Last September, the disfigurement of the papacy in full swing, the former Mexican director of one of the largest Catholic networks on the web posted a filial appeal to Pope Francis. It is particularly noteworthy because the observations and fears expressed are not articulated by a traditionalist, but a neo-conservative. The author doubtless speaks for very many papolatrous neocons, who, equally disturbed and perplexed by Francis, have placed their New Springtime and New Evangelisation banners in storage.
An Open Letter to Pope Francis
Huixquilucan, Mexico, September 23, 2013
Dearest Pope Francis,
I am so pleased to have the opportunity to greet you.
You'll surely not remember me and I understand, since, seeing so many new people every day, it must be very difficult for you to remember all the people with whom you have conversed and lived at some point during in your life.
Over the past 12 years, we happened to meet, several times, you and I, in some meetings, gatherings, and Church congresses that were held in the cities of Central and South America on various topics (communication, catechesis, education). During these pastoral meetings I had the opportunity to interact with you for several days, sleeping under the same roof, sharing the same table and even the same desk.
Back then, you were the Archbishop of Buenos Aires and I was the director of an important means of Catholic communication. Now you are nothing more and nothing less than the Pope and I ... only a mother, a Christian, with a very good husband and nine children, who teaches mathematics at the University and seeks to collaborate as best as she can with the Church, from the place where God has put her.
From those meetings where we met several years ago, I remember that more than once you saying to me:
"Girl, call me Jorge Mario, we're friends," to which I replied, startled: "No way, Mr. Cardinal! Lord save me from being familiar with one of His princes on earth."
Now, however, I dare to be familiar, because you are no longer Cardinal Bergoglio, but the Pope, my Pope, the sweet Christ on earth, whom I have the confidence to address as my own father.
I decided to write to you because I suffer and I need you to comfort me. I'll explain what is happening to me, trying to be as brief as possible. I know you like to comfort those who suffer, and now I'm one of them.
When I first met you during these retreats, when you were still Cardinal Bergoglio, I was struck and puzzled that you never acted like the other cardinals and bishops. To give some examples: you were the only one there that did not genuflect before the tabernacle or during the Consecration; if all the bishops presented themselves with their cassocks and their clerical garb, because the rules of the meeting required it, you presented yourself in suit and clerical collar. If all of you were sitting on the seats reserved for the bishops and cardinals, you left empty the place of Cardinal Bergoglio and sat at the back, saying "I'm fine here, I feel more at ease." If the others were coming in a car corresponding to the dignity of a bishop, you were coming, later than the others, harassed and in a hurry, recounting aloud your encounters on the public transport by which you had chosen to come to the meeting.
Seeing these things — what a shame to tell you — I said to myself: "Ugh ... who wants to attract attention! Because, if you want to be truly humble and simple, is it not better to behave like the other bishops and go unnoticed?".
My Argentine friends who also attended these meetings, somehow noticed my confusion, and they were saying to me:
"You're not the only one. We all were always puzzled, but we know his clear criteria, since in speeches he shows some convictions and certainties, always faithful to the Magisterium and the Tradition of the Church; he is a brave and loyal defender of correct doctrine. But ... apparently, he loves to be loved by all and please everyone, so one day he could make a speech on TV against abortion, and the next day, on the same TV show, bless the pro-abortion feminists in the Plaza de Mayo; can give a wonderful speech against the Masons and, a few hours later, be dining and drinking with them in the Rotary Club."
Dear Pope Francis, it is true, this was the Card. Bergoglio I knew closely. One day, chatting animatedly with Bishop Duarte Aguer about the defense of life and of the liturgy and, the same day, at dinner, chatting just as animatedly with Bishop Ysern and Bishop Rosa Chavez on base communities and the terrible obstacles presented by "the dogmatic teachings "of the Church. One day, a friend of Cardinal Cipriani and Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, talking about business ethics and against the ideologies of the New Age and, a while later, a friend of Casaldáliga and Boff talking about class struggle and "the richness" that Eastern techniques can contribute to the Church.
With this in mind, you will understand that my eyes opened enormously the moment I heard your name after the "Habemus Papam" and, since that time (before you asked) I have prayed for you and my beloved Church. And I have not stopped for a single day since then. When I saw you on the balcony, without mitre, without cape, breaking the protocol of greeting and the reading of the Latin text, thereby trying to differentiate yourself from the rest of the Popes in history, I smiled worriedly and said to myself: "Yes, without a doubt. This is Cardinal Bergoglio."
In the days following your election, you gave me several opportunities to confirm that you are the same person I had known closely, always looking to be different: you asked for different shoes, a different ring, a different Cross, a different chair and even room and home different from the rest of the Popes who had been humbly content with existing things, without the need of "special" things for themselves.
