Well, here it is. Exhibit A of the “I told you so” files.
What did the Church expect from the old liberals who dominate these kind of parishes? I just luvvvvv being told not to use my condoms!
These people are so far gone, what’s the point of calling St. Basil’s a Catholic parish? And really, is this really about them or rather the massive failure to teach over the past 50 years?
Read their document here…
SYNOD OF BISHOPS
III EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY
PASTORAL CHALLENGES TO THE FAMILY
IN THE CONTEXT OF EVANGELIZATION
The above-named Vatican document of October 2013 outlined the synodal process (leading to an Extraordinary Synod in October 2014 and a full, Ordinary Synod some time in 2015); summarized Church teaching on the family; and issued a long list of questions for consultation with the Church world-wide. Bishops were asked to send responses to the Vatican secretariat for this Synod by the end of January 2014.
In order to coordinate Canada’s response, the CCCB asked our country’s bishops to provide their input by the end of December. Accordingly, Archbishop Prendergast asked pastors and deacons of the diocese to give him their views by mid-December.
The St. Basil’s Pastoral Council and our Pastor Fr. Dan Hawkins endorsed a suggestion that all parishioners be invited to discussions on these matters after Masses one weekend. His response to the Archbishop would be based on the findings from these discussions.
Given that the full set of questions is too long for easy discussion, the questions below were selected (and slightly edited in some cases for context and comprehension) by the volunteer facilitator and rapporteur for these discussions, parishioner Robert Czerny.
Accordingly, this report presents findings from RESPONSES BY MORE THAN 60 PARISHIONERS of St. Basil’s Parish, Ottawa, gathered in three discussions after Masses on December 14-15, 2013, to SELECTED QUESTIONS in the Vatican’s Preparatory Document for the Family Synod. It was sent to the Archdiocese on December 18.
The findings are the rapporteur’s attempt to present the overall tenor of multiple participants’ remarks, except in a few cases where a statement is identified as coming from ‘one parishioner’.
1. The Diffusion of the Teachings on the Family in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s Magisterium
a) What formation is given to our people on the Church’s teaching on family life?
Very little. ‘Family’ is one of the situations in which individual Catholics live their lives. Teaching is largely to and about individuals, not families.
b) In those cases where the Church’s teaching on family life is known, is it accepted fully or are there difficulties in putting it into practice? If so, what are they?
The magisterium appears to focus on rules for formal approval or disapprobation of one’s life. Meanwhile, the Church is silent about real life which is lived elsewhere; the laity come up with their own answers, developed in part by collegial and loving discourse among lay people.
Frankly, the difference between the attitudes to the Church’s family-life teaching on the part of lay Catholics as opposed to attitudes in society more widely, is only in how politely people express their dismissal of such teaching.
2. Marriage according to the Natural Law
b) Is the idea of the natural law in the union between a man and a woman commonly accepted as such by the baptized in general?
“Natural law” is no longer the exclusive view and may not even be dominant. There is increasing empathy and tolerance for alternative forms. Formally, the Church fails to support all those who need it; the penchant for strict speaking interferes with loving response. Informally, the support is there but not talked about. And large numbers of the baptized walk away, being clear in their own conscience that they are justified.
‘Natural law’ is either meaningless or problematic to most people – what is ‘normal’ or ‘natural’? Nature itself may or may not change – even that is problematic, given geospheric and biospheric evolution – but the understanding of nature certainly does change, and is always culturally framed rather than universal. At the very least, the Church’s understanding of ‘natural’ needs to be updated in the light of scientific and other developments. In the past, for instance, it was ‘natural’ for live-born infants with severe defects to expire or be disposed of; now it is ‘natural’ to employ medical advances to render them viable. The Church should recognize and accept that there are different legitimate interpretations of ‘nature’.
Gender stereotypes must be opposed. Modern biological science allows us to understand that there is a continuum of sexualities that occur by nature, not by choice.
d) In cases where non-practicing Catholics or declared non-believers request the celebration of marriage, describe how this pastoral challenge is dealt with?
