Dear Pope Francis:An Impassioned Plea to Rebuild the Church

(Excerpts from Matthew Fox's newest book, Letters to Pope Francis: Rebuilding a Church with Justice and Compassion - now available on Amazon) "Surely your choosing his name reveals your own preference for this vision of brotherhoods and sisterhoods, of bands and circles of people, rather than hierarchical ladder climbing. The implications of this choice for church reform are immense, as you well know. I take this to be the primary reason you dared to choose the name ‘Francis’ at this time of the dark night of the church. And dare you did!" page 10

"Because, quite simply, in Catholic theology a Council trumps a Pope but a Pope does not trump a Council. This was the case in the fourteenth century when the Council of Constance, fed up with three popes vying for power over a forty-two year period, fired all three and hired a new one. Beginning with the reign of Pope John Paul II we have had two papacies mired in schism because they have been undoing the reforms and teachings of Vatican II, centralizing everything in the Curia, and thereby turning their back on a valid Council. Two papacies in schism." page 14

"Just as General Motors can’t run without engineers, neither can a religious tradition operate without theologians studying and debating. A professor of my alma mater, the Institut Catholique de Paris, which traces its roots to the first University in Paris where Aquinas and Eckhart both taught, said to me several years ago when she heard me in dialogue with a scientist in the city of Chicago, “The Pope (John Paul II) and Cardinal Ratzinger have killed all theology in Europe. Theology is dead there. Nothing like what you did tonight could be happening in Europe.” Maybe this is a principal reason why the European churches are as empty as they are—no thought allowed." pp. 15-16

"St. John Henry Newman also famously remarked that if forced to choose between the pope and his conscience he would drink to conscience every time. Moreover, he observed, the church would look funny indeed without the laity. The laity are the sensus fidelium, the sense of the faithful. What they think and intuit matters, as the great Council affirmed. So let us once again have a church that listens and hears them out." page 16

"What has been the result of all this Centralization? Corruption. Staggering, overwhelming corruption. Pope Benedict XVI received a report about call-boys blackmailing Curial hierarchy and all the facts will someday come to the light. Such a report is a natural outcome in an environment that fosters corruption, promoting the appointment of so-called leaders on the basis of their proclivity to act as Yes-men rather than being purveyors of conscience and justice. The appointment of these Yes-men has everything to do with the pedophile crisis and its horrendous cover-up to preserve the institution at all costs, even at the immeasurable cost to children. This corruption is further enabled by the dumbing down of the Church that stifles serious theological research and discussion, and infected with financial malfeasance of every kind that has given rise to fundraising sects of dubious moral standing such as Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation and the Legion of Christ, to places of prominence and power and decision-making in the Church worldwide." pp. 24-25

"You have your hands full, Pope Francis, and I and many others wish you well. But clearly your task begins at home with a deep housecleaning in the Curia itself. Your rather rapid move in appointing an eight-person team chosen from many countries is indeed a promising first step in trying to restore this deformed institution. This has gone far beyond a matter of bringing law-breakers to true justice; it requires a re-education of a whole privileged caste of errant, arrogant, theologically-challenged souls who have put their own advancement ahead of the spirit of ministry." page 27

"Obey, obey, obey. That is the only “theology” I see in studying the sects that have been pushed so hard by the Vatican of late: Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, and the Legion of Christ (which boasted a special vow of never speaking badly about the founder who turned out to be a pervert beyond measure). Obey, obey, obey—that is the very definition of fascism. Its patriarchal message of control and domination is all that matters, its image of God as a punitive father is perverse and it in turn gives legitimacy to punitive attitudes of “superiors”—all that plus sexism is found wherever fascism reigns. An ideology of obedience and authority is no substitute for theology. And it is miles from anything Jesus taught or lived. Such ideology is the polar opposite of compassion..." pp. 39-40

"With all my heart I hope your papacy is one of compassion in its fullest and richest meanings and an example to other institutions of our world that compassion matters. And justice matters. You have said so yourself in the following words: “In the fact of grave forms of social and economic injustice, of political corruption, of ethnic cleansing, of demographic extermination, and destruction of the environment...surges the need for a radical personal and social renewal that is capable of ensuring justice, solidarity, honesty, and transparency."" page 41

"Our divine-like creativity needs to seek out the beauty we can make, the communities we can build, the healing we can effect, the joy we can generate, the celebrations we can birth, the remembering we can invoke, the rituals we can share, the work by which we can employ others, the gardens we can grow, the food we can harvest, the forgiveness we can bring about." page 45

