Dear Catholic colleagues in ministry,
Your new Pope, Francis, is like a breath of fresh air wafting over us all. For those of us who have been progressives in the pulpit, having one of the most prominent clergymen in the world supporting the same causes for which we have fought is like feeling the wind at our backs. His call for compassion for all of God's creatures, recognizing the humanity and value of gay and lesbian people, his support for the poor, his recent condemnation of the universal worship of money and the inequality of wealth-these are issues that have propelled many of us to action, particularly in the last decade; a decade characterized by growing greed, hatred, inequality, prejudice and obscene profits for the very few. Many of us non-Catholics in the USA have looked to the Catholic Church for support, often to find that our dearest colleagues in the parish pulpit were hampered by official proclamations from a rigid hierarchy that seemed to only care about dogma, doctrinal discipline, and supporting the wealthy and well-connected in our political system.
I hope that you will find, my dear friends and precious colleagues, that many will now come to your church to hear a renewed message of compassion and radical caring for the least amongst us. They will fill your pews, happy to know that their desire to help others can be realized within the four walls of your congregation, inspired by your blessed Holy Father. I wish you joy and renewal. But my good news to you is tempered with a warning. Many of you have already no doubt found in your ministries that preaching on behalf of the poor, the outcast, the hated, and the marginal is met with resistance. Many of you have already found, as so many progressive clergy have, that daring to confront the status quo is fraught with peril. Parishioners will condemn you for daring to disturb the tranquility of the Sabbath message with calls for justice and equality, compassion and caring. If you dare to address the scourge of gun violence, or contempt for the poor, or the rising poverty in the midst of plenty, or the heartless hypocrisy of those in power there will be those that will condemn you for politicizing the pulpit, despite the fact that the altar has been long used as a political tool by those seeking to protect the wealthy and the status quo. But that is why we are colleagues and brothers and sisters in sacred service. As we inhale the fresh and new words of the humble yet courageous Francis, let us recall the ancient rabbinic blessing -- "May we be strong, and strengthen one another".