Open Letter to Pope Francis: A Cri de Coeur from a Convert
“Dear director, dear Riccardo, why would I ever write these things to you? Because last night I couldn't sleep. And because I’d like to understand – and ask the readership of Bussola a question: What more has to happen in the Church for Catholics to stand up, once and for all, and shout their indignation from the rooftops? Attention: I am addressing individual Catholics, not associations, secret meetings, movements, sects which for years have been managing the brains of the faithful for the benefit of third parties, dictating the line the followers have to take. .... No, no: here I am making an appeal to individual consciences, to their hearts, their faith and their virility. Before it is too late.” (Mario Palmaro, Letter to Riccardo Cascioli, Director of La Nuova Bussola Quotidana, 8 January 2014)
Dear Holy Father,
It is with agony of heart that I decide to write this open and candid letter. And I shall talk about things that I usually, under normal conditions, never would have made public. I do it – at least I propose to do it – for the good of the Church, for the greater Glory of God and for the salvation of men. You will judge.
This night, I could not sleep. I worry about our Holy Mother the Church. Throughout the year 2014, especially by publicly praising Cardinal Walter Kasper's proposal for allowing “remarried” divorcees to receive Holy Communion, you have opened the door to much confusion about the moral teaching of the Catholic Church and much imprudence on the part of the Church's hierarchy. Several statements coming out of the Synod of Bishops on the Family in October of 2014 have made that confusion even clearer. And then, in December of 2014, you yourself gave an interview to La Nacion, where you yourself suggest a laxer attitude of the Church toward those who remarried outside the Church after a previous divorce, in saying: “Communion alone is no solution. The solution is integration.” You want them, as it now seems, not only to receive Holy Communion, but also to fully partake in the life of the Church, as lecturers at Masses and as godparents of children.
This kind of approach would mean to bypass or offset sin – or even condone it. It would blur the distinction between someone who lives in the state of sanctifying grace, thus pleasing God by following his Commandments and Counsels, and someone who objectively lives in the state of sin, thus displeasing God by his disrespect for God's Law and Wisdom. Such a path thereby would cause anarchy and destroy the moral foundation of the Catholic Church. It would come soon to the ethos of “Anything goes.”
If “remarried” couples can receive Holy Communion, why cannot any other sinner do so who also refuses to repent and to make amends? An habitual drunkard, an habitual wife-beater, an habitual criminal, or a woman who killed the baby in her womb and does not at all repent? Why should any Catholic listen and follow any laws of the Church any more when there will be no moral sanction against him in any way?
And what about the words of Jesus Christ Himself? Do they not matter any more? If one would change the Catholic law regarding adultery, one would defy Christ Himself.
Following Mario Palmaro's invitation, I, too, resist now publicly the direction in which you seem to intend to take the Church.
Let me explain why.
I am a convert of ten years, born in 1972 and raised in Germany and now living in the United States. I came out of a world that is now more and more subverting and invading, if not permeating, the life of the Catholic Church and a world to which you now seem to bow down and to pander. I grew up without any faith, from a broken family, in a cohabiting, aborting, divorcing and selfish world. I did not even know fully the Ten Commandments. I certainly did not live them. Nor did I have an intact family to give me a strong identity, a safe haven, or moral guidance. This way of life led me into many an impasse and even into depression. It was when I met my future husband that the light of Christ seemed first to enter my heart, slowly but steadily.
There were two very important parts of the Church's life that were channels of grace for me and for my being more strongly attracted to her – and this was previous to my having a truly supernatural faith. First, there was the beautiful traditional liturgy, the Mass and the sung Divine Office with its Gregorian chants; secondly the Church's own moral teaching, with its fuller understanding and truth about human nature.
Having lived the unrestrained life without regard for sin or any deeper loyalties, I realized that this road only leads to despair and final discouragement about any enduring love or about any stable and rooted way of living. When, for example, I studied the moral teaching of the Church concerning chastity and the importance of it before marriage, and also about the indissolubility of that sacramental Vow, I realized, if only still in natural terms, the truth of it all.
The Catholic Church's moral teaching is a healing balm for all those souls lost in pride, sensuality, disloyalty and disregard for the well-being of their children. This selfishness that makes one leave one beloved companion and move on to another person when something is amiss – disregarding the need and yearning of the children of that previous bond for their own warm and stable home – is also damaging to the souls who commit and sustain these selfish deeds. When they sin that way, they are less free. Sin is not good for man. That is what I gradually came to see. I came to see that, only when one keeps chaste before marriage and thereby stays away from a premature physical attachment to a loved one and only when one has the clear mind to make a commitment for life when marrying someone, only then, with grace, will a bond be well prepared to last. The mind has to be prepared to know that whatever the problems are that occur in a marriage, there will always be a way together. “In good and bad times.”