In those days I was trying to recover from the immense pain felt by the resignation of my beloved and much admired Pope Benedict XVI, with whom I identified from the beginning in an extreme way, for the clarity of his teachings (he is the best teacher in the world), for his fidelity to the Sacred Liturgy, for his courage in defending sound doctrine amid the enemies of the Church and for a thousand other things I will not enumerate. With him at the helm of the Barque of Peter I felt I was standing on firm ground. And with his resignation, I felt the ground disappearing beneath my feet, but I understood it, because the winds were really stormy and the papacy something too rough for his strength, now diminished by age, in the terrible and violent culture war being waged.
I felt as though abandoned in the middle of the war, the earthquake, the most ferocious hurricane, and that was when you arrived to replace him at the helm. We have a new captain, we give thanks to God! I trusted fully (without any doubt) that, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, with the prayer of the faithful, with the weight of responsibility, with the assistance of the working group in the Vatican and with the consciousness of being observed throughout the world, Pope Francis would leave behind the special things and ambivalences of Card. Bergoglio and would immediately take command of the army, and with renewed vigour continue the path of intense struggle that his predecessor had been waging.
But, to my surprise and bewilderment, my new general, rather than take up arms on arrival, began his tenure using papal time to call his barber, his dentist, his landlord and his newsagent, attracting attention to his own person and not to the relevant issues of the papacy.
Six months have passed since then and I admit, with love and emotion, you've done a trillion good things. I really like (very much) your formal speeches (to politicians, gynecologists, communicators, the World Day of Peace, etc.) and your homilies on feast days, because in them we see a thorough preparation and a deep meditation of each word used. Your words, in these discourses and homilies have been real food for my spirit. I like very much that people love you and applaud you. You are my Pope, the Supreme Head of my Church, the Church of Christ.
However — and this is the reason for my letter — I must tell you that I have also suffered (and suffer), from many of your words, because you have said things that have felt like low blows to my sincere intentions of loyalty to the Pope and the Magisterium.
I feel sad, yes, but the best word to express my current feelings is: perplexity. I do not know, truly, what I should do, what I should say and what not to say, I do not know where to tighten or where to slacken. I need you to orient me, dear Pope Francis. I'm really suffering, and much, for I still have this perplexity.
My serious problem is that I have devoted much of my life to the study of Sacred Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium, with the aim of having firm reasons to defend my faith. And now, many of these solid foundations turn out to be contrary to what my beloved Pope says and does. I'm truly perplexed and I need you to tell me what to do.
Let me explain with some examples:
I cannot applaud a Pope who does not kneel in front the Tabernacle or during the Consecration as the rite of the Mass requires, but I cannot criticize him, because he is the Pope!
Benedict XVI asked us in Redemptoris Sacramentum to inform the local bishop of infidelities and liturgical abuses we witness. But ... should I report to the Pope, or to whom, above him, that the Pope does not respect the liturgy? I do not know what to do. Do I disobey the instructions of our Pope Emeritus?
I cannot feel happy that you have eliminated the use of the paten and kneelers for communicants; and delight even less that you never go down to give Communion to the faithful, do not call yourself "the Pope", but only "Bishop of Rome," do not use the fisherman's ring. But I cannot complain, because you are the Pope!
I cannot feel proud that you have washed the feet of a Muslim woman on Holy Thursday, since it is a violation of liturgical norms, but I cannot make a peep, because You are the Pope, whom I respect and I must be faithful!
I was terribly hurt when you punished the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate because they were celebrating the Mass in the ancient rite, since they had the express permission of your predecessor in Summorum Pontificum. And to punish them, means going against the teachings of previous popes. But to whom do I complain about my pain. You are the Pope!
I did not know what to think or say when you publicly mocked a group that had sent you a spiritual bouquet [of rosaries], calling them "those who count the prayers"; spiritual bouquets being a beautiful tradition in the Church, what should I think if my Pope doesn't like and mocks those who offer them.
I have a thousand "pro-life" friends who, being excellent Catholics, you upset a few days ago by calling them "obsessed and obsessive." What should I do? Comfort them, falsely softening your words or hurt them even more, repeating what you said to them, for the sake of wanting to be faithful to the Pope and his teachings?
At WYD you called the young people to "make a mess in the streets." The word "mess," as far as I know, is synonymous with "disorder", "chaos", "confusion." Really, this is what you want young Christians to create in the streets? Is there not already enough confusion and disorder about without adding to it?
I know of many older single women (spinsters), who are very cheerful, very congenial, and very generous and they really felt wretched when you told the nuns they should not have a face like a spinster. You made me feel really bad for my friends and my soul ached for them, for there is nothing wrong with having stayed single and dedicated one's life to good works (in fact, the unmarried state is specified as a vocation in the Catechism). What should I tell my "spinster" friends? That the Pope was not speaking seriously (which a Pope may not do), or rather tell them I support the Pope and that all spinsters have a face like bitter religious?