"I am impressed as I write this that you are being so slow to move into the palaces of the Vatican. You seem sensitive to what I am writing about. Yes, perhaps more may be at stake in your obvious reluctance to take up residence in one of the last palaces on earth and to do so in Jesus’ name. Good for you! Francis and Jesus would both resist as you are resisting. Surely there is a simpler place to bear a more authentic witness to Jesus’ name and work than the Vatican palaces in their current state. The medicine for a religion of control, projection, fear and enfeeblement is to return to experience..." page 50

"Today’s youth are not waiting for marching orders from priests, bishops, or popes. They are putting their consciences to work with great imagination. What might happen if you, in the spirit of your namesake Francis, would acknowledge their work, listen deeply and support their adventure by engaging it? In short, I would love to see the Church hierarchy start acting like responsible elders and learn to listen again and support the Spirit speaking and acting through the young." page 58

"It is not enough to talk about “evangelization.” The content of evangelization is crucial. After all most of the advertising industry today is built on “evangelization,” i.e., promises that buying one’s product will offer salvation or healing or beauty or power. The content of true evangelization today needs to be—as it was in Francis’ revolution—the Gospel values themselves, values of joy and of letting go, of creativity and responsibility, of compassion and justice." page 80

"Pope Francis, all over the world people are feeling embarrassed to call themselves Catholic. The anti- intellectual sects that are masquerading as lay movements that I referred to earlier have been, for the past thirty five years, receiving the Vatican’s utmost promotion. Furthermore, it is from their ranks that countless bishops and cardinals of the Church have been appointed during the past two papacies. This will not do. They are not trained in a Gospel spirituality. Isn’t it an embarrassment to you, as a Jesuit, to know that the Church is being run by anti-intellectuals, or what one Brazilian bishop called “neurotics for orthodoxy”? Being a Jesuit you belong to a proud intellectual tradition—isn’t it time that a respect for theologians and what they do be returned to the Church? Isn’t it time to end the Inquisition just as the Second Vatican Council ended the Index of Forbidden Books? Isn’t it time to support, rather than interfere with, those theological movements that are returning us to the basic message of the Gospels? Isn’t this what Francis was all about?" pp. 83-84

"Perhaps we can now move beyond the rhetoric that has piled up around terms like “Marxism,” “base communities,” “Liberation Theology” and go back to the gospel message of liberation. As you once put it, “the option for the poor comes from the first centuries of Christianity. It is the Gospel itself.” And you said that if you preached sermons from the first fathers of the church about the needs of the poor you would be called a “Maoist or Trotskyite.” Besides, you have spent much of your ministry working in slums. Beyond rhetoric and politics lies the powerful Sacrament of Liberation, a sacrament that rose up in your continent as a living witness to the ever-present need to interfere with the injustice that obstructs the flow of grace that Life and God want all to experience." page 119

"We can and need to move beyond politics alone to a sacramental approach to supporting human liberation around the world, honoring the poor, the under-employed, and those abused by abhorrent working conditions. It is clear you are already fighting on their behalf and including them in your public statements and prayers. I appreciate your perspective when you say: “Human rights are not just violated by terrorism, repression and murder…but also by the existence of extreme poverty and unjust economic structures that create huge inequalities.”" page 125

"I have just learned that you are planning an encyclical on Global Poverty. That is good news. You will have lots of support for that and I trust you will include the work of forward-thinking economists who are part of the growing majority who sense a need for an economics that works for everyone. Like your namesake, you are truly speaking to the needs and the hopes of the poor. Let us recommit to the Biblical meaning of love, which includes justice and compassion. There can be no love without justice. We are all here to love and learn about love and to inculcate these values into economic and political structures that make them more possible. In such a context as this, a truly universal and therefore catholic church would emerge again." page 127

"Very early after your election you cited the phrase, “Repair my church in ruins.” Those are strong words, a “church in ruins.” You seem to have a sense of our times and how you have come along at a remarkable crossroads of time and history, not just church history, but more importantly planetary and human history. I beg you to keep that in mind in all of your decision-making. Remember you are not in this alone. I have sought to make some connections between your choice of St. Francis as your namesake and the deep needs of our present moment. We are in this together. No pope can save the Church alone, or should imagine he or she can do so. The people, who are the church, are already busy trying to. But it would be a great blessing if the Church’s hierarchy, beginning with a refreshingly humble Bishop of Rome, would begin to assist rather than flagrantly obstruct these efforts." page 129"