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The Roman Catholic Church has a new pope. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio took the name of Francis yesterday at the Vatican as he became the first Jesuit pontiff. Dubbed a conservative with a common touch, the Argentinian is known for his outreach to his country’s poor. He’s a theological conservative who backs the Vatican’s stand on abortion, gay marriage and the ordination of women. The first Latin American pope represents a cultural bridge between two worlds — he’s the son of Italian immigrants from the New World, an area that represents a growing segment of the world’s billion Roman Catholics. Diane and her guests discuss the challenges facing Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic Church.
- Jason Horowitz Reporter for The Washington Post.
- Maureen Fiedler Host of public radio's Interfaith Voices and Sister of Loretto.
- James Martin Jesuit priest, culture editor of America magazine, author of numerous books including "My Life with the Saints" and "The Jesuit Guide to (almost) Everything: A spirituality for Real Life."
- Ross Douthat Op-ed columnist for The New York Times and author of "Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The newly elected Roman Catholic pope represents many firsts. He's the first pontiff from the Americas, the first Jesuit pope, the first to choose the name Francis and the first pope in the modern era to be elected after a papal resignation. Joining me to talk about the challenges facing the new leader of the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics: Maureen Fiedler, Sister of Loretto and host of "Interfaith Voices," and Ross Douthat of The New York Times.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining us by phone from Rome, Jason Horowitz of The Washington Post and from NPR's New York studio, Jesuit priest and author, James Martin. I look forward to hearing your reactions to this momentous selection. Do call us, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And good morning to all of you.
SISTER MAUREEN FIEDLERThank you very much. Good to be here.
MR. ROSS DOUTHATGood morning, Diane.
REV. JAMES MARTINGood morning.
REHMAnd, Father Jim, if I could start with you, talk about the significance of electing the first Jesuit pope.
MARTINWell, it stunned me into speechlessness, which is not something that people affiliate with Jesuits. It's something that people never thought would happen for two reasons. One, Jesuits are members of religious orders, and most cardinals come up through the diocese and ranks, working in parishes and from parish priests to bishop to archbishop. And so they're familiar with that territory.
MARTINAnd, secondly, the Jesuits had been viewed, you know, in some quarters in the Vatican with some suspicion, you know, because of their work with the poor and other things that they did that took them to the margins -- took us to the margins. So I was stunned. I don't think anyone expected this. He was a candidate in the last conclave, but most people had rather written him off. So I'd like to just say, as a Jesuit, I'm delighted, and all of my brother Jesuits were sort of stunned in the similar speechlessness yesterday.
REHMLet me follow up on that. Have the Jesuits traditionally had a particularly good relationship with the Vatican?
MARTINTraditionally, yes. St. Ignatius, our founder, was completely devoted not only to Christ and the church, but also to the pontiff. And so we are supposed to be distinguished by our obedience. Now, there had been times when, you know, for example, we were suppressed by the Vatican because of our work with different political powers.
MARTINAnd then in the 1970s and '80s, we came under suspicion for our work in liberation theology. But over our 450-year history, yes, we've had a very good relationship with the Vatican. And frankly, Father Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson that we've all been hearing from for the last few days, is a Jesuit. And as we laughed last night, whatever cloud there was over the Jesuits is now lifted.
REHMJames Martin is a Jesuit priest, culture editor of America magazine and author of "A Jesuit Guide to (almost) Everything." I wonder, Jason Horowitz, the world is really trying to continue to figure out who the pope is. Tell us about his background.
MR. JASON HOROWITZWell, so Pope Francis, Cardinal Bergoglio as of two days ago, he's from Argentina. His parents were Italian immigrants so that he has a very strong and important connection to Italy. And that's maybe part of the reason that he was elected. The most important thing about him is there's this kind of palpable simplicity, this kind of modesty and humbleness that a lot of the cardinals were really drawn to. This has been a church that, for the last couple of years, and especially the last couple of months, has been besieged by scandals and all sorts of things.
MR. JASON HOROWITZAnd the idea that there's somebody on that balcony last night who had a really kind of conversational tone almost, and was avuncular, almost grandfatherly. And the piazza kind of melted in front of him. I mean, at first, people are like, who is this guy? And then a second later, they just liked him. There's that kind of soft Argentine accent that he has and speaking in Italian. And so he's -- what he is is he's a seemingly humble man in an incredibly powerful position.
