Writing in the Wall Street Journal last Saturday — and riffing off something the novelist Walker Percy supposedly said — Paul Baumann noted that the next pope “should be a bit of a Californian.”
By that, Baumann– editor of Commonweal (the oldest independent lay-edited Catholic opinion journal in the US), and a 1969 Staples graduate — meant that Rome must be willing “to think anew about once settled understandings of sexual morality and about how the church is governed.”
The future, Baumann wrote 4 days before a new pope was selected,
will surprise us as much as Benedict XVI’s resignation did. Rome should prepare to be joyously surprised by what is new, for that is what the church’s founder promised.
So was Baumann surprised — joyously or otherwise — by the choice of Pope Francis?
“It looks as though the cardinals went with a colleague they felt they knew well,” the Commonweal editor said of the runner-up at the previous conclave.
“Pope Francis appears to be very conservative theologically, much in the manner of John Paul II. His election is another reminder of how insular the hierarchy remains, but that should not be much of a surprise either.”
So what does Francis’s election mean for local Catholics? “Steady as she goes, I imagine,” the Westport native said.
However, he added, “the new pope’s emphasis on the problems of the poor might mean that American Catholics generally will be asked to do more on social justice issues.”