“Unprecedented” gets thrown around a lot today, but what’s happening in the Roman Catholic Church truly is unprecedented—scandal of historic proportions, which is saying something when you’re talking about an institution that’s been around as long as the RCC.
Pope Francis and Church leadership face serious questions about what they knew and didn’t know about sexual abuse allegations, and their answers have not been particularly substantive, when they have bothered to answer at all.
Moments like this provoke a lot of responses: disgust, outrage, fear, cynicism, etc. But the strangest so far may have come from John Piper, who has called for a new pope. He’s not alone there—several people have called on Pope Francis to step down. But Piper’s going a step further, suggest that the new pope be … not Catholic.
Qualifications for the new Pope that would bear most fruit. He should believe that
justification is by faith alone,
baptism is a sign not a cause of regeneration,
Christ is at the Lord’s Supper by memory and faith not physically,
the Bible alone has final authority not the pope.
— John Piper (@JohnPiper) August 30, 2018
The ecumenical divide is as old as the Reformation, and these points have been a sore spot for centuries. In the U.S., much of the old division has given way to something of a family spat with Protestants and Catholics disagreeing on certain theological points like transubstantiation and the authority of Rome, but still generally willing to make common cause with each other. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Reformation is over, no matter how dire the current scandal.
There are a lot of things that the next pope should be, whenever and however the Catholic Church decides to get one. We can certainly hope that he will be honest and courageous, willing to root out the Catholic Church’s ancient habit of covering for its own at the expense of innocent victims. But grandiose proclamations about how a Protestant pope would bear more fruit do not, shall we say, line up with observed reality.