Feast of St. Augustine Appeal to Pope Francis by John J. Shea, O.S.A

I hope you that are well and that your officials let you receive this letter. I pray for you. Your obvious concern for the poor, for the environ- ment, and for reform in our church is more than wonderful.

Enclosed again are two letters about the ordination of women: the first is sent to each member of the Council of Cardinals with whom you are soon meeting; the second is a letter for background that I mailed to all the ordinaries of the United States at the beginning of Lent in 2014.

When you talked about the need for honest dialogue on the issues that we face as a church, it was initially heartening. You kept insisting: “dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.” In fact, you said: “dialogue fearlessly.”

Unfortunately, however, there is not now, nor has there ever been, fearless dialogue—let alone anything gender inclusive—on the ordination of women, even though this issue is arguably the one most crucial.

In your care for God’s people, can the collaboration between bishops and theologians at Vatican II be a model? As our Supreme Bridge Builder can you empower an up-to-date synodal dialogue now so tragically absent and so desperately needed?

How can our church be whole if women are “not fully in the likeness of Jesus”? Not to affirm the body-and-soul wholeness of women—leaving their integrity ignored, disparaged, and denied—is a crushing injustice that stifles the Spirit and gives a lie to the Good News.

Is it wrong to hope that our ecclesial structures—crumbling in stone yet so powerfully ensconced in patriarchal privilege—can come to embrace an intelligent view of gender? Is it possible to see that integrity and mutuality are embodied by grown women as well as grown men?

Pope Francis, can the Vatican’s understanding of women finally take a centuries-leap forward? Can justice and mercy actually wed?


John J. Shea, O.S.A. Copy: Each Member of the Council of Cardinals