Roman Catholic cardinals will meet Tuesday in the Sistine Chapel at the… (Guido Montani / EPA )
Re "What we need in a pope," Opinion, March 3
The several different opinions by Roman Catholics collected and published by
The Times on the hoped-for qualities of the next pope encompass a wide spectrum. But reading these short Op-Ed pieces, one cannot escape a certain irony. There are calls for "courage," "humility," "incisiveness," "flexibility, "honesty" and "simplicity," qualities that are tied to contradictory goals. It can only be concluded that the next pope would be a failure to some writers while a success to others.
It would be hypocritical for me to disavow my inclination to give the new pope advice on what he should be doing. But my better self tells me that the next Holy Father can do nothing other than listen to the quiet voice of his conscience and take "advice" only from the one he represents.
While it was interesting to read various perspectives on what we need in a new pope, and despite the reality that technology today enables everyone to gain access to information, I have my doubts that any voices outside Rome will make a difference in how the cardinals vote.
Probably the most influential voices in their experience are from their advisors, attorneys and major donors.
What we need in a pope, as several writers point out, is someone who has the willingness and the capacity to listen to the needs of the church and the world, and to have the courage to initiate reform and renewal, as Pope John XXIII did in convening Vatican II.
Lenore Navarro Dowling
Asking Catholics alone about the next pope is shortsighted. Through the ages, non-Catholics have suffered from that church's acts and omissions. So here is a nonbeliever's answer:
We need a pope who will recognize the church's murderous wars, the Inquisition, science-bashing, blatant anti-Semitism, its AIDS death sentences given to countless African children through its latest papal non-contraception stance, and Pope Benedict XVI's view that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered."
There is also the church's time-tested sexism based on the silly tenet that Jesus named only males as his closest disciples (the logical extension being to confine the priesthood to Jewish males), its coverup of sexual abuse by priests and the blackballing of Catholic politicians who support women's reproductive rights.
Any pope-elect who can't tick off those failings and promise to work tirelessly for their redress won't be worthy of the name.
Of the 11 Catholics who offered their opinions on picking the next pope, only one wrote about priest sex abuse as if it were a priority for the church. How is it that the protection of children is less important than religious energy and women in the clergy?
Something is out of order, and ignoring it will not make it go away.
Thank you for presenting on last Sunday's Op-Ed page a variety of perspectives regarding the departure of Pope Benedict XVI and the challenges facing his prospective successor.
Not being of the Catholic faith, I feel somewhat uncomfortable when other non-Catholics criticize the church and set forth prescriptions as to what the modern church and its leaders should do and how they should respond to the crucial issues confronting them.
Presenting a variety of intelligent yet differing opinions from practicing Catholics (with an array of professional and lay backgrounds) was most helpful in understanding the difficult challenges the church and Catholics are facing.