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The Gadfly Letter Apostolate

Brief letters—two or three punchy paragraphs—to ecclesiastical leaders are effective methods of communication in the avalanche-of-email age.

(Image: Scott Graham/

The Code of Canon Law gives us the right to manifest our opinions to ecclesiastical leaders:

According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons. (Can. 212 §3)

Brief letters—two or three punchy paragraphs—are effective methods of communication in the avalanche-of-email age. Committing a note to paper takes effort, allowing the letter to stew for a day or two to squeeze out excessive emotion, print on appropriate stationery, prepare an envelope, lick a stamp, and place the letter in a mailbox. In many cases, even high-ranking recipients may read a short, professional-looking, hard-copy letter.

A long-lost parishioner left town many years ago and returned as a high-ranking official in the Trump Administration. I wrote him a friendly letter, welcoming him and acknowledging that he probably didn’t remember me. Our paths unexpectedly crossed, and we had an amicable exchange. He reported that my welcome letter was among the first he received upon his return!

When European clergy advocated “gay marriage” and the like, I wrote two punchy letters, expecting the recipients would receive them as honest and professional. But I only expected, at most, to pack their spiritual resumes for the Particular Judgment. I suspect I met my objective, but nothing more.

Here are the two letters, followed by a satisfying email exchange:

February 2, 2022

His Eminence Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J.

Your Eminence:

Do any of your brother bishops care about the salvation of your soul? According to an NCR report, “Top EU cardinal calls for change in church teaching on gay relationships,” Feb 2, 2022 (by Katholische Nachrichten-Agentur): “Luxembourg Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, a Jesuit who leads the pan-European Catholic bishops’ conference, has called for a change in the church’s teaching on homosexuality.”

In an interview with Germany’s Catholic News Agency (KNA), the president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) said he considered the church’s assessment of homosexuality [sic] relationships as sinful to be wrong.

“’I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer correct,” Hollerich said. The cardinal said it was time for a fundamental revision of church teaching, and suggested the way Pope Francis had spoken about homosexuality in the past could lead to a change in doctrine.’ Hollerich made his comments in response to the public campaign by 125 Catholic Church employees in Germany who recently outed themselves as queer, saying they want to ‘live openly without fear’ in the church.”

Disgraceful. Unfaithful. Resign – or make amends — for the sake of your soul.


Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky, Pastor

March 4, 2022

Bishop Georg Bätzing
Bischofliches Ordinariat

Dear Bishop Bätzing,

According to a Catholic news report: “In an interview with the German magazine Bunte published on March 4, Bishop Georg Bätzing agreed with the journalist’s assertion that ‘no one’ adhered to the Church’s teaching that sexuality should only be practiced within marriage, saying: ‘That’s true. And we have to somewhat change the Catechism on this matter. Sexuality is a gift from God. And not a sin.’ Asked if same-sex relationships were permissible, the German prelate replied: ‘Yes, it’s OK if it’s done in fidelity and responsibility. It doesn’t affect the relationship with God.’”

In his commentary on Acts of the Apostles St. John Chrysostom writes, “The soul of a bishop is for all the world like a vessel in a storm: lashed from every side, by friends, by foes, by one’s own people, by strangers . . . I do not think there are many among bishops that will be saved, but many more that perish.”

Sincerely, Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky, Pastor

Cardinal Hollerich didn’t respond. More than I expected (with gratitude for the courtesy), the office of Bishop Bätzing acknowledged receipt of the letter.

On March 15, 2022, the National Catholic Register reported: “Cardinal George Pell has called on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to publicly reprimand two of Europe’s most senior bishops for what he said was their ‘wholesale and explicit rejection” of the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics.’”

On March 18, 2022, I emailed a mutual friend seeking the advisability of emailing Cardinal Pell. I wrote:

N., I sent these two gadfly letters, one in early Feb and the other in early March. Now I see Cardinal Pell calling for their discipline. I love it. Do you think Cardinal Pell would be annoyed if I sent these to him by email? I have his email address, but I don’t want to abuse it. What do you think?

My correspondent responded: “By all means send them to him.”

On March 19, 2022, I emailed Cardinal Pell with appended copies of the two letters: “Hi, Cardinal! Thanks for all you do!”

