Why I Won’t Be Writing A Letter To Pope Francis

CS-Crucifix-Pixabay

Everybody wants to be a saviour. Nobody in their right mind sees a victim and doesn’t feel the impulse to rescue and protect them. It’s a universal human trait. And it’s well-intentioned. But, as Dante said, the path to hell is paved with good intentions.

Catholics believe only one man is capable of providing that salvation we all so keenly want, not just for ourselves, but for each other. It’s obvious, but it bears repeating – again and again. Catholics believe Jesus Christ is mankind’s only Saviour.

That truth offers comfort and peace. But it also brings pain, because of the Fall. We should be glad and rejoice in the Truth, the Way, and the Life. But we are not, much of the time.

We Are Not the Saviour

We are annoyed that we are not the saviours. In fact, we don’t really accept it. We want to be the hero. We want glory in this life, not the next. We will be warriors and defenders of truth in the way that is most appealing to us. We will accuse those in power. We will bring forth justice in the way we see fit. We will personally hold evil-doers accountable. We will redeem the victims of sexual abuse. So we can feel like we have done our bit.

We won’t, we can’t. This does not mean complicit silence. It does not mean burying your head in the sand. The systems are in place to hold people accountable. There are people whose job is to be a cog in that system. Each Christian man and woman is called to do his or her job with daily, quiet heroism. That is how we will save – by being the arm and hand in Christ’s body. We will not be the sole hero. We will forgo glory in this life. We will file reports. We will be faithful to accounts given to you. We will escalate things as necessary. We will speak the truth. If we are not directly involved in a diocese in question, we will go to our churches and we will pray and we will raise our children, be good spouses, keep others’ intentions in our heart, and offer our days up to God. We will do right in each small way that we are called to.

None of us will become saints by judging clergy for how they have done their job. None of us will become saints by telling anyone how they have fallen short of God’s plan for them. None of us will become saints by telling others how to be saints. No matter how much it feels like the right thing to do. No matter how much it feels like our duty to speak out. No matter how much it feels wrong not to demand clergy publically pronounce themselves in univocal ways about the horrors that burden their flock so heavily. The devil reverses, and he is smarter than us.

It’s annoying at best, and painful at worst. It hurts that we cannot do anything but do our own jobs properly, and pray that others do too. It hurts that we can’t do our jobs properly much of the time. It hurts that we run the risk of seeing more innocent souls fall victim to the hands of unspeakable evil.

The Holy Spirit is Working

Either the Holy Spirit is working in ways we don’t understand and we have to be humble and patient and allow that to happen, or we have bad clergy. The Church has had bad popes before and it has survived. Laypeople must take ten steps back and refrain from much comment. We don’t have access to all the information. It is impossible to get at the truth, and even more importantly, it is not what God calls us to do.

It is not the average layperson’s job to figure out or make judgments on the scandals. Just like it is not most people’s job to build planes, or rescue children from burning buildings, or whatever specific job each person or group is called to. It is tempting to think we all have a social duty to form an opinion on moral and ethical matters. It is tempting to think we all govern in some way. But in fact, we don’t. We govern over our own small territory, our own, small, list of duties – a list that is very short but already all to unmanageable for all of us.

Scandals Distract Us

God calls us to live the life we have in front of us with virtue. Big scandals distract us from what we really should be doing. We must all pray, and those of us called in specific ways to be involved, must do so. But the vast majority of us are not called to this. And it hurts because we want to save, and we want to protect.

‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather for yourselves and for your children. For look, the days are surely coming when people will say, “Blessed are those who are barren, the wombs that have never borne children, the breasts that have never suckled!”’ (Luke 23:28-9)

It is a particular pain for women. We are called to shelter our children from harm. It is the worst sorrow to realise that we cannot do so. That Our Lady is more mother than we will ever be. That God loves our children far more than we are capable of. That is why we must weep, as Jesus commanded us. Women are called to bear that unspeakable sorrow, to offer it up to the Lord.

