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Keeler: A reading list for Pope Francis I
It’s pretty cheeky to offer reading suggestions to a new pope, especially a Jesuit one. Pretty much by definition, Jesuits read deeply and well.
Still, on the off chance that, in his busy pre-papal life, Pope Francis never got around to reading this book on the papacy by Archbishop Emeritus John R. Quinn of San Francisco, I think it would be a useful addition to his reading list.
OK, some of you may be saying to yourselves: “San Francisco! He must be one of those fringe lefty bishops.”
Hardly. He served as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the same position that Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York now holds. So Quinn’s fellow bishops obviously held him in high esteem. Years ago, I read his book, which details the need for a restructuring of the papacy, to devolve to dioceses and regional bishops’ conferences some of the functions now too tightly held by the Vatican.
It’s not a radical treatise from nowhere, but a thoughtful response to “Ut Unum Sint (That They May Be One),” a 1995 encyclical by Pope John Paul II. In an op-ed Monday, I briefly made an argument for restructuring, in journalistic shorthand. After I wrote it, I came across this piece on Quinn in National Catholic Reporter Online, which provides an excellent summary of his thought, just in case you don’t have time to read his book.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that updating the structure of the Vatican needs to be a significant area of concern for Pope Francis—among many.
It’s hard to imagine what is going through his mind as he begins to grapple with all the many facets of governing a church of 1.2 billion members. He can use a lot of help and a lot of good will. Maybe reading Quinn’s book will be helpful in this one area of concern. Even better, maybe he can give Quinn a call and ask him to come to Rome, with all his restructuring ideas, and talk face-to-face with Pope Francis about how to implement some of them.