Posting the Pope not for everyone

I have received some feedback on the campaign to reply to Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to the Irish people (Dear Mr. Ratzinger: Letters from Ireland, ). Some have enthusiastically embraced the idea and plan to write a note to the Pontiff to express their opinion of his prose to the Irish nation. Others think it is a bad idea because, in their opinion, it does not move the ball forward. Some initially embraced the idea and then had a change of heart. I respect all these positions and, believe me, I understand that, for some people, writing a letter to the Pope may only lead to frustration and despair.  I will not question the decision of any survivor to support or not participate in this campaign.

I am willing to write a letter for a couple of reasons. First, I think when voices, or in this case letters, are brought together they send a message. The message here is that the pastoral letter from the Pope was an exercise in deflecting responsibility for the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, specifically in Ireland and generally around the world. This is a method of protest to inform the Holy See that more affirmative and genuine action is needed to deal with the crisis worldwide.

I personally believe that writing a letter, expressing my concern, displeasure, and outrage at the Vatican policy of simply brushing this crisis off as a thing of the past will be cathartic for me.

That said, I have no illusions that the letters will get past some low-level Vatican bureaucrat working for some harried monsignor in the Holy See’s mail room. I have no illusions that anyone above the rank master altar boy at St. Peters will actually read my letter. I do not expect an answer from a Vatican official, Cardinal or the Big Guy himself. I will not be crushed two months from now when I have no overseas letter with some cool pontifical postage affixed. I am simply adding my humble missive to the universe of other letters that will be posted on 15 May in hopes that the numbers of letters arriving at the Vatican City Post Office are of a quantity large enough to merit a whisper in the halls that there is a lot of mail coming in and that people in Ireland and the rest of the world are tired of the Pope doing everything but the right thing in dealing with the sexual abuse crisis. Perhaps enough letters will arrive to warrant at least a sampling of letters to determine the sense of outrage over the Pope’s leadership deficit and the Holy See’s inability to grasp the magnitude of displeasure in the handling of these abuse cases.  Whatever happens, the act of writing and mailing the letter is enough for me (it seems oddly poetic that I will put my letter in the box at the Post Office on Battlefield Boulevard). 

I can apply the same reasoning for mailing a letter to the Pope that I do to publishing a post on this blog.  I write it for myself. I am doing so to exorcise a demon, to be a voice for change and to help myself get to a point where I feel I have done what I can for myself.  If it is read by others, that is fine.  If it helps one other survivor deal with the “great terrible secret”, I consider that a major win.  If I educate someone along the way, all the better.

When I asked the leadership of SNAP to endorse the “Dear Mr. Ratzinger” campaign, the response I received was that it was not seen as a productive way to effectively communicate SNAP’s message or advance the cause of victims of clerical abuse. The SNAP leader who replied indicated that he , in concert with others, did not see how it could help, so they were going to pass on supporting the idea.  I was not surprised.  I am unsure about SNAP’s willingness to operate outside the comfort zone established by the organization’s leadership. They seemed to be committed to a model that is more restrictive in the types of actions that they will endorse or embrace.  I would think that they would support any effort, that was not harmful to survivors, to bring attention to the lack of a focused effort on the part of the Catholic Church to deal honestly with the sexual abuse crisis.  In the end, it is what works for the individual that matters to me. 

For me, writing the letter is a good thing.  My voice joins with those of others, survivors and supporters alike, and sends a message that we are not standing idly by.  I am not trusting that those anointed by mortals are keeping the best interest of children and vulnerable adults at heart.  The hierarchy of the Catholic Church has failed us all, repeatedly, for generations.  I will not pass up an opportunity to voice that sentiment and send it into the world.  If it falls on deaf ears, so be it.  I will keep stirring the pot. 

Calculate your postage for a letter to Vatican City at the U.S. Postal Service Website.

“Dear Mr. Ratzinger” Campaign

I have a new hero in Ireland. Her name is Emma Somers. She is a free-lance writer and she has come up with the most elegant and simple way to reply to Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to the Irish people regarding the sex crisis in the Catholic Church. We are all going to drop him a line, compose a letter, fire off an email, send an epistle, you choose the form it takes as long as the message is sent. I know this is starting as an Irish initiative, but I would like to see a more international effort  supporting Emma’s campaign.  This is a show of support for Ireland’s concerned movers and shakers who are done with the abuse committed by clergy and covered up and denied by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  This is a show of support for survivors worldwide. This is a pontifical “WAKE-UP” call to the Holy See.

Emma’s WordPress Blog is called “Dear Mr. Ratzinger: Letters from Ireland“.  The rules are simple (I hope she forgives me for cutting and pasting):

No 1: Read the pope’s letter

Please do not post a response unless you have read the pastoral letter from the pope — or at least the parts directed at you (eg victims, young people, parents, etc). It is posted here.

No 2: Write your reply

It may be one line, it may match the pope’s 4,000 words — either way, you can get your message across. Feel free to borrow from other letters here if you have trouble articulating your feelings.

No 3: Share your reply

If you are comfortable sharing all or part of your reply, please post it as a comment on “Dear Mr. Ratzinger“. Your letter may inspire others to put pen to paper.

No 4: Post  your reply on Saturday 15th May 2010

This is the most important part. DO NOT FORGET TO POST OR EMAIL YOUR LETTER! For the biggest impact, we will send our letters on the same day and show the Vatican Ireland cares about victims of clerical child abuse.

Note: (For you Americans out there, Post=Mail, find a stamp and mail the thing)

Participants are invited to meet at the GPO on O’Connell Street, Dublin, at 2pm on Saturday 15th May to post our letters as a group. (If you would like to be sent a reminder for this, please email with ‘Reminder GPO’ in the subject line. Your email will not be passed on or used for any other purposes.)

If you can’t make it to the GPO, all you need to do is post or email your letter before 5pm on Saturday 15th May. (Again, for a reminder, please email with the word ‘Reminder’ in the subject line.)

Address for letters: Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Palace, 00120 Vatican City
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
00120 Via del Pellegrino
Citta del Vaticano

Address for emails:

No 5: Spread the word

Please pass “Dear Mr. Ratzinger: Letters from Ireland” on to anyone you know who might be interested in having their voice heard or help friends and family who are not online to get involved in the campaign.

Consider this “Spreading the Word”!  I need a Canadian and an Australian to get the word out in your neck of the woods. 

For those of us that can’t make it to the GPO in Dublin on the 15th because of lack of funding, expired passports, or Icelandic volcanos,  I recommend similar gatherings at post offices around the world.  Talk amongst yourselves and come up with an appropriate location, preferably near a mail box, post box, container approved by your local postal authority or free WiFi hotspot.   

If you are going to meet, let me know where and when and I will spread the word.

Why are you still reading this?  Go to Emma’s Blog, Dear Mister Ratzinger: Letters from Ireland, you have reading and writing to do.