Stunned by Pope's Decision, Many Embrace the Change

Pope Resigning on Feb. 28, Conclave in March

Monday, February 11, 2013

Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Most New Yorkers were stunned to hear the news that Pope Benedict XVI planned to resign at the end of the month – including Cardinal Timothy Dolan who was appointed archbishop of New York by the pope.

As a Cardinal, Dolan plans to return to the Vatican to take part in the conclave, the behind-closed doors process for choosing the next pope. Although experts say it’s not likely that he will be on the short list of candidates.

“It's like watching your own dad get old and admit that he's not up to all the duties of being the head of a family involves,” Dolan told reporters on Monday, “and there's some somberness there, some sadness there.”

Dolan called Benedict a shy, but approachable man.

Many Catholics in the region felt the Pope’s decision to step down because of age was a responsible decision.

“It’s a brave decision,” Sister Mary Ellen Lacy of Brooklyn who works at social justice lobby NETWORK. “Not many people can say in a public view where they hold so much responsibility and so much admiration can state, ‘You know what? I can’t do it anymore.’”

Outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan on Monday, Lida Pabon said she was stunned by the announcement but felt the church is ready for change.

“I think that it’s the time for new people, for new ways of thinking and for others,” she said.

Benedict's tenure at the Vatican will be remembered for his attempts to reawaken the faith among non-observant Catholics.

Bishop of Trenton, N.J. David O'Connell said the new pope should continue that work. He said the new pope should be someone who has "open arms and bring people back into the church who may have left."

"But by that, I don't mean that I think the next pope should make all kinds of radical changes to the teachings of the church," O'Connell said.

The Reverend Gabriella Velardi Ward is with the association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. Her group operates outside of canon law.  She hopes cardinals pick a leader who will be more inclusive, especially of women:

It will also be remembered as a time of crisis, as revelations deepened under Benedict of decades of priest child sexual abuse.  

Benedict met with victims and said the church must "do everything possible" to ensure such crimes never happen again. The Vatican updated its legal code and told bishops' conferences around the world to come up with guidelines to prevent abuse. But Benedict never admitted any personal or Vatican failure. And he never took action against bishops who ignored or covered up the abuse.

Benedict's papacy was also contentious because of a crackdown on American nuns accused of straying from church doctrine in pursuing social justice issues. 

The Reverend Gabriella Velardi Ward is with the association of Roman Catholic Womenpriests. Her group operates outside of canon law.  She hopes cardinals pick a leader who will be more inclusive, especially of women.

"This can be an opportunity to revitalize the Roman Catholic Church," Velardi said. "And I hope that's the way it goes. But it can also become a further and stronger entrenchment of the current policies, and we'll have to wait and see on that."

At Fordham University, students had mixed reactions:

Terrence O’Toole, 22, is from Cleveland, Ohio, where he was brought up Catholic.  He is studying fine art with a focus on architecture.

 “I would love to see some more accepting stances on homosexuality, on women in the church, and a more transparent structure to the church, that I can relate to.” 


Brooke Eyer is a freshman at Fordham. She hopes a new pope will be open to considering some changes in the church. She believes that priests should be allowed to get married, and that a focus on integrating family life into the church will bring more young people into the Catholic Church.

“I think he definitely needs to be more open to hearing what we have to say. I think that would definitely help more people get involved.”


Michael Martinez, 22, is a student intern for Fordham Campus Ministry. He hopes that the next pope will be from a poor country, because he thinks that the church needs to focus on those who are suffering. He thinks this next pope will be a “revolutionary pope” who focuses on social justice and helps the church understand its situation and place in the world.

“A lot of people I think have lost hope, that the church has gone astray, or that the church really can’t adapt to its situation right now.  But I really am hopeful that the church will make the right decisions when the time comes.”

Tom Grilli doesn't believe the next pope will change any fundamental Catholic values, and believes the next pope will be conservative. Still, the right person could do a lot to mobilize Catholic youth around his faith, he says. His choice for the next pope? New York City’s own Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

“He’s charismatic… He came to Fordham and he was interesting and funny... I think he's a good leader… I think he'd be a great pope.”

