Five Theses for the New Pope

REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/Pool Photo Credit

With spoiler alert for the U-Tube video at the end…a clip from Frederico Fellini’s Roma, the movie.


A bit of history

In the 16th century a protesting monk, Martin Luther, posted his 95 thesis on the door of Castle Wittenburg’s church in Germany in 1517. His theses among other beefs against the one and only religion of the time condemned the money grabbing practices of the church officials selling certificates (indulgences) of God’s guaranteed forgiveness for the payer’s sins, of course for a nice sum of money. The collected riches in turn would disappear into the papal coffers for most part and was used for keeping the papal buildings in good shape, as well as preserve the rich life style of its occupants in the manner they were accustomed to. That was just one of Luther’s 95 beefs against malpractices by officials of the Roman Catholic church.

As the church administration of the time could not silence this dissident’s voice when they tried to make Luther recant his beliefs, the pope of that time, Leo X banned him from the church and excommunicated him. They did not succeed obviously to silence him anyway and could not foresee the effect of their decision trying to.

The Pope’s buddy, German Emperor Charles V, called for a fatwa (not the exclusive purview of one religion) against Luther: his death would be justified, as Luther would not recant his heresies and stood by his statements. The emperor (Kaiser in German) as the head of state of the Roman empire was considered ‘given from God’ . Leo X distributed his condemnation as the head of state and church in this so-called Edict of Worms (a city in Germany) throughout the empire. This became in fact the start of the Reformation that led to a separate belief of Protestants.

Protestants believe that one’s own conscience and study of the bible (God’s word) is the basis of their religion. They discovered Jesus as the salvation of all humans and saw the Vatican as the Antichrist that kept the true believers away from salvation of their souls. Protestants reject the mediation of priests, a pope, or saints in their quest to be saved for eternal life after death.

Luther set out to translate the bible in German, so non-Latin readers would be able to read for themselves and not blindly trust what the unreliable church officials would tell them to believe. From then on, Luther’s admirers and anybody who stood with him were considered heretics and called Protestants.

Although Luther was not the first to bring the malpractice of the church and their political supporters to the forefront, he seemed to have been the most obnoxious one, voicing his protests at the right time.
Earlier people who tried, were burnt at the stake as a heretic. We all have heard about the Inquisition assigned to torture important people with a dissenting opinion, to find heretics and burn them.
Just like the social media now when one person says something controversial, it goes viral on the Internet in a day. So, in Luther’s time, the just developed printing press facilitated his followers to spread Luther’s message throughout the western world with cheaply printed pamphlets in no time at all.

Now for the purpose of full disclosure, I must admit I was raised a Protestant, but now consider myself an agnostic. My German-raised mother was a Lutheran and my Dutch father a Calvinist protestant. They say you can’t escape your upbringing and I do believe that to be true, to some extent at least. Since then, religions have fascinated me, the essence of what motivates people and their fears.

As a child I always wanted to be a Catholic, as the RC church in my home town that I sometimes snuck into with a buddy, seemed so much more interesting, their rituals so much livelier, and the priests were costumed and decorated with intriguing props and mystical instruments. It seemed a good idea at the time to confess one’s sins to a priest, be forgiven, pray a few hail-maries and then happily live on.

I believe that part of the attraction for the believers of any religion, on purpose designed that way as well, are its complex rituals, administered by richly decorated people in power. This set-up informs us, mere mortals, that there is a vast difference between them and us–common folk. The highly prescribed and structured rituals and dress codes keeps us distanced from any form of power, or the need to think for ourselves. (compare to the Law Courts). To some, to deliver oneself into the power of a higher authority is soothing and peaceful—followers seems a just name.
The other side is that absolute power corrupts–absolutely. How can we prevent this?

So back to the 5 theses I would design for the newly to be elected pope:

1. The pope should be elected by the Catholic people.

The Vatican should spend some of that big money they have gathered, sell off their treasures to fund the undertaking if needed, and let the Catholics vote for the pope directly. The old guys that have already been indoctrinated by spending their whole life within the church walls and at least the last 20 in positions of power as Cardinals do not know anything about what people want (or need). These are all older men in the autumn of their lives, who have not lived a “normal” life at all, and do not know about families and the complicated life of today. Much like electing a president, a pope should be elected by representatives of the Catholic dioceses of the world and not by about 120 cardinals.

