Open Letter to Pope Francis: A Father Listens
Forgive my mild resistance to the ‘synod on synodality.’ The name itself tempts me to revert to evangelicalism; I resist. I now understand this global undertaking as your invitation for Church members to express their voices. As I’ve read the summary thus far—‘Enlarge the Space of Your Tent’—I am moved by persons who were never asked their opinion. You did. Thank you for listening.
Unlike many Protestant churches that rise or fall on the ‘buy-in’ of grassroot workers (and voices), the Catholic ‘super-structure’ can appear top-down, impervious to ground soldiers. Don’t ask, don’t tell.
You asked; I tell. As an older boy and teen, I listened to voices outside me to help define who I was sexually. Pornography accompanied me and distorted my vision of sexual dignity. It especially stoked same-sex attraction. I longed for masculine affection and confused unmet emotional needs for erotic ones (easy mistake in the sexual revolution ablaze in the Southern California of my youth).
My dad, an agnostic psychologist, advocated for my ‘coming out’ and warned ‘don’t let Christians shame you.’ My faithful mom looked at me and wept a bit. She said: ‘I know the pain of that life. I wanted more for your life.’ More? Was there more? Having had many ‘boyfriends’, I wondered if I knew anything about loving another person. Dad’s words consoled me; Mom’s rang true.
I needed more than a pass. I needed Jesus in my sexual vulnerability. He met me through some turned on ‘Jesus-people.’ I listened to His call to exchange my life for the one He gives. It confused me when I went to a ‘gay Christian’ gathering on the UCLA campus. Everyone spoke of the glory of being ‘gay.’ I asked why Jesus wasn’t the center of this gathering: why cling to ‘gay’ stuff and not the Cross?
Jesus and friends accompanied me to wholeness in the years that followed. God refused me the gift of celibacy but gave me a great wife and kids to whom I listened, especially in their sexual becoming. My history had taught me to attune to what they said and didn’t say. I sought to mirror their clarity as male and female and to help them set good limits so they could learn to love real people. They listened. Mostly.
We can father better than the world does. Children are listening.