Dear Pope Francis: Thanks, and No One Is Confused

Dear Pope Francis,

Since so many people are choosing to write to you, I thought I would too.  Many of the letters you receive, at least those shared through the media, take you to task for one thing or another.  I am writing for two reasons: to thank you for your leadership and courage, and to tell you that — despite what some are complaining about — I do not think anyone is “confused” by your actions, your teaching, and your writing.  May I suggest that those who make that claim are using that language of “confusion” to mask the truth: that they just disagree with you.

Your writing and teaching are clear: you desire the Church to be an adult Church.  By this I do not mean a Church only FOR adults, but a mature People of God, Mystical Body of Christ and Temple of the Holy Spirit.  This should be a Church in which we deal with each other with compassion, maturity and an honest realization that people are generally trying to do the best they can despite the sometimes overwhelming challenges they face.  Mature human beings come to realize that one-size-rarely-fits-all, and that we must use our God-given freedom of will in the best ways we can.  Your Holiness, we all understand full well that there are absolutes in life, but we also understand that sometimes we are going to fall short and need to struggle on the best we can, always with the guidance of the Holy Spirit given to us all as children of God created in God’s own image and likeness.

No one is confused by this, Your Holiness.  Your call to a mature Christianity echoes the voice of the world’s bishops assembled in solemn Council:

Coming forth from the eternal Father’s love, founded in time by Christ the Redeemer and made one in the Holy Spirit, the Church has a saving and an eschatological purpose which can be fully attained only in the future world. But she is already present in this world, and is composed of men, that is, of members of the earthly city who have a call to form the family of God’s children during the present history of the human race, and to keep increasing it until the Lord returns. . . .   Thus the Church, simultaneously ‘a visible association and a spiritual community,’ goes forward together with humanity and experiences the same earthly lot which the world does. She serves as a leaven and as a kind of soul for human society as it is to be renewed in Christ and transformed into God’s family (Gaudium et spes, #40.

There is nothing “confusing” in any of this, except for those who wish to be confused.  They seem afraid of the unknown, the sometimes grayness of life.  As Christ often chided his first followers, and your illustrious predecessors have often repeated, “Be not afraid”, and “Put out into the deep!”  As we sailors know only too well, this often means that while we want to steer a true course, we must often trim our sails and tack in order to take full advantage of the wind and sea.  My sisters and brothers who write to you of “confusion”, however, seem to long for a world — and the Church within that world — which has the clarity of a black-and-white photograph.  The reality of the world is color-full, however, admitting all the colors God created.  As the Council reminds us, we as Church have a “saving and eschatological purpose” which will only be fully realized in Paradise.  The Second Vatican Council (much like your own teaching) is accused by some observers for being “overly optimistic” or for using “ambiguous” language.  Nothing could be further from the truth of the matter, as you well know, Holiness.  This is not ambiguity but mature and conscientious adaptability; not naive optimism, but well-founded Christian hope.

And so I thank you again, Holiness.  Thank you for your clarity of thought and expression.  Thank you for your courage and strength of leadership.  Thank you for your joyful witness to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives as individuals and as Church.

Sincerely in Christ,

Deacon Bill


Deacon William T. Ditewig, Ph.D., Archdiocese of Washington, DC

Commander, USN (ret.)

Professor of Theology, and former Executive Director, USCCB Secretariat for the Diaconate and Interim Executive Director, USCCB Secretariat for Evangelization




33 comments on “Dear Pope Francis: Thanks, and No One Is Confused

  1. cieg says:

    Neither am I confused by the Pope. He is a courageous one who we need at this time. We pray for him daily as well.

  2. dave says:

    Well said, Deacon Bill

  3. I’m with Francis. I’m with Bill

  4. THB says:

    Your certain clarity wouldn’t withstand ten minutes of cross examination

  5. Steve Morello says:

    Bill another place where there is no confusion is in the Episcopal Church, better known as the Church of England. In fact they are so enlightened, that no one pays attention any longer. They have no one attending their Services. This is the height of UnConfusion. Deacon Steve Morello


  6. Well, Steve, that’s a bit of a non-sequitur; I’m not at all speaking of the Anglican Communion, so I can’t admit your major premise.

  7. Chris says:

    Thank you Deacon Bill, that was very well said. The reality is that Pope Francis is leading the Church forward to a more merciful and pastoral approach. That will require shedding some of our past rigidity which was not only contrary to the teaching and practice of Jesus, but caused huge damage to the Church.

    Steve, we attended the consecration of the local Anglican Cathedral recently. It was packed. I don’t know where you get your “no one attending their Services” from.

    Many Blessings

  8. Todd says:

    Thanks for this sensible commentary.

  9. Julie says:

    Thanks for expressing so well my own sentiments about the claims that Pope Francis is confusing people. Where I find confusion is on the websites and blogposts of his critics.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Bill, as always you hit the nail on the head. All coming out of the seminaries somehow feel that classical and lace make the minister. Francis thinks the opposite.
    Deacon Larry

  11. Cherie Perine says:

    Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air- clarity where there WAS confusion, kindness where there was rigidity, love where there was little to be found.
    Our Pope is more Christ-like than any pope since John XXIII.

