In Peter’s Footsteps: My “Dear Pope” Letter
Most Holy Father:
Since every other pundit with the slightest inclination is writing you their "open letter to the Pope," I thought I would do the same. The chances of Your Holiness reading mine are no worse than any of the others. Mine, however, will be far more entertaining, not to mention lacking in the usual pious platitudes that accompany such missives. That said, welcome to the United States of America. You were here years ago while a member of the Sacred College of Cardinals, so you must know that this is a nice place to visit. But it is also an even nicer place in which to live. It must be, since every other person in the world is trying to get in.
But now that you're here, a lot of people want your attention for one thing or another. Since most of those who succeed in meeting you, haven't so much as opened their own car door in years, it is unlikely that you will ever meet many truly ordinary folks, except under the most controlled circumstances, and what's so ordinary about that? Our Lord didn't seem to care about the social class of anyone with whom he broke bread. Sadly, your apostolic mission requires you to be surrounded by those operatives who are preoccupied in just such a way. For them, the modus operandi appears to be a simple one. Your Holiness has been given absolute power over our Mother Church on earth, and their task is to limit how you use it. If you are fortunate, their hearts will be in the same place as yours. Historically, it doesn't look too good.
Your Holiness will never meet those who have suffered most from what you have called the "filth" that has infiltrated the priesthood. Whether that is by your design, or that of those around you, I daresay that it is a mistake. They need to know -- in fact, we all need to know -- that the purification of the Church on Earth is very high on your agenda. Your sheep are surrounded by wolves, and your shepherds are surrounded by lawyers. Reading a prepared statement is all well and good, but I am sure you have discovered in eighty-one years, that people tend to place more value upon what a man does, than upon what he says.
There are times when it is not enough to say the right thing, or to do the right thing, but to be seen doing the right thing. Such an act bears witness to the Truth, and brings hope to the downhearted.
And speaking of the best we can do, at the end of the day, when you're sitting in your private quarters, you may be inclined to watch the television coverage of your visit. If you want balanced and informed reporting, I recommend the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). At least they'll know what they're talking about. The alternative is to watch one of our news channels, which will include the musings of a few people you thought you had silenced, or should have. You can issue a formal decree about fidelity to the Church, and think your job is done, but we're still stuck with paying the bill for the lot of them. What's up with that?
And speaking of being stuck with something, Your Holiness will please take note of the musical repertoire for your celebration of Holy Mass. While some of it is worthy of merit, it will also include numerous examples of the banality that you have criticized in the past, in everything you have ever written about the Sacred Liturgy, before ascending to the Throne of Peter. This is because the majority of the people who administer our parishes, who work in our chanceries, who teach in our seminaries, who train musicians in weekend workshops, still don't get it.
When you issued your motu proprio last summer, allowing the use of the Traditional form of the Roman Liturgy, most of them really did not believe that it had anything to do with them, never mind that you were serious. They still believe they can dismiss the legitimate aspirations of people who request it. They have attempted to act on this belief. The Holy See is expected to issue a clarification on Summorum Pontificum in the near future. I beg Your Holiness to leave the status quo, with the unmistakable impression, that the restoration of the sacred to the official worship of the Church, is an integral and inescapable component of this pontificate, and that ignoring it will not make it go away. Most of us listen to this melodic drivel every Sunday, under the leadership of those with less musical skill than that which you will hear at Nationals Park. Your Holiness, on the other hand, will only have to listen to it once. Okay, maybe twice.
How do people get the message that you might not be amused? Well, you could issue yet another decree for them to ignore. Or you could try a different approach. While you're at Nationals Park tomorrow, you could try appearing to speak off the cuff to your aides, while several reporters are within strategic distance, and in your best English: "Hey, did anybody ever tell this Marty Haugen guy he's no Mozart?"
That oughta perk their ears a bit.
When you're in New York City, you will be able to visit the landmark known as "Ground Zero," where so many lost their lives to an unspeakable act of evil. As you read the oration that was prepared for the event, listen to yourself. Are you leading a prayer to God, or reading a self-affirming statement for the crowd? As you answer that question, remember that as you leave our beloved country, the same people who wrote that prayer, are the ones you are leaving in charge when you return to Rome. You'll know what needs to happen, right?
There's something else you need to know about New York City. When they say to keep off the grass at Yankee Stadium, they're not kidding. They throw people out of the park for stuff like that. If you decide to take your chances, though, just keep that diplomatic passport handy. And the cameras will be rolling.
And speaking of the cameras rolling, there is one last thing. Order a hot dog with everything from a genuine sidewalk vendor. Make sure it's kosher. It would be a single spontaneous act of "joie de vivre," Holy Father, and thus would send its own message. After all, today is your birthday. Trust me, from a distance (which is the most I'll ever see of you), you don't look a day over seventy-one. Ad multos annos!
Know that Your Holiness is ever in my prayers, and that though I am a sinner who is continually in need of the Divine Mercy, I endeavor in the midst of this frailty to remain...
Your devoted subject in corde Jesu,
David Lawrence Alexander
Arlington Virginia USA