Catholic laity needs to be heard in selection of new pope

Since the resignation of Pope Benedict, we have been treated to the truly tawdry spectacle of life in the Vatican at this time in history.

There are stories of Papal shoes, rings, palaces and castles. We see pictures of old men dressed in ecclesiastical finery sitting in palatial rooms at the Vatican. There are stories of corruption and jockeying for position among the cardinals. We are informed of the number old men who will have voting rights at the conclave called to elect the new pope. For some reason that defies logic a disproportionate number are Italian. Many Americans are deeply offended by the presence of Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles. Of course the laity has no role to play. We are expected to sit back and watch our church implode.

Clearly, major changes are needed. We have experienced significant changes in the liturgy over the years. Now we need to implement major changes in church governance. Major reforms will be required if the Catholic Church is to continue to have a role in the world. I propose that the College of Cardinals be suppressed. It should be replaced by a College of Bishops and a College of the Laity. Both bodies would be elected to office on a regional basis. The College of the Laity would not simply be an advisory board of fat cats who win the support of bishops. This would be a legislative body of serious members of the laity who will represent those currently with no voice.

I realize that some will find my proposal to be extremely audacious as we are conditioned to believe that the role of the laity is akin to that of the old fashioned view of children: we should be seen, we should contribute but we should not expect to be heard. Sacred scripture does not assign this passive role to the laity nor does it discuss cardinals and what a cardinal should wear. I believe that the laity need to feel a sense of empowerment. Many other members of the laity will have other recommendations which may be much better than mine.

We can be complacent no longer. We can no longer assume that the bishops are working in the best interests of the church when it is very clear that so many are operating out of self interest. Those of us who are insisting on significant substantive change will not be silenced and we will not go away.

Edward McCarey McDonnell, Baltimore

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