I was rummaging through my room recently and I came across this letter I sent to Pope Francis in 2015 as a response to his request for input into the 2015 Synod on the Family. I thought you might be interested so would like to share this with you. I figure if I feel empowered to express my views with the Pope, then I am also privileged to share them with our parishioners in Charlestown. I feel the same way 7 years later.
Dear Pope Francis:
I hope life is treating you well. I am a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston and thank you for giving me permission to be human and for reminding us that it is the gospel against which we measure our lives.
I am responding to your inquiry regarding the Synod on the Family 2015. These are my feelings and beliefs in no particular order;
Our belief in the sacrament of marriage is based on “what God has joined together we much not separate” We are under the impression that if a couple is married in the Church that therefore they have been joined by God. We now know that God is beyond organized religion and that no one has captured God. With that in mind, there may be many couples married civilly whom God has joined together, while there could be couples married in the eyes of the church whom God has not joined. The present view limits God and alienates many Catholics from the church and the Eucharist.
According the Second Vatican Council there are two purposes of Marriage: to foster the love between the couple, and the procreation of children. Sometimes the fear of conceiving children can negatively affect the love that a couple need to express intimately and sexually. Our view of birth control must be relaxed.
I couldn’t agree with you more “the Eucharist is food for the journey, not a reward for being good.” Coming to the Eucharistic table can be as healing as celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation. The good done by going to communion far outweighs any good done by not going to communion. Our world today sees all creation as a gift of God. In fact, creation reveals God’s presence to humanity. There are many ways of protecting our environment for future generations. The present birth rate can be a serious threat to our planet.
No one enters into a marriage apart from their culture, history, background and life experience. Even though a person appears to be mature when they pronounce their marriage vows, we now know many are products or victims of alcoholism, addiction, abuse and domestic violence, which surely affects their ability to freely make that commitment.
We need to return to the understanding of vocation to the priesthood as a call from the community based on the gifts, skills and spiritual health of a member of a certain community. They are chosen because they are gifted. Today, we rely on an individual deciding to study for the priesthood and then assume they and they alone possess the necessary giftedness, e.g. because someone is ordained we believe he has the gift of preaching or because he becomes a priest we place him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as counselor and/or spiritual director.
If the institutional church and the gospel are at odds, it is the life of Christ that must be the measure against which we make our decisions. Sometimes it may even be the difference between words attributed to Christ and his life story that forces us to choose. The guiding principle is that Christ healed those no one would heal, touched those no-one would touch, forgave those no one would forgive and loved those no one would love. That is the gospel message unabridged.
We have progressed greatly in our understanding of sexuality over the years. We now realize that sexual orientation is not a choice but determined by genetics. It is therefore inhumane and unchristian to demand lifelong sexual abstinence from those who are homosexual or lesbian or transgender while encouraging those who are heterosexual to pursue and intimate sexual relationship in marriage.
I applaud you and those surrounding you for your determination to let the Catholic people in the world know that it is their baptism that makes them citizens of the Church.
May God continue to challenge us to be all we are meant to be as individuals and as Church.