If Barack Obama would be Pope...by Hans Küng
But unfortunately he is a Bush: the pontiff regards the "reconciliation" with four arch reactionaries as more important as the trust of the Catholics.
In only a short time, President Barack Obama succeeded in leading the United States out of a very depressed situation and a reform gridlock, in introducing a credible vision of hope and in initiating a strategic change both in domestic and foreign policy of this great country.
Not so in the Catholic Church. The mood is gloomy, the reform gridlock paralysing. Almost four years into his papacy, many are starting to compare Pope Benedict XVI to George W. Bush. No coincidence that the Pope celebrated his 81st birthday last year at the White House. Both Bush and Ratzinger are incapable of learning with respect to the issues of birth control and abortion; they are reluctant to introduce new serious reforms; they administer their office autocratically and without transparency and they restrict our liberties and rights.
As Bush then, Pope Benedict too suffers from a growing loss of trust. Many Catholics no longer have any expectations of him. Even worse: by lifting the excommunication of four illegally ordained traditional bishops, among them a notorious Holocaust denier, all the fears voiced when Ratzinger was elected Pope were confirmed.
The Pope enhances the status of people, who still reject the religious freedom, which has been declared by the Second Vatican Council, the dialogue with other Churches, the reconciliation with Judaism, the high esteem for Islam and the other world religions as well as the reform of the liturgy.
In order to advance the "reconciliation" with a small number of arch-reactionary traditionalists, the Pope risks the loss of trust of millions of Catholics in other countries, who continue to be loyal to the Second Vatican Council. That it is a German Pope, who is taking such false steps, exacerbates the conflicts. Apologies, once the damage has been done, have only little or no impact.
In fact, it should be far easier for a Pope than for a President of the United States to follow a new course. He does not need the legislative support of Congress and he is not dependent on the US Supreme Court as judiciary. He is an absolute head of government and highest judge of the Church. If he wanted to he could allow contraception overnight, admit clerical marriage, enable the ordination of women and permit the Eucharistic fellowship with Protestant churches.
What would a Pope do who acted in the spirit of Obama?
Similar to Obama, he would first enunciate that the Roman-Catholic Church is in deep crisis and specify the trouble spots: many communities without priest, lessening numbers of persons entering priesthood, veiled breakdown of pastoral care structures, which had sometimes grown and developed over centuries, due to unpopular parish fusions.
Secondly, he would announce the vision of hope concerning a renewed Church, a revitalised ecumenism, an understanding and respect for Jews, Muslims and other world religions and a positive evaluation of modern science. Thirdly, he would surround himself with the most able members of his staff, no yes-men, but independent personalities, supported by competent and fearless experts. Fourthly, he would immediately issue a series of executive orders to initiate the most urgent reform measures and fifth he would convene an ecumenical council for promoting the change of course.
Whilst President Obama, with the approval of the whole world - is looking forward, opening himself to the people and the future, the Pope is mainly orienting himself backwards, inspired by the ideal of the medieval Church, sceptical towards reformation, ambivalent towards civil rights and liberties of modern life.
Whilst President Obama is cooperative in his efforts to find partners and allies, Pope Benedict like George W. Bush is caught up in friend-enemy thinking. Fellow Christians in Protestant Churches are alienated by his refusal to recognise these communities as Churches. The dialogue with Muslims has not gone beyond lip service to "dialogue".
The relationship to Judaism and the Jewish people can only be described as deeply troubled. Whilst President Obama is radiating hope, promoting citizen participation and calling for a "new era of responsibility", Pope Benedict is caught up in imaginary fears and wants to curtail the freedom of the people as much as possible to force through an "era of restoration".
Whilst President Obama in Washington offensively-minded calls on the constitution and the great tradition of his country to argument courageous reform steps, Pope Benedict in Rome interprets the executive orders of the Reform and Reunion Council from 1962 to 1965 restrictively backwards: in the direction of the Restoration Council of 1870.
However, as we can be sure that Pope Benedict XVI is highly unlikely to turn himself into an Obama, what we need for the near future is firstly an Episcopate, who does not put a veil over, but openly names the obvious problems of the Church, approaching them energetically at diocesan level; secondly we need theologians, who actively cooperate in providing a vision of the future for our Church and who are not too shy to tell and write the truth; thirdly we need pastors, who resist the constant overload caused by the merger of several parishes, and who courageously exercise their personal responsibility as a pastor; fourthly, we need in particular women, who confidently recognise the possibilities of their influence and without whom pastoral care would just break down in many places.
But can we really able do this? Yes, we can.
Global Ethic Foundation
Hans Küng in Wikipedia