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The Pope, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 762

Essay

While it is tempting to imagine advising a great military leader of the past, or maybe a modern giant in the world of business, I find myself thinking instead about a leadership role that is both current and ancient, and that is both very shaky and solidly rooted in the faith of hundreds of millions: Pope Benedict XVI.

No matter how anyone sees the Pope’s authority, there is no denying that the man and the office command the hearts and souls of countless people all over the world. Even those most opposed to the pope’s power and ultimate supremacy in the Catholic church acknowledge that he is the irrefutable, spiritual leader for a large portion of the world’s population, and it is that “spiritual” element of the leadership I find most interesting.

How is it even possible, in any remotely tangible way, for one man to serve as such a focal point of inspiration and effectively lead so many in any path at all? We live in a world where faith has a hard time surviving, to begin with. The religions with the largest numbers of adherents see a dropping off that would have been unthinkable centuries ago, as men and women of more recent generations are less likely to blindly follow any leadership at all.

Add to this the fact that the Catholic church has come under fierce attack in recent history for widespread abuses, both on epic financial scales and in scandals in individual, American parishes. Pope Benedict, like his late 20th century predecessors, has faced a rough horizon. If the church is under attack, or even an examination that could not have occurred in the past, then he as its leader must bear the brunt of all of it.

If I were in a position to give advice to Pope Benedict XVI, I think I might begin by making sure this man, who is a great scholar as well, fully understood that the trials he is facing are nothing new in the history of the papacy; they are merely different. I would not, of course, insult so great a man by teaching him. However, if the problems of the church today are to be addressed in a reasonable and effective manner, it could not hurt to bear in mind the past eras in which the papacy nearly destroyed itself. Many Catholics do not realize that, for many centuries, bribery and political power created popes, and fairly openly as well. They were not spiritual leaders; they were powerful and wealthy emperors, and they went to war, and were chased out of their own Vatican or Roman homes, on more than a few occasions.

That sense of scope in place, I would seriously request that Benedict, with his colleges of cardinals and scholars from all over the world, revisit papal doctrine as it most creates a divisiveness in modern Catholics. The church has adapted very slowly, when at all, to changes in attitudes. Leadership that does not adjust to reality cannot succeed. Whether the issue at hand is a woman’s right to abortion or how the church responds to its gay Catholics, there must be an understanding in His Holiness that an unwillingness to modify ancient codes, and keep the church as it was, will make the churches empty. Divorced and gay Catholics must hear from this leader, even if he takes issue with their lifestyles, that the church supports them always, as long as their faith remains manifested.

What I would most strongly advise to Benedict XVI is a declaration that no abuse of church authority, particularly in the sensitive arena of child abuse, will go unaddressed. He must order that the church remove priests who are found guilty, and does not relocate them. He must also make it publicly known that such priests, no longer protected by the church, are completely subject to secular laws and punishments.

I would also advise as necessary to such an action that he and his scholars attempt to rethink and redefine the celibacy vows, for these are clearly at the heart of the sexual abuses. I would not suggest a relaxation of them; rather, the severe and daily discipline a priest must practice, to be celibate and at one with God in his faith, must be taught again. He must incorporate a church-wide renewal of celibacy traditions in order to better know which men are truly capable of fulfilling their vows. Too much has been allowed to go unobserved, the consequences have been disastrous, and the pope must be the leader in bringing full integrity back to the Catholic church.

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