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A conundrum for Pope Francis


Synod photo featuring Archbishop Hart

It was unusually hot in Rome for the first week of the Synod on the Family. But that didn’t dampen the excitement surrounding Pope Francis of the unusually large crowds for October in the Piazza of St Peter’s. He has really struck a chord with people and, significantly, with the secular media.

But that enthusiasm is certainly not reflected in a sizeable minority of the hierarchy attending the synod. As a result some seasoned Roman observers are pessimistic that anything at all significant will happen. They note that those who oppose any change in issues like communion for divorced remarried Catholics, or the contraception ruling, let alone the recognition of gay unions, are out in force making their views known.

Their major thrust has been to shift the focus of the synod away from questioning previous church teaching and practice to an emphasis on the ‘threats’ and ‘dangers’ facing the family in the contemporary world. In other words the real problems originate in modern culture rather than from church teaching on morality and sexuality. Underlying this opposition is a covert hostility to the whole Pope Francis agenda. There are many clerics in Rome who have no desire to follow Francis anywhere near sheep, let alone smell them, or worse, smell like them!

But Francis is not without his supporters. Many bishops have emphasised that while doctrine will not change, pastoral approaches and applications will. As German theologian and friend of the pope, Cardinal Walter Kasper, has said: ‘Nobody denies the indissolubility of marriage ... But discipline can be changed.’ Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington took a similar approach arguing that the pastoral application of doctrines ‘are contingent and can change.’ 

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin applied the theological notion of the development of doctrine arguing that ‘the synod has to find a new language to show that there can be development of doctrine’ and he claims that ‘there has been a willingness [in the synod] to listen to what emerged in the questionnaire that went out’ late last year in preparation for the synod.

Needless to say there has been reaction to this. Some have argued that Kasper particularly has been involved a ‘con job’ that confuses doctrine with practice and that ultimately aims at changing what they see as ‘settled’ doctrine like the indissolubility of marriage or the condemnation of contraception. The leading light in this group is Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Apostolic Signatura, the church’s appeals court. He says that the Kasper-Wuerl-Martin approach is ‘a very deceptive line of argument’.

This is the same Burke who responded to Australian couple Ron and Mavis Pirola who had argued in a well-received and widely reported speech to the synod that Catholic parents with a gay son ‘should welcome him and his partner to their home knowing that their grandchildren would see them welcome the son and his partner into the family.’

Burke responded: ‘If homosexual relations are intrinsically disordered, which indeed they are, then what would it mean to grandchildren to have present at a family gathering a family member who is living [in] a disordered relationship with another person?’ Burke added, ‘we don't want our children’ to get the impression that sexual relationships outside God’s plan are alright, ‘by seeming to condone gravely sinful acts on the part of a family member.’

Here it is worth noting that lay ‘observers’ like the Pirolas are outnumbered almost six to one by celibates at this session of the synod.

Since publication of the speeches is unreliable it is hard to get a sense of the quality of the debate. But if the Vatican Radio interview with Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart is anything to go by, then the bishops are taking a blandly pastoral but essentially pedestrian approach. Hart says ‘the bishops want to engage with people and see the needs of families ...  The bishops have been emphasising that we are pastors.  When our people suffer we feel for them, when our people are bereaved we cry with them, when our people are burdened with sickness we struggle with them.’ 

This indicates the difficulty Pope Francis faces when he asks the bishops to act collegially with him, but collegiality presupposes a genuine sense of responsibility. The simple fact is that many bishops just don’t have the ability to assume that level of leadership. For the last forty-five years the papacy has essentially chosen ‘yes men’ as bishops. We are now reaping the consequences of this with a cadre of bishops more used to obeying than taking the kind of initiative that collegiality demands.

This must be a real conundrum for Pope Francis.

Paul Collins headshot

Paul Collins is a writer, broadcaster and historian of the Catholic Church who also contributes to the website of Catholics for Ministry.

