First, the church has to address the abuse scandal that has been devouring the institution from the inside. Step one is to release every document, no matter how embarrassing or costly, relating to child abuse and the protection of criminal priests. The Vatican has to throw open its doors and establish an independent, secular organization charged with rooting out victimizers and reconciling, as best as possible, with victims. In addition, the church should end the absurd ban on marriage within the clergy and welcome women to the priesthood. Of course, this is asking a lot of an institution that recently concluded the sexed-up culture of the 1960s was to blame for priests raping children.
Second, the new pope should declare that the Vatican is refocusing on God’s command to do good works. This has always been the most attractive feature of Catholicism and this is a world that desperately needs generous souls to work on behalf of the poor, the sick and the hungry. The pope should sell his scepter and pay for some young, out-of-work idealists to wash, feed and clothe the poor, just as Jesus is said to have commanded, “go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”
Third, the pope should use his pulpit not to preserve the ancient superstitions of a repressive religion, but to preach about the concerns of the modern world. What a blessing it would be if Ratzinger’s successor would look past condoms and pornography for the root causes of our suffering. By my estimation, murder and usury do more harm than the alleged sin of homosexuality. What is the church’s position on drone strikes? What does the Vatican have to say to the people who run Visa and JPMorgan Chase? Sex slaves and factory workers in Vietnam need a champion. It’s not going to be General Electric, and it’s not going to be the United States.