A Plea to the Pope


Dear Pope Francis,


Desmond Tutu once said, “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” and I mention him here because brother Tutu has put boots on his words. Over the past several months, he has been hustling through Africa, sitting down with dictators, speaking to whoever will listen, doing whatever he can to place himself in the space between God’s beloved LGBT children and those wishing them harm. He has been courageously following his call, chasing down the path of justice and mercy and love. I can only hope to one day run in his wake.


I also bring him up because he is absolutely right about neutrality in injustice. There’s nothing neutral about it.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer put this sentiment more sharply:


“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr also added his voice to this outlook in the midst of his own fight against oppression:


“In the End, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”


I wish to speak plainly, Pope, no groveling, no frills, no nonsense. I want to say that when it comes to you, I am always somewhere between a wild embrace and a swift eye-roll. Speak about poverty, speak about creation care, shamelessly say that Marxists are good people, too, and you will find me in the crowd, eyes welling with tears, clapping my hands so hard because that’s a kind of gospel that is so desperately needed.


Say things about gay people and I will naturally fall into crossed arms, eyes glazed with skepticism.


Because, Pope, while I have been gladdened by the way you have humanized the gay community, I cannot ignore the divergence between actions and words, and when it comes to matters of justice, the two are inseparable.


I am still embittered by comments of your past and as much as I wish they hadn’t happened, I still hear them when you talk. And you haven’t taken them back, either. Like when you called gay marriage “the work of the devil”, or, and more recently, in December, when you were reportedly “shocked” that gay couples could even adopt. When you urged a bishop in a country debating gay adoption to speak out against it.


And even when you’ve said kind things about gay people, they’ve usually been followed with quiet reversals coming from your administration. A lot of clarifying. A lot of back-stepping. A lot of distancing yourself, accusing the media of misconstruing your words. It kind of takes the lift out of your niceties.


But- if I am to put all of my cards on the table, criticism and praise, I must say- I am moved by the goodness of your heart.


I don’t know what is tucked inside it, but I do know that someone who slips out into the dark of night to tend to the homeless is someone with a heart lit by Christ. I’ve watched you wash the feet of inmates, kiss the head of the disfigured, proclaim to the world that God’s love and favor are boundless. That all of us matter. That we stand on the equal plain of grace.


And I am asking you to let your heart spill over once again.


Your LGBT brothers and sisters are being hunted down across the world, at this very moment, on the basis of who they are. They are in hiding. They are living in a world where to come out is to be thrown into prison. They are living in nations where the law of the land says it is illegal to know a gay person and not report them to the authorities. A dark cloud has fallen and they have no escape out.


Fourteen men were torn from their houses in Nigeria, dragged down the streets by a jeering mob, beaten with iron rods by both civilian and law enforcement. A young man in the north was found guilty of being gay (think about that), and he was sentenced to severe whip lashings, a sentence the judge called “compassionate” since he ought to have been publicly stoned. The anti-gay law that was passed and signed by the President of Nigeria was called a “courageous and wise decision” by one of your own promoted Bishops.


In Uganda, for years, the parliament has been moving to draft a “kill the gays” bill, a law that needs no further explanation. It has been tempered into a life sentence for being gay- oh, the compassion- but that doesn’t mean the public, the churches there, feel any less emboldened. A local Ugandan paper put out an issue with the pictures, names and addresses of one hundred gay activists in the country beneath the headline, “hang them.”


And it’s happening in Russia, in India, and approximately 83 other countries.


And it is being done in the name of Jesus Christ.


I don’t want you to misread me, Pope, I want you to know that I am not asking you to reverse your position on gay marriage. I understand reality; that you and I come from different places on the theological spectrum, walk of life, and spiritual experiences. I am under no illusions about that.


But that is far from the issue- it is a distraction from the dire issue at hand. Because violence and murder and brutality and imprisonment are flaming across the world, pursuing my people, and every single second that you remain silent, that much more you are complicit. Because as Christians, we are commanded to speak up, to speak out, and to defend the vulnerable. That is a non-negotiable. That is not a gray area. 


I have no idea why you have stayed silent. Perhaps it is politics, pressure from within, or maybe fear because your statements have placed you in hot water before. However, because of who you are, a Christian with unmatchable influence, it is completely unacceptable to stay silent. It is unbecoming of a Pope, of a Christian, of a human being.


So I call on you now to step forward and speak boldly. Listen to the chorus of voices on twitter, on the Vatican phone lines, in letters filling up your mailbox. Hear us crying out in the wilderness for someone to stand in the gap and stay their ground. For someone to shout EnoughFor you to live up to your calling.