Image featuring Archbishop Hart: Vatican Radio

Topic tags: Paul Collins, Catholic Church, family, homosexuality, divorce, Synod on the Family, Vatican, Pope Francis



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Existing comments

So now Catholics who don't agree with contraception, adulterers presenting themselves for communion, or "gay marriage" are "irresponsible" and "don't have the ability to assume" a "level of leadership"? Who are we kidding here?

HH | 13 October 2014  

Bishops in the Roman Catholic Church often see themselves and are seen by others as branch managers in the global conglomerate Vatican Inc. This is not their true function in the Church. They are supposed to be "fathers in Christ". Properly understood in the light of the example and teachings of Jesus, this is neither a hierarchical nor a misogynistic role, but a differentiation of function delegated by Christ himself. It is an awesome and terrifying responsibility not a step on the ladder of clerical preferment. Pope Francis realises this. As someone of Italian descent he would understand the phrase "una bella figura" which is essential to understand the way Latins see Church statements. When anything comes out of the Vatican, Italians and all other Latins nod in approval, even if they do not agree with it and have no intention of following Church teaching on the matter. It is we in the Anglophone world who want everything spelt out in full. The Irish and their spiritual descendants in churches such as the USA and Australia, like the greatest Irish-Australian transplant of all, Mannix, tend to meld pedanticism with the authoritarianism of a priest in 19th Century Cork. Our bishops need to lighten up. They are missing the game.

Edward Fido | 13 October 2014  

Hi Paul, One thing that has made be really upset about this Synod has been the fact that even though the theme is Evangelisation within the context of the family, the issue ordaining married men has not been put on the table. Have the testimonies of any Eastern Catholic married priest and wife even been hear? Any married deacon? Hope can the Church credibly extol the virtues of the nuclear family when she does not permit the vast majority of her ordained clergy to experience the joys of family? With all this talk about doctrine v. Discipline, there is doubt that clerical celibacy is a discipline- why why why is this not up for discussion??

Neil De Cruz | 13 October 2014  

Thanks for this insightful reflection, Paul. The challenge of inspiring and competent leadership, embracing the best of current theology and the freedom to embrace the signs of the times is indeed a key issue for Francis and for us all. I long to experience it!

Vivien | 13 October 2014  

The problem facing the Synod has been addressed many time in the past, but usually falls on deaf ears. The traditional teaching of the Church regarding Families is made up of Ideals, for ideal people in ideal situations. Ideals as such can and should inspire, but are out of the reach of many under what have become 'normal' circumstances. The task of the Synod should be to help and guide people to appreciate the ideals rather than to present them as 'fiats' where Jesus would say 'Let anyone accept this who can'.

Robert Liddy | 13 October 2014  

As an older Catholic lay woman I feel for the younger generations who struggle to comply with 'teachings' that most probably can be modified. We and they have little voice in the decision making processes such as this synod. Yet this is our life.

margaret | 13 October 2014  

Father Collins’ insightful piece comments “Many bishops have emphasised that while doctrine will not change, pastoral approaches and applications will”. My clever and sensitive wife “converted” from the Lutheran to the Catholic Church many years ago. She subsequently gained a Bachelor of Theology and sits on the local church council and regularly attends a church “meditation” group. Based on the wonderfully intelligent and stimulating conversations that ensue when she comes home to her rationalist husband, the meditation group really seems more like a social justice discussion group. There are “burning issues” in her church community. Many of these reflect a growing discord between church doctrine and the prevailing values, beliefs and behaviours of a majority of parish members and the broader community - religious, atheist and agnostic. Tacit (or overt) acceptance by bishops of such disparities between doctrine and pastoral practices (including the degree of “discipline” that is exercised) reduces the faith and trust of ordinary churchgoers in their leaders. Their short-sighted inaction lacks courage to understand and respond to human nature. Over time, it will challenge the relevance of the institution itself. Last week, my wife said her priest asked the mediation group “where are all the young people”. One answer lies in the growing irrelevance of “what the Church stands for” and the increasing disparity between doctrine and practice, both within and outside the Church. A rational way forward is for Church doctrine to evolve and be more closely aligned with modern ethical beliefs and behaviour. Greater focus should be brought by the Church to promoting the essential (secular) human values and ethical behaviours that are common to all good people (and most religions). A specific “religious” overtone can still be involved - spiritual and doctrinal guidance - but should be less prominent (not necessarily less important). The Dalai Lama has said that a set of broadly accepted/relevant human secular ethics is like “water”, we cannot live without it. When placed in a religious context, it becomes “tea” – more flavourful and potentially more nourishing. Some of the most heartening demonstrations of human goodwill emerged when diverse church leaders came together recently to promote their commonality and mutual understanding. It would be good to see a similar level of understanding and support from Catholic Church leaders to their members.

