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Roman Catholic cardinals gather to choose a new pope. Diane and her guests discuss transition at the Vatican and challenges facing the world’s largest Christian denomination.
- Maureen Fiedler host of public radio's Interfaith Voices and Sister of Loretto.
- Father Thomas Reese Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.
- Jason Horowitz reporter for The Washington Post.
- Very Rev. Mark Morozowich Dean, The School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Today, Pope Benedict XVI leaves Rome for the papal vacation home. While he's there, Roman Catholic bishops will gather at the Vatican to choose his successor. Here to discuss Benedict's surprising resignation, the process for electing a new pope and challenges facing the Roman Catholic Church: Father Thomas Reese of Georgetown University, Sister Maureen Fiedler of public radio's Interfaith Voices, Father Mark Morozowich of Catholic University.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd joining us by phone from Rome, Jason Horowitz of The Washington Post. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you.
REV. THOMAS REESEGood morning.
SISTER MAUREEN FIEDLERGood morning, Diane.
VERY REV. MARK MOROZOWICHGood morning.
MR. JASON HOROWITZGood morning.
REHMJason Horowitz, if I could start with you, tell us who is in charge at 8:01 this evening when Pope Benedict steps down.
HOROWITZWell, I guess, technically, no one is in charge because there's something called a sede vacante which is, you know, the empty throne. It's the period between when the pope -- usually when the pope dies, in this case, when the pope leaves, and when the new pope is elected. There are Vatican officials who take charge during this period.
HOROWITZAnd so the secretary of state who's number two -- Benedict's number two will be -- he'll be acting as something called the camerlengo which basically what -- he'll be the guy in charge but without the power to do anything really vast or game-changing during the time when there's no pope but just to kind of make sure that the pope -- that the Vatican stays up and running.
REHMSo give us the timeline of when do these bishops and cardinals who have gathered begin the process of selecting a successor.
HOROWITZWell, that's actually a great question because it's a little bit in flux right now. Today, the pope said his final farewell to about 144 of those cardinals at around 5:00. In less than an hour, he is going to leave the Vatican, take a helicopter about 15 miles out to his vacation summer home in Castel Gandolfo. And you know, so that's really what, you know, that's what we're going to be facing. You know, there's -- at that part, we don't know when the conclave would actually going to start.
HOROWITZStarting next week, early, the cardinals are going to start meeting and discussing amongst themselves when this -- when the conclave, which is the process by which the pope is selected, when that actually begins. And that's actually new also because the pope had an amendment to kind of apostolic constitution on Monday, essentially saying it's in the College of Cardinals' hands when to decide this. And so there's actually debate amongst the cardinals when they should start.
REHMAll right. And you've said that Vatican officials were surprised to learn that Benedict would take the name pope emeritus. How did that come about, and what kind of questions does that title raise?
HOROWITZWell, we know that they were surprised because in a briefing the day before he took the name, one of -- a Vatican official, an archbishop who's actually going to be the vice camerlengo, who's going to be kind of helping oversee things during the sede vacante, he was asked specifically, do you think that the pope might take the name of pope emeritus? And he said, no, that doesn't make any sense. That's a bad idea because that title keeps a connection to the office. It would just be confusing, and that's exactly what he did.
REHMAnd are you as surprised as the other cardinals and bishops?
HOROWITZYeah. I think it is surprising. I think that, you know, it's a remarkable situation. You're going to have two popes on the grounds of the Vatican because the pope is eventually going to come back and live in a monastery in the back of the Vatican. And there's just a lot of confusion about, you know, lines of authority. The pope said today -- Pope Benedict said today that he would be completely obedient to whoever the new pope is.
HOROWITZBut one very interesting thing is that they're actually going to share a key personnel member which is the personal secretary to Pope Benedict, Georg Ganswein, who's, you know, one of his closest people, is also the head of the papal household, and that means he's also going to be serving the new pope. So he's going to be living with the old pope but working kind of a day job with the new pope, and that seems awfully porous for a lot of people.
