Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, the new Pope Francis, is an ordinary guy, we are told, who rides the subway to work. Having ridden the subways in both Buenos Aires and Rome, I can say these are challenging ways to get around town, the kind of thing that certainly can make you a saint, if not a pope.
Being ordinary, Francis probably keeps a to-do list on his refrigerator door in the Papal Apartments. This is my suggested list for him as he assumes his duties as supreme pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church:
- begin the process of divesting the Church of its wealth, accumulated over many centuries contrary to the wishes of the Founder: Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. Luke 18:22.
- immediately close all the churches around the world and reopen them as museums (the big, beautiful ones) or as centers for community activities such as feeding the poor, finding people jobs, helping people to fill out medical insurance forms, and so on.
- disband the priesthood: as Garry Wills argues brilliantly in his new book, Why Priests? A Failed Tradition, we don’t need priests to get to God–or to have a rich spiritual life, as I myself argue (also brilliantly, of course) in my book God On Your Own: Finding a Spiritual Path Outside Religion.
- make the Church hierarchy confess its sins and do penance for them…real penance, not 10 Our Fathers and 10 Hail Marys…sackcloth-and-ashes and ministering to the poor and homeless.
- vacate the Vatican after transferring the Vatican Library to digital banks and making it available to everyone everywhere who wants access…this has already begun, btw: Vatican Library Transfer. Also, give up the nutty idea of Vatican City being a sovereign state–what nonsense. Turn it all into a museum–with free admission for senior citizens like, um, me.
- abolish Baptism, or at least water it down (!) so that it does not designate fundamental differences between ‘believers’ and ‘unbelievers’–the root of so many wars over the centuries.
- abolish the rest of the sacraments…we don’t need them and, if there are no priests (and therefore no bishops), there would be no one to administer them, in any case. Without sacraments, we wouldn’t need to be concerned about gay marriage, since matrimony is a sacrament. Holy Orders would also be unnecessary, since there would be no priesthood–and no need to ordain women or allow priests to marry.
- use the money that is left over to get help for former priests with deep psychological problems, including child molestation.
- recognize that women are the other half of the human race and that they, like men, have reproductive organs, but they are on the inside.
A lot to do, but I think Francis is up to it. He can start by taking his list off the refrigerator door and keeping it in his vest pocket on the subway, checking off items as he jostles along.