REHMSo I understand, Jason, he speaks Spanish, Italian and English. Is that correct?
HOROWITZI'm -- actually, German, I think, might be his third language. His English is kind of a mystery.
HOROWITZAnd -- but, you know, frankly, the more important language there is Spanish because this is, you know, a symbol and a signal that the church is shifting its center of gravity, perhaps, to a different hemisphere. And the language in that hemisphere is Spanish, and he sure speaks that well.
REHMJason Horowitz, he's a reporter for The Washington Post. He's on the phone with us from Rome. Ross Douthat, it would seem that Pope Francis has already sent a message about his papacy from that balcony.
DOUTHATYes. And, I mean, he sent a message just with the choice of the name Francis, which I think the Vatican has explicitly said was meant to evoke Francis of Assisi. There was some debate, of course, because he's a Jesuit of whether it harkened back to Francis Xavier, the famous Jesuit as well. But by picking the name Francis, it's obviously a name that to non-Catholics as well as Catholics evokes, you know, sort of simplicity, humility and an attempt to live life more than almost any Christian attempts to do in conformity with the model of Jesus of Nazareth himself.
DOUTHATSo it's a very significant choice, and it's a choice, as Jason said, for a church that's faced scandals, leaks, corruption, administrative problems and so on. The famous story about Francis, of course, is that he's in -- you know, he has a divine encounter in the ruins of a chapel in Italy, and he hears the voice of God telling him, go rebuild my church. Now, the flipside of that is that, of course, as an administrator, Francis of Assisi was not, you know, he was not known as -- it was his successors who turned his charism into the Franciscan order that's endured to this day.
DOUTHATAnd I think the big question, the big unanswered question about Pope Francis is, does his simplicity or apparent simplicity, apparent humility and so on, is there a sort of backbone of iron underneath that? Because that is, in fact, what I think both, you know, Catholics from every wing of the church right now agree is needed in the Vatican itself. And it remains to be seen. You know, we don't know who elected him because it's obviously the most secret of secret ballots. But -- so we don't know.
DOUTHATWe assume he drew his support from Latin American cardinals, from cardinals from the third world and so on. But the big question going into the conclave was to what extent would cardinals from around the world be able to wrench some of the control of the Vatican machinery from figures within the Roman Curia, who frankly, everyone agrees, haven't been doing a very good job of late? And so we don't know exactly what his election represents in terms of how that structure turned out. Jason may, with his ear to the ground, know more than we do.
REHMI'll get back to Jason in just a moment. Ross Douthat is an op-ed columnist with The New York Times, author of "Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics." Maureen Fiedler, I'm turning to you now. Were you surprised?
FIEDLERI was totally surprised when he came out. This was not somebody who was on my shortlist of contenders. He was on my long list, though, because he reputedly was the runner-up to Benedict in the conclave in 2005. And when he came out on the balcony, I have to say the first thing I saw in his face was a little bit of fear. Like, oh, my heavens, what did I get myself into was what I thought he might be saying to himself.
REHMSeeing those throngs.
FIEDLERThat's right. And -- but then a lot of his simplicity came forth. And I was really moved by the fact that he asked the people to bless him before he blessed them. And I'm hoping, perhaps against hope, that this could be a way of his relating to the laity of the church and bringing the laity into, like, the full life and decision making of the church. Now, I'm probably reading much too much into that, but he certainly does have a humble stance. And that was -- that's to the good.
REHMNow, going back to Ross' comment, Maureen, that spine of steel is what perhaps raises those kinds of questions.
FIEDLERYes, that's right. A lot of the cardinal electors were looking for somebody who could clean up the curia, clean up the Vatican bureaucracy, essentially. And he doesn't have much of any experience in Rome. Now that might be good. That might give him the freedom to do that. On the other hand, it might mean that he's wading into waters that he doesn't know and that he doesn't understand. So I think how strong that spine is for change is something we have to wait and see.
REHMMaureen Fiedler, she's host of public radio's "Interfaith Voices." She is a Sister of Loretto. If you'd like to join us, call us on 800-433-8850. Ross Douthat, when you look at Pope Francis' history with his own government, for example, what kind of signals do you take?
