A new Pope
Apart from congratulating myself on my perspicacity on predicting a Latin American Pope on the basis that it needed to be shipped out of Europe safely and that meant to a place that mirrors Europe and speaks a Latin based language hence the Americas, I, like many, am pondering what this particular election means...
What it does not mean is any radical shift in the doctrinal teaching of the Church on matters beloved of liberals and obsessed over by conservatives. Sex remains conflicted. The Church will continue to exhort and the faithful will nod politely and continue to ignore the Magisterium.
The chinks of light are that Pope Francis is a Jesuit and committed to social justice.
The former gives him a commitment to a conscious, disciplined and structured pattern of spirituality that is designed and meant to deliver concrete results. Jesuit spirituality is not a path of exhortation and wishful thinking but a measured, thoughtful and imaginative path for evoking, responding to and channeling grace. The Church is, to quote St Benedict, 'a school for the Lord's service' and that pedagogy is meant to deliver results.
The latter gives the Papacy the opportunity, alongside a renewed emphasis on spiritual formation, to develop a real 'edginess'.
The truly counter cultural edge of the Church is not to be found rummaging through people's bedrooms but asking deep and meaningful questions about what they do at work, with the money they earn and about the structures of their economic life. 'Economic' life seen both as the organisation of the 'home' and of the 'polis'. It might not be seemly for a Jesuit to be seen consorting with a Dominican but if the Pope chooses a Franciscan mantle - of poverty and simplicity - he might like to add a Dominican one of deeply questioning the arrangements of the world that lead us away from St Francis' idealism.
He might care to begin with a global financial system ill-equipped to bring either stability or justice to the world.
I remember my first trip to Dublin and sitting on a bus and facing a fellow traveller (Dublin buses were designed to facilitate conversation) and being asked by him, brandishing a newspaper, 'Don't y'r think it usurious what these here credit card companies are charging?' (This was before the era of the Celtic Tiger and his subsequent extinction). "As St Thomas Aquinas says in the 'Summa Contra Gentiles'" followed by a swift and erudite criticism of the notion of 'interest."
It would be great if the new Pope took up these cudgels, not only the importance of focusing on the poor (in a charitable way) but of the rigorous Catholic social tradition that questions our modern arrangements that generate poverty, social inequality and ecological injustice.
A good attack on usury would be a great place to start for not only does it distort our economic relations but it places a crippling burden on our ecology!
Where better for a Francis to start.