REHMAnd that is the voice of Washington Post reporter Jason Horowitz. Turning to you now, Father Thomas Reese, aren't there concerns about having two popes?
REESEOh, I have real concerns about that. I think it would have been much better if the pope had returned to his original name, Joseph Ratzinger, and become Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger just...
REHMWell, because it's very dangerous in the church to have two popes. Now, I don't think Benedict is not going to try and upstage the new pope. But if he writes anything, people in the media are going to go over it with a fine-toothed comb and say, oh, well, he's saying this, and the new pope is saying this.
REHMIs he going to publish what he writes?
REESEI -- this is a good question. We don't know the answer to that question. He is a scholar. He's an academic. He loves to write. So I wouldn't be surprised if he continued to write.
REHMFather Mark, how do you feel about that?
MOROZOWICHWell, I would probably disagree a little bit with Tom. I think that we have to look at the pope as the bishop of Rome and as the bishop of Rome when he retires, just like the bishop of Washington retired, Theodore McCarrick, so he is still the bishop emeritus of Washington. So when we begin to look at this, even the title pontific itself was from Roman times.
MOROZOWICHSo the bearing of the title pope is something that I think we need to, you know, sort of develop our understanding of exactly what is the pope and, you know, to really make it distinguishing that the pope himself is not infallible. The office of the papacy is, but the person himself does not enjoy infallibility.
REHMMaureen Fiedler, how do you see it?
FIEDLERWell, like Father Reese, I'm extremely concerned about it because the new pope, whoever he is, is going to be living in the Vatican, and here is this former pope who is just going to be a building away, you know? And if Pope Benedict Emeritus wants to influence the direction of the church or who doesn't like something that the new pope might decide to do, who knows what can happen in the back channels of the Vatican? I think that's unknown.
REHMJason Horowitz, do I understand correctly that the building into which Pope Benedict is going to be moving was actually vacated by the nuns back in November? And should we have all taken that as some kind of hint, clue, forewarning that Pope Benedict was going to step down?
HOROWITZWell, I think that if -- whoever thought that, you know, the nuns leaving that monastery meant that the pope was going to retire was -- is a very smart person, and we should be talking to them because I don't think anybody really thought that that was what was going to happen. And we're not really -- I'm not really sure when the pope made his decision but it, you know, the more interesting thing is the fact that he's going to be there on the grounds, which is what everyone is talking about.
HOROWITZAnd that we've already, you know, seen that this is an institution and a culture where back channeling is the right word, but also, you know, people are exploited and people are -- people's names are used. So even if Pope Benedict perhaps, you know, keeps his head low and doesn't do anything, maybe people close to him will drop his name and say, well, I don't think that, you know, Pope Emeritus Benedict likes this. You know, it just creates a lot of problems.
MOROZOWICHWell, certainly, there's always influence. There's discussion. There's going to be all sorts of backchannel talk. But when it comes down to it, Benedict will not have the power that the new pope will have. And as such, the new pope decrees, Benedict has declared that he will submit. So, you know, I mean, I personally wouldn't mind it if he would publish. Even his books that were published were not published as pope. They were published as Joseph Ratzinger. And that's a fine point, but I think we need to be attentive to that.
FIEDLERThere's something about this whole system that is so monarchical and so out of touch with the 21st century because here you have essentially a monarch emeritus giving way to a new monarch. And I think that's a whole system that the church, perhaps this next conclave, needs to look at and re-examine.
REHMFather Tom Reese.
REESEWell, one of the issues here is all of these decisions are being made now before the new pope comes. I mean, I think some of these decisions should have waited until the new pope comes.
REESEWell, such as where Benedict is going to live. He needs the permission of the new pope to live in the Vatican. He doesn't own the Vatican once he resigns, the new pope does. So, I mean, these kinds of decisions, I think, tie the hands of the new pope. And I think this is simply a mistake. I think, you know, he should have laid aside his white garment. He should have returned to the name of Cardinal Ratzinger, bishop emeritus of Rome.