DOUTHATWell, there, I mean, you know, you don't become an archbishop if you don't have a certain amount of political savvy obviously, and he's been a, you know, important figure as a, you know, leader of the Jesuits in Argentina and then as a bishop and archbishop across very different political situations in Argentina, beginning under the dictatorship in the 1970s and '80s and then continuing through the more populist government recently. And he's -- I mean, there is a lot to unpack there, so we might have to save it for after the break.
REHMAll right. We'll do exactly that. Ross Douthat, Maureen Fiedler, Father James Martin, Jason Horowitz are with me. We invite you to join us as well after the break.
REHMAnd welcome back. We are, of course, talking about the news from Rome, the election of Pope Francis and what it means for the billion Catholics, not only Roman Catholics but people who share religious beliefs around the world. With me are four people. Maureen Fiedler, she is host of public radio's "Interfaith Voices." She is a Sister of Loretto.
REHMRoss Douthat, he's an op-ed columnist with The New York Times, author of the book "Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics." You may pronounce it heretics, but we'll divide on that. James Martin is a Jesuit priest and culture editor of America magazine. He is author of "A Jesuit Guide to (almost) Everything." Jason Horowitz is on the line with us from Rome. He is a reporter for The Washington Post.
REHMAnd here is the first email that's come in from John in Pittsburgh, which says, "How can any church leader be credited with working to counteract poverty while defending the church's policy on contraception, a policy that coerces the poorest Catholics to have children they cannot afford to feed?" Jason Horowitz, is that indeed Pope Francis' position?
HOROWITZWell, I think that, you know, it's -- if you are a believer in the creed and the doctrine of the Catholic Church, you know, that's something important. And I don't know if being against contraception or against other social issues necessarily means that you are poor or poverty. That seems kind of a leap for me.
HOROWITZI think that what is most interesting to me about Bergoglio -- Francis is going to be this question of he's kind of walked the walk of living kind of the vow of poverty as much as he can being the archbishop of Buenos Aires. And I'm just -- I am really curious to see how that relates to governing a global church and whether it's enough to be just a messenger.
HOROWITZAnd it might be that they chose him 'cause he's a great -- he has a great pastoral presence, and the church feels that it needs now is a way to kind of attract people. And this kind of pastoral presence he has can do that. But I think what we were talking about before is extremely important, and that is the idea of -- and I think Ross was talking about the backbone to actually run the Vatican. And before you run the whole church with all of its challenges, you have to get the Vatican under control.
HOROWITZAnd we're going to start seeing that immediately because we're going to start seeing who he puts in positions of power. And one of the criticisms of Benedict was that he put the wrong people in power, and he let them essentially run rough shot over him. So we'll see if he makes changes. And if he makes changes that seem like an opening, then that's a very good sign for people who want more of an opening in the Vatican. And if he sticks with the same people, I think we're going to have a problem.
FIEDLERI think when you ask a question about contraception and its relationship to poverty, this is where we need more voices of women in the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church because I think most women listening to that question would say, yeah, there really is a connection there. And, unfortunately, I don't think that many of the hierarchy see one or understand it, or even just married people would understand that in general, that those are decisions that they face in everyday life.
FIEDLERAnd I -- as I understand, the way Pope Francis thinks, he is a theological conservative. He is not likely to change the church's position on any of those hot-button issues, whether it's contraception or abortion or same-sex marriage or any of those issues. And so for me, at least that raises questions about how the appeal of the church is going to be affected particularly in the Northern Hemisphere and in North America, Western Europe and also countries like Argentina, which is a fairly Europeanized country in South America.
REHMFather Jim, how do you see that?
MARTINWell, I think that those are certainly issues on people's minds, particularly in the North. But I also think that there is a more basic and fundamental hunger that people have in the West and in the United States, you know, just to meet the person of Jesus, right, just to sort of be introduced to the Gospel.
MARTINSo I think that in addition to some of these topics that, you know, that tend to, you know, pop up from time to time in terms of same-sex marriage and abortion and contraception and things like that, well, those are very important things to discuss and to think about. And I agree with Maureen. I don't think that Pope Francis will change anything. I think that there are more basic issues that are even more important to people in terms of their religious life and their spiritual life.
