I have written you a few letters but never received the favor of a reply. Nonetheless, I continue writing in hopes that someday we discuss pressing issues in the church.
I am inspired to write again now after listening to this weekend’s reading from Jeremiah, “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD (Jer 23:1).” With U.S. Catholics’ mere 25% Mass participation rate that’s dropping as I type, I am starting to wonder if it’s possible for the shepherds to destroy and scatter the flock much more than they’ve already done. Have we not suffered enough from their poor shepherding skills? Is it not time to stop doubling-down on the sheep-scattering tactics and exchange them for exemplary shepherding skills?
Maybe you too feel dismayed at your brotherhood's individual and collective flock-scattering penchant and prowess. Is that why during your recent Latin America trip you expressed hopes in the upcoming Synod on the Family to produce scandalous miracles? Is that why you again exhorted the church’s youth to “make a mess?” Do you believe the church is already such a mess from inept leadership that it would be difficult to distinguish any further destruction at this point?
I write because I’m confused. To quote Ghandi, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.”
Frank, simply put, what are you waiting for? Be the miracle you hope to see! Make the mess you hope gets made!
I offer ten suggestions of miracles and messes you could do today, by mere virtue of the white pointy hats you own and the fabulous chair you sit upon in St. John Lateran’s Basilica.
1. Re-institute married clergy. Nothing needed to do this but the stroke of a pen…specifically your pen. Please take it out, remove the cap, dip it in the papal ink well and scribble away…
2. Re-institute ordaining women as deacons. Again, there’s no obstruction to doing this. Benedict paved the way by declaring that deacons no longer act in persona Christi. While your pen is out please handle this one too.
3. Change Canon Law to remove ordaining women as a grave delict and instead add bishops who mishandle sexual abuse cases. Then please address the numerous bishops guilty of this grave delict.
4. Tell the truth. Dispense with clinging to false biological, medical and psychological teachings as foundations to establishing “truths” about human sexuality. You can’t say you’re the penultimate guardian of truth if you don’t tell it.
5. Change canon law to prevent Catholic employers from denying their employees access to medical care just because they fear it. The medications used to treat many female health issues can also be used for birth control. However, the medication itself is merely a tool. Indeed it is a tool often used to help conceive life. It is one particular usage of that tool to which you object, yet the tool is outright banned. Consistent application of this rule would see the rope cincture around your waist barred since many people have been hanged using ropes. Furthermore having episcopal review boards rather than medical ones determining whether or not women can have certain life-saving procedures performed at Catholic hospitals is just derelict. Stop this practice at once. Scribble that into canon law and make the U.S. bishops fix their medical ethics document to reflect the change.
6. Lift the excommunications hanging over all people. Grant general amnesty since, “Who are you to judge?”
7. Cancel any meetings in Philadelphia that lack women – laywomen – not cheerleaders for church status quo and not only religious women, but regular women who are mothers. They can teach you much about what it means to be a holy mother as you try to lead “Holy Mother Church.”
8. Cancel any meetings in Philly that are exclusively with clergy and all meetings with Archbishop Chaput unless he accompanies you to meet with groups such as Fortunate Families being barred from attending his World Meeting of Families.
9. Take time when you are in Philadelphia to meet with women with such a strong sense of calling that they are willing to endure scorn, rejection and excommunication… Yes, that’s right; meet with Catholic women priests. Understand why they do what they do after you listen to understand what they do. Then make them dinner and serve it to them. This can be done in person and thus save on those expensive charges for overseas cellphone calls you must be racking up with your spontaneous, surprise pope-calls.
10. Update the papal wardrobe to align with the poor – perhaps a nice pair of second hand jeans and a t-shirt from the St. Vincent de Paul store would be in order. These are practical work clothes and require far less bleach and fuss to clean than the flowing white gowns you currently wear… Maybe you can have a big garage sale at the Vatican and sell your white vestments to a traveling band of dentists in dire need of white fabric. It’s just a suggestion.
I think if you did any one of these ten suggestions, you would definitely cause a mess and be seen by some as creating scandal while to most of the scattered flock seem like you just worked a miracle. Isn’t that what you’re going for here? Or are your words just supposed to make good press?
A ewe…still in the flock despite being metaphorically beaten with multiple shepherds’ staffs as they try to run me out of the flock… “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the flock of my pasture…”