REESEBut using the term pope -- I mean, in the Catholic Church, symbols matter, so, you know, a white garment matters, these kinds of things. So I -- now, I don't think it's going to be a major problem with Pope Benedict because he's a humble man and he's not going to interfere. But we're an institution that's supposed to think in terms of centuries. What about the next one?
REHMFather Thomas Reese, he is senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. When we come back, we're going to talk about Pope Benedict's legacy. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. As we talk about the fact that in just a few hours, Pope Benedict will step down. He will become pope emeritus, a designation of his own choosing that some people are concerned about because it will mean that there are two living popes, one of whom, of course, is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, the other emeritus.
REHMHere in the studio: Father Thomas Reese of Georgetown University, Sister Maureen Fiedler, she is host of public radio's Interfaith Voices, and Father Mark Morozowich, he's dean of the School of Theology and Religious at The Catholic University of America. Joining us by phone from Rome is Jason Horowitz, reporter for The Washington Post. Maureen Fiedler, I'd like to start with you and get you to talk about how you see Pope Benedict's legacy.
FIEDLERWell, Pope Benedict was, if nothing else, a theologian, but he was a very traditional, very conservative theologian. He belongs in the line of popes like Pope John Paul II who really attempted to reverse the whole spirit of the Second Vatican Council, which reformed the church in the 20th century. Now, to his credit, he was very strong on social justice issues and economic inequality. He railed against that in a way that would please any liberal Democrat in the United States. He was also known as the green pope. He was very strong on climate change and moving the Vatican towards solar power.
FIEDLERBut all of those things got buried in discussions of the sex abuse scandal where, unfortunately, he tried to clean it up, but he never held a bishop or a cardinal accountable for the transgressions, for covering up for priests. And, unfortunately, that will be part of his legacy. I think -- and, of course, overwhelmingly, the discussions in the church have focused not on social justice issues but on sexuality issues, whether it's reproduction or whether it's gay and lesbian issues.
FIEDLERThe pope could've said anything on economic inequality or the environment, but most people would never have heard it because it got buried. And I think that's really unfortunate. And, finally, I'd say he was a theologian, but he wasn't a communicator. And I often wondered when he gave speeches like that was -- which was badly received by Muslims, who was vetting what he said.
REHMFather Mark, how do you see his legacy?
MOROZOWICHOh, I think that Pope Benedict leaves the church with a broad wealth of material, certainly in his own writing, certainly in his papal writings as well. Now, he didn't have the longevity in the papacy that John Paul II had in terms of the breath of encyclicals.
MOROZOWICHBut if we begin to look at the encyclicals and some of the things that Pope Benedict has called the church to, the very new evangelization, the whole attention to how do we live this life anew as well nominating this as the year of faith in an attempt to really live the spirit of the Second Vatican Council forward in continuity with tradition. In particular, I think also we need to listen to his words that he gave last night and how he wished joy to all and how he echoed the words of John the 23rd and said, "When you go home tonight, give your children a kiss and tell them with love from the pope."
REHMJason Horowitz, you say Pope Benedict's legacy may be his resignation.
HOROWITZI think that when you look at Pope Benedict's legacy, I think, you know, I think that he's leaving is going to be his legacy, the way he left office. I think that, you know, for theologians, he'll be remembered for what he wrote. But I think that more broadly, people are going to remember him as the first pope in about, you know, 600 years who resigned.
HOROWITZAnd I think that that's going to really be the thing that he is remembered for. Now, there are other things that have been overlooked by Benedict that he actually tried to reform the Roman Curia which is the kind of bureaucracy that runs the Vatican, which is dysfunctional to say the least. And he tried to introduce some reforms that would bring a little bit more transparency in.
HOROWITZBut because he was an extremely strong manager, the resistance kind of overcame him. And so that's also kind of in doubt, that legacy, so I think that there's all kinds of debate about him. But the one thing that's going to be clear is that people are going to remember him as the guy who changed the precedent.