Richard Heggie | 13 October 2014  

Thanks, Eureka Street, for providing Paul Collins’s insightful commentary on developments at the Synod on the Family. Of course, as Paul says, “Since publication of the speeches is unreliable it is hard to get a sense of the quality of the debate” – an important observation in itself on the lack of transparency and accountability in the Church's governance. However, to try to be positive, it is indicative of some progress that the Church as institution is addressing at last, even in a limited sense, some of its teachings that are so clearly contrary to Christ’s teachings of love. Many teachings unsurprisingly reflect the nature of an institution governed by bishops who are male, disproportionally aged and often isolated, who know little of families and fail to engage with the people of the Church. Just a few of those people, selected by those same bishops, are inside the synod, just as observers. Vatican II taught that the “entire body of the faithful . . . cannot err in matters of belief.”(Lumen Gentium, n12). Dare we hope that bishops will come home to their dioceses and start engaging with their people, the sensus fidelium (the sense of faith of the faithful)?

Peter Johnstone | 13 October 2014  

Thank you Paul for this report, sadly a'keyhole' expose, at a time when transparency and accountability are grievously lacking. Bishop Hart's words reflected Christian values, and I see the conundrum - church law v justice. You cannot worship 2 masters.The Vatican dangerously presupposes and proclaims divinity.Why is it Bishops at the Synod cannot recall the original and early church where there were married clergy? This is the true calling of christians -to be servants not masters."to love one another as I have loved you" There should be no hierarchy. Indeed Popes were married in medieval times.We know Galilee's discoveries and science in general has long been persecuted. it is time bishops represented the margins,the hidden church.This is still Christ's message to the Pharisees.

Catherine | 13 October 2014  

For Galilee I meant to say Galileo. I guess I am trying to say the conundrum for me is "Do i follow the Vatican's laws (and example) or Christ's teachings and his life?"

Catherine | 13 October 2014  

For those who have long been waiting for Catholics ideals to become reacquainted with lived reality, this Synod is fast becoming a disappointment. I would argue that this Synod is not so much about the Family but about the Bishops' capacity to respond adequately to many cultural expressions of the Family which find "universal" teachings irrelevant and the sanctions associated with them damaging.

Jane Anderson | 13 October 2014  

I am the same vintage as "Margaret" and also feel for the young people struggling to comply with teachings that could possibly be tweaked a bit. I don't see how it can happen and feel uncomfortable with some suggested changes. Needs lots of prayers also lots of input from the pews. 'Boots on the ground' see clearly where the battle is going with the hope of future success. Also agree with Neil: where is the discussion on married clergy?

Pat | 13 October 2014  

If adulterers, same-sex advocates, pro-choice, homosexuals and dissenters, succeed in their attempts to change the teaching of the Church, one thing is sure our Holy Catholic Church will split in two. One church will be supported by all the above people and the true Church will continue to flourish with loyal Catholics, loyal to Our Lord Jesus Christ, loyal to Our Blessed Mother Mary, Loyal to the Pope and loyal to the Magisterium.

