I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was planning to write a letter to the pope. I’ve spent quite a bit of time working on it, and I’m ready to send it off. It will go out in the mail on Tuesday. I thought I’d share with all of you what I will send him.
I write to you as someone who is, thus far, a surprised admirer of you and your works. I am an atheist, and more gay than straight, and someone who has, on his blog, often written about the Catholic Church in somewhat less-than-favorable words; calling it, on more than one occasion, “the greatest force for evil in the world”.
Your words and deeds, so different in content, context, and basic human kindness from those of your immediate predecessor, and to a lesser extent, different from his predecessor, have made me reevaluate my views. You are, to this observer, living up to a certain standard, and carrying a certain air of humility, that has been lacking in the Church during my lifetime. You present yourself as someone genuinely in tune with the philosophical teachings of Christianity, especially those of Jesus, and someone less interested in the religious aspects.
While friends of mine scoff and roll their eyes at much of what you have said thus far, I remain very impressed. I like the way you’ve reached out to atheists and homosexuals. I like the fact that you seem to be in favor of a separation between church and state (something I hold truly dear), and I really appreciate your lack of pretention. I like that you don’t seem to hold yourself above the rest of humanity, which, to me, is very fitting for someone in a religious position.
There remains much I dislike about the Catholic Church’s stand on various issues, such as birth control, abortion and the ordination of women. I also disagree with you personally on the issues of same-sex marriage and adoption of children by homosexuals. But I prefer to focus on common ground that I have with the Church and yourself, such as a strong desire for social justice, a dedication to peace, improvements in living conditions for the poor, and an end to the death penalty. You and I may get our morality from different places, but I am pleased that, more often than not, those different starting points reach the same conclusion.
I never thought, certainly during the time of your immediate predecessor, that I would ever view one of the popes as someone to look up to and admire, and certainly not someone to view as a role model. And yet, with you I feel that I can do nothing but. You truly have been a welcome breath of fresh air blowing through the stale halls of the Vatican (a place I long to visit someday, but likely never will). I do hope that over the next few weeks, months and years, you can continue to steer the Church away from the moral and temporal abyss it has been skirting and bring it back to being a magisterial organization; a force fully for good. I hope that I never again feel the need to write about the Church in the unflattering manner that I have in the past.
I am publishing this letter on my blog, and I will also publish, with your approval, any reply, if one is received.
I thank you for your time.