This has not been regarded as a problem in our parish. It is a condition of using our church building for a marriage that the couple concerned follow our marriage preparation course and meet with the pastor.
3. The Pastoral Care of the Family in Evangelization
c) In the current generational crisis, how have Christian families been able to fulfill their vocation of transmitting the faith?
Families are finding their children growing into the sorts of human beings whom one can admire – caring about others and about the environment, concerned for justice – but without affection for the Church. In effect, parents face competition from two sides. First, modern secular pluralism offers so many attractive alternatives. Second, there is the Church itself. Young people don’t see the Church as exhibiting values or positions that they understand; moreover, the Church stands for positions that they repudiate such as disparagement of women and hesitation to deal with priestly misdemeanours. Young people are abandoning the Church because the Church has failed them.
Not all religions, and not all Christian denominations, are seeing the same decline in numbers and the same indifference on the part of the young as is the Roman Catholic Church. What can be learned from the experience of other denominations?
One parishioner asserts that it is the example of our lives that passes on religion.
f) What pastoral care has the Church provided in supporting couples in formation and couples in crisis situations?
Our parish has had long, positive experience with marriage preparation courses. Couples appreciate it very much. Generally, we should make it more difficult to get married and easier to dissolve marriages. This would be healthier and more compassionate; people need to get on with their lives after marriage breakdown.
Regarding crisis situations, the general sense is that people turn to other forms of assistance (counselors etc.) rather than to the Church. Parishes tend not to have specialists in family crisis available; parishioners do not expect the pastor (celibate and without adult family experience) to be able to help.
4. Pastoral Care in Certain Difficult Marital Situations
a, b, c) To what extent are the following situations a pastoral reality in your particular Church: cohabitation ad experimentum, separated couples and those divorced and remarried, and unions which are not recognized either religiously or civilly?
All of the above, as well as same-sex unions, occur in our parish. The assumption is that these matters are up to the individual’s conscience. (In addition, gay and lesbian individuals are free to choose the level to which they divulge or conceal their sexual orientation; their choices in this matter should also be respected.) The proper attitude of others is “Live and let live.” However, the official Church is perceived to be completely unwelcoming to gays.
Cohabitation before marriage is almost universal now. Moreover, long-term unmarried cohabitation (i.e. not ‘ad experimentum’ but seen as a permanent relationship) is increasingly common; in fact it is legally recognized as ‘common-law marriage’.
The simplest message, which we understand to be Jesus’s message, is: EVERYONE must be accepted. Full stop. Be a welcoming and loving community.
Is St. Basil’s accepting of people in ‘irregular’ lifestyles? Yes and no. The norm in the parish is tolerance in the sense of not being overtly judgmental and not interfering with anyone’s participation in parish life. But probably there are quite a few who are not yet fully accepting – not as accepting as Jesus was – of some ‘irregular’ modes of living. Nevertheless, “The Church must practice acceptance (not just tolerance) and respect” is the predominant attitude. However, the official Church is perceived to totally reject gays and lesbians in its formal teaching.
d, g) In the above cases, how do the baptized live in this irregular situation? Are they aware of it? Are they simply indifferent? Do they feel marginalized or suffer from the impossibility of receiving the sacraments? Does a ministry exist to attend to these cases? Describe this pastoral ministry.
The individuals concerned work out their own accommodation, according to their conscience. Some, who are more fixated on rules, have a greater tendency to leave the Church; as one parishioner noted, they may connect with Anglicanism (which feels close to Catholicism) or Unitarianism (which is very accepting and stresses active personal engagement). Others stay in the Church, thinking along the lines of “This is what God would accept; I am comfortable with this in the eyes of God.” Probably the majority take a third option: abandonment of any form of religious connection. At its starkest the choice is either to ignore the inconvenient rules and stay with the Church; or to take the rules seriously and reject both the rules and the Church that insists upon them.