Ron Cini | 13 October 2014  

I'm praying for all of us that Jesus example be The Guiding Light illuminating all the myths and furphies for what they are; exactly that! "Lord, Give us voices to articulate what our eyes see and our hearts feel and especially Lord ears to listen really attentively Amen"

Ingrid Clark | 13 October 2014  

What Francis is attempting to do is to draw the attention of the Synod and the entire Church to what he spoke of months ago namely that the Church is a 'field hospital' not a conference of Canon Lawyers or symposium of single issue moralizers. What a number of people are missing, including Card Burke, is the ability to make a very important and basic distinction namely that there is a huge difference between dogma, regulations, precepts and pastoral ministry.

David Timbs | 13 October 2014  

Ron Cini, you refer to a “true Church” of Catholics who are ”loyal” to Jesus, Mary, the Pope and the Magisterium. Unfortunately, such loyalty to the Magisterium is problematic as the leaders of the institutional Church, that is the Magisterium, have failed to abide by the teachings of Christ or of Vatican II, which as a Council is the highest decision making authority of the Church. This is reflected in the institutional Church’s lack of inclusion of so many and their lack of engagement in love with the people of the Church. The worst example is their protection of paedophiles, a disgraceful attempt to protect the reputation of the Church despite the resultant exposure of children to further abuse, and despite Jesus’ explicit condemnation of anyone who would “put a stumbling block before one of these little ones" (Matt 18:6). Those of us who seek change in the Church join you however in seeking a Church “loyal to Our Lord Jesus Christ.” We want a more Christ-like Church.

Peter Johnstone | 13 October 2014  

Must reread The Ecstacy of Owen Muir to check out the 1940s and see what's changed

Name | 13 October 2014  

Ron, neither an Ecumenical Council, nor Pope have authority to change fundamental Church Dogma or morals [let alone a smorgasbord Synod all sorts]

Father John George | 13 October 2014  

As a widely read Catholic commentary, Eureka Street cannot responsibly allow the comments and quotes from Lumen Gentium posted by Peter Johnstone in support of his seriously flawed position in this debate go unchallenged. His assertion that "...it is indicative of some progress that the Church as institution is addressing ... some of its teachings that are so clearly contrary to Christ's teachings of love." is completely unreferenced and thus irrelevant, quite apart from it being remote from any understanding of what Catholicism is and means. His highly selective quote from Lumen Gentium, is incomplete in the context in which it is written and fails to make any valid point. Mr Johnstone has clearly chosen this quote to lend support to his highly flawed position and in so doing has carefully avoided a full quote of this part of the document which fails to support his premise. The full quote is, "the entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the holy one, cannot err in matters of belief." [Quoted by PJ] It goes on, "They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples' natural discernment in matters of faith when 'from the bishops down to the lay faithful' they show UNIVERSAL AGREEMENT ( a foreign concept for PJ) in matters of faith and morals. That discernment ...is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority [the PAPACY and MAGISTERIUM] , in the faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God. [ PJ describes the 'men' as "bishops who are male, disproportionately aged and often isolated who know little of families and fail to engage with the people the Church" - another cheap, unreferenced shot.] Some people have no respect for nor acceptance of the teaching authority instituted by Christ himself and when expressed in the public domain of a Catholic commentary cannot go unchallenged.

john frawley | 13 October 2014  

Ron Cini, the Catholic Church has been split for a long time, in that there are many people like me (and I'm 75) who still call themselves Catholic but who have given up on attending Mass. Pope Francis appreciates that every human is worthy and that the Church should make everyone welcome. We don't know the personal journey people have taken which has led them to adopt a lifestyle we may not agree with. In the last analysis, our conscience takes precedence over Church doctrine.

