How the reforms of Pope Francis are causing a sea change in the Catholic church

Huffington Post reports: When Pope Francis posed his now-iconic question, “Who am I to judge?” in reference to gay people in the Catholic Church, he signaled a sea change in a deeply conservative religious institution reeling from decades of scandal and decline in Europe and the Americas.

The pope’s insistence on simple living, his radical statements about economic injustice, and the arresting photos of him embracing others have effectively transcended religion, at once reflecting and furthering what his champions celebrate as progressive social change.

But beneath the Pope’s headline-catching rhetoric, he has delivered key administrative decisions over the past year that indicate serious and substantial reforms are already underway within the Catholic church.

In an unprecedented move soon after his election, Francis appointed eight cardinals from around the globe to sit on a permanent advisory panel. This group, which is about to meet for the third time, aids Francis in his efforts to “shake-up” the bureaucracy in the Vatican. The panel will also be responsible for creating guidelines on how to address the church’s global priest sex abuse scandal, namely how to handle clergy who have been accused of abuse and how to prevent it.

Francis has also replaced the widely criticized Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, whose tenure under Pope Benedict XVI was marked by a “Vatileaks” scandal that exposed alleged corruption, with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.

Additionally, he has targeted the scandal-prone and notoriously secretive Vatican Bank: He appointed a commission to investigate how it operates, hired secular financial firms to do a third-party investigation of its practices, and recently replaced almost all of the cardinals on its advisory council with a new group to oversee much-needed reforms.

Perhaps the pope’s most significant decision to date was his choice of 19 Catholic leaders slated to become the newest class of cardinals. Nine out of the 16 new cardinals who are eligible to vote for the next pope are from the global south and Asia — including some of the poorest countries in the world such as Haiti and Burkina Faso — and five are from Latin America.

By shifting power away from Italy and Europe, the pope is developing a hierarchy that more accurately represents the realities of the worldwide Catholic Church. [Continue reading…]

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