Individuals may be poorly informed and impose unnecessary restrictions on themselves. There is also significant confusion; for example, over the distinction between divorce and annulment; and whether or not a divorced but not annulled individual may receive other sacraments besides matrimony (which is obviously ‘off-limits’ if the Church regards an earlier marriage as still valid).
Effective ministry cannot begin with offensive language such as ‘irregular’ that labels many people as deviant and is contrary to the goal of evangelization. We are probably all ‘irregular’ in some sense. Remember that Jesus came to minister to those who needed him; this would include so-called ‘deviants’.
Pastoral response is effective if it is based on love.
f ) Could a simplification of canonical practice in recognizing a declaration of nullity of the marriage bond provide a positive contribution to solving the problems of the persons involved? If yes, what form would it take?
One parishioner testified that her annulment had been a positive, healing experience, but the length and expense would probably be a deterrent to many.
The marriage tribunal’s overriding goal should be to help one (and hopefully both) partners in a past marriage to lead whole lives in the future. Another goal should be to facilitate the link of children of such abandoned unions with the Church as a place where they will be understood and helped to feel whole.
‘Annulment’ is popularly understood as a nonsensical ruling that something that patently existed (even for decades) in fact did not exist. Not only must the understanding be improved with better teaching, but the Church’s intentions need to be made clear.
The vocabulary needs adjustment. ‘Annulment’ is an aggressively judgmental and misleading word. For instance, priests who wish to leave their ministry are not equally insulted; they do not apply for an annulment but for a dispensation.
One parishioner notes that priests who are released from their vows of Holy Orders may remain active members of the Church (including receiving communion) and of course may marry in the Church. In like manner, Catholic couples should be able to divorce and remain active members of the Church, including remarriage.
One parishioner advocates that a pastor in good conscience should have the authority to annul a marriage, without reference to a tribunal, if he is convinced that the situation meets the criteria for declaration of nullity; and claims that a former pastor acted in this manner.
5. On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex
c) What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in same-sex unions?
Homosexuality is a naturally occurring phenomenon, not a choice. (Whereas honesty and charity are choices, as are hypocrisy and hostility.) The choice to live in loving community with another person is something that should be honoured, and should be given pastoral support as per the requests of those involved.
However, at present the Church is so hostile to same-sex unions that there is little chance of the people involved ever considering that Catholicism can be a positive for them or their children.
6. The Education of Children in Irregular Marriages
b) How do parents who live in irregular marriages or other irregular unions approach the Church? What do they ask? Do they request the sacraments only or do they also want catechesis and the general teaching of religion?
The Church has abandoned children of same-sex relationships. It is shocking that some priests would refuse marriage or baptism to any sincere requestor.
Teachers in our school system try to treat all children the same. Often they do not know the exact nature of their pupils’ families.
7. The Openness of the Married Couple to Life
a, b) Are Christians today aware of how morally to evaluate the different methods of family planning? Is the Church’s moral teaching on this topic accepted? What aspects pose the most difficulties in a large majority of couple’s accepting this teaching? Could any insights be suggested in this regard pastorally?
The Church’s moral teaching on this topic is almost universally rejected. Only a tiny minority follow official Church teaching on birth control.
The magisterium is simply wrong about birth control. It is disconnected from the relationship experience of most married couples. There is no moral difference among contraceptive birth control methods. Even the rhythm method involves technology and is therefore ‘unnatural’. One parishioner added: “It is hypocritical to accept the prevention of conception using the Rhythm Method and declare every other method to prevent pregnancy as sinful. The intent is the same. (And as any married male or female priest, if such existed, would attest, the Rhythm Method is unreliable, messy and kills spontaneity.) Condoms should be accepted. Their use should be promoted in high AIDS regions and among the poor.”
The Church’s leaders cannot admit that they are wrong (e.g., their continued affirmation of Humanae Vitae). The consequent damage to the credibility of the magisterium is profound.
