Monday, April 18, 2016

Francis’ Message Calls on Church to Be Inclusive

 

If I have learned anything regarding the catholic church and its magisterial succession of popes during my lifetime it is this. The church gets it right on the most fundamental issues.  For that reason it continues to thrive while most of its detractors face wilting memberships.  Yes it is human but that merely explains the long torturous path taken to arrive at truth in the face of change.


I contend that the time has come for the Church to throw its christian blanket over all so called errant children and allow all the denominations to come back into the Catholic family.  Issues of separation were always rubbish and driven by zeal or economics.  The economic drivers have evaporated in the face of modernism and the the Church actuality needs to encourage lay evangelism at the least by providing a proper home for pastoral care by married clergy.  Yet this demands little more than recognizing two tiers  of priestly fellowship.  Celibates need to still dominate the natural leadership as the demands on achieving communion with the holy ghost usually demands it and this provides an exalted leadership class able possibly assist communicates in spiritual improvement.  


The Church also needs to publicly rediscover its spiritual basis anyway and this also needs to be rigorously developed and advanced.  Way to much risk otherwise without true guidance and all spiritual seekers usually attach themselves to a spiritual teacher often provided through visions no less.


It is enough to say that this is a much welcomed liberalization of priestly conduct and allows communicates to shop for one that they can work with.  All good news for the Roman Catholic Church..



Francis’ Message Calls on Church to Be Inclusive


Pope Francis at the end of Easter Mass at the Vatican last month. Credit L'Osservatore Romano 
 
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/09/world/europe/pope-francis-amoris-laetitia.html

ROME — In a broad proclamation on family life, Pope Francis on Friday called for the Roman Catholic Church to be more welcoming and less judgmental, and he seemingly signaled a pastoral path for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive holy communion.

The 256-page document — known as an apostolic exhortation and titled “Amoris Laetitia,” Latin for “The Joy of Love” — calls for priests to welcome single parents, gay people and unmarried straight couples who are living together.

“A pastor cannot feel that it is enough to simply apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives,” he wrote.

But Francis once again closed the door on same-sex marriage, saying it cannot be seen as the equivalent of heterosexual unions.

The document offers no new rules or marching orders, and from the outset Francis makes plain that no top-down edicts are coming.



Alluding to the diversity and complexity of a global church, Francis effectively pushes decision making downward to bishops and priests, stating that a different country or region “can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs.”

But Francis also makes clear the vision he wants local bishops and priests to follow: as a church that greets families with empathy and comfort rather than with unbending rules and rigid codes of conduct.

The scope of “Amoris Laetitia” is typical Francis: a broad-ranging blend of biblical passages, meditations on marital love, homespun advice on familial manners, passages bemoaning the frenetic loneliness of modern life and a call for families to come closer to the church, and vice versa.


He admits that the church has made mistakes in alienating families and dedicates many passages to describing the pressures brought on families by poverty, migration, drug abuse and violence.

Just as he used his environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” to call on national governments to enact legislation to fight climate change, Francis now calls for governments to provide support for families in the form of health care, education and employment. He describes families as under siege by the pressures of modern life.

“In many cases, parents come home exhausted, not wanting to talk, and many families no longer even share a common meal,” Francis wrote. He described “severe stress” on families “who often seem more caught up with securing their future than with enjoying the present.”

“This is a broader cultural problem, aggravated by fears about steady employment, finances and the future of children,” he wrote.

Although Francis has earned a reputation as a reformer, some liberal Catholics may be disappointed. Many had hoped Francis might go further, perhaps by detailing health exceptions to the ban on contraception, expanding the roles for women in the church or prescribing a clear process that would permit Catholics who divorced and remarried outside the church to receive communion.

“It wasn’t as innovative as many had hoped,” said Lucetta Scaraffia, a scholar of Catholicism in Rome, adding, “The result is quite modest with respect to the investment and expectations that the world had.”

The document is likely to stir debate and disagreement among many Catholics, especially in interpreting the pope’s language explaining how priests should work with divorced and remarried Catholics to help them return to full standing in the church.

Francis convened two successive assemblies, or synods, of bishops from around the world to examine the challenges facing modern families.

Synods under Francis’ predecessors were relatively sleepy affairs, but Francis told the bishops he wanted them to speak their minds without holding back. And they did.