MARTINYou can't divorce the two, but I think the most important thing for the pope to focus on is, you know, preaching the Gospel, basically. And, of course, those issues will come up. But it is inviting people into a relationship with Jesus Christ. And as Ross and others were saying, you know, into a relationship with Christ who asks us to take care of the poor and also to live simply, that's another part of his Jesuit life, you know, the sort of the fountain that kind of helps his spirituality.
REHMRoss Douthat, here is a question from Johann in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, "Could you please discuss the accusations against Pope Francis regarding his lack of opposition to the fascist military junta that ruled Argentina in the 1970s? An article in The New York Times yesterday stated he was less energetic when it came to standing up to Argentina's military dictatorship."
DOUTHATTake this very provisionally. I am obviously not an expert on Argentine politics, and it has been literally 24 hours since we began -- less than 24 hours since we all began diving into the new pope's past. My sense is that the story and the caller are correct that during the period of the Dirty War and the junta ruling Argentina and so on, there was -- as there often is in those cases -- sort of divergent paths taken by different church leaders.
DOUTHATAnd some were more confrontational and some did more to work behind the scenes and so on without publicly speaking out. And the new pope fell into the latter category. And there's a particular case that seems to have been a matter of great debate where a couple of his fellow Jesuits who were working in, I believe, these sort of what were called base communities which were centers of sort of liberation theology that sort of blended Marxist ideas and Catholic ideas and so on, they ended up being captured and tortured by the government and then released.
DOUTHATAnd defenders of Pope Francis say that he worked behind the scenes and, you know, showed up to say Mass in one of the general's chapels to affect their release. His critics say he didn't do enough speaking out and so on to defend those priests and prevent them from being captured in the first place. So that's -- again, I'm not an expert on this.
DOUTHATBut those are the kind of stories that are going to come up and be debated and discussed for some time. He was obviously a leader of a church that had as many of the churches in Latin America do, close ties to the government and often to authoritarian governments. And he wasn't a figure like an Oscar Romero. But, you know, there were a couple of bishops in Argentina at the time who were very outspoken against the regime. And he was not, as far as I can tell.
REHMMaureen, take us for a moment to explain liberation theology where it was in the '70s and what it meant to the Jesuits of Latin America.
FIEDLERWell, liberation theology was a major movement in Latin America in, really, the '60s, '70s, '80s, et cetera, and it was central to what were called the comunitaria de base or the base communities. These were, in many cases, alternatives to parishes. But it was designed to give hope for the poor. That was its basic message. And it was a message that said, not that you were poor and you could get wealthy, but that it was OK to struggle, to change the system that kept you down, that kept you poor.
FIEDLERAnd this, you know, people have said it's related to Marxism. It's got a lot more to do with the Prophet Isaiah, actually, and the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, who really talked about the poor a lot. And there were many theologians at the time that articulated this, and there were many Jesuit priests throughout Latin America who were affiliated with this, who practiced it, who founded these base communities and worked with them.
REHMAnd where was Pope Francis in regard to liberation theology?
FIEDLERAs far as we know, he was not in favor of it. Now, that doesn't mean he was in favor of poverty. Obviously he's spoken out against economic injustice, but he did not see that school of thought, evidently, as a way to go.
DOUTHATIf I may just interject, the debate about liberation theology within the church focused precisely on the question of to what extent it was mostly about Isaiah and to what extent it imported ideas -- frankly Marxist and revolutionary ideas -- into Catholic theology, where the church's defense of the poor was then used as a justification for a mix of political potentially violent revolution and sort of quasi-utopian visions of society like those that communist revolutions produced and ended fairly unhappily in the rest of the world.
DOUTHATSo it's -- I agree with -- it's a very complicated subject. I just want to say that to be skeptical of liberation theology, as the new pope was, was emphatically not to be rejecting the church's traditional commitment to the poor. It was a debate about the extent to which that commitment should be translated into not just political activism, but outright potentially revolution.
REHMFather Jim, do you want to weigh in?
DOUTHATHe can weigh. He can resolve in Jesuit style.
MARTINI would certainly like to weigh in. Well, no, I think both Maureen and Ross, you know, have some good points. I'd also like to add that a lot of Jesuit priests, you know, were martyred during that time.
DOUTHATMm hmm. Yeah.
