Dear Pope Francis,
Welcome to the home of jazz, Peeps Easter candies, Facebook, and the Grand Canyon. We hope your visit to our country, the encounters with our people (rich and poor) and the conversations with our leaders inspire your commitment to world peace. We are honored and forever changed because of your presence with us. Thank you for taking time to be among our people, to walk the halls with our President and to eat lunch with our homeless.
As you speak to the highest elected officials in our land, I ask that you keep in mind the invisibles. The invisibles are the ones that you don’t see. The people who are too small, too weak, too young, too old, too tired, too locked up, too locked out, and too marginalized to show up at your parade or at your mass.
The invisibles are also the ones too afraid. Too afraid because of the trauma of clergy sex abuse. Too afraid because of the disgrace of homophobia. Too afraid because of the disfigurement of misogyny, centuries of treating women as second class global citizens.
Or maybe they are not too afraid. Maybe it’s something worse. Maybe it’s a numbing disconnection in the messaging. On the one hand there is the goodness of all of life that the Church claims to uphold, and on the other hand there is the reality of the judgement and silence it inflicts upon millions of victims of abuse, women, and members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans*, queer and questioning communities.
As a chaplain at a domestic abuse agency, I have sat with women who speak of the teachings of the church that make them feel unworthy of fullness of life. As a minister serving a center for the homeless, I’ve led Bible studies with men who were once altar boys and whose trust and innocence were violated by priests. As a local church pastor, I’ve welcomed into membership gay Catholics seeking a church with a more inclusive and loving embrace. A year later, I married them.
Pope Francis, you are a breath of fresh air. But the world needs more from the Catholic Church. We need radical change.
- We need you to offer a formal apology to all victims of clergy sexual abuse.
- We need the full inclusion and support of women at all levels of church leadership, including ordination.
- We need you to apologize for the harm inflicted by the church’s homophobia and a commitment to honor all people as good, regardless of their gender identity/expression and/or sexual orientation.
I know it’s a lot to ask. But I’m not asking just for me. I’m asking because I believe you know in your heart that these things matter, too, because reconciliation and inclusion mattered to your teacher Jesus.
We hope you have many more years serving as the Bishop of Rome. I pray you’ll have time to get to these three things. Leadership that is radically transformative is extremely risky. I will be praying for you…that God grant you courage, wisdom and a heart of mercy that sees the invisibles as children of God.
God bless you and thank you for being Pope.
Rev. Dr. Sarah Griffith Lund
Update: three days after I published this letter, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd published this editorial.