Rob Watson

Views & Voices

A gay dad’s open letter to Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

A few months ago, I had pondered on what the now retired Pope Benedict might observe and learn on a trip with my family to Disneyland.

He had just made some rude and inaccurate observations about families like mine, and I felt the reality, as demonstrated by tens of thousands of clamoring families in the “happiest place on earth” might give him something to think about.

Instead, he resigned.

Meanwhile, those within his church continued to act out obnoxiously and still others continued to put down LGBTQ families, especially those lead by gay dads.  There was some hope and speculation that the next pope might actually be gay, but that is unlikely.  This week he is being selected.

As a gay dad, and a professional, I thought it would be fitting to do what one should, as a matter of courtesy, when someone gets a new job.  You  send a note of congratulations.  So, on behalf of my family, including my two 10-year old sons, I am doing just that. 

Our note includes a suggested five point plan based on the principles that I have used with my sons, and that they have found effective.

Dear Pope Francis,

Welcome aboard!  In full disclosure, we are not members of your church, but rather neighbors of yours in the world community.  Since we apparently live in close enough proximity that your team feels the need to provide on-going commentary about us, we thought we would send you a note and warm wishes of congratulations.

We also thought we would also include a five point plan on how you might want to run the church and have an impact on the world.  We don’t mean to over-step our bounds here, just make a few key suggestions.  These are gay dad family style ideas…the kind that I share with my sons:

  1. Be a good neighbor.  What we are trying to say in the kindest of ways is… mind your own business.  Except for this one letter, we usually do not make it our business to tell you how to run the church, and we would like you to stop telling us what is required to be a good and legitimate family.

    You have not created a family, rescued a child for life,  have not spent sleepless nights over children with the flu, have not gotten your child to bed after waking with night terrors, or nursed a prematurely born child to health.  So please – no lectures, and for heaven sake, please stop weighing in about our legal protections and telling everyone that if we get some, that heterosexuals will stop procreating and the world will end.    Those kind of statements just make your team sound silly.

  2. Respect women. Like your household, ours is made up 100 percent of the male persuasion.  Unlike yours, our house understands that women are an intelligent and equal force in the world.

    My sons have been taught to respect, revere and take heed of the women authorities in their lives. You need to as well. It is time.  Some of the nuns in your employ ROCK.  The misogynistic infrastructure has got to go.  Your right hand man needs to be a woman.

  3. When you are wrong, say you are sorry and accept your consequences. This is a no-brainer for my sons, but seems to be  a hugely difficult concept for your church.  If you collectively were my sons, you would have found yourself on SUCH a Timeout, I can’t tell you.

    In any case, this is what you need to do.  Cleanse the slate now.  Say you are sorry to all those that have been hurt by your leadership both by direct abuse and by cover-up.  Pay.  Create foundations for abuse therapy and funds for direct financial restitution—not that there is a price tag to make up for what has been done.  It may in fact, break your bank.   You may have to sell and mortgage the riches of the church, but in the end, you will be spiritually richer.

  4. Get relevant.  OK, that is not really a mandate I give my sons, but one that my son Jesse gives me.  “Be cool, Dad.” Being cool is his top priority over being handsome, smart, or god forbid… cute. Being cool is the highest compliment. So… make the church… cool.

    Have you taken a look around?  The Catholic Church used to be the culture icon in the Renaissance when you hired Michelangelo.  You have stayed stuck in that fashion ever since.  I hate to be cliché, but you need a new gay guy to come in and renovate.  You need to lease the Vatican to Disney for a cool Renaissance retro-theme park, and bring in David Geffin, Elton John, Madonna and Lady Gaga to find new ways to get your message out… with a beat.  Put the saints on trading cards, an make their adventures legends at the box office.  Get relevant.

  5. Do good.  That is the ultimate message I give my sons, and it is the one you should be giving the world.  Do good works.  The world has plenty of pain, and could use a Prince of Peace.  How about giving that a try for the next few decades and see where it gets you.

    If I am wrong, you can go back to picking apart people’s personal gender characteristics and predicting the end of life as we know it.

So, there you go.  Welcome to your new job.  On behalf of me, my same sex partner, and my sons,  I wish you well.

I wish for you to emulate the Lamb and herald a new dawn of hope.  I hope that you learn from many of the members of your own church who are fair, tolerant and want a better world.  I pray that you look out at the rainbow of the LGBTQ community and see it with the same sense of promise as Noah did when he saw his rainbow as he descended from the Ark.

Surprise us.  Inspire us.  Show us what love really looks like.

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