Most Holy Father,
Yesterday when the white smoke signaled to the world that a New Pope had been chosen I allowed myself a few optimistic thoughts. I am not Catholic and frankly in the last 20 years or so I have turned my back to all religion. When that white smoke began to billow I felt hopeful for the influence that the Church has on today’s world. I felt hope for those who desire a community of faith. I felt optimism for those who want to believe in a divine and fatherly entity that connects themselves to you. For a moment I actually allowed myself to want a faith system that I can share with my family, one that binds us together in a foundation of love. I wanted that “something” to turn to when my child is troubled and when or if my marriage falters. For a brief few moments yesterday I allowed myself to believe that by some beautiful miracle, the Catholic Church might begin to represent something that I can believe in.
I’ve begun to see religion more as a tool of manipulation than as a guide for life. In my mind, the Catholic Church that my mother held so dear began to represent an old male dominated entity that refused to acknowledge a changing world and remained anchored to beliefs that holds me as a woman in a position that is less than a man. The Catholic Church seemingly has refused to recognize my gay brothers and sisters although homosexuality has existed since the beginning of civilization. Perhaps most repellant of all is that at the Papal level, the church has seemingly ignored and avoided discussion on the sexual abuses that that have taken place at the hands of priests. It is devastating to believe that the church has failed to protect the most vulnerable of us all, our children.
It is my understanding that the membership in the Catholic Church is in decline, Your Holiness. Certainly it is no secret that people feel a “disconnect” from the church. It appears that the “powers that be” that have chosen you for your new role have looked into what you bring to the Vatican. You are not a European Pope, you will ignite excitement in Latin America and perhaps the financially emerging Latin America offers another obvious benefit. Some might perceive this choice as opportunistic, a chess move to gain power, not an attempt to gain a more spiritual connection to its followers.
I’ve asked myself if the rigid dogma held by the Catholic Church is maintained in the belief that any flexibility might weaken its foundations. Like an unyieldingly strict parent who censors information their child receives, the Church leaves its followers unprepared for the challenges of real life. Some of your children are floundering in a world for which they are not prepared because the guidance that the Church has offered doesn’t apply to the world in which they live.
This morning as the curtains were pulled back and the daylight streamed in, those dewy fantasies that I’d had yesterday evaporated. I laughed at my own childish idealism that is rooted in my naïve rural Kansas girl beginnings. It’s funny how even as a cynical adult, I too can get pulled into the excitement and begin to believe that a golden kingdom so far away from the life I know has a powerful man who can implement change.