Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pope John XXIV (Please)

I find myself daring to hope that a progressive will be elected in the conclave which begins on Tuesday.  Mind you, I'm not assuming that a progressive stands a great chance of winning.  But you never know.  And we are called to pray for good outcomes even when they seem unlikely -- aren't we?

John XXIII (Angelo Roncalli) was a surprise when elected in 1958.  He was supposed to be a mere "caretaker" pope, one whose reign would be much shorter than the nearly twenty year papacy of Pius XII, his immediate predecessor.  And although John XXIII only lasted five years (not quite that), his good influence on the church -- by way of the Second Vatican Council, which he called into existence -- was vast.

The surest and quickest sign of a progressive pontiff's intentions, no doubt, would be if he were to choose John XXIV as his name.  Of course, he could choose a different name entirely and end up being even more progressive than Roncalli.  But if we hear that he has chosen the name of John -- how many hearts will happily skip!  Mine will surely be one of them.

Whatever his name, I am holding out a vague hope that the next pope will be a good listener.  I'm hoping he will stand up strongly against sexism, including the sexism that exists currently (and for so long) in this church.  I'm hoping the next pope will understand deep in his marrow the need for transparency and humility in how the church deals with its wrongs and shortcomings, particularly when it comes to the great, acidic blot that is the sexual abuse crisis.  I'm hoping the next pope will place a higher value on the voices and lived experiences of married people than on the bad rhetoric that fuels church-sponsored campaigns against marriage equality in civil law.

I'm fascinated by the rich tradition and culture found in the international, universal church that calls itself Catholic, and I'm a political junkie as well.  Like so many others of my ilk (ambivalent Catholics as well as whole-hearted Catholics who have no reservations about this church), I'll be watching the television screen and blogs and Twitter for the first electronically communicated wisps of white smoke -- in a few days, or as long as a week or two from now.  Then, if they step on to that balcony and the dean of the College of Cardinals announces that the new pope has chosen to be called John . . . well, am I fool to set my hopes that high?  Fine.  For a few days or a week, I will gladly be a fool.  I'm excited about this thing, even though there's some trepidation too.  Waiting for John XXIV.  As unlikely as that name may seem.

Angelo Roncalli, Good Pope John: pray for this church which you loved so well and so creatively.