By Paul Snyder III
We all regret some decisions in life. For me it was my choice not to learn Spanish. So, in my search to find the one word that could capture the essence of Pope Francis, it is with much irony that the language of Spain would give me the most appropriate one – Dictablanda!
For those like me who “no habla Espanol,” dictablanda is a Spanish pun referring to a benevolent dictator. It is also the description that best suits our Holy Father and the papacy.
Like many Catholics, I have a sincere love for Pope Francis. Yet, I was shocked to learn of the extraordinary restrictions he placed upon the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the opening day of their conference, which was convened to deal with the catastrophic sex abuse crisis impacting our church.
Specifically, the president of the USCCB, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, stated, “At the insistence of the Holy See we will not be voting … ” In other words, the pope has stated that bishops have no rights to independently institute protocols for the protection of our children and young adults. Dictablanda!
Our great country was founded on the very ideal that every citizen has an inalienable right to vote. Wars have been fought, civil rights have been won, and generations of families have sacrificed for the freedom of self-governance afforded by the right to vote. When that freedom is usurped by those who abuse their God-given authority over ordinary folks, you have dictablanda.
As a U.S. citizen who proudly exercises his right to vote, I choose no.
No to dictablanda.
No to accepting half-truths and broken promises from bishops.
No to a Vatican narrative that treats ordinary Catholics as if they have no role in their church, their faith or their future.
It is time for a renewed church to emerge, led by the Holy Spirit, a multitude of faithful clergy and the millions of Catholics who have committed their lives to Jesus Christ. It is this faith and its holy people that has changed the course of history and made the world a better place.
For those of us who feel betrayed by these scandals and are offended at the indifference of Catholic bishops, it is time to make your “vote” count too. You can vote by withholding your contributions. You can vote by writing letters to your pastors demanding bishop accountability.
You can vote by showing up and getting involved with your church to let your voice be heard.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” So, inspired by his example and all those who have fought for freedom, I call upon all Catholics to demand justice for victims, for our children and for the future of our church.
Paul Snyder III, a Buffalo businessman, is a deacon at St. Mary’s Church in Swormville.