2. The pope should have the option to be married, if he or she so desired.

That means to drop the celibacy requirement (which we know has been throughout history violated in every which way possible and covered up) for all church officials. Discussion in the media about the effects of this idiotic idea of gathering men in confinement and telling them to stuff their sexual identities, has not worked to elevate them to a higher plane; we can now admit that. The history of covering up, the complicity with enduring sexual abuse of children by moving offending priests to another town or school and the devastating fall out in human terms for those multitudes of abused children cannot be overstated. This history has been the fiend of our First Nations in Canada: the residential school situation has destroyed a whole generation and could be considered a cultural genocide. The most powerless are the easiest victims for offenders.

3. The pope can be a woman

The idea that only men can rule or be functional in an important leadership role is so out to lunch and misogynistic, that I cannot believe anybody still thinks that is an OK doctrine. And yet, women are for most part the preservers of the faith. Everywhere I go I see women go to church and reluctantly, the men might go with them. Especially in Roman Catholic Mexico–the second largest number of RC believers live there—it’s the women who go to church, who make sure the children and their husbands follow, who keep the rituals in place, and who are the steering power behind all the fiestas. Without the women, there is no church. Here is an real opportunity for the RC church: To lift whole global societies and to give a push to equality for men and women, by declaring the office open to women in the future. I dare say that institutions like the Vatican in my view keep women in the world in subjugated position by condoning and leading the way in excluding the women from power. Women have been neglected by the church; what does a priest know anyway about how a man should be in a relationship with a woman?
Why are the men in the church so protective of their position? Scared they might lose their privilege? What kind of an attitude is that? Not at all like Jesus’ sermons and instructions on how his followers should behave.

4. The Pope should be a role model

If the ultimate role model is Jesus, a pope should live in relative poverty, give away all of the churches’ jewels, gold, icons and end poverty within their dioceses across the world. Yes, it is awesome, all those Da Vinci decorated living and working quarters, but are they not supposed to be Jesus’ representatives on earth? There could not be a bigger difference between Jesus and a pope. The pope lives like a queen, not as a humble servant of his religion.

5. The pope should step up to help end suffering in the world.

This might be suffering in any form by poor and suppressed peoples across the world, those who are persecuted because of a different religion, race, gender, or a sexual identity, of having no access to birth control and living a life of servitude to make ends meet, those who are jailed because of a political opinion, and so on.

I think politics and religion are not mutually exclusive territories. Instead of being an advocate of human rights and for justice in the world, the papacy has sided with the establishment, has denied women the reproductive rights and own their bodies, has done nothing to address political tyranny in some countries, or said anything against nations that invade other’s territory, or that make political decisions that interfere with other peoples’ rights. The pope has been silent on Hitler’s exterminations of whole groups in society, and still is silent on many issues that have been a global problem. As a leader of a world religion, he should conduct regular conferences with other religious leaders to facilitate peace and the end of suffering in the world.

If I was a Roman Catholic, the past style and scope of papal leadership would be unacceptable to me. The pope is not a role model that I could be content with. In this time of democracy advancing in many areas of the world previously thought unchangeable, this is the perfect time for the Roman Catholics to voice their desire for change.


About BABYBOOMER johanna van zanten

My name is Johanna van Zanten. I am a baby boomer, interested in writing and connecting with other writers and readers to engage in discussions and information sharing, to share a point of view about current global issues, writing, and publishing, diversity, immigration, travel, music, life, specific baby boomer issues, and dating/relationship issues. I have written a novella, ON THIN ICE about baby-boomer Adrienne and will link this blog with the information website for this novella. Right now, I am trying out the blog.
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2 Responses to Five Theses for the New Pope

  1. June Collins says:

    You got it spot on! The Vatican indulgences are sickening.

  2. Hi June,
    Thanks for your response, much appreciated.

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