Anna | 13 October 2014  

In the May 2012 Catalyst for Renewal Inaugural Rosemary Goldie address at the Sydney Town Hall, Clifford Longley said: 'In his recent visit to Mexico, Pope Benedict XVI made an extraordinary remark. “It is not right that laity should feel treated as if they hardly count in the Church,” he said. “It is particularly important for pastors to ensure that a spirit of communion reigns among priests, religious and the lay faithful, and that sterile divisions, criticism and unhealthy mistrust are avoided.” Well amen to that. Note that the Pope made two points - one, that the laity were indeed now being treated as if they did not count; and two, that they should not be so treated. “It is not right.” Benedict would be just cherry picking the Tradition though wouldn't he, John?

David Timbs | 14 October 2014  

John Frawley, I’m not sure that your comments meet the editorial requirement for comments to be respectful. However, I can see that you strongly disagree with the position I’ve expressed, a position I am more than happy to substantiate without resort to personal criticism: 1. You refer to my comments as a “seriously flawed position in this debate” noting specifically my statement that "...it is indicative of some progress that the Church as institution is addressing ... some of its teachings that are so clearly contrary to Christ's teachings of love." You describe my statement as “completely unreferenced and thus irrelevant, quite apart from it being remote from any understanding of what Catholicism is and means”, the latter being an unsubstantiated assertion of your own views. I thought my statement was adequate for a short posting, especially in the context of a synod called to address disconnects between the views on key issues between the institutional Church and the faithful, disconnects that include concerns expressed by Pope Francis himself for the need for love and mercy that should be shown to all including those who have suffered under Church teachings. If you need a more explicit example of the Church as institution acting contrary to Christ's teachings of love, could I refer you to the submissions by Catholics for Renewal on the Church’s response to clerical child sexual abuse: http://www.catholicsforrenewal.org/documents.htm 2. I am happy to let others judge the reasonableness of my other comments which I believe stand on their merits and which you attempt to dismiss simply by an assertion of your own views. My intent is not to disparage but to seek necessary change to achieve a more Christ-like Church.

Peter Johnstone | 14 October 2014  

You!ve just got to laugh at some of the comments that are printed. If you don't laugh ,you can easily cry. It's a bit like watching the progress of my footy team It could be years till they win the premiership. Possibly not in my lifetime. So too with change in the church. Maybe , for the sake of sanity I need to change both footy team and church. It seems we are powerless to build a church that is relevant and supportive to my young adult children ,nieces and nephews, their friends and the adult children of my friends. They are good people and some of their opinions about the clergy today, make me realize full well why the Bishops of Australia!s Catholic Church are not on their wavelength or aware of changes in living in communities today The message of Christ is a message that is so relevant today , that is if you are not wearing blinkers and hanging onto a past and idealistic world. . Margaret Heffernan's book "So Far From Home" is a helpful view of what is and what can be.

Celia | 14 October 2014  

In regard to those of us who are looking for progressive outcomes from the Synod in what are benchmark issues in the life and beliefs of the Church, sadly Paul Collins and other reliable commentators are wisely cautioning us as to our hopes. In the most recent NCP Swag Magazine Fr. Ian McGinty concluded his Chairman's editorial piece with a kindly benediction: 'May the Lord carry us all gently in the weeks ahead'. While not wishing to take anything from Ian's prayerful concern for all of us who watch and wait as the Synod unfolds, it seems we could be appropriately blessed with the words 'carry us gently through the 'weeds' ahead.

Paul Goodland | 14 October 2014  

Why water down just these teachings? Why not admit that the Christian walk is just too hard. Christ said, 'Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect' - I had thought that had meant we were called holiness, but perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps as many suggest here, compromise is the only answer. Salt and light and yeast in the world - nah, lets just be like the world around us - perhaps then they'll love us and join us...... that's what people seem to be saying.

Therese | 14 October 2014  

john frawley's anxiety about Eureka St. is misplaced. In fact, publishing a wide variety of opinion, reflection and experience is part of what makes ES truly Catholic. Lay people have very little scope to discuss church matters with our leaders. Being able to share with each other is a blessing, and I believe a fruitful blessing. (By the way, I see no need for Peter Johnstone or anyone else to 'reference' his opinions when they clearly are his opinions, not statements of provable fact.

