Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation on Monday has rekindled a worldwide Catholic conversation that effectively stopped when he was elected Pope 8 years ago, according to NPR journalist Liz Halloran in a piece headed Pope's Resignation Redefines Papacy, Spurs Talk Of 'Global South' Successor.
Celibacy, female ordination, same-sex marriage, the handling of clergy sexual abuse revelations, are all up for discussion, in the view of some optimists. Contraception too I wonder though this isn't included in the list. All this is unexpected to me, as the college of cardinals has been stuffed with hand-picked conservatives ever since John Paul II's succession in 1978. But the commentators quoted by NPR know what they’re talking about, so we’ll see.
|Left, John Paul II in 1997 (pope 1978-2005). Centre, white smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel announces the election on April 19, 2005 of Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI (right, photographed on Monday)|
Dennis Coday, editor of the National Catholic Reporter, welcomes the prospect of change and more open discussions with a new pope: "The next pope needs to address these issues, which aren't just American issues". He says under Benedict XVI all discussion has been shut down, but "We're saying that it cannot be a closed discussion anymore — and it's not just our paper saying that."
Change without changing
All religious institutions have to change with the world, but if their declared mission is to proclaim the unchanging word of God, how do they fulfil this and still adapt? It's a tough row to hoe, one that was started with Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s, but was soon abandoned. There may be hope for Fr Flannery yet.
Benedict's resignation takes effect at the end of this month. The conclave to elect his successor will certainly be before 15th March, perhaps earlier.