Sunday, April 10, 2005

Open Letter to Vatican

April 10, 2005
Taipei, Taiwan

To: Cardinal electors, Vatican City, Rome

Dear Cardinals:
I noticed your ad prominently placed in the newspapers, "Vacancy: Pope Wanted", and so I searched online to find the job description and the policy procedures for electing a new pope of the Catholic Church. I was surprised to find that the policy details the election procedures, but does not specify who is qualified or unqualified to stand for election. This encouraged me to imagine that you might elect someone completely different, someone who might at last raise the church out of its medieval cloister and into the 21st century.

Today is a Sunday, and as usual I did not go to church, despite being raised in the Catholic faith, and despite the determined good intentions of my poor mother. As a youth, I served as an altar boy for a few years under a Monseignor in Pennsylvannia. Both he and my mother briefly hoped that I might enter the priesthood or at least a seminary. I did not. It was an interesting job for a while, but I have long since moved on to more interesting occupations. In fact, although I have never been excommunicated, I have not been in communication with the church for the past 25 years. I am one of those millions of ex-catholics who have written you off as hopeless. But this current election allows some little renewal of hope.

We are all now wondering if the church is going to really reform this time, or if it going to continue business as usual. The crippling moral blindness of this institution these past few centuries could now at this historic moment be overturned. Rather than selecting a new pope on the basis of pseudo-qualities such as you are now discussing -- things like nationality, power-base, and ethnicity-- we millions of ex-catholics are hoping that the Cardinals will take a stand for progress by selecting a pope who is instead wise and revolutionary.

There are especially urgent problems to be addressed by the next papal authority: the church's embarrassing lack of response to pedophile priests needs to be dealt with realistically for a change. The dramatic drop in new clergy is another. These two issues alone require deep and revolutionary changes in the structure of church traditions. Other problems are equally distressing, such as the papal decrees directed at poor and uneducated believers in undeveloped countries, orders against condom usage that led to a disastrous AIDS plague. A different, but theologically related problem, is the hierarchical exclusion of women throughout the church.

Such problems, and there are several related others as I am sure you are aware, can only be addressed honestly and effectively by electing a pope who has already taken a revolutionary stance toward them. I know of several such church officials who are good candidates. But because your procedural policy puts emphasis on secrecy among the Cardinal electors, I will not reveal their names here. Please write back if are curious. I and millions of observers ask that you think carefully about the need for deep changes in the church at this pivotal moment.

E. Heroux


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