REHMAnd, Father Reese, there's been scandal as the conclave itself meets as to whether certain cardinals with possible connections to sex abuse should be there.
REESEYes. This is clearly a big issue that is being discussed. I mean, the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church has been an absolute disaster. First of all, for the children who are abused, they have been scarred for life. And, you know, we in the church need to get down to our knees and apologize, apologize, apologize to them and do everything possible to help them to heal.
REESEPope Benedict, when he first came as a cardinal to the Vatican, didn't understand the sex abuse crisis. Very few clerics did at that time. He made mistakes, but he learned. That was the great thing. He learned. He listened to the American bishops, and he learned, and he became the leader in the Vatican for improving things. He threw out hundreds of priests, hundreds of bad priests out of the priesthood.
REESESo that the church is in a much better position today in relationship to sexual abuse than it was at the beginning of the papacy of John Paul II. And he was much better in dealing with this crisis than John Paul II was. The big thing that they missed was that they never held bishops accountable for not, you know, managing this crisis well. People should've been forced to resign, to take responsibility and resign. And tragically, that was the piece that was missing.
REHMJason Horowitz, describe what was published in the Italian press this week. How did the Vatican react, and are these reports credible?
HOROWITZWell, I -- just today, by the way, there's a new update which is a magazine named Panorama, which is one of the leading Italian magazines, reported that Cardinal Bertone, who is Benedict's number two who's actually the guy who's going to be in charge of the Vatican during the interregnum, he apparently, according to this report, has been tapping the phones of people in the Vatican for the last year, trying to get at who is the source of leaks.
HOROWITZAnd there was a big leak scandal. Now, first, I gave a call to the Vatican, and they say that the only security initiative that they know about were, you know, passes for doors, electronic passes for doors to get through, and they say it's not true. But they also say that they don't know about it. So that's not the strongest denial. But there are other reports, and they all go back to giant leak scandal that basically overwhelmed and was a backdrop of Benedict's last year in office.
HOROWITZAnd in it, there was a lot of papal correspondence. Really, there's intimate letters between the pope and his closest, you know, the princes of the church, the cardinals, in which they expressed grievances and other bishops expressed grievances. And those are best in a traditional channel of correspondents that's very confidential. And a lot of those letters found their way into the press.
HOROWITZAnd the effort to find out who is responsible for that, it ended up all falling on the shoulders of the pope's butler who was jailed -- tried and jailed for stealing the pope's letters. But the fact is that also more letters came out well after he was jailed. So there's lots of people leaking in the Vatican, and the effort to find out who was leaking is still very much concerning this place.
HOROWITZAlso, so last week in the press, the big reports were a dossier, which was prepared by three cardinals all over the age of 80 that Pope Benedict actually appointed to get to the bottom of this, one of the Italian papers reported that they knew what was in that dossier, and it was some very harsh accusations involving a faction of gay priests inside the Vatican who were being blackmailed. Now, who knows if any of this is true?
HOROWITZAnd there was no sourcing, good sourcing, on that story, and it's, to me, it's somewhat hard to believe that this report would have seen this dossier. But the Vatican reaction to this was so -- I don't know what's the right word -- I mean, just so strong that it clearly struck a nerve. And they said that the reports were unverifiable. But people -- officials who I talked to in the Vatican, you know, bishops and people who live here, are very concerned that other things are going to come out.
REHMAnd turning to you, Father Mark, how do you think these scandals or the threat of scandals could somehow overshadow the conclave itself or indeed even influence it?
MOROZOWICHWell, I think certainly the influence is that we need to be very transparent, very clear and that we need to be focused on eradicating any sorts of problems that do exist, so that these problems exist -- I mean, we're dealing with human beings, so it should be no surprise to anybody, you know, that they have been tolerated and that people have not been held accountable. So I think that the influence will be in terms of how one is accountable, how one takes people and, you know, and really backs up what we say.