San Josemaria Escriva said,

‘A Priest – whoever he may be – is always another Christ… the Holy Spirit has said: “Nolite tangere Christos meos – do not touch my Christs… To love God and not venerate his Priests… it is not possible. Like the good sons of Noah, throw the mantle of charity over the defects you see in your father, the Priest’.

It’s easy to love someone we like. It’s easy to be charitable towards innocent children who are victims. It’s easy to be charitable towards those who deserve it.

What about unconditional charity? What about people who have committed evil? Can we throw the mantle of charity over defects that go beyond venial sins, that strike at the very core of the soul, that cause injury to God?

‘”If I… have not charity,” says the Apostle, “I am nothing.” Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, “if I… have not charity, I gain nothing.” Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: “So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity.”’ (CCC 1826)

Being a victim of sexual abuse is a strong predictor of becoming a perpetrator in the future. These children we feel so awful for – some may have grown up to be abusers. How will we feel about them if that is the case?

“But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even the tax collectors do as much? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Do not even the gentiles do as much? You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.'”  (Matthew 5:44-8)

We must love the perpetrators. This does not mean we don’t want them in prison – it is loving to want for someone to be held accountable, to suffer the consequences of their sins: that is love. But we must want this in the spirit of love. For their own interest, not for our satisfaction, for our protection, for our own good. For their own good. We must love the perpetrators of sexual abuse and wish for the very best for them, wish for them to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

We must pray not just for the victims. Not just for the Church. Not just for the clergy. Not just for justice. True justice is contrition. True justice is redemption. True justice is the Crucifixion – the greatest injustice ever to be committed – this is the path of true justice, it hurts and it feels unfair.

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27 thoughts on “Why I Won’t Be Writing A Letter To Pope Francis”

  1. Hmmmm, no.
    This simply aint gonna cut it anymo’.
    The author may not believe it, but there is, unfortunately, a sexually aggressive cadre of homosexual priests at every level of our clergy.
    This must change. And it will not be pretty. In fact, what’s coming will be brutal.

  2. To clarify:

    I do not mean that anyone who directly knows of or suspects any abuse should not speak up. I would go as far as saying the only right thing to do is to speak up.

    What I said is that if your ONLY involvement is reading about it via news outlets, then perhaps it is unwise to add your voice in the public domain. I also do not think this can be dictated as a hard and fast general rule, and certainly not by me. I am purely expressing reservation as regards the sheer multitude of people who are not recounting a personal experience but are vocalising disappointment and disgust in public. It may well be that they are called by God to do so – I certainly don’t claim to know that they are not.

  3. See any Catholic stats lately, over 70% don’t believe in the Real Presence, that is just the tip of the rotten apple (from the laity). Enough humble pie to go around. It is the laity’s job to sanctify civil society and yet porn sites abound, abortion is rampant, 95% of Catholics have used birth control and upwards of 60% think gay all day is ok. Catholic statistics on actual beliefs as written by them regarding sins crying out for justice don’t merit much justifiable anger.

  4. “Who is going to save our Church? Not our Bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops like bishops and your religious act like religious” – Saint (in my opinion) Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

  5. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints: Or obscenity, or foolish talking, or scurrility, which is to no purpose; but rather giving of thanks. For know you this and understand, that no fornicator, or unclean, or covetous person (which is a serving of idols), hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words. For because of these things cometh the anger of God upon the children of unbelief. Be ye not therefore partakers with them. For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of the light. For the fruit of the light is in all goodness, and justice, and truth; Proving what is well pleasing to God: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of. But all things that are reproved, are made manifest by the light; for all that is made manifest is light. Wherefore he saith: Rise thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead: and Christ shall enlighten thee. See therefore, brethren, how you walk circumspectly: not as unwise, But as wise: redeeming the time, because the days are evil. — Ephesians 5:3-16

    In other news, my bishop just resigned.

    Writing a letter to Pope Francis is about as significant, one way or the other, as writing a letter to King Belshazzar. Belshazzar could not read the writing on the wall (this is the origin of the phrase), and even when it was read to him, he ignored it. If Pope Francis is truly unable to read the signs of the times, no letter from any of us can rectify that.

