My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

How Would You Like to be Pope for a Day?

As the world focuses on the health of Pope John Paul II, there has been much speculation about who will step into his shoes. The selection of the next pontiff will rest upon a very basic question: Who will best suit the present needs of our church - a long-term pope or short-term pope? Those leaning toward a long-term pontiff tend to favor Milan's cardinal. In terms of a short-term pope, names often mentioned are Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Arinze (both ultra-conservative).

In conjunction with Cardinal Ratzinger, reformers such as myself worry about the amount of damage he could do the church, even during a short period. Skeptics raise the question: How much damage can he possibly do over a couple years? My answer is: Someone like Ratzinger could inflict much damage, even during the course of one day. For example, he could conceivably declare infallibly that women may never be ordained, or he could declare infallibly that Christ willed celibacy for priests (which would obviously be both a doctrinal and theological error on his part).

Being somewhat of an imaginative person, I created an unlikely scenario, and then asked two corresponding questions: 1.) What could a bad pope do in one day? 2.) What could a good pope do in one day?

Many of us who are are old enough to recall the infancy days of television can remember a game show that was called, "Queen For A Day." The show began with the host screaming in a loud voice, "How would you like to be queen for a day?" Pre-picked contestants were then invited to come to the stage and tell various tales of woe. Whoever gained the most sympathy, as a result of votes registered on an applause meter, became crowned and received an assortment of prizes. The scenario may seem silly by today's standards, but the show was extremely popular in the 1950s.

As I thought about this game show, I began to wonder if the Vatican would score higher ratings if it were to sponsor a weekly broadcast entitled "Pope For a Day." In such a scenario, contestants would be invited to appear on live television, whereby they would be expected to articulate what they felt they could accomplish in a 24-hour period. In such an 'unreality' show, cardinals and bishops would not be allowed to vote, for they would obviously select the candidate who stated he or she would do nothing except protect the status quo. Therefore, those eligible to vote for a 24-hour pontiff would be priests, deacons, nuns and laity.

The more I thought about "Pope For A Day," I was reminded of another television program that is currently drawing large audiences. It is simply called, "24." It centers on a day in the life of a government agent, whereby each of 24 episodes focuses on one hour of the day. This format would work very nicely with "Pope For a Day." In brief, the winning contestant would have his or her day divided into 24 televised hours, with each hour dedicated to a particular task or decision by the new pontiff.

As I pondered further on this unlikely situation, I tried to picture myself as a winning contestant. I then had to decide how I would divide my 24-hours. While I am sure I could come up with some projects to fill my day, there are a few preliminary items that would take precedent: 1.) I would get rid of the rite, "Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest." (Why should we need such a celebration, when there is an abundance of married priests?) 2.) I would declare all prior ordinations of women as valid and reverse their excommunications, and would then ordain as many qualified women as possible in my allotted day. 3.) I would order all celibate priests who are long overdue for vacations/relaxation/medical attention to take some time off, whereby married priests would serve as substitutes. 4.) I would end mandatory celibacy for priests. 5.) I would ordain married men, in addition to women, as already mentioned. 6.) I would end the antiquated annulment process, in favor of a type of responsible marriage preparation that would not discriminate against divorced persons. 7.) I would order each diocese to provide suitable pension programs for all priests, whether they be celibate or married.

I wonder how many of us have pondered over what we would do differently, if we had brief control over the Vatican. Ultimately, however, Roman Catholicism should not be about power. Instead, we should be focused on ministry. Nevertheless, we are hindered in our ministries, due to roadblocks anchored in cement by the powers-that-be. It seems that the Vatican is more interested in control and would rather allow priestless parishes than consider a more inclusive clergy as a solution. Unless our pontiff and cardinals are willing to consider the prospects of change, it is not only priestless parishes that will be of concern, but perhaps parishes without the faithful as well. Then the scenario will be: Who would like to be a Catholic for a day?

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