"I wish I could see Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise decision to resign on Feb. 28 as a mea culpa for having led the world’s largest Christian body backward for eight years.

Alas, he has made no apology for cementing Roman Catholicism’s reputation as male-centric, homophobic and uninterested in sex abuse scandals beyond their litigation costs."

"That is a sad legacy. The world has needed more. Not just the insular world of the Roman Catholic Church has needed more, but the world itself, for the pope is the public face of global Christianity. With its largest force stuck in the 19th century, providing safe cover for oppression and intolerance, Christianity has a reputation that smaller denominations and individual congregations struggle to escape.

When young American adults are asked what “church” means to them, they answer with words like “harsh, judgmental, intolerant, angry, old and dull.”

I doubt anyone expects an eruption of progressivism in the upcoming papal election. But a sign of moving forward would be welcome to many Catholics — and more than a few non-Catholics. Those crying for kindness and tolerance, justice and courage, aren’t just a ragged bunch of malcontents or anti-Catholics. These are the faithful — not all of the faithful, of course, for faith comes in many forms, some of them quite conservative — but large cadres of 21st century believers yearning for a 21st century church that’s capable of hearing their needs and proclaiming a gospel set free from the reactionary attitudes of self-preservation."