Darren Richardson

“Domine dilrige nos.” ("Lord direct us.")

Regardless of who emerges as the next pope following the Roman Catholic Church’s impending conclave of cardinals in Vatican City, one thing is certain: The church is in dire need of moral rehabilitation.

From pedophile priests to allegations of the Vatican bank’s involvement with money-laundering for the mafia, the church has had its fill of bad press in recent years. The first step in regaining the moral high ground is electing a pope who is innocent of all past misdeeds, both those actually perpetrated and those merely perceived. Since the name a pope chooses can indicate the theme of his papacy, the next pope must take the name “Innocent” as a means of indicating the church is on an inspired path of renewal and enlightenment.

There have been 13 popes who took the name “Innocent,” including Innocent III, architect of the doomed Fourth Crusade from 1202 to 1204. But when the next pontiff chooses the name “Innocent,” he must make it clear that his objective is not a fresh crusade geared toward conquering or subjugating but a new path toward peace, love and harmony for all people. Pope Innocent XIV must launch a new mission, one that has the full support of the Magisterium and expands the stated objectives of the 21st ecumenical council (1962-65) to include the entire world. Innocent’s vision must be comprehensive, based on the teachings in Mark 16:15, in which Jesus proclaims, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

This outreach to Protestants and others would be seen a bold gambit, to be sure, but it is a move that would ultimately serve the interests of the Holy See and promote cause of peace and justice on a global scale. Unless the church takes inspired steps to purge itself of the darkness that has descended in some quarters, the pontificate itself will come to be seen as mere window dressing on a corrupt and decadent organization. For the sake of the Christian message and the martyrs who have died in a state of grace while spreading the message of the Gospels, the church must use this opportunity to decisively seize the moral high ground and bring about a global renewal of spirit.

By choosing the name “Innocent,” the next pontiff can signal the vast, far-reaching implications of the epochal shifts within – and beyond – the Roman Catholic Church.

Invoking the spirit of Vatican II

In his speech that opened the second Vatican Council (Vatican II) in October 1962, Pope John XXIII spoke of a church that recognized the changes rapidly unfolding in the modern era:

“Present indications are that the human family is on the threshold of a new era. We must recognize here the hand of God, who, as the years roll by, is ever directing men's efforts, whether they realize it or not, towards the fulfillment of the inscrutable designs of His providence, wisely arranging everything, even adverse human fortune, for the Church's good.”

John’s words gave voice to the hope and optimism inherent in Vatican II, and yet, since that historic 20th century rebirth of sorts for the Roman Catholic Church, especially in the years following the death of Pope John Paul II, it has failed to live up to its grand mission.

Catholicism needs another Albino Luciani

What is needed now is a pope in the mold of Albino Luciani, a surprise choice after the death of Pope Paul VI in 1978. Luciani, who took the name John Paul I, served as the Vicar of Christ a mere 33 days before his sudden death. In his short time as pontiff, John Paul I – nicknamed “the smiling pope” for his good humor and optimistic disposition – made clear that the mission of the church could not be an insular one. In calling for full implementation of the Vatican II vision, John Paul I wrote, “(W)e will be at the service of truth, of justice, of peace, of harmony, of collaboration within nations as well as rapport among peoples.”

This should be the guiding principle for the next pope and for the church as a whole. With a Pope Innocent XIV at the helm, the church will be able to move through these difficult times and begin to focus on a new era of ecumenicalism and spiritual purity that is not limited by self-imposed problems arising from an incomplete understanding of the Gospels. May the Paraclete touch the hearts and souls of those present at the upcoming conclave and guide these select men to make the right decision, not only for the future of the Roman Catholic Church but for the amelioration of all humanity.

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