Friday, September 25, 2015

An Open letter to Pope Francis

Dear Pope Francis:

I want to be quite clear at the start that I speak as an active member of an American progressive Protestant denomination… and I  want to say that I have been pleased and surprised by many of the changes that you have brought to the Catholic church. 

It is refreshing to have a Pope who lives a simple life and seeks to educate us all by serving the poor and forgotten of the world.    I read in the press about how you choose to eat with the homeless of Washington DC rather than the legislators.  How you ride in a simple car rather than a great limousine.  How you went into downtown Rome to eat Pizza and to buy eyeglasses. Hurray for you!

I love to hear your voice when you are speaking to the US Congress, the UN, or a school in Harlem N. Y…. There is a gentleness and a strength even when you speak words that may be challenging or difficult for us to hear.  I was cheering when I hear (most of) your what you had to say to the Congress.

You have also taken an active position of important global issues. Your stand on Global climate change is so encouraging to hear.  I am convinced that many in America who are opposed to considering climate change at doing so for their own personal economic gain (If you are from a coal or oil producing state the last thing you want re national policies to limit carbon emissions.)  You recognize the human effect of climate change of rising sea levels, of how global climate change will lead to desertification and mass displacements of people.  You recognize how human greed drives many of our economic decisions....which affect our global atmosphere.

You keep reminding us of the great social challenges of our time not as a matter of numbers but to “see the individual faces” of those involved. …Of the lives being saved or harmed as we make our policy decisions.  I commend you for your stand on immigration and displaced people the world over.  I was thrilled by your message to Europe that each parish should take in at least one immigrant.   Whether the issue is immigration from Syria or Mexico, from the effects of global climate change, or looking at the effects of unjust economic policies, you side with the poor and the powerless.  I say “amen” to your telling us that we should seek to prevent and to end wars, and arms sales to those engaged in war.

I feel encouraged when I read that you recognize the social cost when money becomes concentrated in the hands of a very few, while the middle and lower economic groups are being squeezed harder and harder.  Some people is America become confused about what a humane economic system should be.  You teach the way of Jesus who bade us to care for the poor and destitute, the outcast and the stranger … who warned us how the lust for wealth destroys the inner person.  Top heavy capitalism is just as damaging to society as some of the highly controlled governments  we have seen in the last 200 years.

While many of your positions give me hope for the future of the Catholic Church and for the Christian Church generally.  I have a very hard time understanding why you take some of your positions.  I’m sure that the Vatican is still deeply driven by tradition and I’m sure that there are Catholic church politics that most of us know nothing about.  I wish that I could know your deep down real opinion on some of these matters.

In America, and in fact in many Catholic countries, Catholic priests have been guilty of horrific sexual crimes against young children.  Often the scars of these encounters extend into later life. I felt outraged to hear your position describing the “courage of the Bishops”!   Sure they may have had uncomfortable press to deal with –But that hardly equals the grave damage done to the children.  Now I read that you may meet with the parents of affected children.  That is not enough. I ask you to do justice to those deeply hurt by the guilty priests.

Also I find it hard to understand how you could name Father Serra, of early California missions, to be a Saint of the church.  Do you not read the story of this man?  Working with the army of Spain/Mexico whole native tribes were subjugated… essentially enslaved...forced to work on the lands of the Missions.  For minor transgression they were flogged Sunday after worship at the front door of the Mission church in front of the throng. Indians were forced to attend mass even though it was in a language they could not understand.  The Mission fathers and the others from New Spain brought diseases that decimated whole tribal groups.  Valuable traditional cultures were destroyed and lost.  This man was no saint ...he has a lot of sins to answer for.

For someone who shows such compassion for the poor and needy I am surprised that you don't see the value in birth control. If you really want to reduce abortions this is the first thing to change.  No human life is destroyed if contraceptives are used – the egg and the sperm are simply prevented from joining in the first place.  If you seek to strengthen families and to reduce poverty this is the first thing to change.  Please reconsider.

And finally – I hear of priests who must  service 4-6 separate churches because there aren’t enough priests to go around.  In my Protestant church one of my pastors is a woman of spiritual and social strength who is an effective minister  to her church.  This is the 'elephant in the room' that the Catholic church needs to consider.

Thank you for listening.  I still feel heartened by much of your message to the world – and I still support much of what you do.  I have the strong feeling that you are someone with whom I would like to share a beer and for us to get to know each other better.  I have the feeling we would agree on more than we disagree...

With all best wishes from one interested California Protestant

John Zlatnik