  6. “Listen, you do-nothing superiors of clerics and priests. Listen, and even though you feel sure of yourselves, tremble at the thought that you are partners in the guilt of others; those, I mean, who wink at the sins of their subjects that need correction and who by ill-considered silence allow them license to sin. Listen, I say, and be shrewd enough to understand that all of you alike are deserving of death, that is, not only those who do such things, but also they who approve those who practice them.” – Saint Peter Damian in a letter to Pope Leo IX

  7. You forget who the Church IS. WE are the Church! God has given us the tools to discern evil……….and commands us to fight it. By aiding and abetting pedophiles, rapists, abusers and other deviants and criminals within the ranks of the clergy, the hierarchy is complicit in their sin. Things MUST change. There is no other option. Business as usual is not acceptable. The future of the Church is what is at stake.

    1. You forgot to mention the majority of abuse…homosexual abuse. But I agree business as usual with the cover-up continuing and not acknowledging the homosexual culture in the Priesthood, it must end.

    2. That is not quite right. Those of us living, whether laity or clergy, are only part of the Church, even taken together as a whole: we are the Church Militant. We are not assured to remain a part of the Church — the Church Suffering or the Church Triumphant — after we die. “Who the Church IS” is Christ Himself.

      This may seem nitpicking, but it is what makes the Church different from, say, the United Way. The United Way is not the mystical body of anybody; it has no identity beyond its living membership; and it is not guaranteed to triumph over the gates of Hell.

  8. I get what you’re saying. Do we really seek God’s will in what HE wants us to do? The truth is, very few seek His will. Too many want to do whatever they want to do…and dictate what others should or should not be doing and the time frame they should be doing such things.

    But that’s the danger of being “on line”. The internet makes it very easy to spend our time griping about what’s wrong, venting our spleens day in and day out. How much of that time could have been spent in prayer? I’ve actually met Catholics on line that berate prayer!

    You are correct. For most of us, all the Lord is going to ask of us is the mundane (Fill these jars with water)…but if we do HIS will, no matter how “useless” it may appear to us…no matter how we can’t figure out how it will help the Church at all…if we do it anyway (Do whatever He tells you)…we’ll see a miracle as well.

    In the end, who do we trust? Ourselves or God?

  9. Our role as laity is to speak the truth and cover up for those who lie whether they be priests, clergy or religious. I do agree that staying focused on who does provide the Truth, Way and Life is key. Everyone is accountable to someone including clerics. They are the shepherds, if they lie, that effects us all.

  10. GOOD. Now you crowned yourself with Sainthood. You are a Holy, Saintly coward.
    Quoting questionable Jose Maria Escriva betrays you. Oh, you do not question anything or anybody. You are just Saint ZOMBIE.

  11. “It is not the average layperson’s job to figure out or make judgments on the scandals.” A really exceptional layperson may point that out, though, and offer lots and lots of advice about what other people should be doing, eh?

    1. See what Archbishop Sheen has to say:

      “Who is going to save our Church? Not our Bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops like bishops and your religious act like religious” – Saint (in my opinion) Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

    2. It is not clear that you caught the “eh?” at the end of my comment. I disagree with Abasolo’s article, at least as regards the glorification of inaction. Furthermore, I question the way she places herself above “the average layperson” and feels free to lecture him about his “job”.

      As a matter of fact, a letter to Pope Francis from most of us would have little chance of reaching him and less of changing his mind, yet there are ways we can pass our dissatisfaction up the “chain of command”.

      The bishop of Wheeling-Charleston (i.e., West Virginia) has just resigned (and had his resignation immediately accepted by Pope Francis) due to “allegations of sexual harassment of adults”. There will be a lot more of this.

  12. “It is not the average layperson’s job to figure out or make judgments on the scandals. ”

    Isn’t this more of the same “don’t say anything ethic” that got us into this mess to begin with?

  13. Pingback: Sex Scandal & Cover-up: VVednesday Second Edition – Big Pulpit

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