We are currently in the most serious times in the recent life of the Catholic Church. In Rome, in the United States, and other parts of the Catholic world; stories of the cover up of misdeeds of an American Cardinal, involving Pope Francis; the findings of a Pennsylvania grand jury on clergy abuse of children; and reports of sexual misconduct in an Archdiocesan seminary have filled the air ways. And we now have bishops calling for the resignation of Pope Francis.
And in the midst of all, I cannot yet put fingers to keyword, and write my own reactions, my own reflections on what is happening now! How does all this negative news affect me? Because I am, as a deacon, a member of the clergy; although our lives are divided among family, work, and service to the Church. I am not really that plugged in to the clerical culture. So how do I react, one foot in Church “culture;” the other in the “real’ world? I have not quite figured that out yet, so my fingers are still. For the moment.
Dear Holy Father:
What are we Catholics are hoping for in the pews? St. Pope John XXIII declared his reason for calling the Second Vatican Council: “I want to throw open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and the people can see in.” Many of us believe that those windows were not opened enough; others hold that after the Council, those windows were shut! In the stale air of a closed Church the clergy sexual abuse scandal became possible; and the various financial scandals involving the Vatican Bank came about more easily. Some of the national Churches, the local dioceses; the Spirit was being stifled because of micromanaging from the Vatican Curia.
So when you were elected as our new Pope, it sent a shockwave through the Church. From the get-go, you showed that you were going to be a very unusual Pontiff; you paid your own hotel bill, you chose not to live in the Apostolic Palace. You have reached out to Cardinals from outside the Curia to set up a special council to advise you on reforming the bureaucracy. You have established a commission to deal with the child abuse scandal. You have begun to clean up the Church’s financial institutions. You have encouraged the bishops to speak freely at the Synod of the Family, and sought input from the worldwide laity.
So what more are we looking for? What I am looking is for more concrete action to back up your inspiring words. I am looking for more bishops to be held accountable for their failure to act in defense of children. I am looking for the laity to have more of a voice on who is appointed to shepherd us in our dioceses. And I am looking for all Catholics to have more of a say in how our parishes and dioceses function. I would like to the national conferences of bishops allowed to have more authority to speak on and to act on issues that concern the Church and country; and not have the Curia always second guessing them. I would to see theologians have more freedom to” push the envelope,” when examining matters of faith, doctrine, and the world. And open discussion, transparent disciplinary actions, should they go “off the rails.”
What I am looking for, Holy Father, what I am hoping for, is that the windows of the Church will once again be open wide, let the Spirit blow in, and set the Church on fire for Christ. And if it scatters again the accumulated dust of ages; if it again shakes the structures of the Church; Holy Father, would that be such a bad thing?