Photo courtesy of: AP
Photo courtesy of: AP

By DENISE CROUCH, Guest Writer

Professors Ron Stockton and Tim Kiska, along with alumna and Honors Program tutor Emma Slonina, hosted a panel on Wednesday afternoon in the Social Sciences Building about the Papal election and the future of the Catholic Church.

Playing on a projector screen above the stage, was a live feed of the Vatican. White smoke had already been blown from its chimney, signaling that the cardinals had voted for a new pope. It was unknown when the new bishop of Rome would appear on the balcony before the crowd, so the feed was muted in the meantime.

Just a few minutes after introductions, the panel was interrupted by the announcement of the new pope, Francis I, from Argentina. Now the discussion could move forward.

Stockton, a Political Science professor and non-Catholic, expressed his views on Pope Benedict XVI, the papal election and scandals within the Church.

“It’s obvious that the Curia, the Vatican insiders, have taken control of the church. The pope is largely irrelevant. They’re corrupt, they’re gangsters, they’re sexual deviants,” says Stockton.

He adds that Pope Benedict XVI stepped down not because he was tired, but because he was a failure. His own butler leaked documents to the media exposing divisions and conflicts in the Church. Scandals involving the Vatican’s bank reeked of embezzlement, corruption and money laundering. Rumors in the Italian press claimed the Pope was told he would be indicted and therefore made a deal with Italy’s president. He would step down because even after receiving a thousand page report from three key cardinals explaining how bad the situations was, he didn’t have the slightest idea of what to do about it.

Kiska, a Communications professor and lifelong Catholic, thinks that the area the Church needs to work on the most is crisis communication. When things go wrong, they need to know how to deal with it.

“It aint the crime that screws you up, it’s the cover-up,” says Kiska.

He finds it outrageous that amidst the pedophilia accusations against priests, they are moved from school to school and church to church in an attempt to cover-up the crimes. In a world with Facebook and Twitter, where information can spread so quickly, especially the damaging kind, straight and honest communication is crucial. The longer you cover something up and don’t answer questions, the worse the situation gets. Otherwise, people are generally forgiving.

Slonina, a non-practicing, but church-going Catholic, approached the subject from a parochial view.

She discussed four problems identified by the archdiocese and they’re proposed solutions.

Problem one: social injustice. Solution: Increase Christian service and outreach. Problem two: dwindling numbers in the church. Solution: Evangelism in catechism, youth outreach, lay leadership and keeping Catholic schools. Problem three: lack of priests. Solution: Pray for vocations. Problem four: Failing parishes. Solution: Ask them to be honest and objective about their viability.

Despite these parish woes, Slonina is not deterred from her faith.

She says, “I do have a strong commitment to my parish in terms of that was the community that raised me and I have an obligation to serve the community that took care of me and created who I was essentially.”