For Immediate Release
April 19, 2005
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The First One Hundred Days: The Future Papacy, the Future Church
Catholics for a Free Choice Lays out
a Schedule for the New Pope
WASHINGTON, DC—Catholics for a Free Choice is deeply concerned
that the election of Cardinal Josef Ratzinger as pope is a strong indication
of continued dissension within the church. The cardinal’s historic
role as a disciplinarian means the tradition of the punitive father
is maintained within the Roman Catholic church.
As we move into a new era for the church, we look to the election
of a new pope as a starting point for the critical work that must be
done to make this church a home for all Catholics, particularly those
divided from the church during the last quarter century.
Today, Pope Benedict XVI has both an opportunity and a mandate to
set a tone for the future of his papacy and to redress wrongs done
in the name of the Vatican. Simultaneously, he must span the divide
widened during the last papacy between clergy and laity, men and women,
north and south, right and left, gay and straight. As Pope John Paul
II exemplified the spirit of reconciliation and relationship when he
sat face to face with the man who shot him, the new pope should extend
the same courtesies, coupled with a genuine spirit of invitation, to
those who have been most hurt by church policies over the last years.
To this end, Catholics for a Free Choice has laid out a schedule for
the next one hundred days. We offer these recommendations and requests
in the spirit of moving toward a true engagement with the realities
and suffering of our times and mindful of the challenges that lay before
us as we seek to heal the fractures within our church.
The two most important issues the new pontiff must address are the
clergy sexual abuse crisis, the most painful error of the 20th century
within the church, and the church’s need to work with civil society
to stem the tide of unnecessary deaths from HIV/AIDS.
During the first one hundred days, the new pontiff should immediately
meet with survivors of sexual abuse by the clergy. No child, no adult
survivor and no nun who faced this most profound betrayal of faith
were ever able to secure a meeting with the late pontiff. Now the Vatican
should redress that wrong and sit down in a private meeting to hear
the grief, the pain and the anger of those the church has most let
down, including members of SNAP, nuns, young people and adult survivors
who have all been abused by Catholic clergy. If the church ever needed
a truth and reconciliation process, it is over the scandal of sexual
abuse. The Vatican telecommunications office, with the full cooperation
of the Vatican Congregation of Bishops, should schedule a televised
series of encounters between bishops and victims in which the bishops
will have the opportunity to tell the truth about their complicity
in this scandal and apologize to the victims. The victims would have
the opportunity to forgive these men and move on.
During the first one hundred days, the new pope should form a commission
to study the current church policy on condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS. Under the watch of Pope John Paul II, Vatican officials and bishops
spread misinformation and even staged condom burnings in AIDS-ravaged
Africa. The new pope should immediately initiate an inquiry into the
theological basis for permitting the use of condoms to prevent the
spread of HIV/AIDS, including visits to regions particularly hard hit
by the pandemic. However, people with and at risk of HIV/AIDS should
not need to wait for the results of the commission to be able to protect
themselves. The pope should lift the ban on condoms immediately in
order to err on the side of life.
During the first one hundred days, the pope should establish the Pontifical
Academy on Women's Rights in the Church. As a first step, the Academy
would serve as a registry for qualified women candidates for positions
that are already open to women. All Vatican officials and ambassadors
will submit their resignation from office to the new pope. At least
50 percent of those resignations should be accepted and the posts filled
with qualified women.
During the first one hundred days, the Vatican
should open a dialogue on opening the priesthood to married men. Under Pope John Paul II,
married priests who longed to be both priests and husbands were sent
the message that their desires for human relationships and love were
not only unworthy of the priesthood, but also unworthy of even dispensation
from the priesthood, rendering them to an ecclesiastical limbo—neither
fully priest nor fully husbands. The future pope should commission
a group to discuss the future and role of married priests with an eye
toward returning them to ministry. Pension rights should be immediately
restored to married priests.
These acts of justice within the church should be matched by an expansion
of Pope John Paul II’s commitment to peace and his clarion call
for debt forgiveness. It is time for a complete renunciation
of capital punishment and a clear and binding opposition to the war in Iraq. Let
us go one step further than the former pope and be clear that there
is no possibility of a just war by a superpower.
None of these steps would change church teaching; all of them are
consistent with current theological and disciplinary norms. None is
The first one hundred days should culminate with a reconciliation
mass in St. Peter’s Square. After undertaking the above activities
and others, the new pope should warmly welcome back Catholics to the
church, with special recognition of and an specific invitation to the
women, the gays and lesbians, the theologians and bishops punished
and marginalized, the sexually abused and others who have felt excluded.
At the end of the first one hundred days, this pope should articulate
a vision for the 21st century church that is inclusive, understanding,
compassionate and just.
Also available at: http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/lowbandwidth/whatsnew.htm
Catholics for Free Choice (CFFC) shapes and advances sexual and
reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment
well being, and respect and affirm the moral capacity of women and
men to make sound decisions about their lives. Through discourse, education,
and advocacy, CFFC works in the US and internationally to infuse these
values into public policy, community life, feminist analysis, and Catholic
social thinking and teaching.