The Next Pope Will Probably Be Dreadful

Ron Fournier zeroes in on how the press covers transitions of power, from the papacy to business to politics:

I read this sentence in The New York Timess outstanding analysis of papal politics:

“The next pontiff must unite an increasingly globalized church paralyzed by scandal and mismanagement under the spotlight in a fast-moving media age.”

Let’s play Mad Libs with that sentence: For “church,” substitute the name of almost any U.S. institution and for “pontiff” substitute practically any institutional leader. For example:

“The next governor must unite an increasingly globalized state paralyzed by scandal and mismanagement under the spotlight in a fast-moving media age.” …

As a practicing Catholic, I want the next pope to use this inflection point to eliminate corruption (particularly the unforgivable protection of sexual predators) and to breathe transparency into Vatican banking and governing practices. But there is nothing in the Church’s past to suggest a better future. It is the same in politics and business and charity and sports and virtually all walks of life. We are promised, and promise ourselves, that the next leader will change things and make things work.

I had a day-dream that one day the last Pope would resign – as a sign of the entire church’s renunciation of its recent corruption and long existence as a global conspiracy to rape and abuse minors and teens. Then we’d have the mass resignation of the Curia after the election of a new Pope with a new humility and a new outreach to the world. Ha!

But I’m not as gloomy as Fournier. Because this is the Church. Without hope, it cannot exist. And the thing with Popes is the same thing as with Supreme Court Justices. You never know. No one predicted Vatican II. For my part, I’ve long since decoupled my faith life from the papacy or the hierarchy. I focus on prayer, the sacraments, Mass and the Gospels. The church does not draw its ultimate strength from the powerful; it draws its real strength from the weak.