On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he will be resigning on February 28 due to his failing health. Does this shocking announcement provide an opportunity for the Vatican to appoint a real reformer as pope? One who might tackle issues of homosexuality, female priests, contraception, and soften the Vatican’s stance on abortion? Given the list of prospective replacements for Pope Benedict, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for widespread reform.
Pope Benedict was well known for his strong opposition to homosexuality, the ordination of female priests, and stem cell research, as well as his belief that Catholicism and Islam were competitors. The sudden announcement provides an opportune moment for the Vatican to attempt to soften its stance on these issues, but despite the promising speculation surrounding two Latin American Cardinals and one African Cardinal, the views of the prospective replacements are largely similar to those of Pope Benedict.
Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga of Honduras, while seen as a moderate by many, has slammed Ricky Martin for his use of a surrogate mother to father twin boys, asserting that it “diminishes the dignity of a human being.” Moreover, after originally asserting his belief that, though pro-abortion politicians should not seek Holy Communion, it cannot be denied to them, he altered his position and asserted that any politician that supports abortion publicly excommunicates himself. Furthermore, Cardinal Maradiaga opposes the use of condoms as a solution to HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Some hope for reform is seen with Cardinal Peter Turkson, who would be the first black Pope if appointed. If appointed, he shows hope in remedying the comments about competition with Islam made by Pope Benedict due to the fact that he was raised in Ghana, where Christian-Muslim relations are peaceful, respectful, and tolerant. However, he espouses similar stances on abortion and, similar to both Pope Benedict and Cardinal Maradiaga, asserts that condoms are not a solution to the problem of HIV/AIDS in Africa, instead advocating the use of anti-retroviral treatments on those already infected.
More hope for reform is seen with Canadian Cardinal Mark Ouellet, who is current president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and is a prominent figure within the church. However, while apologizing for discrimination against women and homosexuals and C attitudes espoused by the Roman Catholic Church of Quebec, he also asserts that abortion is unjustifiable even in cases of rape. Though he may soften views on women priests and homosexuality, one cannot expect him to be a great reformer of the Catholic Church.
Due to the fact that these front-runners often espouse the same beliefs of Pope Benedict, widespread reform on traditional stances taken by the Catholic Church should not be expected to change with the appointment of the next pope. While some hope can be seen with Cardinal Ouellet and Cardinal Turkson, any great reform within the Catholic Church does not seem to be on the horizon with this upcoming appointment of a new pope.