A Chicago Catholic Reflects on a New Pope

Global Church Faces Serious Challenges as New Pope Takes Charge

Yahoo Contributor Network

As Pope Benedict XVI resigns on Thursday, Yahoo News asked American Catholics: What would they like to see in the next pope? What would they like him to focus on? Here's one perspective.

COMMENTARY | A new pope will assume the leadership of a global church facing existential challenges.

Cardinal Francis George, leader of my archdiocese in Chicago, is laying of 10 percent of his staff and closing five schools. The archdiocese has experienced a decline in attendance and donations leading to operating deficits of more than $30 million every year for the past four years. The archdiocese has also had to pay millions in judgments resulting from years of child sex abuse by priests and cover-ups by their superiors. Chicago's problems are replicated around the world.

The sex abuse scandal and the church's anemic response harm the church, but there are other troubling trends.

Catholic doctrine that bans women from joining the priesthood and restricts male priests from getting married are hampering recruiting efforts to fill increasing parish vacancies.

The church's public opposition of gay rights is blamed by some for chasing away practicing Catholics.

Dwindling church attendance in North America and Europe, where most of the church's regular donors live, have robbed the church of revenue that it has been unable to make up elsewhere.

Catholics have failed to penetrate most of Asia, outside of the Philippines, the world's most populous place and the one experiencing the fastest economic development.

New competition in the Americas--from evangelicals and other Christian denominations combined with Catholic school closings in North America-has damaged the church's efforts to recruit young people and convert adults.

Institutions must evolve in order to survive.

I believe the next pope must be personable, vigorous, tough and diplomatic to force necessary structural and doctrinal changes.

In other words, the next pope needs to be among the best that has ever held the office.

The next round of layoffs in the Archdiocese of Chicago will be far more severe if he is anything less because Catholics in Chicago, like me, will not wait forever for reform to come.

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