Thursday, October 3, 2013

Matthew Fox, Letters to Pope Francis: "We Are All Hoping" That You Rebuild a Church in Desperate Need of Rebuilding and Reform

As the "gang of 8" meets right now in Rome, another excerpt from Matthew Fox's Letters to Pope Francis (CreateSpace Publishing, 2013) on the eve of the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi: 

And finally, there is another reason we are all hoping you chose the name "Francis." It is that you would thereby be committed to performing his first vocation which was revealed to him by Christ: "to rebuild my church." From the bottom up the church is in despearate need of rebuilding and reforming (semper ecclesia reformanda). Every one everywhere seems to recognize this, except for the entrenched bureaucracy in the Vatican whose lust for power seems to extend everywhere and in every direction--power over the appointments of bishops and cardinals the world over, over liturgy, over thinkers, over women religious, over women hearing a call to ordination, over homosexuals, over married couples (forbidding birth control), over the divorced, over those with AIDS and contagious diseases (forbidding of condoms), over the young seeking new forms of worship, over the unmarried (no sex before marriage), and indeed over victims of pedophile priests (12).

This excerpt is from the "framing" chapter in Fox's book, in which he sets out the basic tenets of his plea to the pope to listen to the people of God and fulfill the promise inherent in his choice of the name "Francis" as his papal name. It strikes me that what Fox says about the Vatican and its governing structures--about their lust for power over everyone--is not far at all from Francis's own recent observations that I cited yesterday, which recognize the pathological nature of narcissism in the "bosses" of many religious groups, and which frankly admit that the papal court is a "leprosy" inside the Catholic church. 

For a good thread discussing the latest papal interview with its bombshell remarks about narcissism, the leprosy of the papal court, and clericalism ("Clericalism should not have anything to do with Christianity"), see Enlightened Catholicism--and also see Terry Weldon's posting about the interview at Queering the Church, to which Colleen Baker pays tribute in her Enlightened Catholicism interview.

People are talking. Matthew Fox is talking, and, curiously enough, some of what he is saying sounds very much like what Francis himself is saying--though Fox was hounded out of the church by Francis's papal predecessors. Tongues are wagging about the several interviews Francis has now given. Presumably, tongues are wagging in the closed-door (and all-male) gathering of the gang of 8, too.

If Fox is correct (and I think he is), "we are all hoping" that Francis will listen to what our wagging tongues say, as we plead for reform of our institution from top down and bottom up. For may part, I continue to take hope from the fact that tongues are wagging, since a sign of Pentecost in the church has always been that it releases tongues to speak. 

My hope, of course, remains that "little Bird," the fragile "thing with feathers that perches in the soul" about which Emily Dickinson wrote. But small and delicate as it may be, it's still there--even when I often think I'm hoping against hope for constructive change in my church. I hope that Francis and the gang of 8 listen widely. I hope that they choose to open their circle of dialogue to the entire church, and to women above all.

I hope they listen to the pain of all the groups of Catholics enumerated by Matthew Fox above (thinkers, women religious, women, homosexuals, married couples, those with AIDS and contagious diseases, the young, the unmarried, victims of clerical sexual abuse: I hope they listen to all of us on whose shoulders the church's ruling structure has laid heavy burdens in contradiction of Jesus's call to his followers to life the burdens from the shoulders of the burdened, to avoid quenching the smoldering wick and breaking the bruised reed. And I would add to Fox's list those struggling to find work, those who are hungry and thirsty, the exploited original peoples of the planet, all of whom raise their voices in an open letter to Francis published in September, and available now at Leonardo Boff's website.

I hope--hope beyond all hope--that even those of us who stand on the religious and political left and who so love to tear into each others' guts might find a way at last to listen respectfully to each other and to work together for a change. Since the meanness of progressives within warring factions on the political and political left towards each other and our rigidity in drawing ideological lines in the sand, along with our blithe destruction of dreamers and poets who can't be neatly subsumed into our rigid ideological categories, defeat us more frequently than does the powerful opposition of the well-organized and well-funded right.

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