Lauren Olsen, 19, said she thinks the next pope will have to confront hard issues like gun control and abortion. She said she hopes he will continue in Pope Benedict XVI’s footsteps by upholding the Catholic tradition.  She hopes that the next pope will be able to connect the church’s stances on these controversial issues to church doctrine in a way that is clear and concise and helps young people understand why the church takes those viewpoints. But  she hopes the church will show it can adapt to modern times by electing a pope from Africa.

 “I think that would be awesome. I mean, it would reflect the values that I'm sure are universal, that race, religion, all that kind of doesn't matter when it comes down to it.”

Photos by Christine Streich.

With the Associated Press.

Social responses: We are asking you to describe the characteristics you'd look for in the next Pope. Here's what you're telling us:



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Comments [21]

Celine Goessl from Greenleaf, Wisconsin

I pray for a Pope who will be deeply prayerful, be in contact with reality as "people person" and share leadership in any way that he can. We look at where the church is most vibrant today and South Americas and Africa come to mind. The monarchical line must be broken so that we once more become the Body of Christ!

Feb. 13 2013 11:06 AM

Perhaps the next Pontiff should simply embody honesty above all other values and throw open the doors of how this ancient, sacrosanct conclave conducts the business of the Church.
There is no Cardinal today without taint in terms of the sex scandal and many will claim divine guidance as they seek the highest position, but the human lust for power and glory has eclipsed many noble intentions.

Besides, Benedict's auxiliaries will be discreetly pulling the strings from a "nearby monastery". Time to check out Morris West's "Shoes of the Fisherman" at your local library!!

Feb. 12 2013 09:24 AM

Why has no one yet connected the dots with Mahoney in LA? Here you have a retired cardinal whose criminally felonious actions have caused him to be censured by a bishop, The trail leads to the Vatican. Similar circumstances lead to the Vatican from all over the world. Mahoney is just the tip of the ice burg of criminal actions by the hierarchy in protecting criminal priests. There is great truth in the saying "all roads lead to Rome". Is Ratzinger a criminal?

Feb. 12 2013 05:44 AM

I'm an atheist, a true rationalist but I respect the Pope as a human being overwhelmed by the huge scandal primarily brought by the pedophile priests. I'm grateful to the hundreds of monks who copied the classical philosophy masterpieces although in contrast with the catholic orthodoxy. I think Pope Benedict XVI as bent on his knees because the load bore on his shoulder. A man in conflict between the need to hold the Catholic orthodoxy (i.e. the opposition to the same sex marriage) facing the disgusting wave of the pedophile scandal. I'm going to understand the inner conflict of Benedict XVI because the resignation of the Pope could be seen as a failure of the Holy Spirit. I respect the Catholic Church as the majority of the other religions and I think that the only way to restore a good catholic ethic is to be committed to the defeat of poverty (i mean not in a marxist way as a lot of priests did in Latin America). At the same time the new pope should be open to the same sex marriage as general expression of love. A new evangelisation in name of the poverty and love (in literal meanings). It's an hard way but it's the only road to restore the credibility of an undeniably important institution as the Catholic Church.

Feb. 11 2013 09:46 PM
Roe from Bronx

I would like the next Pope to be Christlike, the personification of love one another.
I would also like to see Benedict brought to justice, as well as all those who covered up the abuse.

Feb. 11 2013 08:21 PM

The Pope is resigning - who cares! Maybe a few more kids will be spared from abuse - not likely long as parents give up their young sons to be altar boys. The whole Catholic thing is nothing but brainwashing!!

Feb. 11 2013 07:52 PM

This Pope has been brought down because of the dogged courage of the victims of child rape and pedophilia by Catholic priests all over the world. The Vatican took control of the files of the pedophiles, and buried them at the Vatican. Those files need to be turned over to prosecuting authorities, and the church needs to direct all its members to cooperate fully with those authorities. Child rapists and molesters must be prosecuted and sent to prison, and the victims must be allowed to use the evidence from the Vatican in their civil trials for damages against the church.

