While I was out picking up plumbing parts today, Here & Now had a segment titled, What The Next Pope Is Up Against.
Charles Sennott, a founder of Global Post, wrote about the transition to Benedict after the death of John Paul for the Boston Globe. He thinks that the Catholic Church is at a crisis point on a par with the conditions that led to the Reformation.
My take is that John Paul stacked the deck with conservatives during his Papacy, Ratzinger among his choices, and concentrated on stiffening the institutional structure to stop changes. When he became Pope, Benedict continued the process, at one point that he essentially saying that obedience to the Vatican was more important than expansion of the Church.
What has resulted is a bureaucratic culture that values form over substance when it comes to problems like the pedophilia of some of the priests. That was treated as a PR problem, not a moral problem, which angered a lot of people. The hierarchy thinks that the laity should just accept Vatican pronouncements and be quiet.
When they started the ‘investigation’ of the American Nuns, that was the final straw for a lot of Catholics that I know. The whole thing was so disconnected from the reality of what was going on in the Church, that a lot of American Catholics have just left.
At this point we know that the next Pope will definitely be male, but whether or not he will be a Catholic depends on how people define Catholic, because the Vatican leadership has made it plain that they no longer believe in the original meaning – universal.