An open letter to the College of Cardinals: What I want in a church


There’s been several polls released over the past couple of weeks (see here and here) that indicate a growing chasm between lay Catholics and church leadership. Many pundits interpret this to mean the Catholic Church must change its ways in order to survive. That more Catholics want a more “inclusive” church when it comes to homosexuality, contraception, women’s ordination and priestly celibacy is undeniable. But is abolishing centuries of tradition the right way to go?

As a member of the Millenial generation, I must say no. In the not so distant past I considered myself a supporter of those progressive causes, but looking back now I can honestly say I was more influenced by the secular, egalitarian aspects of my liberal political views than by official Catholic teaching, of which I was only vaguely familiar with.

In light of all this negative press coverage, I feel it’s necessary to let the hierarchy know that not all Catholics disagree with them, and that many of us love the church just the way she is, even though certain areas do need improvement.

Dear College of Cardinals,

I, along with millions of other Catholics, are praying for you as you prepare for the upcoming conclave, set to begin March 12th. Choosing a new pope is a monumental task, and one that will require the help of the Holy Spirit. In this time of great upheaval, I pray that you take into account all the needs of the church when selecting the next pope.

As you may have heard, many of the people who sit in your pews disagree with you on some not so unimportant issues. I do not share in their disagreement. However, there are areas in the church that need improvement. Therefore, in a spirit of meekness, I humbly write to you. It is not my goal to demand anything, however. For it is not my place. But it is my intention to ask you to kindly consider these suggestions and observations while deciding the future of the church.

First, I do not want a church that placates to the demands of this fallen world. I want a church that respects tradition. I want a church that acknowledges prayer is a more powerful way to bring people to God than institutional reforms. And I want a church that stands firm on the belief that we must conform to God’s will, and not He to ours. Therefore, I, unlike so many in my generation, reject the understanding of the Body of Christ as an oppressive, intolerant and sexist institution.

What I want is a church that respects the will of God. I want a church that doesn’t eschew teachings that have been handed down for centuries in an attempt to curry favor with interest groups  or other faiths. There are a number of new age churches built on the will of man that do precisely this and they fail miserably. If a church truly respects the will of God it will stay true to His teachings, and it will treat its members in a way that helps them get to heaven. This means, among other things, a church that a) encourages monthly, if not weekly, confession b) teaches the Baltimore Catechism instead of “the spirit of Vatican II” c) makes it easier for its members to live out the corporal as well as spiritual works of mercy and d) prepares its followers to combat and correct the errors of the modern world.

I also want a church that recognizes the sacredness of the mass. I probably differ from most Catholics in that I prefer the Traditional Latin Mass, but when I attend the Novus Ordo mass I don’t want to partake in a mass where altar girls, guitars and banjos, and immodestly dressed Eucharistic ministers are the norm. I also don’t want to attend mass in a building that looks like a skyscraper, or where the altar looks like it came from IKEA, or where the chalice looks like it was bought on sale at Target. In other words, I want a church where Christ –  not the choir, the congregation or the priest – is the focus, wherein He is exalted in the way He deserves to be exalted.

I want a church that unabashedly preaches the word of God – not just to un-believers but to members of other religions as well. There is much good that can come from interfaith dialogue, but endless discussions and conversations with those who deny Christ is the Son of God does have its limits. There was only one church founded by Jesus Christ. And that church is the Catholic Church. I want a church that is unafraid to proclaim this truth and to convert others to it. I do not want a church that preaches a watered-down version of its teachings because it fears being politically incorrect.

I want a church that lives out the teachings it professes. In other words, I want a church that preaches the Gospel while readily acknowledging it has not always lived up to the Gospel’s teachings. If the past ten years have taught Catholics anything, it’s that the church needs to do a better job of cracking down not only on abusive priests, but on dissident theologians, progressive professors, wayward seminary programs and colleges, liberal social justice groups, and politicians who misrepresent or speak out against the Catholic faith. This might even require excommunicating them.

And finally, because we are all God’s children and deserve to be loved by Him, I want a church that improves its outreach to the gay community, whose concerns often go unaddressed by the American Catholic Church.

With the sincerest devotion, humility and respect, I ask that you take into account the aforementioned concerns as you begin the conclave on March 12th.

Pax Christi,


Stephen Kokx

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author

Stephen Kokx is a freelance writer and adjunct professor of political science living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has previously worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Peace and Justice. His writing on religion, politics and Catholic social teaching has appeared in a number of outlets, including Crisis Magazine, The American Thinker and his hometown paper The Grand Rapids Press. He is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars and the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, and is a graduate of Aquinas College and Loyola University Chicago. Follow Stephen on twitter @StephenKokx

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