The abdication of Pope Benedict XVI presents the Catholic Church with an opportunity to change the direction of the church for the foreseeable future from a dysfunctional system racked by sex abuse and money laundering scandals.
Millions of progressive Catholics are praying for a pope who is a leader with vision better reflecting the way that they live their faith, a pope who will deal progressively with issues such as contraception, abortion, LBGT individuals, ordination of women and move away from the culture of impunity that has not held accountable those who are responsible for shielding sexual abuse.
There is a desperate need for a pope who will renew the progressive policies of John XXIII and the little known John Paul I, whose death after reigning only 33 days was a subject of some controversy when it was revealed that he was opposed to the Catholic doctrine on artificial birth control and voiced his displeasure with the laundering of mafia drug money through the Vatican bank.
Unfortunately, given the fact that Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, and John Paul II purged the church of progressive prelates such as Hans Kung and Mathew Fox, chances are the cardinals will elect an ultraconservative.
If the church is to continue to be a significant voice in the struggle for social justice, the next pope must be willing to address the above stated issues with reason and science as his guide and, most importantly, conduct a thorough independent investigation of the church's role in protecting pedofile priests, letting the chips fall where they may.
May I suggest they start at the top. As with political reform, the pressure must come from the people - in this case the Catholic laity. If as a Catholic you disagree with the church's position on certain issues, you are not alone. Look into Catholics for Choice for more guidance.
Gene Rigelon,Front Royal