Monday, June 15, 2015

Mercy Begins at Home: An Open Letter to Pope Francis

Dear Pope Francis,

Although I am a mere laywoman, I listened attentively to the video of your talk at the recent priests' retreat (posted below, in Spanish) and I liked much of what I heard.

Yet, as you spoke so eloquently about the need for priests to show a merciful Church to the faithful, to forgive seventy times seven as Jesus taught, my mind kept coming back to how unmerciful the Church has been with its own and I would like to challenge you to do two things to make the Year of Mercy more than just pretty words.

First, I am mindful of the priests who have been not only stripped of their priestly faculties but completely excommunicated in recent years because they had the audacity to publicly express their disagreement with Church teachings on issues such as women's ordination and gay marriage. I am thinking specifically of Nicolas Alessio (Argentina), Roberto Francisco Daniel, aka "Padre Beto" (Brazil), Roy Bourgeois (United States) and Greg Reynolds (Australia), but I'm sure there are others who fit this profile. For these men, who gave up wife and family to serve God's people, this banishment from the table has been the most painful experience of all.

If you really believe, as you told the priests' retreat, that the squabbles that exist in the Church are a sign that the Church is alive, then you must recognize that the presence of these dissenters is healthy. Use the power of your office to lift the excommunication that has been imposed on these men and let them speak their minds.

As you spoke, I was also mindful of the many workers who have been treated unmercifully by Catholic Church institutions in my country -- the United States -- and elsewhere. Workers have been terminated for "offenses" ranging from merely expressing opinions contrary to Church teaching in the social media, to conceiving a child out of wedlock, to exercising their legal right to marry their same sex partner.

I heard your anger as you told the story of the young single mother who cried to you because a priest refused to baptize her baby. You passionately declared that if this woman had the courage to bear her child and not "return it to sender" (abort it), the least the Church could do is baptize that child. Can we not also add that the least the Church could do is not deprive that woman of her livelihood and health insurance at this critical time? These sorts of terminations for private activities that don't impact the individual's job performance need to stop. I implore you, in the upcoming Year of Mercy, to publicly instruct Catholic bishops worldwide to stop the termination of church workers in their diocese without just cause.

If you can find it in your heart to do these two things, many of us will find it easier to believe that your talk of mercy is more than just empty rhetoric.

Blessings and thank you for your inspirational words,

Rebel Girl,
Blogger, "Iglesia Descalza",
June 15, 2015

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