But critics are deeply concerned about the appointment, given the English priest’s previous doctrinal statements, especially on sexual ethics and holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, which they say go against Church teaching.
Father Radcliffe, 69, who was master of the Dominican Order from 1992 to 2001, was appointed on May 16 to advise the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace on issues due to his expertise in that area. He currently serves as a director of the social justice-focused Las Casas Institute of Blackfriars at Oxford University.
Vatican consultors, appointed to five-year terms, are generally called upon to share their expertise with various dicasteries, but they do not have any final say in determining Vatican policy.
In comments to the Register May 19, Father Radcliffe said he is “very happy” to do anything he could to “support Pope Francis,” adding that justice and peace are “at the heart” of the Holy Father’s ministry, and so it is “an honor to have a small part in promoting this.”
He said he did not yet know what his duties would be, but hoped he could bring “a fairly wide experience of the Church, especially of places where there is or has been suffering and crisis.”
During the past year, Father Radcliffe said he had spent “much time” in Iraq and Algeria and noted that the “political and humanitarian crisis in the Middle East is dramatic and a major priority for the Pope.”
Until last year, Father Radcliffe served as a trustee for CAFOD, the official Catholic aid agency of England and Wales. CAFOD’s director, Chris Bain, told the Register that “pretty much all of Father Timothy’s recent writing incorporates justice issues, as he sees this as a core part of the Church’s mission.”
Bishop William Kenney also knows Father Radcliffe well and said he has wide experience, a “truly worldwide view,” and a “deep knowledge of the Church’s social teaching and of the situation on the ground.” Bishop Kenney, who is auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England, said he was “delighted with the news” of the appointment and felt the English Dominican is in many ways “ideally suited” to his new appointment.
Bain said Father Radcliffe — who is thought to know Pope Francis well — believes that to be truly catholic, in the sense of “universal,” the faithful need to “engage all people of goodwill and embrace all people in need” as “equally loved by God.”
Comments on Homosexuality
But critics say Father Radcliffe’s perspective on universal love goes too far — and that in particular his comments on homosexuality run contrary to Church teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts are “of grave depravity,” “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to the natural law,” as they “close the sexual act to the gift of life.” For this reason, the Church has strongly opposed any promotion of such lifestyles.
In 2005, as the Vatican debated whether men with same-sex attraction should be admitted to seminaries, following the clerical sex-abuse scandals, Father Radcliffe said the inclination should not bar men from the priesthood, but that those who oppose their candidacy should be.
In a talk in Los Angeles in 2006, Father Radcliffe called for the Church to “accompany [homosexuals] as they discern what this means, letting our images be stretched open. This means watching Brokeback Mountain [a movie about a homosexual relationship], reading gay novels, living with our gay friends and listening with them as they listen to the Lord.”
In 2012, in support of same-sex civil unions, he wrote in The Tablet that homosexual relationships should be “cherished and supported” and that the “God of love can be present in every true love.” And Father Radcliffe has often celebrated Masses for homosexual Catholics — the so-called “Soho Masses” — in London.
And, writing in an Anglican journal in 2013, he said when considering same-sex relationships, “we cannot begin with the question of whether it is permitted or forbidden! We must ask what it means and how far it is Eucharistic. Certainly it can be generous, vulnerable, tender, mutual and nonviolent. So in many ways, I think it can be expressive of Christ’s self-gift.”
He said homosexual relationships can be “expressive of mutual fidelity, a covenantal relationship in which two people bind themselves to each other forever.” But he also went on to say that “gay marriage” is not equivalent to marriage, as it is not “inherently unitive.”
The English Dominican has also voiced his support for relaxing restrictions on holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, writing in America magazine in 2013 that he had two “profound hopes”: that a “way will be found to welcome divorced-and-remarried people back to Communion” and that women will be allowed to preach at Mass.
John Smeaton, executive director of Britain’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said he was “surprised” by the news of Father Radcliffe’s appointment, which he considered “particularly inappropriate,” given his views relating to human sexuality.