To my delight, the Cardinal responded:

Dear Fr Jerry, Thank you for your note. Well done, if a bit blunt! Godspeed,


My purpose is not to take vainglorious delight in the letters (OK, maybe a smidgeon of that, but I hope not sinful). I encourage hard-copy snail-mail letters to authorities as an apostolate (monthly or quarterly). The note should be brief, positive or negative, maybe two or three paragraphs on one page. The letter should also respect the rules of evidence, avoid excessive emotion, and express a defensible point of view. The only success we may claim is padding the spiritual resumes of the recipients – and clarifying our thinking.

In ecclesial matters, the Church gives us the right — and the duty.

Rest in peace, Cardinal Pell.

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About Father Jerry J. Pokorsky 32 Articles
Father Jerry J. Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. He is pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Great Falls, Virginia.. He holds a Master of Divinity degree as well as a master’s degree in moral theology.


  1. Canon Law was updated by St. John Paul II in 1983. A lot of water under the bridge since then…Laymen–who are not subject to reassignment to the gulag, or loss of tenure, or termination–might view Canon 212:3 as valuable but also somewhat innocent and dated.

    Given the stuff that’s been going on in large parts of the Church today, the cited canonical permission seems almost equivalent to giving a rape victim the right to submit a written complaint to the assailant and accomplices, if done “without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.”

    Christ drove the money changers from the temple, and didn’t much care about the overturned furniture. “…the Church’s Pastors have the duty (!) to act in conformity with their apostolic mission, insisting that THE RIGHT OF THE FAITHFUL [italics] to receive Catholic doctrine in its purity and integrity must always be respected” (St. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 1993, n. 113).

    Yes, grievances can be expressed without disrespect for persons. Yours truly has been writing hopefully (usually?) respectful letters ever since Call to Action was inflicted on the local diocese in 1976. And, hopefully with “knowledge, competence, and prestige.”

    Prestige? Try this, and speaking theologically: No, Bishop Batzing et al, you may not speak to my wife, daughter, or son…and get the hell off my lawn, and away from my family–a “domestic church!”

    • Reflecting on the above…In July 1986 yours truly had a letter published in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review, regarding the off-the-shelf and flawed version of the nationwide RENEW program, asking for clarifications prior to the 1987 Synod on the Laity…

      Possibly a coincidence, in Spring of 1987 the NCCB (now USCCB) Committee on Doctrine (not delegated “experts”) actually issued a detailed critique, which:
      (1) rebuked “the tendency toward a generic Christianity” (pluralism of religions?),
      (2) affirmed the “need for greater balance and completeness” (rather than heterodoxy, the abuse is often a pattern of silent omission of content—as noted recently in the dubia?);
      (3) reminded that “the cognitive dimensions of faith need more emphasis” (today, more than a “facilitated” plebiscite of “walking together”?); and
      (4) reminding that “the Eucharist needs broader definition and an emphasis on [both] sacrifice and worship” (today, Eucharistic coherence/renewal?).

      Sound familiar? As a priest once responded to the laity during a listening session for an archdiocesan pastoral council: “don’t ask priests to straighten out the chancery; you [laity] have more influence [!]; they don’t listen to us.”

      So letters, yes, respectful, concise, incisive, accurate and balanced, and with concrete recommendations. And then, for any good work being done, why not the magic of a few complimentary letters, too?

  2. Only two points to an otherwise fine piece.
    #1. It would be helpful for orthodox members of the Catholic Church (as opposed to Jesuits) when they do write articles about the heterodoxy espoused by some hierarchs in the Church include their mailing address. Ferreting out where to send a printed letter could deter one from expressing opposing viewpoints.
    #2. In some cases, when sending letters of this sort it might also be useful to cc/ the ecclesiast’s superior. However, if sending the letter to Pope Francis about his ministrations, getting an address for the Holy Spirit is nigh impossible to send off a copy of the letter. But, then again, God already knows what he’s up to and doesn’t need us to inform Him.

  3. I have emailed our Bishop but have never received a response to any of my emails. The fight for life in America has been outsourced to the laity, but the necessary weapons to fight for life have remained locked up. The ability to call out one who claims to be a “devout Catholic” remains one of those weapons, as well as denial of the Holy Eucharist to unrepentant so-called Catholic politicians who support abortion. I understand the serious consequences of denying someone the Eucharist, but I also understand the serious consequences of killing the child in the mother’s womb. I totally understand we need to do more to support mothers with unexpected pregnancies, but while we dance around the words, and fear offending anyone, human lives are being taken.

