Letter to Pope Benedict XVI

This private letter to the Pope was revealed when it appeared among the so-called Vatileaks. We present it here because it is now in the public domain.

Two of the Church's most generous philanthropists say there are good reasons why European Catholics are leaving the Church and that the Roman Curia is too interested in money and power

Hubert and Aldegonde Brenninkmeijer-Werhan, a well-known Dutch couple, are generous patrons of Catholic initiatives throughout Europe and the Holy Land. During a visit to Rome last autumn, they asked the superior general of the Society of Jesus to deliver a letter to Pope Benedict. He did so through the Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi SJ. The letter is dated 11 November 2011.

Your Holiness,

Peace be with you and the Church of Jesus entrusted to you... It is with a profound sense of sadness that we must once again note that even well-educated Catholics, Catholics all over Europe, are leaving the hierarchical Church in growing numbers but without abandoning their faith in Christ. Whatever the motives for such behaviour, I would like to recall the words of the prophet Jeremiah: 'Woe to the shepherds that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture" (Jeremiah 23:1-4). Where are the shepherds that seriously follow the people entrusted to them, without being fundamentalists, who with attentive and judicious love keep an eye on the whole flock and are able to lead and guide people in a modern way? Why are bishops appointed in Europe that neither have contact with the "flock", nor trust them? ...

Many lay people, members of orders, and even bishops discretely confide how discouraged they are and are losing faith in the authoritative congregations and pontifical councils of the Roman Curia. [...] Why are leading officials in the Vatican ruled by a paralysing fear rather than a collaboration with well-educated, competent and open-minded Christians, of both sexes, and in every department, in order to honestly address the truly urgent questions of today and try to resolve them? Why, instead, the fear? Why does money play such a central role for so many bishops in the Roman Curia and in some European dioceses, as well as in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem? Where in the Curia is the courage to fight temptations to power? Where is the humility and freedom of the Spirit? Why does the Council for the Family use collaborators that are compliant and uncritical instead of employing people that can and want to act according to the spirit and demanding directives of Vatican II concerning the aggiornamento that was called for? Why is there hardly any collaboration between the Council for the Family and the Council for the Laity? [... ] It is only through constant prayer that I am able to find the courage to confide to you, dear Holy Father, ... that your inner circle has amassed, in a vis­ible and tangible way, a considerable amount of power....

Published in the Tablet 9th June 2012 p6.