I recently interviewed a progressive Catholic activist who happens to be a lesbian, and asked her if friends ever wondered why she was so active in a church that so limited her participation. She told me simply and passionately that it’s her Church, too, and she is determined to be heard. I hope the new pope will be open to hearing voices like hers from around the world–voices that believe in inclusion. Voices that unequivocally reject excuses in favor of swift and sure punishment for pedophile priests. Voices–including those of some Cardinals now in the conclave–calling for answers to reasonable questions about Vatileaks and the banking scandal. Voices that point out women once had a larger role in the Church, and should again.
No one who has studied the 115 Cardinals believes there will be swift or sweeping changes in the Church. I also recognize that this is a global Church, and members from the developing world may prefer that the new pope focus on issues of poverty. European pastors want a skilled communicator who can inspire the legions who have stopped going to Mass. Like them, I hope this new pope can address not just the problems, but spread the word about all the great work Catholics continue to do around the world for the poor, the sick, and the oppressed, sometimes at great personal risk. It’s a long wish list for a new pope, but an achievable and necessary one.