MARTINAnd essentially what happens -- they're both accurate. What happened is that when you start working with the poor and among the poor, like so many of the Jesuits did when Archbishop Bergoglio, Cardinal Bergoglio was the Jesuit provincial, you sometimes have to decide, you know, where you're going to align yourself. Will you align yourself with the oligarchy or with the Marxist if those are the only two choices, basically?
MARTINAnd what happened was some of the Jesuits aligned themselves with forces that were sort of influenced by Marxist theology, right, because they wanted to be on the side of the poor, and that was the way that they felt that they could help the poor the most. But the Jesuit provincial at the time and, you know, later, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires thought that it was wrong to align yourself so closely with a particular political movement.
MARTINSo I think they're both right, in a sense, that he -- they were trying to work with the poor. But the question is, when you are working with the poor, how much do you align yourself with a particular political party? And also, John Paul was very strong on that.
MARTINBut I think the most important thing is that liberation theology does have some very important tenets that we can still learn from and also that Pope Francis himself, you know, you can never question his own commitment to the poor. It's just a question of how do you live out that Christian desire to help the poor, to liberate them and to advocate them?
MARTINIt's just a question of how to.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Going to open the phones now, 800-433-8850. We'll go first to Boston, Mass. Good morning, Steven.
STEVENGood morning to you all.
REHMGood morning, sir. Go right ahead.
DOUTHATGood morning, Steve.
STEVENI just had a question in relation to forgiveness and justice and the Roman Catholic Church. I am -- have watched, as everybody else has, the scandals that have covered the world in relation to the pedophilia of children. And I wonder how anybody, whether they be a layperson in the Catholic Church or whether they're in service at any level, all the way up to the papacy, can they ally themselves with an organization that has been so complicit in the suffering of the children that are our most precious thing.
FIEDLERI think the real question this pope faces is whether he's going to begin to hold the hierarchy accountable in the sex abuse crisis because there have been plenty of priests that have been put out of ministry because of this. But the archbishops and the bishops who covered it up in diocese after diocese after diocese, they have never been held accountable. So if he is going to be serious about this, he's going to have to begin to do something on that level.
DOUTHATI agree with Maureen. I think that this is -- the big challenge for the church is that I think mechanisms of accountability, especially in the United States, have been put in place over the last 20 years that seem -- I mean, the level of reported sex abuse is basically microscopic in the U.S. church now, and the church seems to be one of the safest places for children. But there has been no real accountability, with a few exceptions for figures like, you know, I mean, Roger Mahony, the cardinal of Los Angeles who is voting...
DOUTHAT...in the conclave and who, you know, has had -- you know, was one of the many bishops and archbishops who shuffled priests around from parish to parish and let specific cases of abuse become an epidemic.
DOUTHATTo the caller's specific question, as a Catholic, I think the only answer that you can give is that you remain a Catholic because you think that what the Catholic Church teaches about Jesus Christ and the destiny of humanity is true, and that the history of the Catholic Church is one of repeated periods of scandal and moral disaster, you know, from the Inquisition down to the present day that, you know, in the past have also been followed by periods of renewal and grace and so on.
DOUTHATAnd it is a -- you know, it's -- the line is that it's founded on Peter, who was a fallible human being, and you expect sin. But you hope for grace as well.
REHMAll right. And, Jason Horowitz, your view.
HOROWITZWell, you know, this is actually -- today, when the -- Pope Francis went to Santa Maria Maggiore, which is one of the largest basilicas here in Rome, for his first trip outside of the Vatican, and the kind of the particular priest of Santa Maria Maggiore, the former titular priest, is Bernard Law, who, of course, was the archbishop of Boston and, you know, the eye of the storm of the sex abuse scandal.
HOROWITZAnd Cardinal Law was there today, sitting right behind him as the pope prayed to the -- to an icon of the Virgin Mary. Now, that could be -- maybe says more about Cardinal Law that he showed up to that than about the pope, who probably, you know, didn't exactly specifically invite him. But that's exactly what this pope is going to face, right? He's going to face a hierarchy that is kind of riddled with these problems and these people.
HOROWITZAnd we're going to see what he does about it. And, you know, if he keeps these guys around who have -- a lot of them -- you know, a lot of them have also been, you know, accused unfairly, but also there are people like Law who -- there's a pretty big book on Law now. And so what Francis does with people like Law, it will be very interesting to watch.
