A Few Thoughts on the Future Pope
Matthew J Bellisario 2013
Matthew J Bellisario 2013
There are many speculations floating around the internet as to who the Pope will be after the conclave closes over the next week or two. Many names have been tossed about including a couple of American Cardinals, Dolan and Burke to name just two. While we may have our favorites that we wish to see as the new Pope, there are a couple of things to remember. For one, the character of the man before he was Pope is not always the same once he becomes Pope. This has happened many times throughout Church history. It is a fact that Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti was not the same man he was once was once he took the papal throne. Once considered to be on liberal side, he became one of the greatest governors of the Church and one of the most anti-modernist popes in history.
The Holy Spirit does not guarantee that we will get a “great” pope every time one is elected. We have had our duds over the course of history. We have a guarantee that the pope will not teach error from the Chair of Peter, but that is not synonymous with being a great governor of the Church. We even have popes who have had mixed papacies, making some bad decisions, and some great ones. Pope Paul VI comes to mind, having allowed the Church to run on its own after the Second Vatican Council, which caused great problems with the Liturgy, yet he also penned Humanae Vitae. Paul VI was considered to be a truly modern pope, and the many modernist bishops who thought they had him in their back pocket when it came to contraception, were in for a rude awakening when Humane Vitae was released.
What do I hope for in a new pope? First off I hope for a pope who understands and will promote the Thomistic theology that every pope from Pius IX to Pius XII forcefully called for. The many encyclicals given by these popes over the course of 112 years expressly warned us that a turning away from the scholastic Thomistic theology that the Church had treasured for centuries, would be a sure disaster. History has proven that they were absolutely correct. Why then the apparent refusal for our recent pontiffs to acknowledge these six popes in a row, and their entire corpus of writings? We must admit that we rarely, if ever saw Pope John Paul II or Benedict XVI ever reference Pius IX or Pius X. I think we can speculate on this, though only they themselves, or those close to them can truly answer the question. For one, they are human, and they had a lot invested in the Second Vatican Council and the Church following its wake. They were at the Council, and they obviously did not want to have to admit that the Council did not bring about what they wanted it to bring about.
Let me be clear, I don’t think these popes were being dishonest in their ideas of the post Vatican II Church. Just like many of us, they probably just wanted more time to see their ideas come to fruition. Their ideas for the Council even appeared to change with time. For example, if you read Cardinal Ratzinger’s account of the Second Vatican Council published by Paulist Press titled, ‘Theological Highlights of Vatican II’ you will see a very liberal mind at work, with great hopes for the Council. Yet ,over the years Cardinal Ratzinger, (Pope Benedict XVI) appeared at times to have ideas completely opposite of what he had penned back in the 1960s. Some may argue that his position did not change enough, but that is beside the point here. The point is that these two popes were “Fathers” of the Council, and they did not want to see their life’s work as participants and promoters of the Council as a failure. That is not very hard to understand.
So it is my hope that the next pope will not have this baggage and will turn to those long lost forgotten popes. I hope for a pope who will not have a bias when it comes to the Second Vatican Council. It appears that the next pope will most likely not be a “Father” of the Second Vatican Council. This will hopefully give him a new perspective on this Council in relation to all of those that came before it, which are rarely mentioned. Eugenio Pacelli once told a close friend of his before he became Pope Pius XII, “...my dear friend, I am convinced that the Church of Peter must affirm her past, or else she will dig her own tomb.” So my hope is that the next pope will be more steeped in Councils and popes of the past, being that there was a church before the Second Vatican Council. We cannot continue to try and write straight with crooked lines, acting as if everything the Church needs is contained in the Second Vatican Council documents.
Secondly, I hope to see the new pontiff take more time to govern the Church from Rome, rather than traveling all over the world making public appearances. We truly need to get the Church back in order before we can truly evangelize the world effectively. Does this mean that the pope will be able to weed out all of the bad apples over the course of his pontificate? This is obviously out of the question. But we need a pope who truly understands, believes, and will carry out what the infallible pronouncements of the First Vatican Council made concerning the papacy. Ultimately the pope needs no college of Cardinals, no groups of bishops across the world to make decisions and carry out papal legislation. There are of course other factors involved here that we cannot see. For example, what is the pope to do when a majority of his bishops refuse to obey him? Of course my first response is to do away with them. But as we know, things are not always that black and white. That being said, I hope that the new pope is going to be more daring in implementing new governing policies in the Church which will take the wind out of the sails of the modernists weighing down the ship. The abuse crisis must be dealt with very forcefully in order to put a stop to it.
Finally, I hope to see a pope who is not going to be afraid to show that he is pope. Yes, humility is a necessary thing for any Catholic, including the pope. Yet, it is possible to wear the papal tiara, the red slippers and regal vestments, and truly be humble. All of those symbols are not mere symbols of power, but of the Kingship of Christ, which is rooted in shepherding. Christ’s reign is one of power yes, but not worldly power, but power in serving and protecting the body of Christ. This is what the pope is called to do, and in order to do it he must at times proclaim in different ways that he is the one at the appointed time to do it. So although I have my doubts that I will see it, I hope to see the papal tiara restored to the papal proclamation to the world. It it my hope that the future pope will say something like, “I am the vicar of Christ, whom Christ sent to bring you into his flock, and I am not afraid to display this proclamation as your pope.”