Beliefnet
Why did the new pope choose a name that only one pope in the last hundred years used? Cardinal Giacomo della Chiesa became pope in 1914 and died in 1922. He did his best to prevent and then end the Great War. Moreover, he put an end to the punitive campaign against modernism which the Cardinal Merry del Val, the secretary of state under Saint Pius X, had unleashed on the church-spies, secret societies, anonymous denunciations, careers and lives ruined. Benedict XV was a healer who restored internal tolerance to the church.

The Italian papers told us that you could tell what kind of pope the new man would be by his name. If he chose John Paul, he would be opting for a continuation of the late pope's style of governance. If he chose Pius, he would be returning to the middle decades of the last century when the Church seem frozen in place. If he chose John, he would opt for the exciting years of the Second Vatican Council.

The new pope rejected all those possibilities and selected a name which would distinguish his administration from his predecessors of the last hundred years and (perhaps) because he wanted to be known as a healer.

Heaven knows that there is need for healing in the Church. Perhaps a man whose conservative credentials as the head of the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith are unquestioned might be uniquely situated for the task just as Richard Nixon was uniquely situated to visit China.

Women, and not only in the United States, are very angry at the Church. It is no exaggeration to say that many of them, devout Catholics to the core, will tell you they hated John Paul because he hated women. If the new pope wants to win them over, he will have a very hard sell on his hands. Similarly, gay and lesbian Catholics will find it difficult to forgive him for his comment that they are objectively disordered. He will have to put off his persona as stats professor and put on his persona as a parish priest.

His own past rhetoric on many controversial subjects, liturgy, ecumenism, marriage, might stand in the way of healing, as would his attack on the modern world in his keynote address in St. Peter's before the conclave. There is certainly a gentle, pastoral dimension to his personality. If his goal is to heal then he will have to rely on all the resources of that element of his selfhood.

I may be reading too much into the choice of a name. There might be a reign of terror for those who still support the Vatican Council. I don't think so, but I could be wrong. Above all, he must come to understand, as his predecessor did not, that it is not enough merely to lay down the rules-because most Catholics in the world no longer concede the right of a pope to make rules for them. If we did not want Catholics to think for themselves and make their own decisions, then we should have never permitted them to attend colleges and universities. Blind obedience is dead, not that it ever worked all that well.

To change the rhetoric from blind obedience to sensitive, charming, and listening persuasion will be no easy trick. Such a change, however, would bring the papacy more power rather than less.

Nevertheless, he IS the pope now and deserves the chance to put the imprint of his own views on the papacy. He won the conclave, as the late Mayor Daley would have said, because he had the votes.

Disagreements from the past should be suspended. Men become different once they see the world and its people from the perspective of sitting on the throne of the fisherman (who never had a throne). Those who have disagreed with him in the past owe him the chance to develop what hopefully will be a serious ministry of healing.

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