He referred to a televised talk on July 10, 2009, at a Catholic parish in Mashpee, Mass., in which Father Radcliffe said: “It’s not that sexual ethics are particularly important. I don’t think they are.”
“Father Radcliffe’s frank admission is completely opposed to the position set out in Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity and Truth),” Smeaton told the Register. “Pope Benedict taught us that the Church’s teaching on the unitive and procreative meaning of human sexuality placed the married couple at the foundation of society.”
Quoting St. John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Value and Inviolability of Human Life), Smeaton added, “The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that ‘a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.’”
Father Radcliffe Responds
Defending his remarks, Father Radcliffe told the Register that he has “always strongly opposed ‘gay marriage,’ and so there cannot be any cause for alarm there.” He said Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the former archbishop of Westminster, began the Soho Masses, and Father Radcliffe presided at them from “time to time, with the blessing of the cardinal.”
Added Father Radcliffe, “It is important to welcome gay people, but this is not to reject the Church’s teaching in any way.”
Regarding reception of Communion, Father Radcliffe said, “Like many cardinals and bishops, I believe that the Church needs to think again about her discipline on the admission of the divorced and remarried to Communion. This is in no way to reject the indissolubility of marriage, but it is to welcome people whose marriages have fallen apart.”
“Anyone who actually reads what I have written on any of these issues will discover that nothing that I say contradicts the teaching of the Church, and all is fully in accordance with the teaching of Pope Francis,” he said.
Bishop Kenney said he was not sure where the criticisms of Father Radcliffe were coming from and also urged reading his lectures and writings. He said that, as far as he was concerned, he had “seen nothing which Father Timothy has written which has been unorthodox” and that, “like many of us, he is trying to do what Pope Francis and Pope Benedict have asked us to do: namely, to show mercy and welcome to all people.”
Asked about Pope Francis’ view of mercy and whether he would like to see more emphasis on justice and repentance, Father Radcliffe said: “Mercy and justice are inseparable. ‘Mercy and truth have met each other: Justice and peace have kissed’ (Psalm 85:10).
“Mercy without justice would lead to chaos; justice without mercy would lead to harsh condemnation. Jesus is full of ‘grace and truth,’ according to the prologue to St. John’s Gospel. Grace without truth would be vacuous, and truth without grace would be terrible.”
Father Radcliffe has also spoken up in support of the German bishops’ desire to admit the divorced and remarried to Communion, a contentious suggestion that has been opposed by the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, as it was by Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II.
Last year, EWTN chose not to televise Ireland’s Divine Mercy Conference, as it customarily does, because Father Radcliffe had been chosen as a keynote speaker at the event. And in 2011, Father Radcliffe was scheduled to speak at the general assembly of Caritas International, a confederation of worldwide Catholic charities. The Vatican intervened to prohibit his address, and he was replaced by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the pontifical household.
In light of Father Radcliffe’s appointment, it is worth noting the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1986 letter to bishops on the pastoral care of homosexual persons, which warned that, in the face of “enormous pressure” on the Church to “accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity,” the Church’s ministers “must ensure that homosexual persons in their care will not be misled by this point of view, so profoundly opposed to the teaching of the Church.”
“The risk is great,” the letter added, and there are “many who seek to create confusion regarding the Church’s position and then to use that confusion to their own advantage.”
Catholic News Agency contributed to this report.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
Evidence is coming to light of concerted and covert attempts to coax the Catholic Church into accepting homosexual relationships, principally using an upcoming church synod on the family to achieve it.
A group of influential church figures, mainly from Germany and northern Europe, appear intent on making the meeting about same-sex relationships, while cloaking their agenda in vague and abstruse language.
They speak of “enriching” the “biblical and theological foundations” of the synod (code for ignoring traditional church teaching), creating a “new theology of love” (an abstract concept aimed at legitimizing extramarital unions), and finding a “nonhostile” language to convey church doctrine (a watering down of Catholic teaching).
