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Scots Catholic Blog
|Posted on May 12, 2016 at 10:08 AM||comments (0)|
The World Health Organisation has, in its latest report, confirmed that 25% of worldwide pregnancies ended in abortion between 2010 and 2014. The report also states that “around 22 million unsafe abortions are estimated to take place worldwide each year, almost all in developing countries.”
While this news must be greeted with great sadness at the millions of lives lost in an incredibly short period of time, the WHO has a solution. It states that: “Almost every abortion death and disability could be prevented through sexuality education, use of effective contraception, provision of safe, legal induced abortion, and timely care for complications.”
It’s interesting that the WHO avoids any talk of chastity or abstinence in their report. This, as we know, is the most effective means by which to prevent a pregnancy if indeed that is what someone desires. Contraception has been heralded as the saviour when it comes to having sexual relations without the ‘nuisance’ of a child. But, in reality, contraception has merely become a ‘get out of jail free card’ for individuals - mostly men - who simply want to use and abuse a member of the opposite sex for their own selfish desires. Contraception encourages people to engage in the most intimate manner with another human being and then to discard them once the deed is done. There is no account for feelings, no account for wellbeing. It is simply the act of using another for selfish desires. And while not all people can be accused of using another individual through the use of contraception, there is no denying that in using contraception a person is not giving themselves entirely to the other. It is a way of saying “I love you, but I’m not giving you 100% of my love”. Is this the kind of love we want for our children?
While it is natural for secular organisations like the WHO to raise unsafe abortion as an issue, the distinction between safe and unsafe abortions is inherently flawed. This is because it is only concerned with the wellbeing of one party in order to distinguish whether an abortion is safe or unsafe. Abortion, as we know and as science affirms, involves two distinct human beings. When abortion results in the injury or death of one of those human beings it must be considered unsafe. Therefore all abortions are unsafe. There is no such thing as safe abortion.
While more must be done to ensure people are educated on sexual matters there is a real need to ensure that such education is not simply a pandering to the increasingly wayward sexual revolution and the deep pockets of huge, influential pharmaceutical companies. Increased availability of ‘safe’ abortion is not the answer. Nor is the increased availability of contraception. These remedies simply take us down another road of self-destruction in our society and they quite clearly fail to solve the big issue, which is the widely held view that sex is a basic right to be enjoyed by anyone, with anyone and without the very natural consequence that is another human being.
In many African countries there is a growing movement (University Chastity Education or UCE Missionaries of Chastity) among young adults where they sign a pledge card, pledging a vow of chastity until they meet that special someone and marry them. This is not the stuff of fairy-tales. This is real life. Isn’t this a much more appropriate, measured, and natural solution to the pregnancy ‘problem’ than those proposed by the World Health Organisation? Doesn’t this solution encourage the kind of love you desire for your son or daughter?
To read the WHO report, click here: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs388/en/
|Posted on February 4, 2016 at 12:37 PM||comments (0)|
Following a recent discussion on our Facebook page I thought it might be useful to draft up a short note on our Catholic faith and homosexuality. It is intentionally brief. For a more in-depth article on the matter please click this link.
Our Catholic faith tells us that homosexual acts are wrong. I think it's hard for us to hear this in such an abrupt way in today's world but this is what we are taught by faith. The reason such acts are wrong is that God has ordered us male and female for the authentic union that is marriage between man and woman and to be completely open to the precious gift of new life. Homosexual acts are not ordered in this way and are thus sinful. There are many sinful acts so this isn't necessarily a singling out of homosexual people. Consider sex outside marriage between a man and a woman, which is also wrong, as is the use of contraception.
It’s absolutely critical to also bear in mind that having same-sex attraction is different to homosexual acts. Mere attraction is not of itself sinful. It is only when these feelings are acted upon where it is deemed to be wrong. This is something that many people get confused about.
I think it's also important to see the positive side of the Church's teaching on homosexuality. It seeks to protect humanity by promoting the love between a man and a woman for the sake of giving new life to the world and raising this new life in marriage, which throughout history has been the best place for kids to thrive. The Church doesn't say a man can't love a man or a woman can't love a woman. Indeed, such a notion is completely contrary to Church teaching. It simply states that it is wrong to interfere with God's clear and natural plan for humanity.
