The Feast of the Annunciation,
March 25'th, 2009
Dear Brother in Christ, Pope Benedict XVI,
I'm led to write to you again, although I haven't gotten any response yet to my first letter, which I hope you've read as it was most of all meant for you personally. It can be found here if you haven't seen it:
I've followed the recent media turmoil, and would like to comfort you somehow, as I see both your pain and your good intentions. I'll keep you in loving prayers. But still I have to say what I'm inspired to say...
I'm now with you at a distance on your trip to Africa. I hear you speak about the situation of women, mainly in the society, as you've done quite a few times lately. I would also like to talk about women - but turn the focus to women within the Church - and to the need for renewal here. If we are to be listened to by the world - we need to change from within at first. The Church, in regard to women, should be the prophetic and hope-filled sign that the world is yet waiting to see.
The Church body is sadly split at the moment, and I got the image of it as consisting of twin children. One is a conservative boy, looking mainly backwards, and the other is a progressive girl, seeing the future come.
The Church needs both these vast perspectives: history and future, and the radical point where these must meet to keep the balance, is the present moment.
I'm now standing at that sharp point, seeing the Church tip over heavily in one direction.
As it is, only the boy twin is cared for by the Church Mother; it's given love, attention, food and even sweets. While the girl twin is thrown out of the house, left to starve, left alone. Well, not all alone, as God is also with her...
How can the Church ever be healed if this continues?
Both of the twins need to be loved and listened to. What is given to the boy should also be given to the girl.
Like you just said yourself in Africa (very well expressed!):
"I call everyone to an effective awareness of the adverse conditions to which many women have been -- and continue to be -- subjected, paying particular attention to ways in which the behavior and attitudes of men, who at times show a lack of sensitivity and responsibility, may be to blame. This forms no part of God's plan."
May I use another image: the Church is running out of wine at present. And only women can bring its flow back. We keep pointing at what's missing - and we still wait for the answer from the all male hierarchy: the full recognition of our complementary calls from God.
Women and men are called to serve together, not only in the society, but also in the very heart of our Church.
Isn't it quite clear by now that the Church can't be genuinely represented only by "fathers"? Isn't it clear that women are desperately needed in every Church position, to heal what we've lost through a very sad history, so unlike the blossoming beginnings of Christianity, in order to move towards the future?
There's something new in the air these days... As you may have noticed.
And I can imagine that the present situation may feel unfamiliar and even threatening to you. But it's the signs of a new spring time for the Church. You'll only have to let it happen... May I dare to say: it's time to surrender!
The long era is finally over, when the hierarchy could rule over the Church, even through violent means, without being criticized. In our days, media is focused on the Church like never before, and the internet has opened up new ways. Lay Catholics across the world have found wonderful possibilities to connect and share. And we'd like to share our thoughts with you.
What you, or perhaps mainly some of those around you, seem to wish for and ask for: obedience and conformity to certain thinking patterns, is actually what causes most of the problems in the Church. It shapes a kind of blind loyalty that keeps people at a spiritual baby level. But that's not inspired by God...
It's supposed to be like this among us:
"Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave". (Matthew 20:21-25)
Why is there then such a power abuse even among Church leaders of today? The lay people know, some of us by tough personal experiences, that the hierarchy isn't infallible. But don't worry. It's by recognizing that they're fallible, vulnerable - and thus lovable - that the Church leaders will be able to humbly serve and gain our trust again.
Yes - to serve is all about trust, not demanding obedience. And trust needs to be earned.
I'll trust a Church which fully receives also the women that God calls to serve.
I'll trust a Church where everyone is welcome, and no one is shut out from God's table.
I'll trust a Church that doesn't excommunicate - but communicates with its critics, as change has to come from within.
Only those who listen to God more than to human beings can bring about change in the Church. Only those will be free enough. And that freedom isn't a threat to the institution - it's what will bring new life to dead bones. Again - you only need to let it happen... God will take care of it and guide the Church through what each person, women and men alike, is inspired to by the Holy Spirit - in prayer and discernment.
What we need to see, and are all to be, is a Church on her knees. Carefully listening to God. And among many other things, I think God wants to deliver this message today:
"I wish to blow spring air over the Church, but you close the windows, and lock the doors. Where may I enter? I'll blow fresh air through all the tiny slots where I am received. You'll be surprised as it's exactly those that you've tried to tighten. But I kept them open. And the stones that don't let the light through will be moved."
Our Church is as if covered with ice today, and it needs many warm spring sunbeams to start melting.
Let's be those sunbeams!
Love in Christ,
P.S. I wrote this letter a few days before this Feast day - but wanted to send it today, wrapped in prayers.
A few hours after writing it, I read about your meeting with the youth in Angola. God's powerful presence there was felt all the way to Sweden...!
These words of yours made me rejoice: "God changes us; he makes us new! This is what he has promised: ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ It is true!"
Amen!! May the Holy Spirit keep renewing us all, and our beloved Church, from within!