The published aim of the October Synod on the Family, called by Pope Francis and to be attended by over 400 bishops and experts, is to look at how to better pastorally apply the church’s teaching on marriage and the family. But like last year’s synod on the family, it is already in danger of being derailed by powerful lobbies, some of whom are running the synod itself.
On Monday, 50 participants, including nine bishops and over 20 liberal theologians, attended a secretive “study-day” at Rome’s prestigious Gregorian Jesuit university. None of those attending opposed church recognition of same-sex relationships when it was explicitly proposed by one of the speakers.
The meeting took place at the invitation of the heads of the German, Swiss and French bishops’ conferences. Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops and one of nine cardinals advising the Pope on church and Vatican reform, gave the meeting’s closing address.
Professor Manfred Spieker, a German church expert, wrote on the website Kathnet that the meeting was “divisive” and an abuse of the presidents’ offices, given that only those bishops sympathetic to the homosexual agenda were invited. He spoke scathingly of the event, saying it undermined the purpose and intent of the upcoming synod, and promoted views that have “schismatic potential.”
The study-day took place just days after a referendum in Ireland to allow same-sex marriage, leading some to believe the timing was not coincidental.
German Cardinal Walter Kasper, whose controversial theology Pope Francis admires, told Corriere della Sera May 27 that the Irish vote means the church needs to address the question of same-sex couples more fully, and that what was a “marginal topic” at the last Synod on the Family in October 2014, has now become “central.”
The church, he said, has been too silent about this issue for too long and, in later comments, said the church needs to “disarm” her language to try to make contact with the secular world. The church, he believes, needs to honor long-lasting same-sex relationships.
Such sentiments are roundly rejected by faithful Catholics who view this kind of approach as surrendering to secular values and sowing confusion.
But the church homosexual lobby, driven by ideology more than the well-being of souls of homosexuals themselves, is unlikely to be deterred.
One of the tools it is using to achieve its goal is the media. The major German publishing house, Herder, is to publish a large book in September — just a month before the synod — by a group of Catholic academics pushing the homosexual agenda.
Called “Who Am I to Judge?” after the Pope’s misquoted remark on the issue, it calls for more acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle on the grounds that condemning homosexuality no longer meets with a “positive response” among the faithful.
Although Pope Francis has warned of a homosexual lobby in the church, it remains unclear how serious he is in confronting it. A significant number of church leaders and academics and some of his closest advisers are pushing the agenda, but his silence and inaction in the face of such dissent is causing increasing distress among many faithful Catholics.
Church historian Roberto de Mattei observed that during the Irish referendum the Pope kept a “sepulchral silence” and, despite its gravity, chose instead to often rail against other evils such as “corruption, trafficking in arms and slaves, and the vanity of power and money.”
De Mattei and others feel that if the Pope, given his popularity, had strongly urged the Irish people to vote no a week or so before the ballot, it could have swung the result by as much as 10 percent, possibly enough to have led to a no vote.
By not doing so, they argue, not only was the Irish vote lost, but church divisions are being left to fester and deepen, driven by a wealthy and powerful German church that has all but lost its faith.
Last week, church figures in Germany publicly rebuked Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Pope’s deputy, for saying the Irish referendum result was a “defeat for humanity.” Meanwhile, media pressure is beginning to be exerted on those few German bishops who are resisting the homosexual lobby.
Arguably a positive element to all of this is that the homosexual lobby is being exposed as they look to the synod for their salvation. But the potential damage they will cause the church and souls in the meantime could be beyond measure.
Read Latest Breaking News from Newsmax.com http://www.newsmax.com/EdwardPentin/gay-ireland-catholic-pope/2015/05/31/id/647799/#ixzz3iL8E7RFo
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Of particular note is the prominence of Father Eberhard Schockenhoff in the discussions, as well as the other speakers chosen. Father Schockenhoff’s previous controversial statements on homosexual relations are listed here. Some passages that are likely to cause concern are included in the text at the end of the program, highlighted in bold below.
