Dear Father Angelo,
This is the first time that I have written to you. I would like to thank you because for years your reasonable and enlightening answers have been a reassuring source of comfort and clarification about many doubts concerning moral and spiritual issues. But now the time has come for me to say goodbye to you. I am aware that you do not know me, therefore you should not care about this, but I know you will because of the fervor that clearly prompts you to help our poor souls. I am going to stop reading your column because “I am leaving the Catholic Church”. Dreadful words! I had never thought I would have pronounced them before. I am leaving the Catholic Church suddenly. It is quite the opposite of a flash of light from heaven, brought about by a sharp, piercing pain that devastated me. It is as if I were dead because I do not know who I am anymore. I was killed. Who killed me? Who is this Cain? I beg you, do not smile at me. If you can, grieve with me. I was killed by Bergoglio’s words about civil unions between same sex people that have been widely spread by the mass media lately. Those words have been welcomed enthusiastically by many, belittled by others, and disapproved by very few people. I have always thought of Catholic moral as monolithic. I used to rejoice inside when I heard priests saying that we are supposed to accept Christianity as a whole, and that we cannot retain what we like and discard what we do not. I cannot declare that I have always managed to put that into practice, but at least I used to do my best… but now this earthquake has shaken me with such violence that everything has been called into question. In the past, being a believer, I would have labeled all this as “temptation” (I used to believe in the devil’s existence!). In the beginning I felt rage and hatred. I mean it: I hate this Pope who uttered these words (someone says the video was edited and manipulated…I do not think so!). Actually, I have never liked this Pope, but I have always tried to suppress this feeling, blaming myself for being rebellious. But now, after a few days of suffering, I almost want to thank Bergoglio for liberating me from the burden of a false and incoherent faith. However, my mind may still be unclear because I feel as if I were mourning a dear one. As I said, I have been grieving my own death. I do not know who I am anymore. The moral law that had guided my up until now is no more. You shall not kill. You shall not steal. You shall not covet. You shall not commit adultery. Everything has to be re-built from naught, alone, without God. There is no God. This distress is not just suffering. It is also a practical concern. I will be able to overcome the grief. I am a grown-up man. I have solid moral groundings that I will only have to change slightly. I am concerned about the upbringing of my daughters! No more mass on Sunday. No more first Communion this year. No more parish choir. “Pay attention, girls, daddy is explaining something to you: there are families made up of a mom and a dad, but there are also families made up of two daddies or two mums”. “My daughter, you are allowed to be whatever you want, whatever you like: if you feel at ease as a boy, then be a boy!” “Daddy, should I forgive?” “No, sweetheart, you should not!”
Father Angelo, I wish you all the best. Thank you, because you helped me so much in the past. I am sorry to disappoint you. I envy your great faith. It is the same faith I wanted for me and for my family. But we were deprived of it. We will have to resign ourselves. Atheist resignation is what is required of us.
The priest’s answer
1. I have been receiving dozens of letters regarding Pope Francis’ words about civil unions. Given that those words were pronounced in the past and have recently been reported in a documentary, I think they should not be taken into account. The Magisterium of the Church does not communicate this way. We are not even sure whether those words have really been uttered. They might even have been manipulated. I think that the silence maintained by the Holy See in this occasion means exactly this.
2. The media have done a great clamoring about it and they have exerted a noticeable effect. Many people have felt disconcerted. A young man wrote to me that his father does not recognize Pope Francis as his Pope anymore because he said that homosexuals can have a family (of course he was not talking about their families of origin, but a new family to make up with a same sex person). This is what has been spread by the mass media and what people have acknowledged.
3. I had decided to refrain from expressing my views on this issue right away, but your email forces me to do so.
First and foremost, I will make clear that I do not intend to comment on things that I am not sure about. Furthermore, let me say this to those who have asked on the website about what the Pope meant – I am not entitled to interpret the Pope’s thinking, more so the Magisterium has to make itself clearly, and avoid receiving interpretations opposite of one another.
