Category Archives: Catholic_Church

Let’s Talk About – Contraception!

…no papal teaching document has ever caused such an earthquake in the Church as the encyclical ‘Humanae Vitae.’  – Catholic theologian, Fr Bernard Haring

The feature of the 2014 Family Synod that most surprised me, was the near absence of any discussion about contraception – except for repeated confirmation of support for “Humanae Vitae”. As Peter Steinfels puts it at the Washington Post,

At last October’sExtraordinary Synod on the Family, bishops grabbed headlines by debating controversial topics such as admitting remarried Catholics to Communion and acknowledging the upsides of same-sex relationships. But the discussion of contraception was perfunctory. The bishops simply called on the church to do a better job of propagating “the message of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.” In other words, the widespread rejection of the birth-control ban is simply a messaging problem.

That’s not true. The church’s unwillingness to grapple with a deep and highly visible gap between official teaching and actual practice undermines Catholic vigor and unity at every level. It encourages Catholics to disregard all manner of other teachings, including those on marriage and abortion. If the church wants to restore its moral authority, it must address this gnawing question.

Continue reading Let’s Talk About – Contraception!

Schonborn: “Doctrine is Not a Series of Abstract Statements”

The strength of the pushback by some conservative bishops against what they fear the Family Synod will introduce changes in Church teaching on divorce and on sexual orientation is clear evidence of their fear that change is on the way. Their fear is well – founded, at least in the long term.  The synod itself was not called to change doctrine, but only pastoral practice – but pastoral practice will inevitably lead, in the long run, to changes in the teaching itself.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

More than that, those insisting on rigid adherence to a set of rigid rules as laid down in the Catechism and Canon Law, completely misunderstand the nature of “doctrine” itself. In a recent interview with the Italian Jesuit publication Civita Cattolica, the eminent theologian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn was asked about this concern, in some quarters, that doctrine should be the main focus of the synod, and their fear that it could be undermined. His response was illuminating, and has great importance for LGBT Catholics (emphasis added):

Civita: According to some, however, the aim should be eminently doctrinal; some even fear for the doctrine.

Schonborn: The challenge Pope Francis puts to us is to believe that, with the courage that comes from simple proximity, from the everyday reality of the people, we will not turn away from doctrine. We not risk diluting its clarity by walking alongside people, because we ourselves are called to walk in faith. Doctrine is not, in the first instance, a series of abstract statements, but the light of the word of God demonstrated by apostolic witness to the heart of the Church and in the hearts of believers who walk in the world today. The clarity of the light of faith and its doctrinal development in each person is not in contradiction with the way that God works with ourselves, that we are often far from living fully the Gospel.

Continue reading Schonborn: “Doctrine is Not a Series of Abstract Statements”

Synod 2015 Instrumentum Laboris: Inching to Lesbian and Gay Inclusion

The  Instrumentum Laboris for the 2015 Family Synod includes some clear signs of inching, slowly, towards greater inclusion in church for lesbian and gay Catholics. It is instructive to compare this document with the Relatio released at the end of the 2014 Synod, and with the 2014 Instrumentum, to see how the tone and content have changed – in what is said, in what is not said, and in the language used.

For example, the Instrument largely based verbatim on the 2014 Relatio, there are some notable insertions. With explicit reference to “homosexuals”, the Relatio included just three paragraphs. The Instrumentum adds a third – paragraph 131:

131. The following point needs to be reiterated: every person, regardless of his/her sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his/her human dignity and received with sensitivity and great care in both the Church and society. It would be desirable that dioceses devote special attention in their pastoral programmes to the accompaniment of families where a member has a homosexual tendency and of homosexual persons themselves.

(#130 and #132 are repeats from the final document of the 2014 Synod) Continue reading Synod 2015 Instrumentum Laboris: Inching to Lesbian and Gay Inclusion

Philippine Bishops Attempt to Square the Circle on Gay Unions!

Philippine Catholics are urged to respect the dignity of homosexuals – but to stay away from even attending any ceremony, legal or religious, to celebrate gay unions. Politicians especially, but also all Catholics, are urged to strongly resist all unjust laws – for example, legal recognition of civil unions.