REHMFather Reese, I want to go back to something you said, and I'd like you, please, to correct me if I'm wrong. I had understood that before he became pope, as Cardinal Ratzinger, the cardinal saw many of these accusations of child sexual abuse and did nothing.
REESENo, that's not true. As -- I mean, the point I'm trying to make is did, you know, as Cardinal Ratzinger, did he do a perfect job? No. Did he do -- did he understand the sexual abuse crisis when it was first brought to him early in his career? No, but he learned. And by the time he finished as -- and was elected pope, he had thrown hundreds of bad priests out of the priesthood. So it's, you know, it's one of these questions. You know, you've got a student. He did poorly at the beginning of your class, but by the end of the class, he was doing very well. What kind of a grade do you give him?
REHMFather Thomas Reese of Georgetown University, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Maureen.
REHMDo you want to add to that?
FIEDLERI guess what the influence of the scandals on the conclave, I think, is a very interesting question because we have the report out of Rome. We also have the Scottish cardinal, Keith O'Brien, who resigned in the wake of various accusations, all of which he hasn't had the opportunity to answer yet, but he certainly immediately resigned and said he wasn't going to go to the conclave. That sort of leads one to suspicion. But what I think what this points to is that maybe...
REHMExcuse me. Let me stop you. What about the cardinal in California?
FIEDLERThis is Roger Mahony of Los Angeles. Yes. But he is currently in Rome, so I'm told, and insists that he's going to go to the conclave and vote. But there has been heavy pressure on him here by victims and advocates for those who have been sexually abused that he not go there and vote. And he's one of several, actually, that face that kind of pressure, but he's insisted he's going to do it.
REHMWhat are the most important issues that you want to see the conclave address?
FIEDLEROh, my goodness. Do you have three hours is what I want to say. I think -- actually, I think the most important issue is the very structure of the church itself and bringing the church into the 21st century and re-examining, for example, on the top of my list, the position of women in the church and the question of the inequality of women in the ministries of the church, for example.
FIEDLERThat's a major issue. But I would mostly like to see the conclave or a new pontiff deal with the structures of the church, to not issue decrees just as if they were the king of England in the 15th century or something, but rather find a way to bring the whole people of God into the decision-making of the church.
REHMFather Mark, what are the issues that you'd like to see most addressed?
MOROZOWICHWell, I think the utmost is holiness. So we have to have a man of holiness, a man that knows sanctity and a man that can evangelize, and this is the central mission and task of the church. Now, that doesn't mean that these other issues aren't important. But if -- after all, when we even think about the way that Pope Benedict has described the church, he talks about it as the bark of St. Peter, as this boat that's journeying. And I think that that's such a great image to think about when we think about the direction of this community.
REHMAnd, Father Reese, what about Maureen's point of bringing the church into the 21st century?
REESEWell, I think the most important challenge of the pope and of the entire church is how do we preach the Gospel in a way that is understandable and attractive to people in the 21st century, and, you know, and what kind of a pope would be best for doing that? The last two conclaves, what the cardinals did is they elected the smartest man in the room.
REESEI mean, John Paul and Benedict were intellectuals. They were academics. They were scholars. The question now is, should they do that again, or should they look for the man who will listen to all the other smart people in the church, who can bring people together, all the creative and smart people, to work on the issues that face the church and figure out solutions to them?
REHMAnd, Jason Horowitz, in this last moment before our break, who is, in your view, among the top possible choices that the conclave may elect?
HOROWITZWell, putting people on short list is always a good way to look silly in a couple of weeks. But I think that it's a better kind of almost political issues that's facing the church, and there are certain cardinals who maybe make more sense to -- if those are the issues that people want to address most. If people want to deal most with management of the church, you might look to an Italian who really understands the Vatican, or you might look to somebody who's from abroad who can just kind of change the entire culture.
REHMAll right. And we'll take a short break here. When we come back, your calls.
REHMAnd welcome back, as we talk about the future of the papacy and the election of a new pope. Let's go to the phones, 800-433-8850. Let's go first to Takoma Park, Md. Good morning, Jim. You're on the air.