Joan Seymour | 14 October 2014  

HH, you have totally distorted the mention in the article of a family accepting their own gay son and inviting his partner to visit the family - to "gay marriage". Would you have it that they reject their son? This has nothing to do with the political issue of gay marriage.

AURELIUS | 14 October 2014  

The 10 commandments are explicit and clear. We as God's people should abide by God's laws not our own. The world is decaying because we have forgotten God and so the evil of apostasy continues. God will bring all to account but we still have time to return to being true followers of God and make reparations for turning away and for our sins. We have only to look on the homefront at the poor state of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters and the squalor they live in, the acceptance of society and the Australian Church in making Indians the new Aboriginal race to the benefit white society and so it continues. Sin on top of sin, God is giving us opportunity to change, to return to Him and make reparations. So simple to bring goodness and make Australia a great country for all its citizens, if only we would listen and act.

Jackie | 14 October 2014  

Thank God that we are not as other men, eh Ron? 'Adulterers, same-sex advocates, pro-choice, homosexuals and dissenters'. Now where have I read that before?

GingerMeggs | 14 October 2014  

Good morning Peter Johnstone. You say, "...let others judge the reasonableness of my other comments which I believe stand on their merits and which you attempt to dismiss simply by an assertion of your own views." I did not assert my own views - I simply quoted the Vatican document which you quoted out of true context to support your position which is in accord with the views of 5 delegates who voted against the document Lumen Gentium at Vatican II. Votes in favour of Lumen Gentium totalled some 2000 odd.

john frawley | 14 October 2014  

Thank you for this illuminating article, Paul. The Pope has a hard task ahead of him in his hope that this Synod will be more open to the needs of the modern Church. Some of the quotes in this article are chilling. Cardinal Raymond Burke, the 'leading light' makes the outrageous and false claim that ".. homosexual relationships are intrinsically disordered, which they indeed are..."! and continues that he does not want "our children to get the impression that homosexual relationships outside God's plan are alright"...(they are) "gravely sinful acts". I hope desperately that his fellow Synod participants are more enlightened. I have been a member of two groups that have had dealings with our Melbourne archbishops. In both we have experienced rejection by Archbishop Hart who has certainly not "engaged" with either group nor "suffered" with us as he claims. Quite the reverse. Will there be acknowledgement of the petitions and signatures sent to the Synod? We hope and pray so.

Jan Coleman | 14 October 2014  

What Pope Francis is attempting to do at the Synod is to direct the attention of the whole Church to the fact that the Grace, love, merciful compassion of God cannot be contained, governed or restricted by precepts, Canon Law or even the Ten Commandments which were and remain good in themselves but are essentially semitic tribal law. Even the Caliph of ISIS would accept them as binding. Jesus went beyond these and grounded the moral law not in the lex talionis or tribal honour/shame conventions but in the offensive counter logic of the Kingdom or Reign of God. The sayings in Matthew 5: 21-48 spell it out: The 'you have heard that it was said (the Old Law) but I say to you....(the New). If anyone cites, 'I have come not to abolish the Law but to fulfil it,' they need to know that for Matthew, the Law was fulfilled and superseded by the Gospel of Christ. Pope Francis is taking away the ideological wedge which would separate those in intractable situations from the more generous Grace of that Gospel. That's tough love by any standards!

David Timbs | 14 October 2014  

John Frawley, I'm reluctant to reply to your misrepresentations and 'ad hominem' assertions, but I must reject your marginally defamatory comments. You would serve your argument better by explaining your own position regarding Paul Collins' thoughtful article rather than seeking to denigrate positions with which you disagree. I assume you see no need for change in the Church, a position I respect but do not understand. Your comments about Lumen Gentium seem to me a wishful interpretation. Far from misrepresenting Lumen Gentium, I quoted the exact reference for readers to be able to see the context for themselves. I commend a careful reading of the full document by anyone seeking to understand the responsibilities of the faithful. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html I would also refer you to Canon Law which states at Canon 212, 3: "(The Christian faithful) 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."