The bishops’ pastoral letter is titled “The Dignity and Vocation of Homosexual Persons,” Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!

The last time these bishops took on the politicians, on a law to expand family planning access to the poor as well as the rich, they lost badly. It may take a while, but they will lose this one too – just like the bishops of most of Western Europe, North America, and much of South America.

(The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines head) urged Catholics to oppose all gravely unjust laws – including all laws that legalize homosexual unions.

!!!!!!!!

 

“They are at the same time called, perhaps even more so in societies that legally recognize homosexual unions, to be charitable to every single homosexual person they know,”

BUT —–:

…. in situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. ……..  “Concretely, this means that Catholics cannot participate in any way or even attend religious or legal ceremonies that celebrate and legitimize homosexual unions.”

The Church, he says, must reach out “in compassion” to families whose loved ones have entered such unions – and this episcopal compassion includes instructing Filipino mothers to stay away from their sons’ and daughters’ weddings, if they are marrying same – sex partners!

Understandably, this will be a particularly heavy cross for families that have been touched by homosexuality but Villegas said the Church reaches out with compassion to these families whose loved ones have entered into such unions.

Full report at   Tempo 

A Challenge to “Courage”: Take the Catechism Seriously.

At the world meeting of families in Philadelphia, major organizations representing LGBT Catholics and their parents have not only been refused accreditation at the main event, they’ve also been barred by the local archbishop from using a friendly Catholic parish church as a venue for their own fringe event. (Not to worry: they have found a suitable alternative, and the resultant publicity has ensured that their event is now far better known than it would otherwise have been).

I leave it to my American readers to reflect on the ironies of this exclusion in the city of “brotherly love”, and the famed liberty bell – is that a crack I see in it?

Philadelphia's "Liberty Bell"
Philadelphia’s “Liberty Bell”

The organisers insist that it is simply not true that lgbt Catholics are not represented. They are there – provided that they live “in accordance with Church teaching. This is how “Faithful America” reports it, in email correspondence:

Pope Francis is visiting Philadelphia next month for the World Meeting of Families, and the local conservative archbishop is hijacking the event to promote his own right-wing agenda — by inviting advocates for anti-gay conversion therapy to give speeches, lead workshops, and sell their books and other materials.

Here’s the problem: Continue reading A Challenge to “Courage”: Take the Catechism Seriously.

A formal research investigation by a Münster University research group in 42 countries worldwide, has shown that an overwhelming majority of German Catholics disagree fundamentally with Vatican doctrines on sexuality. This will not surprise anyone: the German bishops are far ahead of their international colleagues on many of these issues, professional German theologians have taken the lead in calling for a fundamental rethink on all issues of sexual teaching, and the culture of clericalism in the Church, and the largest lay organisation recently called for the Church to begin offering formal church blessings for same – sex couples in committed, permanent relationships (such as civil unions). Continue reading

Understanding the Vatican Surrender to Italian Civil Unions

In Italy, the Catholic parties in the Senate are mounting a fierce battle to stave off the government’s introduction of civil unions for same – sex couples, but the Vatican appears to have decided not to back them – and allow the legislation to pass.

The report at Il Giornale notes that this is an apparent paradox, but shows how in fact, it is not. Some may find this news surprising, but it is not unexpected: I wrote about the possibility myself, in this post. To understand how this has come about, we need some clarification of key points.

Gay marriage

First, it is not true (as Gay Star News has claimed) that the Vatican has decided to “back” civil unions. That would be unthinkable, for a deeply conservative curia, and a major synod on protecting marriage and family is imminent, and where the question of LGBT ministry is already shaping up to be a major hot potato.  All that has happened (if the report is sound), is that the Vatican is facing some uncomfortable facts, and is beating a strategic retreat. If some form of legal protection is inevitable, it will not damage its reputation by fighting a losing battle. In stepping back, it hopes it will be left with the lesser of two evils. Continue reading Understanding the Vatican Surrender to Italian Civil Unions