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Catholics Call on the Next Pope to Listen a Little and Learn a Lot

March 8, 2013

Speaking at a press conference this morning, Magdalena Lopez, director of the international program at Catholics for Choice, spoke about the challenges and opportunities for the next pope, and the hopes of Catholics for our church. She was speaking on the eve of the Vatican Conclave at an event organized by Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR), a coalition representing progressive Catholics.

“The issues that face us as Catholics are, like our church, universal, but we are in agreement about many areas that call out for true Catholic leadership. We have seen misconduct on a terrible scale, from the scandal of sexual abuse by clergy and its cover up by bishops and cardinals, to the mismanagement of the Vatican Bank and the tawdry palace intrigue in the Curia. The institutional church needs a leader who can root out corruption, demand accountability and champion transparency. We need to see in the leader of the world’s largest healthcare provider—one that provides a quarter of the world’s care to people living with HIV & AIDS—a compassion that meets people where they are and gives them what they need, rather than misplaced judgment and a rejection of the scientific learning that can help people live longer, healthier, happier lives with their loved ones. For most of us Catholics who aren’t part of the clerical class, we need a leader who can understand our hopes and dreams—and the real challenges that we face as we build loving relationships and raise our families by trying to create a better life for loved ones and for our neighbors.

“This is a tall order, and not one that can easily be met by one man alone. Our hope for the church lies in the fact that one man need not do it all—but he must listen to more of us than just the 115 men who are electing him. Those men represent a look back to the popes who appointed them, popes who took regressive stances on liturgy, academic freedom, sexuality and women. They reflect a clerical culture that was shaped by two men, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who had little time for listening to, let alone acting upon, the needs and best interests of Catholics around the world. What those men certainly do not represent is more than half of the world’s Catholics: women. The continued exclusion of women from any meaningful decision making reflects badly on our church, and the church is worse off as a result of this omission. We need a pope who will listen to women—indeed, who will listen to anyone who’s not in a cassock. We need the next pope to listen a little and learn a lot.

“As Catholics, we are each called to listen always, and finally, to our own conscience—and to respect every other person’s right to do the same. We are called to share our gifts with our church and the world and to draw upon the rich and varied experiences of others as we work toward building a more just world for all people. Catholics believe in miracles, and I will be praying for the miracle of a pope who can meet the challenge of being a leader who listens to his conscience—and who has the courage and humility to learn from the rest of us, who are following ours.”