JIMHi. How are you, guys?
JIMThis is mainly for Tom Reese, who's my dear friend in many years. The -- you just said again here, and you've said it elsewhere, that the cardinals elected the two smartest people in Rome in the last two elections. I'm going to push on that. I just read a firm criticism of the quality of the theology of both John Paul and of the current pope. The current pope, I see put down by very famous theologians as a mere (word?). You know, he just kind of was mouthing what the church taught.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Tom Reese.
REESEWell, I think that the cardinals in the conclave clearly thought that they were electing the smartest men in the room. They had great respect for both John Paul's intellect and Pope Benedict as a theologian and scholar. So I certainly think that that's the way they saw it.
REHMAll right. To Noah in Ann Arbor, Mich. Good morning. You're on the air.
NOAHHi. Thank you for taking my call.
NOAHI forget the guest's name. But there was an example of how the pope has learned with the abuse crisis, and it was like a student in the beginning performing poorly, and then how do you grade them at the end of the class. And, right now, I'm currently a student, and there are certain classes I take, like computer security, where if I get things wrong at the beginning, I fail because they're moral issues. And I was just wondering how that matched to something like abuse where it's -- how do you not understand that very early on? What is there to learn?
REESEWell, I think that there were a number of things. I mean, let me first say I am trying to explain what happened, not excuse what happened. There's a big difference there. I think that most people -- most clergy in the church just didn't -- couldn't comprehend this. They couldn't believe that this was happening.
REHMAnd yet all of these priests were let go.
REESEOh, yeah. They were. Once they...
REHMSo somebody understood.
REESEWell, I'm talking about later in the game. When they found out what was going on, then they moved against these priests and threw them out. I mean, it was a mess. It was an absolute mess. Bishops were being advised by lawyers and by psychologists, and they got bad advice from them. I'm not excusing. I still say that they should've stood up and said, I made these decisions. It was my decision. I was wrong, and I take full responsibility, and I resign. And I wish that some bishops had done that.
REHMHere's a posting on Facebook, Jason, saying, "Media coverage, including this show, seem stuck on scandal and celebrity news. This and every religion is more than the child abuse scandal and treating the pope as celebrity. Where is the media coverage of the millions of Catholics? How about covering everything else the church does and not limiting it to scandal and celebrity coverage?"
REHMJason, from the turnout in Vatican Square, it would seem that there are hundreds of thousands of Catholics who believe in this pope, what he has done and revere him, but what is the nature of the feeling of those to whom you speak in Rome? Is this an American problem, or is it a worldwide problem?
HOROWITZYeah, I think it's a worldwide problem. The, you know, the idea that it was an American problem was actually kind of part of the learning curve that Father Reese is describing. You know, early on they would look, and a lot of the Italian cardinals, a lot of international cardinals would say, oh, this is an American problem. And it was, you know, it wasn't an American problem. It was that the American justice system was acting quicker.
HOROWITZAnd then what happened was that you just -- under Benedict, you really had a global explosion of the sex abuse scandal. That, it should be said, festered under his predecessor. And so to put it all on Benedict's shoulders is kind of not fair. And I agree with Father Reese that he actually took more steps and lined himself more with the reformers in the church on when it came to sex abuse than -- much more than John Paul II did.
FIEDLERAnd there's a larger problem here that needs to be mentioned. The pews in the churches in Europe are empty. People are leaving the church here in the United States in droves and certainly in the northern hemisphere. The tide has not been stemmed when it comes to that. There may have been a year of evangelization, but I'd love to know the Catholic who even knows that term, frankly. That may have been the official term in the church, but not very many people that I know paid much attention to it.
REHMMark -- Father Mark.
MOROZOWICHWell, I think that's exactly the problem. Why haven't we as church, you know, people sit back and think well, the pope has to do this or the bishop has to do that, but the pastors -- and many good pastors are doing this. In fact, I'm invited to give a retreat to the pastors to speak about this, so each of us and all of our responsibilities are called to take up that task.
