Querido Papa Francisco,
In Fratelli tutti, you call for including more people in dialogue, and indeed you frame the entire encyclical as a reflection born of dialogue and common commitment to human fraternity and social friendship inspired by an encuentro of interreligious leaders. True, dialogue can be great. But it can also be exclusive. If we are to be out in the world encountering and listening to one another, then we should also be open to various ways of communicating. And so I ask very respectfully that you reconsider your stance on chisme, which you have condemned in the past.
Yes, I love chisme (some may call it “gossip”). I spend hours every week communicating with people across the Americas and around the world about what’s happening in their lives. And like many people, I also love hearing what they find questionable about human behavior and what they think about the state of the world. As a Latina (thanks for the shout-out! [Fratelli tutti 135]), I can attest to the links between information and chisme in the conversations of people in Latinx communities. These links are so close that it can be difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish where one ends and another begins. I find chisme to be a way of communicating with one another by those who feel they have less power and permission to speak publicly.
In your encyclical you identify many injustices and forms of inequality confronting the world: racism, nationalism, xenophobia, environmental degradation, human trafficking, colonization, living with disability, poverty. You even use the cry of the French Revolution—equality, fraternity, liberty—as a subtitle. A focus of your papacy has been the common good, which you mention thirty-four times in Fratelli tutti. You have dedicated your time as an ecclesial leader to uplifting those who have been historically marginalized, oppressed, and silenced. You have brought attention to the plight of those who are forced to migrate. You have called for improving international guidelines on asylum, and for creating fairer systems of labor and trade. You have so strongly focused on synodality, and on the participation in Church leadership of people at the local level, that I—a lay Catholic woman scholar and theologian—am frequently asked to speak on these topics by local, national, and international Hispanic and Latin American ministry organizations. Like you, I strongly believe in the inclusion of all, and that life is a fragile gift of God. And yes, this notion of synodality is closely tied to dialogue. But I also think there are problems with using dialogue as the main form of communicating about these things. In fact, like chisme, dialogue can also be hurtful.