I did not want this letter to be primarily a criticism of the faults in the church so I reminded myself of the essence of the churches existence and the story of its messages in The Holy Bible. A book that contains the most beautiful examples of love, compassion, forgiveness, faith, belief, understanding, humility and peace. A book that if you lived your life by its teachings (like most holy books in their pure form) it would surely lead to a life well lived. It is a wonderful foundation holding up the walls of Catholicism. I am mindful of this purity and of all the good deeds that the church continues to do for people in need and people of faith in all walks of life as I continue to write this letter.
This pure message has unfortunately become obscured and overshadowed by the significant problems that have plagued the organisation in as many years. They are however problems that have been created internally by the church and it will require looking internally to find their solutions. The church has evolved for over 2000 years, through hundreds of man made decisions, through horrendous conflict and war(some self created), through an organisation at times corrupted by power and greed. What we are left with is a faith that in ways is clinging on to decisions and doctrine that were decided in times when the world was not yet known to be round. Some of these decisions are no longer relevant in todays world and the church must adapt to a more evolved time of knowledge and intelligence if it is to survive and grow.
The men only rule is a typical case in point and while we are on the topic, the celibacy of these men. I know the men only rule is a matter of so called divine law and thus doctrine but these matters like so many over hundreds of years have been changed when it suited or was in the interest of the church at that time. This is very much in the interest of the church right now. When you said back in 2014 that in regard to this matter “that door is closed”, you closed the door effectively to millions and millions of women who could play a significant and of course equal role in developing and modernising the church. You cannot stop the plight of equality in today’s world and these nonsensical, prehistoric rules will only hinder the future growth of the church.
A very simple modernisation of celibacy for priests is also an obvious change needed. Celibacy is not dogma and so can be changed as it has been in many ways and forms by councils and Popes historically. The details can be worked out but the rule needs to change. From a simple biological point of view, we all have sexual needs and impulses and there is nothing wrong, taboo or indecent about it. It is simply our way of attraction in order to reproduce and create life. All mammals, indeed most creatures on earth have similar ways in order to survive and evolve. To wholesale supress these life saving instincts is just asking for trouble. They are inherent in us and they are not going away and nor should they. Neither should they be felt ashamed of or asked to pretend they do not exist. It is counter-intuitive. The result of forced suppression is these instincts are inevitably taken out and acted upon in secret and in shame and sometimes in blatant righteousness on of course the most vulnerable in our world. There in lies the church’s most awful sin, the elephant in the room.
There is no point in sugar coating it. The abuse worldwide in all its forms especially on vulnerable victims and survivors is horrendously despicable and the cover ups unforgivable. Countless lives ruined and many ended with very little accountability or justice. Those charged with protection of the weak, the young and the unwell, to be the very ones they needed protection from. The irony of good turned to evil and the devastation left behind that will take generations to heal. I am not blind to the millions of priests who make the world a better place for so many every day but I cannot ignore the few who cast a darkness over the church’s light. Most unforgivable of course being the cover ups which gave cause for the abuse to be multiplied like a disease. If a layman were to be charged with child abuse or rape for example, they would rightly be put to trial and probable jail as long as there was sufficient evidence or willing witnesses to testify. For a priest to be guilty of same crimes, it be known to his superiors and simply transferred to a new breeding ground is incomprehensible. In a just world there would be conspiracy and co-conspiracy charges heaped upon those who helped prolong the suffering. It is akin to a serial rapist confessing to an authority about the multiple crimes he had committed and instead of arresting him, the authorities transferring him to another part of the country and asking him not to do it again! Or to get some counselling, but no obligation. It does not make sense in the real world as it should not make sense with in the church. We cannot go back and change what has happened but there must be an accountability and responsibility for these atrocities and significant changes so the story is not repeated. There must be a clear, open, honest, transparent admission for what has been done and amends for the survivors. It must be addressed not because of PR pressure or the looming next allegation to come to light but because it is the right thing to do and if the church does not know the right thing to do, then there is no hope for any of us! So let priests marry, have children, have a natural life, an open honest life. They will be better priests for you, for all of us. I have never had issue with a priest who was caught in a relationship with a partner or having a child. Why would I? It is our most natural way which should be there’s too. More importantly, it is consensual!
Wealth is another issue of concern. I attended a church service many months ago and the priest informed us there would be two collections for that particular day as money was needed to pay for the organising of the world meeting of families due to take place in Ireland and for the Popes visit there. As I threw the few coins I had in my pocket into the basket, something didn’t make sense. It almost sounded like money was needed or the event couldn’t go ahead and the Pope might have to postpone his visit until sufficient funds were in place. Collecting for the upkeep of the parish church and expenses, ok, I can see that. Collections for people in need both locally or internationally, no problem, I am on board. I struggled with this collection though as I thought of an organisation that as a whole is estimated to be worth over $200 billion, one of the richest in the world. A Vatican wealth estimated at anywhere from $10 to $15 billion. Managing over an estimated $60 billion worth of assets on behalf of over 17000 customers. Owning over an estimated $750 million in equity, over $20 million in gold reserves and over 170 million acres of land. I thought of the irony of the middle class and the poor giving more to the wealthy. I have been to the Vatican and gazed upon the wealth and opulence of gold plated ceilings, priceless masterpieces, famous sculptures and precious artifacts. I was not dazzled by this in anyway but dazzled by the unbalanced wealth of an organisation which prides itself on relating to the poor, the needy and the vulnerable. I know the catholic church gives multiple millions away each year in charitable causes but with this level of wealth the church could be the biggest philanthropic donator in the world. This is the kind of money that could cure and even prevent some diseases. It could feed half the hungry and house half the homeless. I would rather be in church service in the local community hall than be with 40 or 50 people in the most opulent church building in town sitting on acres of prime land listening to ironic sermons on poverty and the kindness of giving. I know that simply giving away all the money will not solve all the issues indefinitely but when the owners of the church have more money than the GDP of numerous world countries, it is hard for me to find a co existing place for the meaningful words of the bible and the long, long list of church possessions, wealth, cash and land.
Last but not least, and still cognizant of all the goodness the church also does. The delivery of the message needs updating. Too many a church service has become dull, boring, banal routines that would find it hard to attract new members by the presentations provided. You have half the battle already won by possessing the right material in the wonderful words of The Bible. It is full of motivational stories on positive and inspiring topics. It needs to be delivered by people who have a passion, an energy, a pure stirring belief, a confidence, a motivation. Great speakers and orators, people who can inspire you with their message. It is another way in which the church needs to modernise and adapt in communicating its message. Many church services are been cancelled, parishes having joint services, attendance falling, applications to priesthood diminishing. The change is needed for survival to be assured and it is needed now.
The basis for the churches message ie ‘the good book’, is indeed a beautiful read of uplifting words. The work the church does daily to help people around the world is unfortunately at the moment being overshadowed but with good reason. Problems have occurred along the way, they need to be dealt with now with honesty and resolve. You need to modify, change, update, share. The grave issues you are dealing with presently are not going away and will only get worse if not dealt with properly now. The power of the people will no longer tolerate old rules which can cause suppression, non inclusion, inequality and pain. The people can bring your church up to new heights or bring it down to record low levels. That is on you now.
There is hope for the betterment of this organisation but you must lead that hope. Be the change that is so needed. Go back to the book and lead from it. Let that be what the people see and think off when they think of you and the church. It will take time but you have time. It was a long time in creating the harm. Make it pure again. Have good messengers whose needs are looked after like the rest of us and like in any organisation they will be more productive. Be the change, make a difference, make a start for more to follow, be bold, be honest, be right.