It's not about hating homosexuals as many people wrongly think. It's actually about loving everyone and calling them all to live in accordance with God's plan. That too is a form of love though it is often hard for this society to see it in this modern age of relativism. In my time running the Scots Catholic website and social media accounts I have often been corrected for straying out of line with respect to Church teaching. I have learned so much in terms of my faith and I am grateful to those who have offered their generous help. For me, they are simply doing God’s work. They are doing what Jesus did and are challenging me, and I shouldn’t be afraid to be challenged.
In fairness to anyone who abides by the teaching of Christ and his Church on this matter, they are simply trying to live out their lives as God intended and they are well within their rights to stay true to God no matter what the world may tell them. Jesus and the Apostles were ridiculed and even put to death for going against the tide and remaining faithful to God's teaching. But they remained faithful. And we are called to do the same.
It is also very important to note that there are many, many gay people living out their Catholic faith chastely in the Church. Their call to chastity is no different to the call to chastity of single people in the Church.
And we must remember, the Church is open to all people and she loves all people, especially those of us who sin. That's why I'm a member.
Many people query whether the Church might change its stance with respect to homosexual acts. This is highly unlikely given the wrongs of homosexual acts is contained in scripture, the Word of God. It's also entrenched in nature itself and the ability of man and woman to procreate (something the Church wants to protect for the sake of the family). I appreciate this is a difficult teaching for some, especially in today's society, but the Church can't fit around the whims of society. First and foremost, the Church can't stray from the Truth it has protected for 2000 years. And secondly, it would be impossible to satisfy everyone all of the time. The Church, like Jesus, is here to challenge us with the Truth. It is not here so that we can abuse it for our own ends.
The Church is also here to bring God’s mercy to us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There is no sin we can commit that is too great that we can’t reconcile ourselves to God. He loves us like no other.
For more information on reconciling our Catholic faith with same-sex attraction, click this link to go to the Courage RC website.
|Posted on May 19, 2015 at 12:08 PM||comments (24)|
Paris St Germain and Brazil player David Luiz, aged 28, has gone against the popular tide and vowed to remain a virgin until he marries his girlfriend Sara Madeira.
The former Chelsea defender was recently baptized into a Pentecostal congregation and, similar to his Brazilian countryman Kaka, has decided to go public about the value of abstaining from sex until marriage.
Such witness to the value of marriage and indeed the sexual encounter is so vital in this world where sex is to be obtained at any cost, even when it means sacrificing the lives of innocent children.
Well done David for your powerful and courageous witness.
|Posted on May 18, 2015 at 9:24 AM||comments (0)|
This insteresting BBC article explores the recent increase in vocations to the religious life in England and Wales and considers why more and more women are becoming nuns.
A number of women who have recently joined various religious orders speak openly about their experiences in the article, though none more frankly than 29 year old Theodora Hawksley who recently joined the Congregation of Jesus in North London.
Theodora says: "If our society is obsessed with money, sex and power and the games people play with them, then vows of poverty, chastity and obedience represent a profound freedom.
That's what has drawn me to religious life.
It's not a fleeing from the world - it's a finding your place in it."
Click this link to read the full article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-32777639
|Posted on March 13, 2015 at 11:29 AM||comments (0)|
Sunday’s Gospel (John 3:14-21):
'Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘The Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced:
that though the light has come into the world
men have shown they prefer darkness to the light
because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong
hates the light and avoids it,
for fear his actions should be exposed;
but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’'
Perhaps it would be of benefit if we carved up this Gospel passage a little. Perhaps we should boil it right down into a few snappy statements of fact, as declared by Jesus. He says this:
God gave the world His only Son
Everyone who believes in the Son will not be lost but may have eternal life
God sent his Son not to condemn but to save
No person who believes in the Son will be condemned
Whoever refuses to believe in the Son is already condemned
It’s hard hitting stuff! How can we reconcile the fact that God is all loving and all merciful yet He is prepared to allow people to be condemned! We are all God’s creation, so how can He allow any of us to be lost?
