By Hans Küng

Hans Küng

Hans Küng

The Arab Spring has shaken a whole series of autocratic regimes. With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, might not something like that be possible in the Roman Catholic Church as well — a Vatican Spring?

Of course, the system of the Catholic Church doesn’t resemble Tunisia or Egypt so much as an absolute monarchy like Saudi Arabia. In both places there are no genuine reforms, just minor concessions. In both, tradition is invoked to oppose reform. In Saudi Arabia tradition goes back only two centuries; in the case of the papacy, 20 centuries.

Yet is that tradition true? In fact, the church got along for a millennium without a monarchist-absolutist papacy of the kind we’re familiar with today.

It was not until the 11th century that a “revolution from above,” the “Gregorian Reform” started by Pope Gregory VII, left us with the three enduring features of the Roman system: a centralist-absolutist papacy, compulsory clericalism and the obligation of celibacy for priests and other secular clergy. Read the full article at

By Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC

Dear cardinals,

It’s me, Melissa.

When I first began my seminary studies at Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union, I was taught by a priest from West Africa, and sat in class alongside a nun from Iraq, brothers from a fraternal order in South America, and Irish American laywomen from the Northside of Chicago. And I began to appreciate the global reach and inclusiveness of the Church.

Despite our differences, we shared a genuine engagement with Catholicism–not only as a faith, but also as an agent for social change. As you know, Catholicism’s reach extends beyond those of you who hold the reigns of power in Vatican City, and even beyond the Church’s global body of 1.2 billion believers.

Melissa Harris-Perry

Melissa Harris-Perry

As one of the world’s most enduring and influential institutions, the Catholic Church also encompasses all of those around the world who don’t identify with the Catholic faith, but have benefitted from the work of the church and the organizations it has created.

At its best the church has been an advocate for human rights and the dignity of the most marginalized of people–feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and providing care for the sick and disabled. Here in the United States, the Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental provider of health care, human services, and education. For low-income families and students of color, Catholic schools have long been the only alternative for an affordable, quality education.

But cardinals, even as the church has been a channel for good, it is has also has been conduit for injustice around the world. Read the full letter and watch video at

By Philip Pullella, Reuters

VATICAN CITY – The Roman Catholic Church must open itself up to women in the next pontificate, giving them more leadership positions in the Vatican and beyond, according to Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, a senior cardinal who will be influential in electing the next pope.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Cardinal Sandri, 69, an Argentine, also said the next pope should not be chosen according to a geographic area but must be a “saintly man” qualified to lead the Church in a time of crisis.

He said one of the greatest challenges facing the Church was trying to win back those suffering from a “loss of faith” who had “turned their back on God” and the Church of their fathers.

Sandri, an experienced diplomat and past number two in the Vatican bureaucracy, is expected to wield great influence in the choice of the man to succeed Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

“The role of women in the world has increased and this is something the Church has to ask itself about,” Sandri said in his office just outside St Peter’s Square where he heads the Vatican department for Eastern Catholic Churches.

“They must have a much more important role in the life of the Church … so that they can contribute to Church life in so many areas which are now, in part, open only to men … This will be a challenge for us in the future.”

Read the full story on

By Harvey Morris, New York Times

LONDON — As the Catholic Church’s cardinal electors gather at the Vatican to choose a new pope, Muslim leaders are urging a revival of the often troubled dialogue between the two faiths.

During the papacy of Benedict XVI, relations between the world’s two largest religions were overshadowed by remarks he made in 2006 that were widely condemned as an attack on Islam.

In a speech at Regensburg University in his native Germany, Benedict quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor as saying, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

In the face of protests from the Muslim world, the Vatican said the pope’s remarks had been misinterpreted and that he “deeply regretted” that the speech “sounded offensive to the sensibility of Muslim believers.” Read the full article at