Peter Johnstone | 14 October 2014  

DT: Christ, as the Second Person of the Trinity, was the author of the Ten Commandments. He indeed superseded the Ten Commandments, not by revoking them, but by making them even more stringent. So that in His grace, love and merciful compassion, He made adultery not only the act itself but even the act of looking at a woman lustfully (Mt: 5:27-28). Tough love, yes, ... is that the direction the Kasperites are taking us?

HH | 15 October 2014  

The Synod Report is far from definitive: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/10/14/bishops_stress_mondays_synod_report_is_work_in_progress/1108564

Father John George | 15 October 2014  

A thought for everyone commenting here - will tweaking or changing church teachings/doctrines change the mind of God? Will those regarded as living in a state of sin or contrary to doctrines suddenly receive God's grace and be welcomed to heaven? And will those who have died be released from purgatory? And if some teachings were changed, why would those against any change feel threatened? Will they suddenly feel the need to get a divorce? Or change sexual orientation?

AURELIUS | 15 October 2014  

Aurelius God makes no blunders re Revelation in Scripture and Natural Law![exegeted authoritatively by
Ecumenical Councils;Catholic Tradition, and Papal Magisterium versus a mere off-the-press 'highly censored' preliminary synodal report. God doesn't need your suggested flawed tweaks, even if chiseled in rock. Wishful thinking is no antitoxin or complete antithesis to eternal hellfire or purgatory 'fraid, versus profound metanoia and Confession

Father John George | 15 October 2014  

Peter Johnstone, It is clear that you consider my understanding of the teachings of Christ and his Church seriously flawed. If that is so , I need to learn and re-assess my understanding. Please help me by giving one rational example of "...some of its teachings that are so clearly contrary of Christ's teachings of love". Further, can you cite one teaching which "...reflects an institution governed by bishops who are male, disproportionately aged and ... know little of families". The fact that you have misunderstood Lumen Gentium does not qualify you as the sole possessor of its meaning. If indeed you have studied the document as you advise others to do you would be aware of the qualifying addendum which specifically writes out the possibility of autonomy of the bishops in matters of determining teaching with ultimate authority vested in the papacy as commissioned by Christ himself.

john frawley | 15 October 2014  

A mosr serious translation error in Synod Report In a passage regarding pastoral care for homosexuals, the relatio post disceptationem, in the English translation, read: Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony? "...In the Italian original, the phrase translated as “accepting and valuing” is accettando e valutando, which would properly be translated as “accepting and evaluating” or “accepting and weighing.” The English translation appears to assume that homosexual identity should be considered as something of value, whereas the original document listed it neutrally, as something to be taken into consideration. " http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=22935

Father John George | 15 October 2014  

Fr J George - I made no suggestion that church teaching should be tweaked and have no "wishful thoughts" along those line.

AURELIUS | 15 October 2014  

John Frawley, you have asked me for: a) one teaching that is clearly contrary to Christ's teachings of love, and b) one teaching that reflects an institution governed by bishops who are male, disproportionately aged and know little of families. I’m happy to oblige although I suspect your mind is closed to any criticism of Church teaching, even when contrary to the teaching of Christ. Two examples of a) are the Church’s exclusion of women and gays from full participation in the life of the Church: the defensive arguments for the Church’s position do not justify discrimination against any of God’s children. The Church’s discrimination against women is defended in Manfred Hauke’s ‘Women in the Priesthood’, worth a read to appreciate the inadequacy of the arguments. With regard to gays, I’d suggest that few Christians could read Timothy Conigrave's ‘Holding the Man’ without being appalled by the impact of the Church’s teachings on those whom God made gay. With regard to b), the Church’s ban on artificial contraception is one teaching that could only be introduced and defended by a magisterium that is male, disproportionately aged and knows little of families, and defended despite the overwhelming practical rejection of the teaching by good Catholics striving to live good lives, having been determined by Pope Paul VI against the recommendation of the large majority of the commission established after Vatican II to examine the issue. The Church continues to require (Catholic Catechism, 2366) that “each and every marriage act remain ordered per se to the procreation of human life." Regarding your comment about my supposed misunderstanding of Lumen Gentium, I don’t see the relevance of your reference, which I have not disputed. If you wish to continue this discussion, I am happy for Eureka Street editors to give you my email address, but I don’t propose to continue in this space a discussion that seems to be straying far from the subject of Paul Collins’ article.

