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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Open Letter to Pope Francis from a Roman Catholic -- Contributor Post

A while back, I wrote an open letter to Pope Francis as a nonreligious. Today, thealogian Kate Allen from Life, Love, Liturgy writes a much more relevant note to him, as a Roman Catholic.


To Pope Francis:

In my almost thirty-two years as a Roman Catholic, I have never been prouder of any pope. Granted, I've only encountered three in my lifetime, but I am also a student of Christian history. You stand out among your predecessors.

You have rocked the entire world with your embodied proclamations of the good news. You kiss the wounds of the sick. You share tables with those who have neither tables of their own nor food to put on them. You warn your clergy again and again against the glamour of clericalism. Your love is abundant, like Christ's was and is, and I have seen it have a multiplying effect, even (perhaps especially) among non-Roman Catholics.

I am tremendously grateful to God for your faithful, living witness to the teachings of Jesus. Your heart is wide open, and I feel quite certain that if I happened to walk into your midst, you would smile and greet me with the warmth of an old friend, and I would greet you likewise.

I need to confess something to you. On February 16, 2014, God willing, I will leave my cloak of Roman Catholic identity behind in order to be received as a member of the Episcopal Church.

Despite having spent my entire life as a devoted (albeit flawed) Roman Catholic, I cannot remain Roman Catholic any longer. Because despite the gospel of Jesus you now proclaim miraculously through your very body, and despite the many ways in which I encounter Christ's presence through your holy example, I'm afraid there is at least one way in which you, like most if not all of your predecessors, have failed to hear the voice of God and heed it: in the calling of thousands upon thousands of women around the world to ordained ministry.

I was able to name my own God-given call to ordained ministry thirteen years ago. I was still a teenager then. I am close with several Roman Catholic women who share the same call. Yet you, like your papal predecessors, have dismissed even the possibility that women might be called to ordained ministry.

I don't understand this hardness of heart. Not from you.

What I do understand is how hard it can be to hear God's earnest whispers when so much of one's culture screams against it. My favorite psalm is Psalm 51, because it is a perpetual invitation to be changed, transformed, turned around:

Create in me a clean heart, o God.
Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways
and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.

I suspect this psalm is as dear to you as it is to me. Please, then, let God's whispers reach your ear through my meager words: God calls some women to serve as ordained ministers. That the Roman Catholic hierarchy refuses to acknowledge this (or even to discuss it) is gravely sinful. It is presumptuous to deny God's calling to those whom God has chosen.

Please, for God's sake, don't allow whatever is lacking in me cause you to be deaf to what God is speaking to you through me in this moment. If anyone with the authority to effect gospel change in the Roman Catholic Church can hear this prophetic word, I believe you can.

Please, open your heart and listen for the sake of my daughters, who will grow up in the midst of your legacy even if they never set foot in a Roman Catholic church.

Please, listen. Listen because you know better than almost anyone that God speaks prophetically through those who are marginalized, women included.

Please, I beg you from the bottom of my heart, listen--allow yourself to be importuned by me, just like the judge was importuned by the widow, or like Jesus was importuned by the woman begging for scraps. You and I both know what happened in those latter two instances. If Jesus' mind could be changed, surely yours can.

I believe that the world-wide turning of hearts to God, if you listened in this one way and acted accordingly, would be a miracle of biblical proportion.

With blessings and love in the One who creates, redeems, and sanctifies all the world,

M. Kate Allen



  1. You left the Catholic Church because they don't ordain women? seriously? So the Mary-worship, the idolatry, all that's ok, but by the pope's hat(!) you had better ordain women. Lol.

    Oh, and BTW, as to your opening, that you have "never been prouder of any pope," the fact is, this pope stinks. Benedict was better.

    1. Hi, David-

      I'm honored that you considered this piece worth responding to.

      I'd like to invite you to say more about "Mary-worship" and "idolatry." I have many concerns about Roman Catholicism, but those don't top my list, and I'd be interested to find out why they top yours.

      I'm also curious about your comparison of Francis with Benedict XVI. Would you care to say more about Benedict being "better"? That's not an assessment I hear in my circles except among those who would prefer a return to the "old ways," which tend to include things like "Mary-worship" and "idolatry," if I understand correctly what you mean by those two things.

      Thanks again for your response!

    2. Hello Kate,
      Thanks for sharing your passion and commitment to the gospel in this open letter. I am sure while on your spiritual path you will light the way for others, especially in your ministry work.

    3. Charlotte, how kind of you to say so! I hope I can be a beacon of light and hope for all my sister women (Catholics and Christians and alienated ex-religious women, especially) who need it. <3



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