When Vatican II drew up its document “On Fostering the Nobility of Marriage and the Family” (Gaudium et Spes, Part II, chapter 1, para. 47-52) the bishops invited and listened to the voices of married persons and were attentive to their personal experiences. The result was a renewed, more realistic teaching. However, when the 1980 Synod of Bishops “On the Role of the Family” was prepared and took place, only carefully hand-picked members of the laity were invited. They offered no critical voice and ignored abundant evidence that the teaching of the church on marriage and sexuality was not serving the needs of the faithful. It resulted in the Synod not producing anything pastorally helpful.
We therefore urge the Catholic faithful and any other interested parties to share their experience and knowledge with the leaders of the church and to make their thoughts and their concerns known.
Some of the following issues appear to merit special attention.
Catholics whose lives and faith have been challenged by the Vatican’s current teachings on contraception, homosexuality and access to communion for the divorced and remarried are being urged to share their experiences.
The John Wijngaards Catholic Research Centre’s new website, www.johnwijngaards.org, is providing an independent platform for Catholics in England and Wales to record their testimonies and contribute their views on morality and their faith.
Information and the personal stories of people affected by the Vatican’s attitudes to issues of sexuality, sexual practices and divorce, will be made available to Church representatives ahead of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops focusing on the family in October 2014.
The aim of the Synod of Bishops has been described as addressing the serious challenges of the social and spiritual crisis in today’s world. The Bishops have set a deadline of December 6 for canvassing views on many of the key issues including sexuality, contraception and access to communion.
Leading campaigners for modernising Church attitudes to these hot topics believe that the short research deadline is arbitrary and will stifle debate.
John Wijngaards, a Catholic Scholar, author and director of an international faith formation centre charity, is heading the JW Catholic Research Centre team.
He said: “These are key issues affecting and blighting so many people’s lives. Their voices need to be heard and given the proper attention they deserve.
“Setting a deadline of December 6 is inadequate and wholly unnecessary if the Church and its Bishops are really serious about addressing these fundamental topics.
“Our new website is offering an independent platform for Catholics to tell the Bishops the effect on real lives of Church teachings on sex and morality.
“These teachings are based on a misguided interpretation of natural law which was nurtured by medieval theologians. They are flawed and should have no place in a 21st century Catholic Church.
“This is a rare opportunity for us all to work towards reforming the Church’s position on morality which is currently alienating millions of Catholics and causing untold guilt, misery and confusion.”
Miriam Duignan, an active campaigner for Church reform and a member of the JW Catholic Research Centre team, said: "These are important issues for us all. But they are particularly significant for younger Catholics many of whom find themselves very much at odds with current Church teachings and have great difficulty in reconciling their faith with the Vatican's attitudes to contraception and homosexuality."
John Chuchman ends his reflection today with the question: "How did Institutional Church go so far astray leading so many with it?" It's an excellent question that in a way cuts to the heart of why Catholica exists. Personally I think the answer to the question is because the entire institution has turned itself over to satisfying the needs, principally emotional, of a small minority who have even ended up silencing the priests, bishops and cardinals. Readers of Catholica tend to be classified as "heretics" and other disaparaging names by that minority but in fact many of our readers, including John Chuchman, do in fact have a deep love for much that Catholicism had to offer the world before it was all stolen from us by these people who believe they alone can read the mind of God. John's reflection might be read as an attempt to answer the question he frames at the end. ...Brian Coyne, Editor
Follow the Rules or . . .
Many people prefer to keep a set of rules
regarding their relationship with God.
It helps them know exactly
when they have done their duty.
If they obey the rules,
they can expect reward,
albeit in the next life.
Their pluses and minuses
can be accurately calculated;
their moral deficits
can be compensated by special works,
For these people,
the accounts are clear
allowing them to know
exactly where they stand with God.
It is precisely this legalistic attitude
to which Jesus gives
Jesus breaks through
this protective wall of rules,
not allowing us
to take refuge in legalism.
He strikes down merits
gained through obedience to rules.
liberated and gladdened,
immediately before God,
some set of rules and rituals.
Our relationship with God,
is not established by some code,
creed, dogma, rite, or ritual.
We are in a direct relationship
with our Creator.
This is why Jesus never talked learnedly
nor did He proclaim some set of
moral, universal all-embracing principles,
or even some new system of beliefs.
Jesus is not a legislator,
not a rule maker,
and does not want to be one.
He neither binds people
to the old rules,
nor issues new ones.
He does not compose a new moral theology,
nor code of conduct.
He does not issue ritual instructions
or tell people how to
pray, fast, and observe sacred times.
He gave us a multitude of ways to Love
with the Beatitudes
around which rules do not work.
His Commandment of Love
is not to become,
some new law.
Jesus summons us
to a personal relationship
embracing our whole life.
Jesus simply provided examples
of how to live
with simple, transparent, liberating appeals,
disregarding any and all arguments
from authority or tradition.
How did Institutional Church
go so far astray
leading so many with it?
We are pleased to bring you this news.
You are aware of the fact, I am sure, that for many years I and my team of helpers have researched the possibility of ordaining women in the Catholic Church. Because of all the related issues, this research has widened to include a number of other areas important for reform in the Church, such as ‘body and sexuality’ and ‘authority structures’. Meanwhile www.womenpriests.org and www.womendeacons.org have been updated.
You may, or may not, have heard that our five major websites on these issues have now been brought together under one roof: the “John Wijngaards Catholic Research Centre”. The inclusion of my name in the title, which was not my idea, is judged to be helpful because, apparently, my name is known [I don’t doubt mainly as a ‘dangerous rebel’ in many circles!] Our new umbrella website is: http://www.johnwijngaards.org/ .
I am writing this letter to draw your attention to the fact that we are engaged in a major initiative. We want to gather the testimonies of men and women on their Christian experience of sex. We do this in response to Pope Francis’ call for such information in preparation for the 2014 Synod on the Family. We focus mainly on three areas: birth control, homosexual relationships and ‘divorced and remarried’. The testimonies are collected here: http://www.johnwijngaards.org/synod-and-you/ .
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