  4. Several years ago, I met my archbishop in a hallway at the seminary on our way to Mass and handed him an envelope. “You sure like to write letters,” he commented. The envelope held a Mass card for his upcoming birthday. I do have one comment about Canon 212 §3 that states that Catholics who write must do so “with reverence toward their pastors,” because respect is required, but reverence should be reserved for God.

    with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons. (Can. )

  5. I have bee quietly infuriated for over a year with the Vatican heirarch & the hapless USCCB. I have though about letters & now am encouraged to begin them. I think I will begin with a request for meeting with my terrific holy pastor & ask for guidance.
    Thanks Fr Jerry for your continuded strong stance for all of WE BELIEVE, unchangeable by the whims of “high clerics” !
    Charlie 82 yr old father of nine

  6. When I saw what they were saying about the pope’s stance on homosexuality, but I still don’t believe it. The stuff that they said Pope Benedict was complaining about, altogether I feel like it’s a media coup.

    God will not bless an Unholy Union with new life, and enemies of the church use scandals like child molestation to weaken diplomatic prerogative and control of church assets. They claim to have molested 90,000 Boy Scouts in America to acquire Mount Rushmore, which represents land grants reserved by Teddy Roosevelt.

    In my case it occurred in the doctor’s office, however they fingerprinted my entire Boy Scout Troop. This casts a Shadow of Doubt upon the media’s integrity, to say nothing of the rest of my story.

    Moses said that “to lie with a man as thou would with a woman is an abomination.” It’s not just a sin, it’s not even within the arena of God’s creation.

    Rape plays a historical role in prehistoric slave raiding customs. If a priest’s authority is divined from God, a barbarian can prove he is God by dominating a priest. They might also claim citizenship by marriage to establish illicit trade routes. People think “marital rape” is when a man forces his spouse to have sex, in fact it is rape which establishes a legal union. It’s too ridiculous to imagine, in light of the understanding that marriage is God’s gift to the child.

    The rabbi must realize the divine feminine to become the white lion of Judah, since one cannot lead universally as a “father” alone, without universal empathy. But mysticism is too sophisticated for some mindsets. Religion is the Prospect of Statesmen and Scholars. Mud farmers have little use for selflessness.

    Thank you, friar.

  7. Thank you for taking this on. We must preserve our Catholic Faith regarding our sexuality. God gave us sexuality for a married man and woman only, to be used in the sanctity of marriage. God bless our deceased Cardinal Pell. Faithfulness to God’s laws about marriage and sexuality should not be stretched to include other sinful ideas. Thank you very much.

  8. Some will say Papa is indecisive on this matter. Others will say the word of God is something that he treats lightly.

    The church is headed by Jesus and no better counsel can be found in respect to man’s eternal soul. Let us encourage faithful men and women to be strong examples, ambassadors for Christ.

    Matthew 23:1- Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, …

    Matthew 15:14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

    Matthew 23:24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

    Matthew 23:16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’

  9. Yes, yes, yes! Write to your bishop, by all means — respectfully and often, if needed. Tell him, NOW, that the Church’s teaching on homosexuality must be preached from each and every pulpit in your Diocese. He has an obligation before God to TEACH! When Our Blessed Lord spoke to his Apostles, he didn’t advise them to organize a synod, commune or grab a quick lunch. Nor, did he ask them to accompany, listen or be nice. He told them to go and TEACH! To teach the truth. The Bishop who fails to do this is paving his own way and the fast lane for many of his misguided, easily fooled sheep, to hell. BE NOT AFRAID!


  11. I dont believe in being silent about anything. I have been a letter writer for years. Will admit that in recent years i have switched to email for the most part. My hint with politicians web sites: write the first email and then cut and paste it with any needed changes to the next two. So if you are writing one congressman and two senators it is much quicker. Know that these offices TALLY these opinions. Especially if the politician is not from your party it is important they know that a large segment of the people they supposedly represent have opinions too. Civility is hard at times but it is key to observe. I have never written a Bishop so I cannot comment. But if the issue is important to you, do it. Never help the steamroller drive over you. Dont let anyone, cleric or politician, say “I didnt know”.

  12. I believe writing letters in the manner you suggest is to be encouraged. In the same manner, we should be writing letters to our local bishops and pastors so they have a more accurate understanding of the “pulse” of the people they shepherd. Orthodox Catholics have been submissive and quiet for too long.

  13. Fr. Pokorsky, I do hope you’ll not find this question absurd. In spite of the rabid feminists, I can’t believe anyone takes them seriously. I wonder, in fact, if we non-feminists (rabid or otherwise) would be wise to sign letters with a masculine name such as 17th-20th century women writers once did? As one of Hitchcocks’ friend, what would Helen do? (But she was well-known, of course.)

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