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?