A couple of weeks ago you said that "what we are experiencing is one of the best moments of the Church." How can you say that as Pope when we all know that there are millions of young Catholics living in concubinage and so many other millions of Catholic marriages using contraceptives; when divorce is "our daily bread" and millions of Catholic mothers kill their unborn children with the help of Catholic doctors; when there are millions of Catholic businessmen who are not guided by the social doctrine of the Church, but by ambition and greed; when there are thousands of priests who commit liturgical abuses; when there are hundreds of millions of Catholics who have never had an encounter with Christ and do not know the most essential doctrine; when education and governments are in the hands of Freemasonry and the world economy in the hands of Zionism? Is this the best time of the Church?
When you said it, beloved Pope, I panicked, wondering if you meant it. If the captain does not see the iceberg before us, it is very likely we will crash into it. Did you say it seriously because you sincerely think like this, or was it "just a manner of speaking"?
Many great preachers felt devastated upon learning that you said that it was no longer necessary to speak about some themes on which the Church has already spoken and which are set forth in the Catechism. Tell me, dear Pope Francis, what should we do, then, Christians who want to be faithful to the Pope and also to the Magisterium and Tradition? Do we stop preaching even though St. Paul has told us that it should be done in season and out of season? Do we end up compelling brave preachers to be silent, while we coddle sinners and gently tell them that, if they can and want to, they should read the Catechism to know what the Church says?
Whenever you talk about the "shepherds smelling of their sheep," I think of all those priests who allowed themselves to be contaminated by the things of the world and have lost their priestly aroma to acquire a certain smell of rotteness. I do not want shepherds who smell like sheep, but sheep that do not smell of dung, because their pastor takes care of them and always keeps them clean.
A few days ago you talked about the vocation of Matthew with these words: "I'm impressed by the gesture of Matthew. He clings to his money, as if saying: 'No, not me! No, this money is mine'." I could not help but compare your words with the Gospel (Mt 9, 9), against which the same Matthew says of his vocation: "And Jesus went forth from thence, he saw a man who was sitting at the tax office, whose name was Matthew, and said unto him, Follow me. And he rose and followed him."
I cannot see where it is grasping for money (nor see it in the painting of Caravaggio). I see two different accounts and wrong exegesis. Who should I believe, the Gospel or the Pope, if I want (as I really want) to be faithful to the Gospel and the Pope?
When you spoke of the woman who lives in concubinage after a divorce and an abortion, you said that "she now lives in peace." I wonder: Can a woman who has voluntarily abandoned the grace of God live in peace? Previous Popes, from St. Peter to Benedict XVI, said that it is not possible to find peace apart from God, but Pope Francis has affirmed it. What should I support, the Magisterium of the ages, or this novelty? Must I affirm, starting today, in order to be faithful to the Pope, that peace can be found in a life of sin?
Then you dropped the question but left unanswered what the confessor should do, as if you wanted to open Pandora's box knowing that there are hundreds of priests who, erroneously, counsel couples to continue cohabiting. Why my Pope, my dear Pope, did you not tell us in a few words what should be advised in cases like this one, instead of opening up doubt in sincere hearts?
I met Cardinal Bergoglio at an almost familial level and I am a faithful witness that you are an intelligent, likeable, spontaneous, very witty, and very clever man. But I do not like how the press is publishing all your sayings and quips, because you are not a parish priest; you are no longer the Archbishop of Buenos Aires; you are now the Pope! and every word you say as Pope, acquires ordinary magisterial value for many who read and hear you.
Anyway, I have written too much already abusing your time, my good father. With the examples I have given you (although there are many others) I believe I have made clear the pain of uncertainty and perplexity that I am living.
Only you can help. I need a guide who enlightens my steps based on what the Church has always said, who speaks with courage and clarity, who does not offend those who work to be faithful to Jesus' command; who calls "the bread, bread and the wine wine", 'sin' sin and virtue 'virtue', even if with this he risks his popularity. I need your wisdom, your firmness and clarity. I ask you for help, please, for I am suffering much.
I know that God has gifted you with a very keen intelligence, so that, trying to comfort myself, I've been able to imagine that everything you do and say is part of a strategy to disconcert the enemy, presenting yourself before him with a white flag so he lowers his guard. But I would like us to share your strategy with those who fight on your side, because, in addition to disconcerting the enemy, you are also disconcerting us and we no longer know where is our own headquarters and where is the enemy front.
Thank you, once again, for all the good you have done and said during the great feasts, when your homilies and speeches have been beautiful, because they really have helped me a lot. Your words have encouraged and driven me to love more, to love always, to love better, to show the whole world the loving face of Jesus.
I send you a very loving filial hug, my dear father, with the assurance of my prayers. I also ask for yours, for me and for my family, of which I attach a photograph, so that you can pray for us, with familiar faces and bodies.
Your daughter who loves you and prays for you every day,
Lucrecia Rego de Planas
Translated from the Spanish by Rod Pead.