It’s a conundrum alright and it’s a stumbling block for many people. But one thing that is absolutely certain is that what we are reading is the Word of God. These are the words of Jesus Christ; the words of God made man. There can be no dubiety about the reality of these words and their applicability to all people. These words apply to everyone. Yet sadly so many people aren’t aware of them. But hey, that’s why you and I exist! We have been given a special grace by God to have knowledge of His Word. Not only that but we have been entrusted to take that Word to others!
How do you think our faith spread back in the early days of the Church? How do you think the Word of God found its way into the hearts and minds of so many people through the years? Simple. People used their mouths, their hands, and their feet to spread the Word! There are millions of people out there who do not have the joy of God’s Word and His Truth. We are called to take His Word to all of those who have not yet heard. Wow! God doesn’t ask much of us does He??
And while we may have this huge responsibility on our shoulders, we needn’t do it alone. No, Jesus is always with us. And God sends His Holy Spirit to be our comforter and our guide as we try to bring the Truth to all people. We are never ever alone. That is why we must follow Jesus’ example and take time out to sit in a quiet place and pray. We must learn to take some time away from the crowd to clear our heads and to be in the presence of God, the Father who loves us and wants us to love Him back.
This day, take some time to speak with Jesus and ask him for guidance on how you can be an instrument of God’s work. Ask him what you can do to take God’s Word to other people. Ask him if there is anything specific God wants you to do to bring His Truth to those who do not believe.
Remember the warnings of Christ when he speaks of those who refuse to believe. He says that they are already condemned. But this needn’t be the case. We can change this! We can bring people to God and save their souls! In today’s world which has embraced the modern idea of new-age spirituality and religion it is widely accepted that each individual person is entitled to believe in what they want and do pretty much whatever pleases them. It is their life and ‘who am I to interfere?’ is the general consensus in a society with an increasing desire for relativism. And while God’s great gift of free will for all people makes this possible, sacred scripture is full of warnings about how we ought to live our lives. Too often we hear the cry that ‘Jesus wouldn’t do this’ and ‘Jesus wouldn’t do that’. Who are we to decide what Jesus would and wouldn’t do? If we want to know what Jesus would and wouldn’t do we just need to read the Word of God. It’s all there in black and white!
The difficulty many people have is that they find it hard to accept some of the difficult teachings of Jesus. They find it difficult to accept some of the harsh words he sometimes has to say. But remember, this doesn’t change the fact that he is pure love, pure gentleness, pure compassion, and pure mercy. He is still all of those things. It’s just that some of his teachings challenge us. And there can be no greater challenge than to bring the condemned into new life in Christ! That’s the challenge Christ sets us is in this Gospel passage. God doesn’t want anyone to be condemned. He wants everyone to love Him and to eventually be with Him in Heaven. But sometimes we choose the wrong path. But thankfully there is only one wrong path which makes it really easy for us to know when we and others around us are going the wrong way. The wrong path is simply the path that Christ isn’t walking along. If we want to take the right path we need to follow Christ. It is that path that will lead us to God. Jesus himself said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one can get to the Father except through me”. Jesus isn’t lying here. It’s impossible for him to lie for he is all good. No, Jesus is telling us in a very honest and frank manner that we need to follow him if we want to get to the Father. Any other route to the Father simply will not work! Why? Because there is no other route to the Father! Every other route is one of darkness. Jesus is the only way. It is Jesus who brings us into the light.
|Posted on February 19, 2015 at 7:22 AM||comments (1)|
New Equality and Human Rights Commission guidance on how same-sex marriage should be taught in schools appears to offer protection to those who believe that marriage should only be between one man and one woman.
The guidance makes the following important points:
No school, or individual teacher, is under a duty to support, promote or endorse marriage of same sex couples.
Teachers and other school staff, parents and pupils are all free to hold personal opinions on the marriage of same sex couples, including a view that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. The Scottish Government considers the belief that marriage can only be between a man and a woman is a belief worthy of respect in a democratic society.