REHMAll right. And when we come back, I'd like to hear Father Jim's view on that point. We will take a short break. More of your calls when we come back.
REHMAnd just before the break, we were talking about how the new pope, Pope Francis, might deal with individuals who have been involved with the sex scandal that has really overtaken the Roman Catholic Church in the last few years. Father Jim, I wanted your thoughts on that.
MARTINWell, I think it is the issue facing the church. I think it's absolutely imperative that he address it. And as to the question of accountability, I would say that many Catholics can grasp -- they don't excuse it, but they grasp how some priests did these crimes. You know, these crimes of sex abuse happen also in families and in schools. I mean, you look at a place like Penn State. They cannot grasp why some of the bishops who move some of these sexual abusers around are still in office.
MARTINAnd, you know, I remember at the time of the scandal, someone said that the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation, which people know, you know, requires several things. One is confession. Well, we finally did confess our sins. I mean, it took a long time and it took some of the media to sort of drag it out of us, seeking forgiveness which, you know, a lot of people have tried to do and restitution and those kinds of things. But I think penance is a part that a lot of people haven't seen. They have not seen penance on the part of bishops in terms of resignation, and I think that's really shocking, basically.
MARTINAnd finally, I would like to say, you know, as a Jesuit, you know, I do know that Pope Francis was not afraid to make tough decisions when he was a Jesuit provincial. And so people have talked about the, you know, spine of steal or not. He has one. He was not afraid to do tough things and do unpopular things and ruffle a few feathers. So I'm hoping that that will help him in his task and frankly his ministry to confront this scourge in the Catholic Church.
REHMAll right. And to you, Jason Horowitz, "A quick question," he says, from Rod in Rochester. It's got a number of parts. "Describe the curia, how many are in it, what they do, what the activities are that the Vatican carries out. And what is the obstructionism doing? Is there theological difference or just control?"
HOROWITZI think it comes down to power. I don't think it's so much theological difference. And we're talking about a church that in the recent decades has kind of coalesced around a conservative view. It's not a theological problem, at least here in Rome. I think what we're dealing with is it's a bureaucracy that doesn't work like a bureaucracy that we're used to. In other words, people don't report up and then, you know, you have your boss and your boss reports to somebody else. And there's not - it's not a cabinet where the pope goes around listening to each of the departments.
HOROWITZIt's basically a royal court because this is still, you know, the pope's also sovereign. And so you have no talking to one another almost between the different departments. And the departments are seen according to how much power and, frankly, money they wield. And so if you can -- if you end up in a kind of a bad department, you know, it's seen that you have lost your power and that you're not supposed to...
REHMGive me an example of a bad department or what one might be and how that money is allocated?
HOROWITZWell, so let's look first at what's considered a really, you know, the really strong departments, right? So it's -- I mean, the secretary of state is the guy who oversees all of this. But, you know, there are departments that are kind of almost like the Treasury or the other people who are in charge of investments, and these are often Italians who have their kind of hands on the purse strings, and the secretary of state, more the equivalent of our, you know, what we know as a prime minister, kind of rules all of these, you know, with an iron fist and all his kind of associates.
HOROWITZAnd the people who are perhaps not his sort of people often -- for this last administration, those people who kind of came up to the diplomatic core, the diplomats were kind of pushed to less important places out here. For example, there's a pontifical society for communications which is actually -- if the church was thinking in a different way -- an incredibly important part of the big picture. But because of the kind of older way that they see things, it was a place that they kind of put people who weren't this powerful or who were out of favor.
REHMOK. Let's go to Richard in Baltimore, Md. You're on the air.
RICHARDYes. Hi, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
RICHARDMy question relates to the comment that Father Martin made when -- in the opening segment when he said that the Vatican's relationship with the Jesuits was -- they were always suspicious because of the Jesuits' work with the poor. I found that rather revealing, and I'm not sure, you know, how that jives with the church's mission that they cared for.
MARTINYeah. That's a good question. It's not that the Vatican -- and I'm only talking about certain times in history, say, mostly this late '70s and early '80s, it's not that the Vatican was against our working with the poor. It's more along the lines of what we were talking about later in how we went about working with the poor. You know, the church embraced what was called the preferential option for the poor, and obviously working with the poor is part of the gospel, a foundation of the gospel.