I wish to reply only to your question, because you say you were not just shocked by those words, but even killed. I have heard similar expressions from several people, but none of them has drawn your dramatic conclusion. I understand your sharp, piercing pain. It was not just yours. Many people felt that those utterances, as reported by the media, were comparable to an earthquake. Some people (generally speaking, those who are rather far away from faith) have rejoiced. Many believers, on the other hand, have suffered severely in their hearts and within their families. Some of them have fallen into temptation regarding Pope Francis.
4. Of course, whoever caused all this will have to account for it before God. Causing suffering due to faith and even extinguishing it is a major fault against charity. It is true for them what the Lord said,” whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42).
5. Now, let us get back to you, who feel as if you were mourning for the loss of a dear one. Actually, you feel as if you were grieving your own death, because your faith was demolished, and you find yourself without God. I am not surprised by these expressions because faith is the most precious thing we have, and we are ready to give our lives for it. Yet, as you noticed yourself, at the moment you may be lacking that clarity of mind that keeps us from doing insane actions.
Because your decision of leaving the Catholic Church is an insane action. It is not just leaving a religious institution; it implies leaving Christ and leaving God. It is indeed and insane action to leave the Church because of those uncertain words that, being so uncertain, do not deserve our attention (and, as a matter of fact, they did not get any attention from the Holy See).
6. Nevertheless, this action of yours highlights a faith that needs purification.
Being Christians does not mean adhering to a perfect moral system, but rather adhering to Christ.
Of course, his teaching discloses eternal truths. What He transmitted to us, either by Himself or through St. Paul the apostle, will never fade. But, in the first place, Christian faith consists of welcoming Christ in our lives, being one thing in Him as branches on the vine.
If you disentangle yourself from Christ, you will become a dry branch that cannot communicate anything. The worse thing is that you are going to communicate this void to your daughters. If you deny yourself Christ, you deny yourself nourishment, because “He is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die” (John 6:50), and you deny yourself life because He is the life of the soul, the life of our lives. Indeed, He said, “I am the life” (John 14:26). These are not just words. Whoever has experienced this knows this is true.
7. Therefore, the words of that documentary did not take your life. You are taking your own life. Nobody can detach you from Christ if you do not want to and if you do not allow that.
8. I am glad to quote for you some expressions of a prayer written by Pope Paul VI when he was the Archbishop of Milan. These words address Christ and they are particularly significative for you in this dreadful moment of your life.
You are necessary for us, oh only real Master of the hidden truths, the truths that are indispensable for life. You are necessary for us to know our being, our destiny and the path to it.
You are necessary for us, our Redeemer, to realize our misery and to heal it; to have the concept of good and evil and the hope of holiness; to deplore our sins and to receive forgiveness.
You are necessary to us, firstborn brother of Mankind, to rediscover the real reasons for brotherhood among men, the groundings of justice, the treasures of charity, the highest good of peace.
You are necessary to us, great patient of our sorrows, to know the meaning of suffering and to put on it the value of atonement and redemption.
You are necessary to us, winner over death, to liberate us from despair and refusal, and to have certainties that will not betray us for eternity.
You are necessary to us, oh Christ, oh Lord, oh God with us, to learn true love and to walk in the joy and in the strength of your charity, along the path of our laborious life, until the final encounter with You beloved, with You hoped for, with You blessed forever. (Prayer written for Lent 1955)
9. Without Christ you are a wanderer who does not know where he is going, why he lives, why he has children, why he brings them up.
As Pascal said, “Through Jesus Christ we know life and death. Outside of Jesus we ignore what is our life, our death, God, ourselves. Therefore, without the Scripture that has only Jesus as subject, we do not know anything, and do not see but darkness and confusion in the nature of God and in ours” (Thoughts, 396).
Before Pascal, St. Peter, inspired by the Holy Ghost, said, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6, 68).
10. I am sure you will revert to type.
Christ does not abandon you and He wants to find you again. We might say that He is unable to be consoled until He has found you. He is the good shepherd. And we willingly hasten this quest with our prayers and our sacrifices. Goodbye, Giuseppe.
I embrace you, brother and I bless you