Individuals are free to express positive or negative views about the marriage of same sex couples.
This guidance must be viewed as something positive for those people who believe only in natural marriage; that is marriage between one man and one woman. We as Catholics are among those people and this document sets a fairly positive tone for our Catholic schools and the freedom of our educators and pupils to express concern about other forms of marriage.
The most important thing for our schools on the subject of marriage is that they promote marriage between one man and one woman and that this is put forward as the only form of marriage revealed by God and instituted by Christ as a Sacrament. And while schools will still need to refer to the availability of same-sex marriage as provided under the new legislation, the ability of educators to promote the Church's view at the expense of other forms of marriage not accepted by the Church is not hindered.
That said, the Church continues to be a welcoming place for all people and accepts that many people have same-sex attraction. And while detractors may suggest that the Church is not a welcoming place for all because it believes sexual relations between people of the same sex to be sinful, we must remember that sexual relations outside of marriage between heterosexual couples is similarly sinful as are acts of sexual self-gratification. The Church teaches that there are two essential elements to marriage; the unitive aspect which is the complete giving of one to the other, and the procreative aspect of being open to the possibility of new life.
Remember, the Church is a hospital for sinners not a club for saints. A fundamental role of the Church is to bring people to Christ through the process of reconciliation, and this is a gift open to all.
To read the full ECHR Guidance document, click this link: http://scotlandformarriage.org/downloads/ehrc_education_guidance_highlighted.pdf
|Posted on February 3, 2015 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
In the face of increased sexualisation and increased use of contraception across the world, some African nations are resorting to more traditional means of disease control.
In 2002, a Harvard University Study revealed how the east African nation of Uganda managed to significantly decrease the number of people suffering from the AIDS virus, and all because of abstinence.
The country started a programme in the late 1980's aimed at tackling AIDS through abstinence and the preservation of sexual relations for marriage. The results were astounding. By 2001, only 6.2% of pregnant women were infected with the virus. This compared to 21.2% when the program started in the late 80's.
Compare this to other nations which sought to tackle the AIDS crisis by use of contraception. In Botswana for example, where condoms were promoted as the answer to the AIDS crisis, 38% of pregnant women were found to be infected in 2001. The success rate of contraception, as you would expect, lags miles behind the success rate of abstinence.
More recently, in Ghana, the Salesian movement (a Catholic movement founded by St John Bosco) has sought to encourage young people to live chaste lives and commit to abstinence until marriage. And, despite what many western governments, secular groups and the media may say, the young people of Ghana are apparently hungry to become involved. A Nigerian woman who took part in a recent Catholic Answers podcast, said that on a recent visit to Ghana to promote this project she was inundated with requests for pledge cards so that the youngsters could commit to live a chaste life. It would appear that these young people are desperate to achieve a higher level of living rather than simply subscribing to western secular ways of 'putting a plaster on the problem'.
All of this is of course contrary to the contraception programme being supported by the United Nations and some western governments. Increased contraception, it would seem, is the western world's way of alleviating hunger and controlling population in Africa. This coupled with Melinda Gates (wife of Bill Gates) pledging $4.5 billion for contraception reveals just how shallow the west can be when it comes to issues of poverty, disease and deprivation in other countries. Just spend a whole load of money on a whole load of condoms and that will soon fix it. Fools.
As Patrick Coffin, host on Catholic Answers radio so eloquently put it: 'it's more a case of mouths to feed than hearts to love.'
|Posted on October 20, 2014 at 8:46 AM||comments (1)|
Pope Paul VI
Pope Paul VI's encyclical letter 'Humanae Vitae' is a treasured document in the life of the Church, bringing the truth of human sexuality and marriage to the fore at a time when society was caught up in the throes of promscuity and contraception.
Here is an excerpt from this amazing work:
'Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.'
To read the full document, click this link: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html
|Posted on October 20, 2014 at 7:20 AM||comments (1)|
This excellent article by Dr Edward Siri considers the ongoing battle for purity when it comes to the sexual desires of men and women.
