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Steinfels: Catholic Church needs “shock therapy”

Steinfels: Catholic Church needs “shock therapy”

The eminent religion writer Peter Steinfels, formerly of Commonweal and The New York Times returns to the pages of the Catholic magazine with a proposal for the new pope who is likely to be elected this week. Steinfels says the church needs “shock therapy, and here is some of what he has in mind:

One idea would be a papal establishment of a massive Catholic Pietà Fund to be devoted to the health, education, and safety of women around the world. The goal would be to raise $1.2 billion, or a dollar for each of the world’s Catholics. While pledging to maintain the church’s role as a steward of artistic heritage, Pope Novus might initiate this fund by offering to sell one or several of the Vatican’s signature artworks (the Pietà itself?). Perhaps Catholics or others could outbid buyers to keep these objects in Rome. In any case, contributions to the Pietà Fund would become a feature of papal journeys and international events like World Youth Day. Would this diminish Peter’s Pence? On the contrary, it would probably swell it. And by placing administration of the fund in the hands of Catholic women, Pope Novus would also signal openness to reexamining the role of women in the church. Had John Paul II taken a dramatic initiative like this early in his papacy, the church’s voice on several major issues would have won a much greater hearing.

Two other initiatives could be reserved for Pentecost, May 19. On that day, the pope would invite bishops, theologians, and knowledgeable laity to submit their thoughts on two topics. One would be very practical: how to make the world synods of bishops an effective institution. The other would be very fundamental: aggiornamento and ressourcement on the church’s understanding of sexuality.

Pope Novus would pledge to act within several years to reform the synods. He would be wise to warn that the discussion of sexuality would take time and no one should expect hasty conclusions about specific norms.

What do you think of his proposals?


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Ann Fontaine

I don’t yearn for the RC’s to have any Pope other than the one they desire. It’s their church and their abusive hierarchy. I have mostly sadness that there are so many who continue to support this institution that is so sick at the core — such great things the church has done but it is a dream to think it will change when B16 and JPII selected all these cardinals. It may even be worse until it dies and is resurrected. My only fear is that I am doing the same with TEC.

Rod Gillis

I suppose its only natural for Liberal Catholics, Anglicans, protestants, to dream of a papacy that is like their respective theologies. The reality is there is not much of a gap between the so called progressive and conservative ends of the conclave spectrum. In that regard Stienfel’s musings are on the same page as wishing the G.O.P. would choose a nominee like F.D.R.


“He might create a new position of “cardinal electors”; their only function would be to vote in a conclave. … At least half of them would be women.”

There’s a fantastic idea I won’t live to see. :-/

JC Fisher

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