Also of note is that sympathetic journalists were invited, and had their expenses paid as well as the other participants, so they could be supplied with “background”. That can only mean that the organisers wished to have the agenda publicised in the months leading up to the synod. Given the likely opposition and unease the subject matter would provoke among the faithful, this would surely go against the Pope’s desire for a “protected space” so that such polemics would not go beyond the confines of the synod.
But even if it were kept within the synod, what is alarming many is that, according to a piece written by Marco Ansaldo in La Repubblica, excerpts of which I include below, nobody present, including the bishops and one of the Pope’s closest advisers, opposed Church recognition of same-sex relationships after a priest theologian explicitly advocated it. Furthermore, this took place after a paragraph on the “positive aspects” of same-sex relationships, written into the last synod’s interim report by Archbishop Bruno Forte, was rejected by the synod fathers.
The article of Ansaldo, the only Italian journalist invited to the meeting, contains a number of aspects of Monday’s study day that have not yet been widely publicised.
Bishops’ Conference of France – German Bishops’ Conference – Swiss Bishops’ Conference
[Letter of Invitation]
The Holy Father has initiated an invitation to the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will take place from 4 to 25 October in Rome, and which will have as its announced topic “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.”
Already the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of last year [October 2014] offered manifold opportunities to discern future-oriented paths of theological reflection and of pastoral practice unto the promotion of marriage and the family.
The Lineamenta of the this year’s Synod [in 2015] again has contained a questionnaire which has now received answers from all over the world. Further reflections now seem to us to be helpful.
In preparation of the Synod, we – the Presidents of the French, German, and Swiss Bishops’ Conferences – host a theological Day of Study together. It will pick up on the impulses which have come out of the present opinion-forming responses, and which refer to the theological-anthropological aspects of human biography and love and to the exegesis of the message of the New Testament which relates to this topic.
Cordially we invite you personally to participate in this Day of Study. It will take place on
Monday, 25th May, 2015, from 9.00 am. until 16.00 pm.
At the Pontificia Università Gregoriana, Sala Gonzaga,
Piazza della Pilotta, 4
You will find enclosed the preliminary program, as well as a content-related summary of the three topics to be discussed.
The Day of Study brings together participants of the Synod, high-ranking Curial members, theologians from our [three] countries, as well as journalists. The number of participants shall not exceed more than about 50 persons. In the interest of a free debate it is to be a closed event, which has for the participating journalists the character of a background conversation.
It would give us much joy if you could make possible your participation. You will also find enclosed an application form. We ask for your application in this form, to be received not later than 4 May 2015. We will gladly cover the travel and lodging costs. A list of nearby hotels is also enclosed.
In case of further questions […]
We remain with very cordial greetings and the best wishes and blessings for this Season of Easter, yours
Mgr. Georges Pontier Mgr. Markus Büchel
Reinhard Cardinal Marx
Day of Study Concerning the Synod of Bishops
“The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.”
