A publication of Sacred Heart University
The “Dirty Little Secret” and the “Latin Mass”
A Better Apologetics

A Letter to Pope Francis

Dear brother Francis,

As one of your younger and distant relatives I am somewhat hesitant to write to you, yet I fear that if I don’t, my concerns may cause me to feel more than just geographic distance. So I ask for your patience and compassion.

I was reading, with much joy and solace, Let us Dream. Thank you. Yet, I can’t help but express some disappointment. I appreciate the beautiful vision you have for the Church. I agree that building a truly synodal Church that continually seeks to hear the voice of the Spirit is a slow and arduous process. But I think there are voices that have been speaking to us for many decades, if not longer, voices that some have tried peremptorily to silence, unsuccessfully. Other holy leaders, like your brother in Canterbury, have heard and listened. These voices remind me of the Cornelius story in Acts 10:1-48. How radical was it for the Jewish Christians that an uncircumcised person would be invited by God into the covenantal relationship and that Peter in response would have to declare: “Can anyone forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (v.47). Peter, I think we all would agree, reluctantly had to (as did Paul) step beyond the comfort of the established, what was “unlawful” (v.28) and previously viewed as unchangeable. The stirring of the Spirit called him to go “beyond his competency” and be rebuked: “What God has cleansed, you must not call common” (v.15). Peter comes to realize “in every nation anyone who fears . . . [God] and does what is right is acceptable to . . . [God]” (v.35). So even what seemed an absolute barrier—circumcision—loses its weight and is superseded by the mark of Christ’s victory over sin and death: baptism. For in Christ, through baptism “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

So dear brother, why are we afraid to say, enough of the charade of an exclusively male priesthood? Your brother in Canterbury hears that the Spirit has called forth female clerics.

Similarly, why be hesitant to bring Christ’s healing to the wounds of the faithful who, like all of us in some way, have made mistakes but then enter into a new loving, committed relationship? Peter and Paul had to challenge the voices of the exclusivist righteous (who did have past practice on their side) and welcome the other as Christ does. Is it not time to do the same? Is it not right to openly challenge the voice of those who are afraid to let go of the logic of the middle ages?

I am moved by the joy of a mother who recognizes the steadfast love her daughter experiences in her relationship with another woman. I anguish over the pain caused to chaste and celibate Roman clergy whom I know, when they (and so many others) hear the voice of authority saying they are “disordered.” Meanwhile their presence, their ministry, is a sure sign of the Spirit being present. The Spirit speaks from the periphery even if many in the center do not wish to listen.

Of course, dear brother, the weight of this responsibility must be tremendous. In my heart I believe that you know all this. I can only imagine your concern for what may happen if a bold word spoken causes some to fall away. I understand that you may be worried about how your brother Andrew may respond. But I think we all must admit the pain and suffering that has been caused and continues to be caused by the Church’s inability to open itself to the voices of those who have been told “NO” and so pushed aside. I think we need to ask ourselves, not can we do this, but can we know the limits of the Spirit’s breath. Can we continue to impose our limits on the Divine Spirit?

I pray that you grow in strength and courage. I pray for your health. I pray that your compassion turns its attention to Canada and that you join many of us in apologizing to our First Nations for what has been done to them (scandalously) in the name of the Gospel.

Thank you dear brother. You have my prayers, as I know we all have yours.

Myroslaw Tataryn is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University, Canada, and a Ukrainian Greco-Catholic priest.