To the editor:
We Jesuits have received many messages of congratulations on the election of Pope Francis. I take this opportunity to thank everyone and express my hopes for the church.
This mammoth church institution has become a bit brittle and mechanical. I hope that Pope Francis will cultivate collegiality and a spirit of openness to all the difficult issues bothering a lot of Catholics. We need to speak about our doubts and confusions in the desire to deepen our faith without being summarily dismissed or condemned.
A major issue is the whole area of human sexuality. The public image of the church is that all matters of sexuality are settled and that any questions are simply to be avoided or suppressed. The bishops in dealing with these issues often appear as negative and heartless. For example, one major danger concerning the issues of abortion and homosexuality is that they are presented as abstract issues without a sufficient appreciation that those struggling with these issues are real human beings. The way the church deals with these issues may, in some cases, lead to hatred. In the public arena there is not much perception that in the church there is care for those facing these issues.
If difficult issues are to be openly treated in the church there will be heated debate, misunderstandings and confusion. But if we are to move forward in the grace of God we must go through this painful process in order to come to a higher view and be a grace to people.
My vision of the church which I dream about and live and work for is: a community of believers who are able to speak freely and openly and disagree about difficult and central issues and still worship together at the Eucharist. Our union is not simply in ideas, but most deeply in the person Jesus who died and rose from the dead.
Tom Fitzpatrick, S.J.
St. Joseph Rectory