I'm capivated with the new Pope. Even as a non-Catholic, I feel excited about the potential for him to move the Roman Catholic church in a direction that will align it better with modern society. Is there an option? Not really. Either it changes or puts ever more Catholics in the position of having to live, whilst compromising their faith as they might see it. So here's what I suggest from the perspective of marketing, communications and reputation management. I may update it as I have other thoughts:
- Acknowledge, as did cardinal Napier of South Africa, that paedophilia or other sex abuse is an illness of the mind and the psyche. But (this part of the Cardinal's interview got confused) that doesn't make it any less criminal when acted upon. So tell the clergy that if they seek help and or therapy for their urges, the church will be 100% behind them. Don't seek help, act on those urges and the church will hand you over to the cilvil authorities and defrock you, if convicted.
- Create an order of female priests.
- Create a two-tier structure for priests and nuns. Those who choose to be celibate and those who choose to be in a relationship or marry. Rather have a committed married priest than a supposedly celibate one struggling to manage impulses. St. Paul dealt with these issues when talking to Timothy in the Christian Bible. See I Corinithians 7:9. Broadly speaking, Paul said he wished all could be like him (clearly celibate by choice) but if not, they should travel their particular path in a relationship.
- Accept the weakness of people. Yes, abstinence is the greatest discipline. But when it's absent, contraception is certainly less awful than aborting a human foetus. So accept and permit birth control.
- Force the church back to simplicity (as it certainly appears Pope Francis will do).
- Shut down the Vatican Bank or put it under independent, secular management. It's long been a terrible thorn in the flesh of the Catholic Church. Or use a commercial bank and accept the rules of governance and transparency that will go with that.
- Purge some of the Curia. Bring in fresh blood of a spiritual rather than status and position-seeking temperament.
- Have zero tolerance for political in-fighting.
- Create an open and transparent communications climate (Pope Francis appears to be doing that already) to eliminate conspiracy theories and concerns that the Vatican is a deeply secret and therefore sinister entity.
- Put Bishops on down on "performance contracts" in line with secular leadership practice. They should be expected to deliver on certain criteria. If they can't, put someone in the job who can.
- The prime role of the church is to develop the spirituality of its own priests, nuns and devotees and to serve Catholics and the people of this planet. Realign the thinking of the clergy with that.
- Let the focus of the church become what Swami Vivekananda famously said, that: "Service to man is worship of God."