The author bases his text on the great writings of Karol Wojtyla (now Pope St John Paul II) in his book Love and Responsibility.
While many feel the Church has little to offer modern society in terms of the rights and wrongs of the sexual encounter, I would argue that the truth is very different, especially when you consider the writings of St John Paul II and Paul VI on the topic.
Click here to read the article at The Integrated Catholic Life: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2014/08/dr-sri-battle-for-purity/
|Posted on October 14, 2014 at 8:47 AM||comments (1)|
If I could sum up in one sentence what is contained in the Synod on Family Life’s mid-term report - as presented by the Synod’s General Reporter Cardinal Erdo - I would say: ‘Imitating the loving gaze of Christ to appreciate the difficulties experienced by many people and recognising the need to offer them companionship, in the hope that together we may experience the joy of the Gospel of the family.’
There are numerous reports circulating about the document, many of which are suggesting a significant change in tone with the possibility of changes in Church doctrine. While there is no real possibility of the latter it is fair to say that there is a change in tone. The tone is definitely more understanding with a focus on healing rather than condemnation, all the while adhering to traditional Church teaching.
Perhaps we should firstly set out the context of this report. To give it its proper title, relation post disceptationem, the document seeks to summarise the discussions held at the Synod thus far. The document will be agreed by the Synod in the days ahead and the intention is then that the document, which contains a number of reflections on the discussions, will be used to ‘raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer by the reflection of the local Churches’ in the year between now and the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will take place in October 2015.
The document covers many interesting topics around the central consideration of the synod; that of the family. Divorce, homosexuality and contraception are but a few of the issues discussed and there are interesting reflections on all of these topics. In this article we will consider the main points arising from the mid-term report and try to make sense of what is actually being said rather than going down the road of an over excitable tabloid reporter with the sole of intention of producing a headline grabbing story suggesting a sea change in Church doctrine.
Not to Condemn, but to Heal
In fleshing out the general theme of greater understanding, we can perhaps start with Cardinal Erdo’s opening comment when he spoke of how Jesus Christ, ‘the Truth, became incarnate in human fragility not to condemn it, but to heal it.’ He used the example of how Jesus taught that marriage was indissoluble but still showed understanding of those who didn’t live up to this ideal. The crux of this is that we must work to help others to be healed and accompany them on their journey with the hope that they will come to full appreciation and acceptance of the Gospel of the family.
Indeed, one outcome of the first week’s discussions is to urgently address the need to more effectively proclaim the Gospel of the family. The report states that the ‘Church has to carry this out with the tenderness of a mother and the clarity of a teacher’ and always bearing in mind the mercy of Christ. It encourages all the faithful to spread this Good News stating ‘Evangelising is the shared responsibility of all God’s people, each according to his or her own ministry or charism. Without the joyous testimonies of spouses and families, the announcement [of the Good News], even if correct, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words that is a characteristic of our society.’
The report makes it clear that in proclaiming the Gospel of the family we must make known that it is a ‘joy that fills the hearts and lives, because in Christ we are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness’. We are also encouraged to proclaim in a language that is meaningful and avoid simply ‘presenting a set of regulations’. Rather, we are invited to put forward values that will address people’s real problems.
The Threat of Individualism
A significant threat expressed in the report is the threat of ‘exasperated individualism’ which the Synod suggests ‘distorts family bonds’. This, according to the Synod, leads to isolation of the various components which make up the family unit which in turn leads to the ‘prevalence of an idea of the subject formed according to his or her own wishes, which are assumed as absolute’. In a nutshell, there is a significant threat posed by narcissism and the modern ideal of individualism and selfishness. This, the Synod suggests, is central to the modern day break up of the family unit.
In order to tackle this problem the Church, through this report, suggests a two pronged approach in supporting people in their search for God. Firstly, it suggests making the teachings of the Church better known. And secondly, this teaching should be accompanied by mercy. In making this point the report refers to Jesus who ‘looked upon the women and the men he met with love and tenderness, accompanying their steps with patience and mercy, in proclaiming the demands of the Kingdom of God’.
