The Code of Canon Law gives us the right to manifest our opinions to ecclesiastical leaders:
According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons. (Can. 212 §3)
Brief letters—two or three punchy paragraphs—are effective methods of communication in the avalanche-of-email age. Committing a note to paper takes effort, allowing the letter to stew for a day or two to squeeze out excessive emotion, print on appropriate stationery, prepare an envelope, lick a stamp, and place the letter in a mailbox. In many cases, even high-ranking recipients may read a short, professional-looking, hard-copy letter.
A long-lost parishioner left town many years ago and returned as a high-ranking official in the Trump Administration. I wrote him a friendly letter, welcoming him and acknowledging that he probably didn’t remember me. Our paths unexpectedly crossed, and we had an amicable exchange. He reported that my welcome letter was among the first he received upon his return!
When European clergy advocated “gay marriage” and the like, I wrote two punchy letters, expecting the recipients would receive them as honest and professional. But I only expected, at most, to pack their spiritual resumes for the Particular Judgment. I suspect I met my objective, but nothing more.
Here are the two letters, followed by a satisfying email exchange:
February 2, 2022
His Eminence Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J.
Do any of your brother bishops care about the salvation of your soul? According to an NCR report, “Top EU cardinal calls for change in church teaching on gay relationships,” Feb 2, 2022 (by Katholische Nachrichten-Agentur): “Luxembourg Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, a Jesuit who leads the pan-European Catholic bishops’ conference, has called for a change in the church’s teaching on homosexuality.”
In an interview with Germany’s Catholic News Agency (KNA), the president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) said he considered the church’s assessment of homosexuality [sic] relationships as sinful to be wrong.
“’I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer correct,” Hollerich said. The cardinal said it was time for a fundamental revision of church teaching, and suggested the way Pope Francis had spoken about homosexuality in the past could lead to a change in doctrine.’ Hollerich made his comments in response to the public campaign by 125 Catholic Church employees in Germany who recently outed themselves as queer, saying they want to ‘live openly without fear’ in the church.”
Disgraceful. Unfaithful. Resign – or make amends — for the sake of your soul.
Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky, Pastor
March 4, 2022
Bishop Georg Bätzing
Dear Bishop Bätzing,
According to a Catholic news report: “In an interview with the German magazine Bunte published on March 4, Bishop Georg Bätzing agreed with the journalist’s assertion that ‘no one’ adhered to the Church’s teaching that sexuality should only be practiced within marriage, saying: ‘That’s true. And we have to somewhat change the Catechism on this matter. Sexuality is a gift from God. And not a sin.’ Asked if same-sex relationships were permissible, the German prelate replied: ‘Yes, it’s OK if it’s done in fidelity and responsibility. It doesn’t affect the relationship with God.’”
In his commentary on Acts of the Apostles St. John Chrysostom writes, “The soul of a bishop is for all the world like a vessel in a storm: lashed from every side, by friends, by foes, by one’s own people, by strangers . . . I do not think there are many among bishops that will be saved, but many more that perish.”
Sincerely, Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky, Pastor
Cardinal Hollerich didn’t respond. More than I expected (with gratitude for the courtesy), the office of Bishop Bätzing acknowledged receipt of the letter.
On March 15, 2022, the National Catholic Register reported: “Cardinal George Pell has called on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to publicly reprimand two of Europe’s most senior bishops for what he said was their ‘wholesale and explicit rejection” of the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics.’”
On March 18, 2022, I emailed a mutual friend seeking the advisability of emailing Cardinal Pell. I wrote:
N., I sent these two gadfly letters, one in early Feb and the other in early March. Now I see Cardinal Pell calling for their discipline. I love it. Do you think Cardinal Pell would be annoyed if I sent these to him by email? I have his email address, but I don’t want to abuse it. What do you think?
My correspondent responded: “By all means send them to him.”
On March 19, 2022, I emailed Cardinal Pell with appended copies of the two letters: “Hi, Cardinal! Thanks for all you do!”
To my delight, the Cardinal responded:
Dear Fr Jerry, Thank you for your note. Well done, if a bit blunt! Godspeed,
My purpose is not to take vainglorious delight in the letters (OK, maybe a smidgeon of that, but I hope not sinful). I encourage hard-copy snail-mail letters to authorities as an apostolate (monthly or quarterly). The note should be brief, positive or negative, maybe two or three paragraphs on one page. The letter should also respect the rules of evidence, avoid excessive emotion, and express a defensible point of view. The only success we may claim is padding the spiritual resumes of the recipients – and clarifying our thinking.
In ecclesial matters, the Church gives us the right — and the duty.
Rest in peace, Cardinal Pell.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!
Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.