Kung is hoping that Francis will be like his namesake and repudiate the power, wealth, and intrigue that has afflicted what he calls the “Roman system.” If the current pope follows Francis of Assisi, then he will take a path different from Innocent III:
In fact, Francis of Assisi represented the alternative to the Roman system. What would have happened if Innocent and his like had taken the Gospel seriously? Even if they had understood it spiritually rather than literally, his evangelical demands meant and still mean an immense challenge to the centralized, legalized, politicized and clericalized system of power that had taken over the cause of Christ in Rome since the 11th century.
Innocent III was probably the only pope who, because of his unusual characteristics, could have directed the church along a completely different path, and this would have saved the papacies of the 14th and 15th centuries schism and exile, and the church in the 16th century the Protestant Reformation. Obviously, this would already have meant a paradigm shift for the Catholic church in the 13th century, a shift that instead of splitting the church would have renewed it, and at the same time reconciled the churches of East and West.
But Kung wonder if the papacy can retrace its steps and take a path not taken. If it does, it will need to measure up to three standards:
Poverty: The church in the spirit of Innocent III meant a church of wealth, pomp and circumstance, acquisitiveness and financial scandal. In contrast, a church in the spirit of Francis means a church of transparent financial policies and modest frugality. A church that concerns itself above all with the poor, the weak and the marginalized. A church that does not pile up wealth and capital but instead actively fights poverty and offers its staff exemplary conditions of employment.
Humility: The church in the spirit of Innocent means a church of power and domination, bureaucracy and discrimination, repression and Inquisition. In contrast, a church in the spirit of Francis means a church of humanity, dialogue, brotherhood and sisterhood, hospitality for nonconformists; it means the unpretentious service of its leaders and social solidarity, a community that does not exclude new religious forces and ideas from the church but rather allows them to flourish.
Simplicity: The church in the spirit of Innocent means a church of dogmatic immovability, moralistic censure and legal hedging, a church of canon law regulating everything, a church of all-knowing scholastics and of fear. In contrast, a church in the spirit of Francis of Assisi means a church of good news and of joy, a theology based purely on the Gospel, a church that listens to people instead of indoctrinating from above, a church that does not only teach but one that constantly learns.
It is hard to look at the Eternal City of Rome, follow the rites and ceremonies of the Cardinals, notice the monarchical associations of the papacy, and find the attributes that Kung desires. But if you take a gander at the OPC, by no means the runt of the Reformed Protestant litter, you would find a church with little wealth (by Roman Catholic standards). As for pomp and circumstance, the selection of a moderator for General Assembly has no smoke (or mirrors unless you consider Roberts Rules ceremonial.
For simplicity the OPC does pretty well, at least if you look at the worship services of most congregations. An attachment to proper exegesis and correct doctrine still dominate liturgical and aesthetic sympathies.
For humility, some might think the OPC (the Only Pure Church or the little church with the big mouth) falls woefully short. But two out of three isn’t bad. And we don’t need our General Secretaries to change names.