Had I been elected Pope....
Armand Veilleux, Abbot of Scourmont Trappist Abbey, Belgium, (which produces a wonderful beer called Chimay!) wrote this essay after the recent papal election. It was kindly translated for us by an Online Catholics subscriber in Belgium.
Well, it's over. And I'm not Pope. The Cardinals elected someone else! So now I can publish my program without running the risk of putting the Sacred College under any undue pressure.
Had I been elected Pope, I should have first of all determined to be the bishop of the diocese of Rome. I should even had requested Cardinal Ratzinger (before his spontaneous resignation) to condemn as erroneous - perhaps even as heretical - any opinion holding that the Pope is the Bishop of the Universal Church or the parish priest of the world.
I'd have opened the closet and taken out of mothballs the old dream of Vatican II regarding Episcopal collegiality, and in the first year of my pontificate I'd have convoked a synod of the Universal Church with the power of collegial decision, in which I'd have participated as a primus inter pares.
In order to prepare for this synod, I'd have sent a message to all the bishops' conferences of the world, telling them "don't be afraid", encouraging them to exercise their responsibilities and to communicate to the synod the needs of the men and women of their regions, both Christians and non-Christians. I'd have asked Cardinal Ratzinger to publish a document on the theological foundation of these Episcopal conferences. I'd have also encouraged local bishops to exercise their responsibilities without fear of criticism or sanctions by the monsignorini of the various Roman congregations.
I'd have suppressed pontifical voyages outside of the diocese of Rome, and I'd have set up virtual audiences on the Internet. And with the savings obtained by the suppression of these voyages, I'd have set up a "project" (as one says these days) to provide Internet access to all the citizens of the planet, even the poorest.
I'd have prepared a motu proprio authorizing the ordination of women (chosen with great prudence, of course!), and the document would obviously have begun, as is fitting for a Roman text, with the words: "As the Roman Church has always believed and taught..."
I'd have asked the various Roman dicasteria to dissolve themselves spontaneously and to become secretariats at the service of local Churches and of religious Institutes.
I'd have done my utmost to rekindle the confidence of the great monastic Orders and the great religious Institutes that have survived all the crises of the past centuries, assuring them that they will not all be subordinated to the personal prelature of the Opus Dei, reminding them that for centuries they have been the true "legionnaires of Christ". And I'd have taken great care to assure that the new "movements" (neo or otherwise, be they of liberation, of communion, or of catechetical concern) respect the autonomy and the particular character of each local Church.
In addition to the traditional religious Institutes and the new Communities whose dynamism is often consumed in re-inventing bygone forms of piety, I'd have had the Roman Curia (before dissolving it) approve a new form of association in the Church, in answer to what seems to be an inspiration of the Spirit for some decades now, but which finds no place of its own in Canon Law: spiritual families, made up of women and men, married and celibate, lay people and priests, active and contemplative, all united around a common spiritual vision in a grand communion for the service of God, the world and the Church.
I'd have declared a moratorium on beatifications and canonizations, until all the good Christians of today had memorized the names, the details of the lives, and the teachings of all those beatified in the course of the last quarter-century. However, I'd have made an exception for one already canonized by the vox populi, but overseen by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints: Mons. Oscar Romero.
I'd have blown on the ashes of the great spiritual movement that lifted up Latin America during the dark years under military dictatorships, a la Pinochet, to give new life to this movement whose vitality was crushed by the fear of socialist influence. I'd have organized a great symposium to point out all that Liberation Theology could have given the Church at a time when the great European theologians of the epoch of Vatican II were disappearing from the scene, and when European theology was becoming more and more arid.
I'd have told the theologians that they should be creative in their investigations, in order to present the Gospel Message in a language understandable for the women and men of today, and that their role is no longer limited to commenting the texts of the Magisterium. I'd have encouraged them to exercise mutual control over themselves, since the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith had been transformed into a secretariat for the service of theological research.
I'd have reminded the young people of the World Youth Days that they are the future of the Church, and I'd have asked them to limit their voyages in the coming years, and to use the money that they would thereby save for the establishment and support of centres for the abandoned elderly (perhaps their grandparents) in their respective countries. As for the deficit that is now certain to be created by the assembly of the World Youth Days at Cologne, I'd have covered it by selling the building that houses the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith (formerly the Holy Office).
I'd have sold the Vatican, except for the Basilica of St. Peter, and I'd have bought a small apartment in a poorer neighborhood on the outskirts of Rome. But to get there and back, I'd naturally have kept the Popemobile.
I'd have promised to step down... but 75 does seem a bit young, since I'll soon be there! In any case, I'd have reduced the function of the Cardinals to a purely honorific dimension (adding, if necessary, a bit of lace to the Cardinals' outfits), and I'd have entrusted the election of the next Pope to the people of Rome.
But there we are! They didn't give me the chance to accomplish my program.
Original may be found: here