However, since the pope has never taken any of my other advice, perhaps I shouldn’t rely on faith to justify a conclusion devoid of evidence.

How much faith do I have that the next pope will be significantly better than the current one? Not much, because Benedict appointed more than 57 percent of the cardinals who will choose his successor.Nevertheless, I remain optimistic, but only because the papal improvement bar is set so low.

Why should I even care who the next very fallible pope is? Thanks to the HBO documentary Mea Maxima Culpa, and other revelations, the world is finally paying attention to pedophilia within the church, and the next pope won’t have as much cover-up freedom as previous popes.

If Catholics choose to be counseled about marital or sexual difficulties by celibate priests, that’s their right. But I’m amazed by a church that opposes both abortion and condom use that reduces the number of abortions; that requires celibacy before marriage, yet opposes masturbation, which makes it easier to remain celibate; that requires married women to be fruitful and multiply regardless of circumstances, but prevents church leaders from being fruitful and multiplying; that encourages monogamous marriage to avoid promiscuity, yet opposes monogamous marriage for committed gays.

I especially worry about an increasingly politically engaged Church that tries to impose its religious prohibitions (contraception, gay marriage, stem cell research, etc.) on non-Catholics. If a pope can ignore the evidence and argue that condom use increases the risk of AIDS spreading, I can argue against a church that is helping to spread a virus that infects the rest of the world, not just its faithful sheep. I wish Catholics would ignore the pontiff when he pontificates theologically, and even more so when he pontificates politically.