discussed.
Then there will be the buts. They may not actually say the word “but”, it may be inferred, but it will be there nonetheless. Church leaders will say – “But it is important that the tradition of the church be upheld.” They will say, “But the papacy started with a divine order setting up Peter to lead the church, and his successors after him,” and “But priestly celibacy has been an institution for going on a thousand years.” There will be a “but” for all the issues. There will be minor changes along the lines of Vatican II. The end result of the new papal election will be a more positive-looking face in the new pope.
As far as needed changes go, it will be that the pedophilia and other scandals will diminish in proportion to the number of lawsuits the church is facing and losing. The other issues will remain unchanged until there are massive losses from people leaving the church over these issues (a la the Reformation times) and the church must change to counter the losses. OR when more men stop agreeing to be celibate in their priesthood the church will give in. Perhaps some rich families of celibate priests who are suffering psychologically will find a way to sue the Church and win. I don’t see any of these things happening anytime soon. But who knows?
So What are Your Other Choices?
If the Lord Tarries the Roman Catholic Church will not fold up and go away. While sixty-odd percent of American Catholics may be a sizable number, it is insignificant to the number of Catholics worldwide. While the wishes of American Catholics are of interest to the Roman Catholic Church as a whole, they are not as impactful as we might like to believe.
If you are one of those souls that really think that dire change is necessary that leaves you with the same hard choices that Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other Reformers and Restorationists and all their followers have been facing for centuries. Don’t wait for the Roman Catholic Church to fix it. The Roman Catholic Church is a behemoth that will not accept radical change easily.
For example, the truth is that celibacy became an issue because back when priests were allowed to marry, some heirs of deceased priests sued the church over property rights. Everyone knows that it says in the book of Timothy that “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife” and “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God.” These verses not only do not teach priestly celibacy, but proclaim the value of having a family in helping develop the kind of leadership skills that priests, bishops, and other church leaders should have to be good leaders.
So be brave, join a church that is doing what you think is important, and live the reality of the life you are looking for. If you are a Roman Catholic priest, and want/need to marry, get married. Join a Church that allows this, and stand on what you believe is right.
This is not an easy choice. It is very hard. It is life-changing. You have to believe that God is really in Christ in you and that the Roman church cannot affect your true fellowship with our Father, or his son, our Lord, and Savior, Jesus Christ. Because they can’t if you don’t let them.
The lesson of Martin Luther and the other reformers/ restorationists is that you can’t fix this huge Roman Catholic Church, you need to fix yourself and find others that are truly walking in the spirit diligently seeking out what is the true word and will of God.
God bless you.