A harmful repercussion of this situation is that young people today are unaware of the factual and moral difference between contraceptive and abortive methods of birth control.
The Church should “get out of the bedroom”. The focus on sexual morality has detracted from other issues of equal if not greater importance such as social justice.
Catholic school teachers are in a no-win situation, having to defend official Church teachings on sexuality while knowing that students regard them as incredible and are supported in this position by their parents.
f) How can a more open attitude towards having children be fostered? How can an increase in births be promoted?
Thoughtful, responsible people nowadays take the view that ‘fewer is better’, given the strain on the earth’s resources and on social cohesion from the burgeoning population. Frankly, there has been no respect, for the past half-century at least, for the old ideal of having as many children as possible. “An increase in births” is to be discouraged, not promoted. (Currently, increasing the birth rate is promoted by some governments for reasons of economic competitiveness and/or of future income tax revenue to pay for pensions and health care.)
Rather than quantitative increase, we should be striving to show acceptance of life in all forms. The difficult frontier of this is the disabled, who need full acceptance. To do so puts priority on moral values, versus the materialism which predominates in society now.
8. The Relationship Between the Family and the Person
b) What critical situations in the family today can obstruct a person’s encounter with Christ?
This is not a distinct issue; it is best understood by seeing the family in the wider societal context. Our society is generally anti-faith. Therefore, all critical situations, whether in the family or outside it, are borne in a manner that does not involve encounter with Christ. It can be as simple as committing to activities (e.g. a child’s athletics activities) as a family, which is rightly a high priority for the family, even if the schedule conflicts with attending Mass. And yet, even people of little or no faith sometimes show appreciation when a practicing Catholic says “We’re praying for you.” So the crisis can actually have the opposite effect – to bring spirituality to mind.
9. Other Challenges and Proposals
What other challenges or proposals related to the topics in the above questions do you consider urgent and useful to treat? The first set of remarks reflect the views of various individuals.
There is a great desire for change in the Church’s teaching and ministry in this area. This desire may be stronger in our parish than elsewhere, but it is clearly widespread. The hierarchy needs to prayerfully, honestly understand this desire as a manifestation of the Spirit who is moving and leading us.
The Family Synod should be announced (or ‘branded’) very carefully so as to avoid frustrating Catholics with overly high expectations. For instance, if shifts in doctrine are ruled out a priori, it is best to declare this restriction rather than allow people to expect something on these lines and then not find it.
There is a growing phenomenon of “intentional families.” It would be valid and valuable for the Church to support them. But how will it recognize them?
The questions in the Preparatory Document avoid the topic of the role and status of women. As long as the ordained members of the Church and the magisterium persist in denying women equal status, the teaching on women within the family will be regarded with suspicion. If the Church hierarchy cannot understand women fully and honestly in the area that the hierarchy experiences directly – the workings of the Church – we do not expect it to do a better job of understanding women in an area of little adult experience, namely family life.
Regarding the sacrament of Penance/ Reconciliation, one parishioner states: “Individual confession is more of an obstacle than a help. Typically, year in and year out, the same sins are mumbled to a priest who judges the offenses and after absolution specifies a penance of a few prayers. Not much changes for the next time. Whereas in general confession, people address God directly. All sins, not just those usually mentioned in the confessional, are then absolved.”
Most of the Church’s problems are the result of man-made rules, coupled with rigidity.
The overlap between Church and State underlies some of the problems.
The bishops are not the appropriate people to decide issues affecting families; these issues are the proper domain of laypeople.
This second set of remarks represent shared views of participants in the discussions.
The Church’s response should in all cases exhibit tolerance, patience, respect, compassion and care; it should prize the dignity of every human being, without dictating that some are made more fully in the image and likeness of God than others.
It is SO GOOD that, at last, the Church is asking what we think.
There is enough good will and good thinking available to come up with solutions to these tough challenges!
End of document