To be fair, this direction isn’t out of sync with current Church teaching though the benefit of reemphasising it at this time is obvious.
Marriage between One Man and One Woman
In turning to marriage the report refers to Jesus’ reaffirmation of the indissoluble union between a man and a woman. It then states ‘God consecrates love between spouses and confirms its indissolubility, offering them help in living in fidelity and openness to life. Therefore, the gaze of the Church turns not only to the couple, but to the family’. Here we see the important link between marriage and the family.
The Synod did, however, acknowledge that new forms of union exist in our world and while the Church expresses ‘the value and consistency of natural marriage’ some members of the Synod have raised the possibility of ‘recognising positive elements in the imperfect forms’ of other unions. For those who are in other forms of union, such as civil marriage or cohabitation, the report states that ‘the Church turns respectfully to those who participate in her life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcomings’. So, while Church doctrine on Christian marriage between one man and one woman isn’t going to change, the Church must increase its understanding of alternative forms of union and seek to find positives from them. Indeed the Synod goes further to state that the Church must ‘accept the reality of civil marriage and also cohabitation’ while taking into account due differences between them and natural marriage. However, this acceptance and understanding is always accompanied with the goal to bring such unions to the sacrament of marriage in the Church.
The report states: ‘Indeed, when a union reaches a notable level of stability through a public bond, is characterised by deep affection, responsibility with regard to offspring, and capacity to withstand tests, it may be seen as a germ to be accompanied in development towards the sacrament of marriage’.
So, while the Church will likely continue to recognise only one form of union, the faithful must appreciate those other forms of union where the qualities of stability, deep affection, strength in unity, and a responsible attitude with regard to children are present.
Marriage and Cohabitation
In considering the importance of marriage, the Synod focused on the Church becoming more deeply involved in Christian marriages, especially those in their infancy. It suggests a greater involvement of the whole Christian community with respect to marriage preparation, including pastoral accompaniment in the form of more experienced couples. It also suggests the importance of couples being ‘encouraged towards a fundamental welcome of the great gift of children’ and the importance of ‘family spirituality and prayer’.
Further, the report suggests a move (where it doesn’t already exist) toward more ‘meaningful liturgies, devotional practices and the Eucharist celebrated for families’.
While cohabitation remains an issue for the Church, the report sets out a clear understanding of the difficulties faced by couples such as financial difficulties. While many couples simply reject the idea of Christian marriage, others wish for it but simply cannot afford to have it for one reason or another. The Synod suggests pastoral accompaniment for such couples must start with the positive aspect that they desire a Christian marriage.
Separation and Divorce
Another significant issue is the separated, divorced, and the divorced who have remarried. Firstly, the Synod has set out that ‘Each damaged family first of all should be listened to with respect and love, becoming companions on the journey as Christ did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus’. It suggests such accompaniment must be at a steady and reassuring pace which reflects our ‘closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life’. It also states reassuringly that ‘What needs to be respected above all is the suffering of those who have endured separation and divorce unjustly’ and emphasises the need to avoid children becoming an ‘object’ to be fought over.
With respect to nullity a number of propositions were put forward by members of the Synod. Among those put forward was the suggestion that the administrative responsibility for annulments could be under Diocesan Bishops and a proposed ‘summary process’ in the case of clear nullity. All proposals will, of course, be considered in the months ahead but the report did state that in all cases with respect to annulment, the principal consideration is ‘ascertaining the truth over the validity of the obstacle’.
The report states that ‘Divorced people who have not remarried should be invited to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their state’. It then goes on to consider those who have been through divorce and remarried, saying such a situation ‘demands a careful discernment and an accompaniment full of respect, avoiding any language or behaviour that might make them feel discriminated against’. In a reassurance to Catholic tradition the report then states: ‘For the Christian community looking after them [those who are divorced and remarried] is not a weakening of its faith and its testimony to the indissolubility of marriage, but rather it expresses precisely its charity in its caring’. The suggestion here is that Church doctrine will not change on this issue but there is an undoubted call for the Church to provide respectful accompaniment and care to those affected.