REHMAll right. To Keene, New Hampshire. Good morning, David. You're on the air.
DAVIDHi. Good morning. I think the pope and the Vatican and all that stuff slides right directly in the face of anything Jesus said. Jesus said stuff like give away everything you own and follow me and stuff like that. And people like having a, you know, that Vatican with all the gingerbread and the pope having people kiss his ring. And also he brings cardinal law into -- he was like cardinal law overseer of child molestation, and he bring them over to the Vatican under his wing.
REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for your call. Jason, what about that?
HOROWITZWell, you know, if you talk to some people here in the Vatican, they would say that the pope's resignation is a really strong sign of someone giving up power and that it shows that power is not everything and that he's -- and that's a really strong sign, a really strong message. You know, there are trappings to the Catholic Church that go back centuries and centuries and centuries, and they all have their meanings. It's a -- well, yeah, it's a very symbolic church.
REHMBut let me follow up with that with a comment from our website which says, "I was baptized into the Catholic Church last Easter. I found the pope's resignation extremely troubling. If his position was ordained by God, then how can he just give it up? Did Mary change her mind about being a faithful mother to Jesus? Did Moses give up on the Jews? Maybe I'm misunderstanding the role of the pope, but this seems to take some of the magic out of things." How do you react? Jason, how are the people in Rome reacting?
HOROWITZYeah, I think that -- I think a lot of people are confused. This is something that hasn't happened in a very long time and -- not the immediate person who retired before him, but the one -- anyway, 600 years ago, a medieval pope who resigned was put in hell by Dante for it. I mean, this is not something that has really flown at any time. People have always been confused by a pope who resigns. You know, there's an argument, and it's, you know, there's a debate. Is it the person? Or is it the office?
HOROWITZAnd I would say, though, that for a church that's trying to have a new evangelization, that's trying to find more believers, it's harder to kind of sell the church if you're saying that there's this, you know, office imbued with powers. It's the person, you know, the charismatic person that you want to be to bring people in. And I think that if you have -- this does kind of raise the questions about, well, how special is this person? And if you -- it's all about the office, I just -- I wonder if that's going to be a harder sell as the church goes out into the Southern Hemisphere and tries to get new believers.
REHMAll right. And talking about some of the things that father -- that the pope have to say, Father Mark, you might talk about the relationship between Roman Catholics and Islam. What progress can be made considering the remarks that Pope Benedict did make however apologetic he might have been afterwards?
MOROZOWICHWell, I think that, you know, that there's a lot of progress that we can make in terms of settling down to a dialogue where we realize that we are both followers of God. And so this takes time. His remarks were within a university setting, and sometimes university professors can be quite prolixic, (sic) so...
REHMWhat does that mean?
MOROZOWICHExactly. Speaking in words that are, you know, refined and that this isn't down to earth. So I think that was one of the big learning tasks of Benedict as pope, you know, that he was no longer professor, no longer able to make fine nuance distinguishing, you know, prolonged statements. So...
REHMI thought he was the smartest man in the room.
MOROZOWICHYes. And that's what smart men tend to do.
FIEDLERWell, as I said, I don't think he was a communicator. And as we look forward to a conclave and a new pope, I like to quote from a cardinal, who is now deceased. He died last August, Cardinal Martini of Milan, who was himself a papal contender in the last conclave, and I think he sums up what a lot of Catholics would think. "The church is tired. Our culture has grown old, our churches are big and empty, and the church bureaucracy rises up, our religious rights and vestments we wear are too pompous."
REHMSo, Father Reese, how can the Catholic Church make its teachings more relevant to modern Americans and people all over the world? Should there be less of this very strict and strong hierarchy?
REESEWell, it's interesting. If we look back at the great theologians, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, what each of them did was take the best thinking, the best intellectual thought of their time and use it to explain Christianity to their generation. Augustine took Neoplatonism. Aquinas took Aristotelianism. And Aquinas' papers were burned by the bishop of Paris because he thought he was a heretic.
