As most readers are likely aware, a signature drive with the name “Filial Appeal to His Holiness Pope Francis” has practically gone viral; petitioning the pope “to reaffirm categorically the Catholic teaching that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics cannot receive Holy Communion and that homosexual unions are contrary to Divine and natural law.”
As of this writing, the drive has garnered over 76,000 signatures, some of which are from people I admire.
Mine, however, is not one of them.
I realize that this post isn’t likely to win many new friends, especially among those who, with good intentions, forked over their name and email address to the anonymous creators of this operation, but hey, someone has to deliver the unwelcome news:
At best, the so-called “Filial Appeal” is a monumental waste of time; at worst, it unwittingly undermines the very thing it proposes to accomplish.
Before we get to that, however, let’s talk about the petition itself.
There’s reason to believe that the author of the text may not be a native English speaker, so perhaps a little leeway is in order. Even so, it’s a terrible read.
Most annoying of all is its use of the capital “Y” in “You” every time it addresses Pope Francis directly, as if referring to the Almighty Himself. Perhaps this is a norm in some other languages. Who knows?
(NOTE TO WHOEVER WROTE THAT TEXT: The last thing this pope needs is an ego boost.)
In truth, the entire thing could be reworded simply to say:
Dear Pope Francis, please be Catholic. Thank you.
As it is, the “Appeal” informs the pope of “widespread confusion arising from the possibility that a breach has been opened within the Church that would accept adultery,” asking him to remedy the situation.
Every interested party with a middle school education knows very well that Pope Francis is the author of that would-be breach, and furthermore, he seems Hell bent and determined to exploit it as far as the Lord will allow.
So, what’s the danger in just signing the petition anyway?
Let’s think this through logically:
We’re living in the midst of a disastrous pontificate that shows forth every indication of going from bad to worse before it mercifully comes to an end.
Why is this so?
In part because we have a pope who appears determined to circumvent Catholic doctrine under the guise of “pastoral concerns;” even going so far as to tell the Synod bishops, “the Church must listen to the beat of this age.”
In other words, we have a Roman Pontiff who seems to put more stock in the emotionally charged opinions of broken people persisting in sinful lifestyles than he does in the immutable voice of Christ as made known in the tradition of the Church.
So, how shall we respond?
Well, by joining a petition drive calling on the pope to listen to us, of course!
It’s as if we’re saying, “Hey, we’re part of the ‘beat of this age’ too; in fact, we already number nearly one-ten-thousandth of one percent of the world’s one billion Catholics, and we’re just getting started!”
All levity aside, the point is rather simple:
The Bishop of Rome is not, contrary to his own dangerous behavior, like a local alderman who is called to govern according to the concerns of his constituents. That’s the problem.
Petitioning him, albeit with good intentions, only adds to the false impression that the sheep should be leading the shepherd.
Surely some will counter with the idea that we are occasionally called, in charity, to offer fraternal correction, even to our superiors.
Indeed, but this isn’t one of those occasions.
Pope Francis has been attacking Catholic doctrine and those who embrace it with remarkable rancor from the earliest days of his pontificate; not because he doesn’t know how those worthy of the name Catholic think and feel and worship, but precisely because he does.
Further informing him of the true Faith and our devotion to it isn’t going to help the situation one iota.
The petition is at least correct in identifying the pope as the central figure in the current controversy concerning marriage and family, but let’s not kid one another – this isn’t an ignorance problem that calls for correction; it’s a crisis of faith that calls for a damned good confession.
The bottom line is this: Our part in this terrible crisis is neither as flashy nor as newsworthy as a well-organized petition drive; it’s prayer and fasting, plain and simple.
Now if that went viral, we might be getting somewhere.