Most of us are more than ready to kiss 2014 goodbye. But if there was one person who brightened the year, it was Pope Francis. It’s not that he’s perfect – he still needs that course in Feminist Theology 101 – but, as we look around the globe, he stands out as a uniquely inspiring leader.
So, what agenda can one hope that he would follow in 2015? If I were speaking to him directly, this is what I would suggest:
- Become the “Green Pope of 2015.” With your encyclical on climate change reportedly coming out in early spring, add “saving Planet Earth” to your “Franciscan” agenda as you work to solve this serious and pressing issue. Go full steam ahead with your reported plans to convene a global meeting of interreligious leaders to press for serious results from the climate meeting in Paris in November and December 2015.
- Set the captives free. Help President Barack Obama close the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Reports indicate that you are already pushing for this, perhaps even helping find countries that will take detainees. If so, keep it up.
- Act as a peacemaker wherever possible. Keep working to find an historic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. This may not happen in a year (unless you also become a miracle worker), but it’s important to keep trying. Of course, this crisis, while historic and long-lasting, is not the only conflict that cries out for a solution. So, if opportunities present themselves, help peacemaking efforts in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine and South Sudan.
- Continue emphasizing justice for the poor of the world. Some people are upset, but who cares? People were upset with Jesus for the same reason.
- Continue forging good interfaith relations. Your excellent work with the Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim communities can now be amplified with outreach to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and others in the new year.
- Continue your work to reform the Vatican bureaucracy by appointing “outsiders” to clean house, i.e., appoint women to head at least half of the Curial offices. It’s important to stay “on course” with reform of both the Curia and the Vatican bank. The best solution: appoint several women as heads of Curial offices. You keep saying that you want to see women in responsible positions. And one thing they offer for sure: they are not part of the current establishment. They will change things. Make those appointments a reality in 2015. (A specific suggestion: Appoint St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Cardinal Gerhard Mueller has to go. Get the best to replace him!
- Continue pushing the Synod on the family (Part two coming in October 2015) to have open debates and discussions as they welcome divorced and remarried Catholics to communion, reform the annulment process and open up fully to the LGBT community worldwide.
- Finally, work on updating your thinking, and rhetoric, about women. You are a great example in so many ways, but you’re thinking about women does not “fit” with the rest of what you do. (Suggestion: schedule a series of serious conversations with feminist theologians over several weeks. Ask some of them to help you examine and evaluate your concepts about women and your rhetoric on women. Some examples: we don’t need a “theology of women” any more than we need a “theology of men.” “Equality” is the key word, not “complementarity.”)
- And while you’re doing all this, continue to have fun! We don’t want 2015 to be a dour year!