REESEWe need to not just quote these great theologians. We need to imitate them. We need to figure out how to take best thinking of our time, science, the advances, and, you know, we have to put Christianity in a vocabulary that is understandable to people in our age and not just quote passages from the past.
REHMAnd, Jason, you say people aren't leaving the church because it's not progressive enough. Why do you think they are leaving the church?
HOROWITZWell, I -- just to pick up on that point, that last point, there's a lot of talk about how, you know, this particular pontificate has been a disaster on the communications department. And that's true. You know, nobody seems to be vetting the speeches, or if they did, they had no problem with really terrible lines in them.
HOROWITZYou know, they might be refined, but as far as talking to the world, they were, you know, really just kind of -- just -- it cause lots of problems. I don't think that this is just a communications problem. It's not just how they're saying things. It's what they're saying. And if they don't come up with a message that's going to bring people in and talk -- maybe it's talking plainly but, you know, there just has to be substantively a message that brings people in.
HOROWITZYou know, the -- I don't know. That's -- if I knew that, I would be -- I'd be in that room. I know, but...
REHMBut, I mean, on what kinds of issues are you speaking?
HOROWITZI see. Yeah. I think that, you know, there are major issues, you know, seculars trying to kind of hold back secularism was one thing that Benedict really was trying to do. And if you just look at the numbers, it's a failure, right? If you look at Europe, it's not like secularism has been held back so much so they look to the United Sates. It's kind of beacon of that movement. And it's -- I think most people in the United States would say, well, secularism seems pretty alive and well here.
HOROWITZSo there's that. There's -- Islam is a huge issue. How do you compete with Islam? How do you talk to Islam? But I think that there's an argument that -- to be made that, all of those things, almost or secondary -- the real big issue is secondary to making sure that the Vatican works, that it's the management system that actually works so that you can address those issues.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Father Reese, there's been some talk of having a pope from Africa or Latin America. How likely do you think that is?
REESEWell, more than half of the cardinals are from Europe, so the odds are in their favor. The argument in favor of someone from Africa is that this is a place where the church is growing, it's lively, it's exciting. On the other hand, the counterargument is, well, the church in Africa is doing fine. Leave it alone. What we need is someone who can deal with the church where it is in -- has problems, which is in Europe and in North America. So if we could find a cardinal who could solve the problems of the church in Europe and North America, that's the one we should go for.
REHMAnd what about the issue of women, Maureen, that you spoke about? How do you hope that the new pope may address that, the question of marrying priests, issues out there that have been there for so long?
FIEDLERYeah. And this is where I would hope that the new pope might, first of all, be an interfaith pope, who can learn from, for example, from our Protestant sisters and brothers who have long head women in the ministries of their churches quite successfully. But half of the church is women. And even as I look at the conclave, there is nobody in that conclave who is a woman.
FIEDLERThere is nobody who is married. You know, there's whole life experiences that will not be a part of that decision making. That's an area. And I think as well the LGBT issues in the church, the gay and lesbian issues need to be addressed. We see how opinion is changing on those issues in the Northern Hemisphere. The church will be irrelevant if it doesn't address them in a healthy way.
MOROZOWICHWell, I'm struck in the sense that how we want to talk about a decentralized church, and then everyone wants the pope to do everything and to address all these issues. And so if we really believe that the church is decentralized, if we really believe that each bishop is in communion with the successor of Peter and this is where I think the demythologizing of the pope has been one of the greatest impacts that Pope Benedict has to offer to the church.
REHMYou mean, by virtue of his resignation?
REHMSo you agree with Jason that that's going to be his major legacy?
MOROZOWICHIt's going to change the way that Catholics view the pope.
REHMFather Mark Morozowich, he is dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America. Jason Horowitz, reporter for The Washington Post. Father Thomas Reese, he's at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, and Sister Maureen Fiedler, host of public radio's Interfaith Voices. Thank you all so much.
FIEDLERThank you. Thank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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