Peter Johnstone | 16 October 2014  

What do Catholics stand for then? Are not the Church's carefully considered certain teachings the result of many wise minds over 4000 years of Judeo-Christian tradition? Are they not ideals - a call to one's higher self - certainty - to aspire to? And isn't forgiveness and compassion as practiced in reconciliation an opportunity to try again and again??? to

Ma wi | 16 October 2014  

Christ said to sinners 'Your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more.' Divorce without fault or truly fair compensation affects mothers with a number of children severely. Only high profilers can remarry, often more than once to get it right. Care of their children is forgotten or escaped. Does the person who uses this unfair law have Christ love for those left behind? Not to mention family and friends who side with the wealth. Where's pastoral care? Where is God? With the wealthy or those made poor?

mary | 16 October 2014  

Maybe we all should read the story of the Prodigal Son, or should I say the Loving Father, again. How did the father greet the son on his return, and what of the remarks to the loyal son.

SHANNONBROOK | 16 October 2014  

Ma wi has summarised Catholicism so simply. I suggest you contemplate the comment, Peter Johnstone. Your post today has been most revealing and as usual selectively quotes from the Catechism ignoring, for example, sections 2358 and 2359 which in summary state, "The Church believes that, in the order of creation, man and woman are designed to need each other's complementary traits and to enter into a mutual relationship so as to give life to children. That is why homosexual practices [please note the word "practices" - not homosexual "people"] cannot be approved by the Church." (Ref Youcat, 2011, Ignatius Press, San Francisco). Active homosexual practice excludes the sacrilegious reception of the Holy Eucharist just as do the unforgiven sins of rape or murder, something that is not difficult to understand. Regarding contraception it would be interesting to hear your views on why contraception was forbidden by all Christianity including its multitude of married, non- Catholic pastors until liberalised by the Anglican Conference of Lambeth in 1930 and why a number of Christian Western countries deemed it illegal in civil law until well into the twentieth century. Ma wi's post is well worth your consideration. Forgiveness is the essence of true love (Ref Christ's dying words on the cross). Time to find true love in forgiveness for the human failings of some men in the Church - for Christ's sake. That too is my last word on this debate.

john frawley | 16 October 2014  

Shannonbrook the very hetero Prodigal son parable is one teaching among many eg "Go and sin no more" to the adulteress [not tweaked "sin some more"]
Avoid slick PC reductionism! first cousin of literal fundamentalism. nb "depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire" Mt 25:41 and other non PC "logia" (Greek: ????a, "sayings, utterances, oracles" of Jesus)

Father John George | 16 October 2014  

Thank you Ma wi. That's just what Pope Francis, Cardinal Kasper and others are saying at the Synod, walking with people along the road of discipleship and not locking them into road side pillories and throwing rotten veges of arrogant moralising at them.

David Timbs | 16 October 2014  

Mr Tombs sir Despite protestations. Cardinal Kasper is on recorded interview transcript as not walking with African interventions-but discriminating and chucking your veggies at them!

Father John George | 17 October 2014  

This conundrum of course can easily be rectified as soon as Synods are truly representative of the People of God. Problem solved.

Jennifer Herrick | 17 October 2014  

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