Pick the personality: Do we need a watchdog of doctrine or gentle shepherd for pope?

With the conclave well underway, Catholics across the world wait in anticipation and hope for the election of the next successor of Peter. Black smoke this afternoon in Rome on the first full day of the conclave signaled more waiting for followers who have waited in the cold and rain to witness history.

Two bloggers at Real Clear Religion, Mo Guernon and David Gibson, argue today the two opposite sides of the spectrum on what qualities they hope the next pope will possess in guiding the Catholic Church. Both wish for what is best for the church; however, their views differed greatly.

Guernon thinks that the most effective pope is one who can embody the gentle personality of John Paul I, who “captivated the world in his brief thirty-three day pontificate in 1978 because of his transparent holiness, his hopeful smile, his abiding meekness, and his unfaltering devotion to Christ.” He argues that, in a world that is extremely divided with controversial issues such as contraception, the marginalization of women, and sex abuse scandals, the Catholic Church needs someone to who, "guided by the unerring hand of God, can successfully steer the bark of St. Peter safely through these stormy times."

On the other hand, Gibson thinks it wise to “look for a pope who will talk tough to Catholics (and the world) while shepherding the Curia with a firm hand in order to better police the wayward.”  He writes about three different candidates for the papacy—Cardinal Raymond Burke of St. Louis, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Sri Lanka, and Spanish Cardinal Antonio Canizares—who he feels would be watchdogs of doctrine.

Although the odds seem unlikely, my hope is that the cardinals, led by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, decide on someone who can incorporate both of these personalities. As a young Catholic woman, I firmly believe that the next pope should be one who can acknowledge the needs of the church, listen to people from every background, and guide with strength of doctrine and with the gentleness of Christ. Only with these aspects can our church survive in the future.

What hopes do you have for the next pope? What sort of personality do you wish he will have?

About the author

Caitlyn Schmid

Caitlyn Schmid worked as assistant editor at U.S. Catholic.