Dear Pope Francis I,
Congratulations! I’m glad it was a short conclave, and that Catholics all around the world have a pope just in time for all of the Holy Week and Easter-tide activities.
Now that you have been elected, I feel like I must share my hopes for Catholicism, going forward. Perhaps you will disregard me because I am one of many who felt at increasing odds with the Church and left. Or perhaps you may give my words greater credence precisely because of that. I hope it’s the latter, because there is much the Church can learn from former Catholics in order to better minister to them and to current Catholics. There’s a few issues that are pressing, and a few changes that I hope will occur in the fullness of time.
- Crack down on all of the sexually abusive priests, and all who aided and abetted them by covering up their deeds. Make sure all are being absolutely open and cooperative about it. Don’t tolerate any “well, now I understand just how damaging it was, but I didn’t know then…” weasel comments. (Why, yes, I’m thinking about Cardinal Mahoney. What an asshole.) The Church has lost the trust of many because of the mishandling of sexual abuse cases. It will take radical action to restore that trust.
- Recognize that there are true medicinal therapeutic uses of hormonal contraceptives. While many priests and other Catholics frequently say that it is okay to use hormonal contraceptives even within marriage for medical reasons, that is not what Humane vitae says. The encyclical says that only medicine that provide a cure for the ailment is acceptable. So, for me, that would have meant the removal of my ovaries and uterus in order to cure my PCOS. Obviously that’s not acceptable to many women. I understand that the encyclical was written years ago, but bad medical advice is still given based on this old encyclical. Update it to reflect the fact that the Church is not anti-medicine. I don’t really care if you still think that non-medical use of contraceptives is immoral. I think it’s a good idea to promote NFP–it is healthier in the long run. That is your prerogative, based on your particular interpretation of Scripture and Tradition. I still lean toward that. Don’t rule out various medicine for women who need it.
- Look again at the celibacy rule. Is it helpful or harmful in the long run? It seems to be having negative impacts right now. Not everyone who is called to be priest is suited for celibacy, and there’s something to be said about having spousal support.
- Provide more support to your priests. That’s one thing to learn from another former Catholic that you and others probably wish to forget–Fr. Cutie. I’ve seen similar stories and reports elsewhere that corroborate the charge that the church does not provide adequate psychological, emotional, and moral support to their priests. It is a hard task, but it would be much better if priests could operate in a more nurturing atmosphere. It is hard to provide the help parishioners need if the priests’ own mental needs are not being met. It would give Church the added bonus of more oversight over priests, and the opportunity to remove the dangerous ones sooner.
- Be nice to the religious sisters.
- Don’t ban ex-priests from anything related to theology. For ministers who leave the Catholic Church, currently they’re banned from teaching theology, hosting Bible studies, or pretty much doing any job that there qualified to do. This takes away their means of financial support, which I believe is mean. While they can’t celebrate Mass anymore, but they have years of theology education that can be used for the good of the Church and for all. But that said, most priests leave for marriage, and allowing them to be married priests would reduce this problem.
- Female clergy. I might as well throw this out there while I have your attention, though I doubt anything will change for maybe another millennia or two. Meanwhile, women who feel the call to be a priest are more than welcome in the Episcopal Church.
Thank you for reading and for listening. May God guide you as you face the task of guiding millions of Catholics around the world.