MARTINBut this sort of emphasis on liberation theology, which was very strong and has a lot to teach us, you know, about the way Christ liberates the poor and asked us to work with the poor, moved us sometimes into political arenas that the Vatican found was sort of out of bounds. So it wasn't that we were working with the poor, I mean, 'cause the church does more work with the poor than almost any other institution I know. It was the way that we were doing it and the people that we were affiliating ourselves with.
MARTINAnd frankly at the time, you know, I mean, Pope John Paul, having come from Poland, was, you know, really allergic to anything that sort of smelled of Marxism. So I think that that kind of stained liberation theology, which brought us -- some Jesuits, not all Jesuits -- under suspicion. But I think that time has passed.
REHMAll right. And here's an email from Rick in Rochester Hills, Mich. He says, "John XXIII brought the church into the 20th century with the Vatican, too, something I don't believe was expected when he first became pope. Do you think the potential exist for Francis to surprise Catholics in a similar sense, particularly when it comes to the women and the priesthood, in my opinion, a flagrant shortcoming of today's church." I'm going to give Ross first shot at that.
DOUTHATWell, just quickly because Maureen is jumping at the bit.
DOUTHATI would say it is -- it's -- the consensus in the church in -- I should say, in the church hierarchy is that the specific question of female ordination is something that isn't -- that's -- that isn't within the church's power to do, basically that -- and this is a more complicated theological debate that goes back to the, you know, the priesthood being founded on the 12 apostles who were all male and the fact that the priest acts in the person of Christ in the Mass and that Christ's sex actually makes a difference to that in terms of the -- basically what the liturgy all about.
DOUTHATWith that being said, I think -- and so I think it's very unlikely that you would see Pope Francis announce the ordination of women. And frankly, if he did, it would create a sort of chain reaction of schism that I don't imagine any pope would want to preside over. However, I do think that there is clearly room and space -- and we're talking about the Vatican bureaucracy and so on -- for the church to, you know, have more women in positions of authority in Rome and elsewhere that do not require holy orders. And here -- and so with that, I'll turn -- I'll go to...
FIEDLERWell, I can only hope in my heart of hearts that there's a John the 23rd somewhere under Pope Francis' mantle and where he might indeed have a heart for women's role in the church and an increased role for women. I have -- I've scoured the literature on this in the last 24 hours. I haven't seen him express any opinion about the ordination of women. He probably has. But needless to say, there is widespread theological disagreement with the Vatican on this.
FIEDLERMost Catholic theologians believe that indeed women can be ordained and that the tradition has been misinterpreted by the hierarchy of the church. So I think that what I would hope to see in my heart of hearts is that Pope Francis would call a new council, but not a council like Vatican too where it's just bishops, but a council of the people of God which would include bishops, priests and the laywomen and laymen of the church from every continent and every culture who would come together to discern the future of the church in the 21st century. Now, that would be worth waiting for.
REHMAll right. To Syracuse, N.Y. Good morning, Mary.
MARYOh, good morning. And I'd like to first of all thank you. You have a wonderful show.
MARYMs. Rehm, you're wonderful.
MARYBut I would like to comment. One of your guests earlier commented that the church has already admitted to what they've done, that it was dragged out of them, I think, was his term by the press or by something. I must say, I really disagree with that. I know of cases going on even now where the church is denying what everybody else knows happened. I don't know why they have so much energy invested in pretending something that's not true.
REHMAll right. Let me follow that up with this email from Eileen, who says, "Bishops who covered up crimes of sexual abuse are still in positions of honor and power. Will Pope Francis have the courage to remove them?" You mentioned earlier, Jason Horowitz, that Cardinal Law was seated right behind Pope Francis. I realize that that is his place. That is his church. However, to those here in the West, here in America, to see a bishop who has been ostracized, sent then to Rome and elevated...
DOUTHATDiane, if I may. He was not actually elevated. It is -- it's -- I completely agree that it's, you know, he shouldn't be seated behind the pope. But it's just -- it's basically he was taken from being a cardinal and put in a, you know, purely administrative role running a sort of tourist basilica in Rome. It's not as good as exiling him to a monastery, but it is not the case that Bernard Law has more power than when he was cardinal in Boston. He has perhaps no power whatsoever, I think.
REHMShouldn't he have been...