Both synods were contentious and, the participants said afterward, ultimately enlightening. The battle lines were basically drawn over what it means for the church to be pastoral and merciful in its approach to people who are not living in accord with the Christian ideal of the intact, nuclear family. How far should the church bend to respond to modern life or to bring people back?

Both synods concluded with final reports written by participating bishops, and Francis has drawn extensively on those reports in his exhortation.

Francis adopts the solution introduced by the German-speaking bishops at the second synod: inviting divorced and remarried Catholics who have not had their first marriages annulled to seek the counsel of a priest. The priest, in private and personal conversations known as the “internal forum,” could help them to examine their conscience and determine their future participation in church life.

Stories of Catholic Marriage and Divorce

A synod of Roman Catholic bishops met in 2014 to begin a discussion of the church’s teachings on the family. The Times asked readers how the church’s rules on divorce had affected them.
“ ‘Amoris Laetitia’ is a quietly revolutionary document,” said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit who is editor at large for America magazine. “It restores the role of personal conscience and reminds pastors to meet people where they are. It will be a great encouragement especially to divorced and remarried Catholics and anyone who feels they have been unwelcome in the church. The message is: Welcome.”

Conservative Catholics, who have already expressed concern that Francis could destabilize the church and undermine doctrine, were far less impressed. R. R. Reno, a Catholic theologian and editor of First Things, a conservative journal of religion and public life, lamented what he called a “muddy” document that substitutes the church’s “rules and laws and requirements” with “talk about ideals and values.”

“I think it’s an ill-judged shift,” Mr. Reno said. “This document clearly opens up the possibility that a priest may determine that a divorced and remarried person is worthy to receive communion, but under what terms and why is muddy.”

At a Vatican news conference to unveil the document, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria said that Francis was trying to erase the distinction between “regular” and “irregular” families, even as he continued to advocate the Christian ideal of marriage.

Cardinal Schönborn, himself the child of divorced parents, said the pope’s message is that God’s mercy applies to all.


“No one must feel condemned,” he said. “No one is scorned.”

Cardinal Schönborn noted that Francis’ “pervasive principle of inclusion clearly troubles some people,” for example those who are concerned that the pope favors a mentality of “anything goes,” an allusion to conservative Catholic critics. He argued, however, that the pope is not changing church doctrine on the family but is deepening the understanding outlined by Pope John Paul II in his own document on the family, “Familiaris Consortio.”

“It is a classic example of the organic development of doctrine,” Cardinal Schönborn said. “There is innovation and continuity.”

Homosexuality was another hot-button issue, and Francis took his cues from the majority view in the synods. (During the first synod, an interim report written by a committee of bishops used language that was strikingly welcoming to gay people, but it received so much criticism from other bishops at the synod that it was gone by the final report.)

Echoing the report issued by the second synod in 2015, Francis’ exhortation says that “every person regardless of sexual orientation” should be treated with respect and consideration, while “every sign of unjust discrimination is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence.”


But in the next section, he states categorically that the church cannot countenance same-sex marriages or unions, citing the second synod’s final report, which said “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”

The document “does not inspire joy in L.G.B.T. Catholics and their supporters,” said Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group for gay Catholics.

“While not expecting a blessing on marriage for lesbian and gay couples, many were anticipating that Pope Francis would offer an affirming message to L.G.B.T. people, and not the same ill-informed comments,” said Mr. DeBernardo, who is based in Maryland. “Where is the Pope Francis who embraced his gay former student and husband during his U.S. visit? Where is the Pope Francis who invited a transgender Spanish man for a personal meeting at the Vatican? This Pope Francis is hard to find in his latest text.”

But this was the rare harsh passage in what is otherwise a fatherly letter to the church. Francis is releasing it during a year he has declared to be a Jubilee of Mercy. At every opportunity, he has been reminding Catholics that forgiveness and mercy are the heart of their faith.

“No one can be condemned forever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!” the exhortation says. He adds that he is speaking not only of the divorced and remarried, “but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves.”


Inside Pope Francis’ Statement on the Family



In Pope Francis’ long-awaited apostolic exhortation — “Amoris Laetitia,” or “The Joy of Love” — he urges church leaders to serve as nurturing pastors, not as rigid enforcers of doctrine. 





Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press





An Appeal for Greater Empathy


“When faced with difficult situations and wounded families, it is always necessary to recall this general principle: ‘Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations’ (Familiaris Consortio, 84). …. while clearly stating the Church’s teaching, pastors are to avoid judgements that do not take into account the complexity of various situations, and they are to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience and endure distress because of their condition.”



Laurie Goodstein, National Religion Correspondent:

Pope Francis is instructing priests to practice discernment rather than judgment in dealing with the messy realities of people’s lives. Discernment is a spiritual practice taught by the Jesuit religious order to help guide a person through life, and Francis is the first Jesuit pope.




Lessons From Married Clergy


“The main contribution to the pastoral care of families is offered by the parish, which is the family of families, where small communities, ecclesial movements and associations live in harmony … ordained ministers often lack the training needed to deal with the complex problems currently facing families. The experience of the broad oriental tradition of a married clergy could also be drawn upon.



Francis cites the value of “a married clergy” in the Eastern Catholic (“oriental”) churches that permit priests to marry. This may raise some eyebrows. Is he open to a married clergy for the Roman Catholic Church? If so, he doesn’t say more.




Broader Training for Priests


“Seminarians should receive a more extensive interdisciplinary, and not merely doctrinal, formation in the areas of engagement and marriage. Their training does not always allow them to explore their own psychological and affective background and experiences. Some come from troubled families, with absent parents and a lack of emotional stability. There is a need to ensure that the formation process can enable them to attain the maturity and psychological balance needed for their future ministry.”



The selection and training of seminarians for the priesthood has frequently come under scrutiny in recent decades. Here Francis is asking seminaries that focus largely on doctrine (which is more common in the developing world) to broaden their approach.




Encouraging Young Couples


“Young married couples should be encouraged to develop a routine that gives a healthy sense of closeness and stability through shared daily rituals. These could include a morning kiss, an evening blessing, waiting at the door to welcome each other home, taking trips together and sharing household chores. Yet it also helps to break the routine with a party, and to enjoy family celebrations of anniversaries and special events. We need these moments of cherishing God’s gifts and renewing our zest for life.”






Reviving Injured Marriages


“At times, all it takes to decide that everything is over is a single instance of dissatisfaction, the absence of the other when he or she was most needed, wounded pride, or a vague fear. Inevitably, situations will arise involving human weakness and these can prove emotionally overwhelming. One spouse may not feel fully appreciated, or may be attracted to another person. Jealousy and tensions may emerge, or new interests that consume the other’s time and attention. Physical changes naturally occur in everyone. These, and so many other things, rather than threatening love, are so many occasions for reviving and renewing it.






Denounces Antigay Violence


Every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided,276 particularly any form of aggression and violence. Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives.”



The phrase about avoiding “unjust discrimination” against gay people comes straight from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but the instruction to avoid “aggression and violence” is new.




Rejection of Same-Sex Marriage


“In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, ‘as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.’ It is unacceptable ‘that local Churches should be subjected to pressure in this matter and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex.’”



This text was taken from the final report of the bishops synod in 2015. Many of the bishops at the synod were from developing countries, and they are irate at foreign governments and aid organizations that insist on equal treatment of gay people as a condition for financial aid.




On Single Parents


“Whatever the cause, single parents must receive encouragement and support from other families in the Christian community, and from the parish’s pastoral outreach. Often these families endure other hardships, such as economic difficulties, uncertain employment prospects, problems with child support and lack of housing.”






Questioning ‘Safe Sex’ Message


“Frequently, sex education deals primarily with ‘protection’ through the practice of ‘safe sex.’ Such expressions convey a negative attitude towards the natural procreative finality of sexuality, as if an eventual child were an enemy to be protected against. This way of thinking promotes narcissism and aggressivity in place of acceptance.”






New Route Back for Divorced Catholics


“If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations such as those I have mentioned, it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases. What is possible is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since ‘the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases,’ 335 the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same.336 Priests have the duty to “accompany [the divorced and remarried] in helping them to understand their situation according to the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the bishop. Useful in this process is an examination of conscience through moments of reflection and repentance. The divorced and remarried should ask themselves: how did they act towards their children when the conjugal union entered into crisis; whether or not they made attempts at reconciliation; what has become of the abandoned party….”





A More Attentive Church


“I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, ‘always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street.’”

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