I said in my previous posting that I'd refrain from posting a lot of links to the substantial commentary about Pope Francis now appearing everywhere online. It occurs to me, though, to point readers to the latest editorial in the Jesuit weekly America magazine, which was published (online, at least) prior to the papal election and to the announcement that the conclave had chosen a Jesuit pope who in turn asks to be called Francis.
In a section entitled "A Listening Church," the editorial reads:
The Holy Spirit works not only in the cardinal electors as they select a new pope, but in the hopes and desires of all the people of God. The church is called to be attentive to the Spirit alive in both groups: the hierarchy and the laity. It is called to be both ecclesia docens (a teaching church) and ecclesia discens (a learning church). What groups, then, might the next pope need to listen to most carefully?
The poor. The Catholic Church is one of the great champions of the poor. Taking its inspiration from the call of Jesus to care for the “least of these,” the Vatican hears the “cry of the poor.” Nonetheless, the call to listen to the downtrodden bears repeating because the poor are always in danger of being forgotten, as they do not have access to structures of power. The church always needs to ask: What more can we do for the poor?
Victims of sexual abuse. Pope Benedict XVI’s historic meetings with victims of sexual abuse decisively ended the awful canard that the scandal is some “media creation” that we can choose to ignore. Listening to the harrowing stories of victims of abuse by members of the clergy, painful as it is for leaders, is an essential part of the healing ministry of the next pope.
Women. The church’s teaching is clear: The church has no authority whatsoever to ordain women as priests. This means, however, that women are effectively shut out of decision-making at the highest levels of the church. Might the pope consider appointing women as heads of some congregations and dicasteries, positions that do not necessarily require ordination? If not, can the pope establish mechanisms to facilitate greater access to the insights and advice of Catholic women?
Gays and lesbians. Once again, church teaching on homosexual activity and same-sex marriage is clear: One is forbidden, the other beyond the pale. But the church also calls us to treat our brothers and sisters with “respect, compassion and sensitivity.” One sign of respect is listening. We pray for a pope who begins a conversation with the words, “In listening to the experience of our brothers and sisters who are homosexual....”
Theologians. Since the time of the church fathers, theologians have helped the church do its thinking. The task of theologians is not simply to repeat what is said in the catechism. It is to think creatively about new questions in theology. Can the church listen more carefully, and more openly, to those theologians whose work takes them to the margins? As Jesus said, “Let anyone who has ears to hear, listen!”
I should note that I had read this editorial a day or so ago--prior to Francis's election--and it was, of course, in my mind as I wrote my posting earlier today. I hope that the new Jesuit pope will listen carefully to what some members of his own religious community are saying in this editorial.