ROSSHe should've been exiled to a -- he shouldn't have been excommunicated. He should've been exiled to a monastery and, you know...
ROSSBut -- and I'm just saying he's not running the show in Rome, far from it.
REHMAll right. Jason wants to make a comment.
HOROWITZYeah. I -- it's true that Bernard Law has no power now. He's over 80. He can't vote in the conclave. He's the emeritus, you know, titular priest of Santa Maria Maggiore, Saint Mary Major. But it's also true that Saint Mary Major is one of the four great basilicas of Rome. It's one, you know, this is a church of symbols, you know? Symbols matter. And to -- and this is not this pope who had put him there.
HOROWITZBut the fact that he was, you know, given such a prestigious if powerless position still speaks volumes about the tone deafness of this church sometimes. And I think that's what this next pope -- what we want to see from him. Does he have more of a sense for the wrongs that people have done, and what should be the consequences for those wrongs?
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Maureen.
FIEDLERWell, I think most Americans see it as Cardinal Law was sort of kicked upstairs, if you will, after the scandal in Boston. But the thing that I think scandalizes a lot of American Catholics -- here is a church whose hierarchy for years has preached against all kinds of sexual sin, every kind you can think of.
FIEDLERAnd when you're talking about sex abuse, which is also a sin of power as well as a sin that deals with sexuality and done by its own clergy, there doesn't seem to be the energy, the impetus, whatever, to demand the confession, the penance, all the kinds of things that it seems to demand of laypeople who commit sin.
REHMFather Jim, what do you expect?
MARTINI would hope that he takes a very hard line on that. I really do. And I think that this current crop of cardinals, you know, is a crop that has lived through the sexual abuse scandals, and I think there are probably very few of them who haven't heard from victims of themselves. Remember that he's not a simply a prince of the church. He is the archbishop of Buenos Aires, and so he would've dealt with victims.
MARTINHe saw Pope Benedict on his various trips meet with victims. And so I would hope that he sort of eradicates this root and branch. And, frankly, I would hope that he takes action against the bishops, you know, who covered these things up because I think Jason is right. It is seen as a kind of low level position. But we also have to understand that, you know, from an American point of view, it's seen as kind of a sinecure for him to be there.
MARTINI do want to add one more thing. I sometimes wonder if some of these symbolic moments are inadvertent. I mean, Cardinal Bergoglio, his middle name is Maria. He said the Hail Mary last night. I thought out of Marian devotion, he probably thought, wouldn't this be great to go to the main church of Mary, Saint Mary Major? And who knows if he knew that Cardinal Law was going to seated right behind him.
REHMNow, another question: Will Pope Francis have the opportunity to name new cardinals? In other words, to replace those who were in the Curia?
FIEDLERYes, he certainly will. And the first appointment to look for is the secretary of state in the Vatican. That has, up to this point, been a cardinal named Bertone, who is one of the really central kinds of people who've been involved in the infighting. There's a pro-Bertone faction in the Vatican and an anti-Bertone faction in the Vatican.
MARTINI love Italy.
FIEDLERSo possibly replacing Bertone with somebody who really have the skills to take care of that office would be important.
REHMJason, do you expect to see that happen?
HOROWITZYeah. I don't think that there's any way that Bertone stays around. People -- cardinals were asking for Bertone to leave. You know, as of five years ago, they were making pilgrimages to Benedict and asking to please get rid of him. But Benedict stuck with him because I think it's part of that the human thing that he was one of his friends. And, you know, they're all older gentlemen, but Benedict was significantly older than a lot of his cardinals. And he didn't really know them. They knew Bertone.
REHMBut speaking of age, Pope Francis is 76 years old. Are you concerned about his age, Ross?
DOUTHATWell, I think the thing to worry is that, you know, in picking an older pope, you are, you know, there are questions about, you know, how long will he be around? What will his energy level be? And he needs to be feared among some members of the Curia. And an older pope is probably less feared than a younger one would be because his reign is assumed to be shorter.
REHMI hope his reign is good for all people of faith. Thank you so much.
FIEDLERI hope so too.
DOUTHATFrom your lips to God's ears.
REHMMaureen Fiedler, Ross Douthat, Father James Martin and Jason Horowitz, thank you so all. And...
DOUTHATThank you, Diane.
REHM…thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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