In terms of divorced and remarried people sharing in the sacraments, the Synod members were in disagreement with a number of views being put forward. However, the report suggests that ‘fruit of discernment’ could be applied on a case-by-case basis ‘according to the law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances’. The aim here would appear to be to provide the support necessary to allow divorced and remarried faithful to grow in holiness over time with the possibility of future participation in the sacraments. This, however, is not set in stone and the report suggests that a greater theological study may be undertaken to consider this issue in more detail.
Homosexuality is a subject well known to the Catholic Church, particularly in recent times with the advent of same-sex marriage. However, before we set out the views of the Synod on this topic it is important to note that the Church has not given (nor will it give) any indication that doctrine is about to change on this issue. Indeed the Synod has stated that ‘The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman’. However, the report does state that ‘Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community’ and begs a number of questions to the Catholic faithful about how welcoming we are to people with same-sex attraction without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony. The report also seeks to take positives from same-sex unions while clearly stating there are moral problems connected to such unions. It states: ‘Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners’.
The Synod’s discussions on homosexuality are perhaps worthy of the largest slice of our attention. While there is no movement away from Church doctrine which states homosexuality as being ‘disordered’, there is a clear attempt to accentuate the potential positives which could be brought to bear by same-sex unions. While it does not condone homosexual acts (as such acts close the sexual act to the gift of life), the Church appears to be acknowledging the support through sacrifice given by one partner to the other in same-sex unions.
Perhaps this is a useful juncture to reinforce the Church’s views on homosexuality. While homosexual acts are sinful there is no sin in same-sex attraction. The Church believes such tendencies towards same-sex attraction are a trial in the same way a single person lives a trial by being called to live a chaste life.
The report then tackles the matter of children living with same-sex couples, stating that ‘The Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasising that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority’. This is perhaps a suggestion that the sacraments will not be denied to children who live with same-sex couples.
Contraception is a matter of great significance to the Church as the Church teaches that ‘being open to life is an intrinsic requirement of married love’. Contraception in any form is therefore deemed to be contrary to the Will of God as it closes off the possibility of receiving God-given life. With this in mind the Synod suggests that ‘what is required is a realistic language that is able to start from listening to people and acknowledging the beauty and truth of an unconditional opening to life as that which human life requires to be lived to its fullest’. The report then continues, ‘it is on this base that we can rest an appropriate teaching regarding natural methods’. The Synod then reinforces the message of Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae which ‘underlines the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control’.
Sadly, I have already witnessed a considerable degree of misreporting on this section of the report. It must be clear that the dignity of the person refers to humanity. In this sense, the person we are speaking about is a potential new life. So, birth control must be morally evaluated with the ideal of openness to new life at the core of any considerations. It is not, as some media outlets have suggested, a call for the Church to respect the dignity of individuals using forms of birth control. Contraception, in all its forms, will continue to be rejected by the Church. The Church does, however, allow for Natural Family Planning as this method does not close off the possibility of life. While it allows a couple to plan for pregnancy (and the Church allows for a certain degree of sensible planning with respect to the creation of new life) it is a method which is always open to the possibility of a child. It never closes off that possibility and that is why the Synod has suggested that it should be taught more widely.
And so there we have it; the mid-term report of the Synod of Bishops on Family Life 2014. The Synod will continue for a few more days and will then leave the issues raised to be considered by local Churches and faithful ahead of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will take place in October 2015.
While we need to take these matters into our hearts and minds and ponder them, no decisions will be made until October of next year at the earliest. There is, therefore, a lot of work still to be done and the initial excitement surrounding this report must be balanced with patience and appreciation for the long process being embarked upon. However, that does not mean we cannot start to implement the spirit of understanding which runs throughout the report. This spirit of understanding must fuel our work in the months ahead and, while we must continue to adhere to the beautiful teachings of the Church, our desire to enlighten the world to Truth should be accompanied by a tone of mercy and compassion.
As the report concludes: ‘the guidance of the Holy Spirit will lead us to find roads of truth and mercy for all’. Amen.
To read the full report, click here: http://www.news.va/en/news/synod-on-family-midterm-report-presented-2015-syno