Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Dear Brother Francis,

   We are happy that you are coming to America in September, and we expect you to speak clearly and forcefully on the importance of family life, and on the sinfulness of our income inequality.  But you owe us much more.  You have already asked the faithful of the world for our best discernment on marriage and family life.  With all due respect, as you prepare for your visit, and when you come, you owe us the opportunity to help you more fully understand our North American sense of our faith, and with it, our sense of morality.

   Rome does not really understand or trust us North Americans.  The recent scandalous attack on our nuns' leadership is one example.  For another, back in the 1980's, when Pope John Paul II suppressed our bishops' documents on Peace, and on the Economy, he let it be known that our North American sense of the faith was not to be respected or trusted, but needed to be "Roman."   Pope Benedict XVI did not change Rome's attitude toward us.

   Admittedly, our shallow, greedy and sexually charged culture shows us to be heavily "secularized."  But looking more deeply, Rome does not see or appreciate our having any valid spiritual insights concerning our everyday experience of marriage and family--experience gained under very difficult social and cultural conditions.  Rome doesn't understand--or doesn't want to understand--why so many of our young people, and many others, are walking away from the church in large numbers.  Our disaffected brothers and sisters see our church, already disgraced by the sex abuse tragedy, as stultified and unprepared to help Catholics in their everyday struggle for authentic spiritual meaning in terms that fit our society and culture.

   Brother Francis, if you look deeply into our hearts and souls, you will see that very many of us are very sensitively attuned to the "signs of the times," i.e., to God's presence and intentions for us in our everyday society here in the United States.  We are very aware that we live in a culture that is running out of control.  Yes, some of us are caught up in the torrent, including some of our Catholic legislators and TV personalities, who actually foster our soul-dead inequalities for their own benefit.  But most of us are struggling very hard to live faithful lives, with little meaningful understanding, respect or guidance from our clergy, bishops and the Vatican.

   If we North American Catholics are to be an effective force in helping change the immoral social-economic structures of our society, we first need to be an effectively organized force as a fully participating and fully respected part of our own church.

   Brother Francis, you need to openly proclaim our full spiritual dignity and our shared ownership of our church as faithful, discerning laity.  You know that the church believes 
infallibly only when the whole church--all of us together--believe what God is teaching us.  And you know that there is no such accord today--and that we laity are being unjustly blamed for it.  You need to listen to us respectfully when we tell you the everyday experiences of our faith.  We know that our moral judgments are the result of our faith, especially of God's infinite love for us, and also of our best understanding of our own human nature, especially in matters of sexuality and love.  You owe us an open, respectful, contemporary discussion. Here are some suggestions:

1.  Let's start by discussing what for us is already a foregone conclusion.  Faithful Catholic married couples deeply experience the awesome beauty and responsibility of married love. We experience the pressures of today's unjust society and we have maturely discerned and decided that the responsible use of contraceptives is natural, reasonable and conducive to a good and loving marriage.  So let's discuss that Pope Paul VI was wrong when he rejected the valid findings of the birth control commission in 1968, and that faithful Catholic married couples have correctly discerned the truth of this matter.

 2.  Very, very many Catholic couples are working hard to live deeply committed married lives in our shallow culture.  And we know from experience that even the best intentioned marriages can and do die.  Certainly, in divorces one or both parties can be guilty, but also one party can be innocent, and in some cases, even both parties can be innocent.  Do you really believe that Jesus held all married people to perfection, here on earth, here in space/time?  Only God is perfect.

3.  Everyday we experience that our homosexual children and friends are normal, loving persons who have every right to engage in serious, responsible sexual love, as heterosexuals do.  Let's open the way to discuss sexual orientation openly and honestly, using the best understanding of today's science and God's overwhelming love for all of us. Once and for all, let's put aside what expert Biblical scholars know are outworn, incorrect, so-called Biblical "proofs."  Let's accept the updated, contemporary understanding of human nature, and let's open our homosexual children and friends to the opportunity for the fullness of love, as Christ already offers them.

4.  And while we're at it, just declare priestly celibacy to be optional, and then reopen the discussion on ordaining women.  Priests are not the image of the first century, male, Jewish Jesus, but of the eternal, infinite, universal Christ, in whom there is neither male nor female.

   By opening these important moral matters to the fullness of discussion and the light of truth, you will uplift and strengthen all American Catholics in our faith and moral judgments. And you will have enlisted an enthusiastic army, young and old, of ever spiritually maturing
"everyday prophets," who can speak and act, as Vatican II teaches, to elevate our society and culture, and where necessary, humbly and effective correct it, to make it more luminously human in the healing and saving grace of Christ.

   Brother Francis, God told Saint Francis to rebuild his church.  Today, we need nothing less than a deep restructuring of the church, so that all the baptized can claim their rightful ownership of it in accord with our own vocation and graces.  In September, you can more effectively open the way to that restructuring.  If you speak openly and clearly, our timid, reluctant bishops will hear you and hopefully learn how to open the way to this needed restructuring.

   Brother Francis, we are waiting.  Saint Francis is waiting.  Christ is waiting.



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