I also realized, having previously been an ardent student of the neo-Pelagian Enlightenment of the 18th century, that we human beings do not only need abstract ideals but very clear instructions of how to lead a good and even better life. It is not sufficient to speak about the beauty of the human race and fraternity and love and so on, one has to know how to get truly closer to these goals. The Church is here to teach us and to raise us above our fallen human nature with our sinful propensities and its strong inclination to selfishness and despair.
My own personal life is a witness for that. The Church with her precepts and counsels pulled me out of the mud of sin and selfishness. And now, Holy Father, you appear to pull the Church down into the mud. You tell the sinner that he is being and doing rather well just as he is, after all. You do not raise us to the higher standard of Christ, as the Church as the teacher of nations has always loyally done; you let us sit where we are, comforting us – or tranquillizing us – in our sin. There lies the cruelty of sentimentalism, which is no true mercy!
A laxity toward the Commandments and Counsels of God will only lead toward more sin. That is what we have ourselves experienced, we children of the '68 cultural revolution in Germany. We were insouciantly allowed to play in the mud, and to act accordingly in our complacency and sloth. The consequence was an inhumanity. Many parents and teachers at the time did not want to punish their children any more, nor to put just punitive sanctions upon them when they misbehaved, and, as a consequence, immoral and inhuman behavior flourished. I myself witnessed the consequences of such permissiveness at school when a girl in my class was mobbed by the classmates at a tender age for the simple reason that she tried to be a good and constructive student. The teacher in his laxity did not at all resist that evil, so that it soon came to pass that the girl herself had to leave the school, instead.
But here we must now deal with the issue of souls and their salvation. Will you as the head of the Church help souls to get to heaven if you comfort them in their sin? Are these the things Saint Ignatius of Loyola taught his Jesuits? And is it helpful if you make things vague and ambiguous, unclear and equivocally confused? How many couples who have been struggling in their marriages for a long time but have loyally still stayed together because of the full teaching and truth of Christ will now, after your own recent words, as well as after some of the statements of the Synod of Bishops, slide into laxity and let go of their marriages, thinking that there is now a “second chance” for them, after all? What if you temporarily lead one out of despair, but then lead him into presumption, which is, with despair, one of the two primary sins against the virtue of Hope? You will have to answer for each of these souls one day before God, and I beg of you to meditate upon what I am trying to say. I can tell you that your way is not going to work. Only the call to conversion and the clear instruction of how to do it and strive to sustain it – recalling also the great Saint John the Baptist – will lead souls to heaven. Please do not pander to the sinner; raise him up, rather, and draw him out of sin! This is what a good Catholic priest did with me, and I remain abidingly grateful to him for doing it.
I beg you, Holy Father, to call out to this world in sin, which is soaked in so much inhumanity, because it does not have any more a teaching and a nourishing (and a sometimes rebuking) mother to remind it of God's rules. The Laws of God are good for us! Show the sinning world how to be better. Show all these cohabiting and divorcing people how to become loyal. Loyal to their spouse, and most of all, before God, loyal to their little children. Do not allow us to open a broken breach further, but, rather, help us to close it again and to heal it.
Call out to the parents to restrain themselves in their selfishness and to look first to their children and to their greater good. Divorce is the death for the soul of a vulnerable little child, of his hopes and securities and loves. I speak from experience. I also speak as a mother here. How do you want my husband and me to teach our own children about the Ten Commandments and about our duty to be truly sorry for our sins when we go to confession, when in the same time the Church might soon allow those who disobey God's Laws to be openly permitted to receive Holy Communion?
Raise us up, all of us sinners. Call us to holiness, a holiness that is grounded in a deep love for Christ and His Mother, and impart to us a clear instruction about how to be good and better. In conclusion, I quote again Mario Palmaro, whose invitation to forthright resistance I herewith follow, and whose outcry before his death pierced my heart and the hearts of many others.
“The fact that a pope is 'liked' by people is completely irrelevant to the two-thousand-year logic of the Church: the pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth and he has to please Our Lord. This means that the exercise of his power is not absolute, but is subordinate to the teaching of Christ, which is found in the Catholic Church, in Her Tradition and fostered by the life of Grace through the Sacraments.”
I shall continue to pray for you, Holy Father, every day. And I shall in the meantime, in this valley of tears, trust also the faithful words of Mario Palmaro:
“In some little, out of the way church there will be always be a priest who celebrates the Mass in a holy way; in a little apartment a solitary old woman with unshakeable faith will say the Rosary; in a hidden corner of a House of Divine Providence a Sister will look after a baby considered by all as having no worth. Even when all seems lost, the Church, the City of God, continues to radiate its light on the City of Man.”
I ask you, Holy Father, to radiate the light of the Faith and of God's Love to the world by speaking the truth to the world – that part of the Creation in revolt against God – and by showing the world where it goes wrong, and to do it even at the expense of losing your current popularity and seeming good-standing in the world. The world needs the full witness of the Catholic Church even more than ever, it seems. Without compromise, and with the full truth. Then you will receive much trust, an enhanced formative authority, and true respect.