I plead for you to listen to call of Tutu, of Bonhoeffer, of King, of Jesus himself:


‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”

– Matthew 25: 45


Your Brother in Christ,



  • The good news: Pope Francis has indeed done a lot to change the tone of the conversation about homosexuality (much to the chagrin of conservative Catholic leaders like Timothy Dolan). He has all but subverted the judgmental church teaching by saying “who am I to judge?”. Catholic lawmakers, for example, have cited the Pope when casting their vote for gay marriage legislation.

    The good news in theory: the Catholic catechism unambiguously says that unjust discrimination against gay people is unacceptable.

    The not good news: The Catholic Bishops have been leading agents of unjust discrimination. In Uganda, they joined with Anglican and Orthodox Christian leaders to urge swift passage of the anti-homosexuality bill in which the crime of homosex is punishable with up it a lifetime in jail. In America, the USCCB is strongly opposing employment discrimination protections for people who are gay; they believe it should be OK to express moral disapproval by depriving a gay person of a paycheck.

    The Catholic Church is a political organism. It’s anti-gay roots are deep. My sense is that the Pope is doing what he can, but gay rights isn’t what he’s going to spend his political capital on. I think that may be a wise approach. Creating a more compassionate church through service will lead to more compassion for humankind – including people who are gay.

    I hope all is well in your world!

    • Oh I agree in the change of tone, and I do believe it is important. Though I do still have my doubts about Pope Francis and I’m just not ready to hop on the bandwagon for him. At least not yet. Granted, I am being idealistic. He is a conservative on matters of sexuality and he has not tried to hide it, but I still am frustrated by the blanket praise he receives when he still advocates against equal rights for gay people. It is one thing to oppose it on the grounds of church doctrine, another to lobby against adoption by gay couples. And to be silent on this, something so devastating and widespread, it feels a little like assent. And I can’t reason my way into justifying it.

      I hope you are doing well too Ford. It’s been too long!

  • Roo James Wilson

    Once again, wonderfully written and you give it your sincere response.

    • Thank you, Roo. That means a great deal!

      • Roo James Wilson

        Well, we need more opinions like yours. Your story intrigues me greatly. 🙂

  • JoAnn Forsberg

    As a born-again Christian Grandmother married to one man for 38 years. I have deeply studied the Bible and traditional marriage as America states it. For truly the one man and one women was not the Bibilcal standard in Old Testament.

    If you are willing to step outside of what is passed on and taught through the denomination you joined; a choice you made as to what you believe is truth. For obviously for as many Christians whom exist, for as many foundational teachings:

    NOT ONE person or church has the complete knowledge of interpretation of Biblical passages. God’s word is perfect; it is mankind’s interpretations that is not.

    So if your willing to learn I ask you look up the National Geographic video on the study done on genetics and gay individuals. We cannot deny creation in however born. For to do so denies our Creator.

    Yet, truly what confuses me the most about my Christian brothers and sisters is the whole abortion and adoption issue. As a women who defends the rights of gay individuals in church and America. I have gained many gay friends over a thirty year period.

    My observation is this: we stand for the right for life. Yet, children are born with mental and physical issues. Many, many gay families adopt these babies/children giving them a loving home. I have also witness time and time again gay couples helping a teenager so they will not abort the child!

    Who is the Good Samaritan here? Who would Jesus state were showing His message of love? I know many children in gay families who would not be here without a gay person helping them to be born.

    So until we solve the abortion issue we should be applauding any person- gay or straight who help these children to be born.

    Your not hurting gay people by deny equal rights in marriage and families. You are sentencing many unborn children to death. Many handicapped children to not belong to a loving person.

    Please open your hearts, open your mind, study genetic creation of gay people. then, know Christ/God/Spirit did not condemn gay individuals. It is us, as Christians who have.

    Requires too many statements to explain all the misinterpretation that has occurred.

    But just know this is an undisputed truth: the word homosexual was never (1,500 years) in the Bible until 1946.

    One more truth to consider: study the seven deadly sins. Very enlightening as “Sloth/laziness” was the greatest sin over history. Reason being a tribe, clan and our own Pilgrims required all to work for survival.

    I often hear in Christian circles: that America needs to repent. Often blamed on gay individuals. I agree with: “We need to repent, humbly fall on our knees”. But not because of gay individuals. But because we are so spoilt in America that daily survival does not cross our mind.

    That the Christian Church today “band-wagon” is those gays who want to attend church! Wow, really? 1,500 plus years Christians worried about survival and we worry that a gay person adopts a child, wants to be a family, or wants to attend church just as they are, just as I am.

    Yes, America needs to repent; fall down in humility for being spoilt brats.

    Bless you all today… Consider the children yet unborn.

    Blessings, Jo

  • Aidan Bird

    Considering I grew up in the Catholic Church, I can very much relate to this post, and the words you speak here echoes what I hope in my own heart. Though I doubt the Pope will do anything or say anything to help stop the abuse, persecution, and horrors that people like us experience throughout the world. You hold more hope than I do. And thank you for writing this.