The bizarre man-created doctrine of celibacy is largely responsible for the rampant pedophilia inside the church, and that doctrine should be renounced. The hatred of women in the church hierarchy is also responsible for the pedophilia, and the church must make women priests. All victims of child abuse should be very proud of the courage of those who have pursued the Catholic church for decades. There is no question this pope has been brought down by the crimes of priests and the church role in covering up those crimes and providing sanctuary for rapists.

Feb. 11 2013 06:44 PM
Mary Gallagher from Kerhonkson, NY

I would like the next pope to be a man who has the imagination, good sense, and depth of understanding of human nature to welcome women to the priesthood and openly gay, bisexual and transgender people to the church; and to throw out the cruel and unworkable rule of celibacy for priests.

Mary Gallagher

Kerhonkson, New York

Feb. 11 2013 06:03 PM
Bill King from Elizabeth, NJ

A more left social POV maybe not endorsing Same Sex Marriage inside the church but not opposing it outside. Open to ordination of woman and the understanding that birth control is not abortion.

Feb. 11 2013 03:49 PM
sherriemorgan from New York, NY

A vagina.

Feb. 11 2013 03:31 PM
Andres from NY

Come on WNYC... you guys changed the picture of the pope blessing the devil (AKA John Corzine). That was a good picture... I was going to make that my profile banner on facebook... COME ON... >:|

Feb. 11 2013 02:13 PM
Sue from brooklyn

In response to the question "Why haven't popes resigned or returned in the past." I liked to think of the papacy as a meta-godly ascencion, so that the failure of the physical form should have no bearing on the man in position. In the past, popes have remained in their seat even while they were incapacitated, and their bishops executed the work. That's mysticism, not modern medicine :-)

Feb. 11 2013 11:16 AM
Emmanuel from Bk

This an utter disgrace for humanity and Catholism that a major religions highest office which for thousands of years received unquestionable love and devotion has succumbed to new age corporate crisis management which God only knows will change anything.

Feb. 11 2013 11:14 AM
Tom from upper west side

Keep in mind: Traditionally, the Pope (and other Western monarchs) have held sway because they believed their positions came directly from God - and, hence, could not/should not be renounced before death.

Feb. 11 2013 11:12 AM

He gave up the papacy. To all the Catholics out there, what are you going to give up for Lent now?

Feb. 11 2013 11:11 AM

This man was despicably corrupt. It would be nice to have a Pope who actually disbursed some of the massive pile of wealth the Vatican is sitting upon, to help the poor.

I'm not holding my breath.

Feb. 11 2013 10:35 AM
Rat-Zinger from NYC

The previous Pope was a tough act to follow and this pope to me always remained very cold and distant and rigid in his views.
We also know much more about his knowledge of the child-sex goings on the church, he had a hand in the cover ups...good riddance to you mr. ratzinger.

Feb. 11 2013 08:49 AM
shakerdom from San Francisco

The Church will be hard-pressed to find a man of equal honor, intellect, and elegance. Even if he didn't swat Bloomberg with burning incense.

Feb. 11 2013 08:05 AM
Ed from Larchmont

We love the pope, a sad day, many are crying. But his physical strength has been declining, trouble walking, and as he said, the pope needs to be fit mentally and physically to address the fast-moving issues of the world today. There isn't time for delay.

A wonderful pontificate - three enyclicals (one on love, one on hope, one on faith) at least, a three part biography of Jesus, restored the Latin Mass. Set up the Anglican Ordinariate, a big success, and a template for future ordinariates. Courageously spoke the truth on the issues of the time. Traveled around the world to strengthen the church, including at World Youth days. And worked since 2001 to cleanse the church of pedophile priests, which has largely been done. He is so brilliant.

Ad multos annos!

When the most powerful person in the world resigns, it's news. And it shows that the papacy isn't about power, but about service. As Pope Benedict said at his election, 'I am just a humble servant working in the vineyard of the Lord'.

Feb. 11 2013 08:04 AM
kevin from ULS

are abused children any safer either way? archaic and irrelevant institution,and that's about the best i can say in regards to the papacy.

Feb. 11 2013 07:50 AM
Andres from NY

Is that Jon Corzine getting blessed by the pope? Wow...

Feb. 11 2013 07:41 AM

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