  12. Deacon Paul Covino says:

    Thanks for this excellent letter Bill. In my own work with college students — those who consider themselves “traditional” and those who consider themselves “progressive” — I find nothing but admiration and enthusiasm for Pope Francis.
    Deacon Paul Covino, Assumption College, Diocese of Worcester

  13. Fr James Clark says:


    Do you think that the critics of the Holy Father you state in your letter that the people who are using the language of confusion are “masking the truth.” By saying that they are “masking the truth,” are you asserting that these people are dishonest? If you’re not saying that they are dishonest, then what are you saying?

  14. Padre says:

    Perhaps since the Deacon is not confused he can provide clear answers to the dubia questions. As a professor of theology surely he would never accept “trust me I know the amswer” on a final exam. And the fact is there is sm exam coming.

    It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (300-305), it has now become possible to grant absolution in the sacrament of penance and thus to admit to holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person more uxorio without fulfilling the conditions provided for by Familiaris Consortio, 84, and subsequently reaffirmed by Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 34, and Sacramentum Caritatis, 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in Note 351 (305) of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio?

    After the publication of the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia (304), does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 79, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, on the existence of absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and that are binding without exceptions?

    After Amoris Laetitia (301) is it still possible to affirm that a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery (Matthew 19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, “Declaration,” June 24, 2000)?

    After the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (302) on “circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility,” does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 81, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, according to which “circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice”?

    After Amoris Laetitia (303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 56, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, that excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and that emphasizes that conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object?

  15. Bill Harkins says:

    Deacon Bill,
    I agree with Padre above. Don’t you think the Dubia alone is evidence of confusion? I often talk to Parishioners who are confused about the lack of agreement between Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce and that of Amoris Laetitia. I tell them follow Jesus and we can’t go wrong. I agree that we must not be afraid of the future, but also undersand the value of a clear mission statement that keeps a military unit, team, parish or church focused on what’s most important.
    Thanks for all you do, God Bless,
    Deacon Bill Harkins
    LtCol. USMC (ret)

  16. Boniface says:

    I am legit confused. I’m confused, for example, how Francis can say that capital punishment is itself intrinsically opposed to the Gospel when the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the teaching of the Council of Trent specifically say otherwise.

  17. Dcn Vince Eberling says:

    Deacon Bill,
    Well said! There is no confusion. Many who attack Pope Francis are concerned and do disagree with him. By the Pope’s statements he stimulates discussion and calls to action. If you don’t “smell like the sheep”, the sheep will run from the Church instead of running to her. The truth of the Magisterium doesn’t change but the way in which the Magisterium sees itself. Since Vatican II we have seen many changes; some good, some not so good. The discernment process of change will work itself out. Pope Francis is the catalyst for the dialogue that we must have. As Deacons we continue to feed the poor, give drink to the thirsty, cloth the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick or inprisioned. In all the meanings of those works. Thanks for a great and well balanced article

  18. Jason says:

    Your position shouldn’t even exist buddy. Down with the disgraceful “permanent deaconate” and down with Pope Francis. Coming from a millennial, whose generation is sick and tired of the post Vat 2 church.

  19. Jesus says:

    This article is satire, right?

    Is this your idea of the “adult church”?

  20. Florentius says:

    If everything is so clear, please answer the following question. A yes or no answer will suffice: “Can an individual who was validly married in the Catholic Church and subsequently divorced and remarried and who is having sexual relations with his new spouse receive Communion without taint of sin?”

  21. Wayne says:

    Then, answer the dubia. You wrote this for your own ego, because you know hordes of people who have a horde of ‘yes men’ to adulate you… people who are lazy and ignorant, and think all they have to do agree with a pope to be Catholic and holy. But you, you have enough letters behind your name to know better. And that can mean only one thing. You are a revolutionaty, whose revolution is predicated by hatred of the ancient Church… a hatred marked by vile humanism, modernism, chronological snobbery, and moral relativism. You know better… and you think you’ve found a way around everything you hate. Therefore, you are evil. You will die… we all will. Memento mori. And you should keep that in mind.

  22. Wayne says:

    I don’t understand how anyone can lead so many astray knowingly, knowing they will face God’s judgment one day. Memento mori! An anthem of the Church, meant to remind us of that fearul judgment and keep us true. I don’t understand how uou can be so flippant with so many souls, to include your own soul.

  23. Andrew says:

    Is this satire? I’m with the Church and its eternal teaching…not Pope Frank and his pseudo-Protestantism.

  24. […] I’ve grown more than a little weary of the progressive trope that any confusion caused by chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia is simply a matter of … […]

  25. “No one is confused.” Please, forgive me, but you don’t speak for me. I had a heart rending discussion with a fellow parishioner just last night about the confusion I feel, and it’s not something I “choose”. This post and this attitude is disrespectful of those who genuinely are asking for clarity in teaching.

  26. John says:

    “grayness of life” – So you mean lukewarmness?

    15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot.
    16 But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth. – Revelation 3:15-16

  27. No, John, I don’t mean that at all.

  28. becominghinged: I am sorry for your confusion, and I hope that you are able to find clarity.

  29. Wayne, you have no idea who I am or what motivates me. You can read my words but not my soul.

  30. Old Whiteman says:

    It must get exhausting trying to defend Pope Francis. Deacon, please grow up, and join a new religion that isn’t the Catholic Church. Then, the pastor can make up teachings on faith and morals as they go. You’d love that, and it’s much more in line with your liberal ideology.

  31. Old Whiteman, it must get exhausting reading other people’s hearts and souls. How does writing a letter in support of the Pope wind up being twisted to this position? That’s a rhetorical question; don’t bother answering.

Comments are closed.