A Conjoint Initiative of the Presidents of the French, German, and Swiss Bishops’ Conferences
Monday, 25 May, 2015 – Rome, Gregorian University, Sala Gonzaga
08.00 Occasion for Participation at the Holy Mass
Jesuit Chapel, Gregorian University
09.00-09.30 Welcome and Introduction into the Conference
(P. Prof. Dr. Hans Zollner, SJ, Archbishop Georges Pontier)
The Words of Jesus concerning Marriage and Divorce
– Reflections upon a Catholic Hermeneutic of the Bibel
09.30-09.50 Short Presentation (Prof. Dr. Anne-Marie Pelletier)
09.50-10.10 Short Presentation (Prof. Dr. Thomas Söding)
10.10-10.40 Discussion with the Participants
– Coffee Break –
Sexuality as Expression of Love
– Reflections upon a Theology of Love
11.10-11.30 Short Presentation (Prof. Dr. Eberhard Schockenhoff)
11.30-11.50 Short Presentation (Prof. Dr. François-Xavier Amherdt)
11.50-12.20 Discussion with the Participants
– Lunch Break with Snack –
The Gift of One’s Own Life
– Reflections upon a Theology of the Biography
13.30-13.50 Short Presentation (P. Prof. Dr. Alain Thomasset SJ)
13.50-14.10 Short Presentation (Prof. Dr. Eva-Maria Faber)
14.10-14.40 Discussion with the Participants
14.40-15.40 Final Overall Discussion
15.40-16.00 Closing Remarks (Cardinal Reinhard Marx)
Moderation: Dr. Francine Charoy / P. Bernd Hagenkord SJ
Concerning the Main Topics of the Conference
The Words of Jesus Concerning Marriage and Divorce: Reflections upon a Catholic Hermeneutic of the Bible
The words of Jesus concerning marriage and divorce have to be interpreted in the context of his entire proclamation and of the tradition of the Church. According to the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation in the Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum (No 8), the understanding of tradition is the cause for progress in history, namely, because of the study and the considerations of the faithful, their own understanding of spiritual things, and because of the teaching of the Magisterium. What is the meaning of the spiritual experiences of the faithful for the hermeneutic of Scripture and Tradition? What significance lies in the experiences of the faithful in marriage and in the family, with respect to the understanding of the words of Jesus concerning marriage and divorce and their concretization in the context of the contemporary life realities?
Sexuality as Expression of Love: Reflections upon a Theology of Love
The Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar doctrinal developments have promoted a personal understanding of sexuality which considers sexual relationships as expressions of marital love. However, love between a man and a woman exists also outside of a canonically valid marriage. What significance can sexuality have in such relationships? A newly developed theology of love is therefore necessary which can build upon the tradition of the moral-theological capacity to differentiate, and which includes new insights from anthropology and sociology. Part of this would be a personal understanding of sexuality which is not concentrated upon sexual acts or their consummations [compare to Schockenhoff’s comments on homosexual acts mentioned in my previous article], but rather looks at the connection between Eros and Agape. How can these different forms of love be assessed moral-theologically, and in a differentiated way? What is the “added value” of the sacramental marriage in comparison to other forms of living? The Law of Graduality, as it has been discussed at the last Synod, or the reference to the teaching of the“logoi spermatikoi,” as made by the Relatio, can both – is it not so? – be starting points for a further development of the Church’s teaching on marriage?
The Gift of One’s Own Life: Reflections upon a Theology of the Biography
Socially, in a highly complex and pluralistic society, the individual has a greater responsibility for one’s own way of life. Often, it does not follow traditional patterns any more. The personal concepts of life and the conscientious decisions of the individual [now] play a greater role; biographical developments [sic] are part of the planning of life. To this fact, the pastoral practice concerning marriage and the family has to respond. What kind of new role could the proclamation of the Gospels and the formation of conscience play when the faithful in their relationships and in their sexual life do not live up to the demands of the Gospels? Concerning those people who have failed with their life designs, how can the Church accompany them with regard to pastoral care as well as, possibly, with regard to the liturgy? How can the Church proclaim convincingly the presence of God in such failures?
La Repubblica on Study-Day
Marco Ansaldo’s piece is entitled: “Bishops in the Wake of the Irish Referendum: ‘The Bond Between Gays Is of Value to the Church’. The subheading is: “Bishops and theologians gather behind closed doors at Rome’s Gregorian University ‘to recognize couples if their relationships are stable’.”
He begins by quoting one of the participants: “What can we say to a young man who doesn’t find his place within the parameters of the Church? How should we implement the practice of eros? Here we are faced with problems with which we must contend. Otherwise people will eventually go away.”
He then adds: “The quiet alarm, launched by a priest and professor mid-way into the proceedings, shakes the rectangle of tables seating the 50 people who met at the Gregorian University in Rome for a study-day organized for the Synod of Bishops set for next autumn. “Marriage and Divorce,” and “Sexuality as an Expression of Love” are the titles under discussion. They are burning topics of great relevance on the heels of the ‘Yes’ referendum on gay marriage in Ireland.”
After listing some of the participants, he then explains that media present were required not to attribute authorship of the statements to the speakers. He then adds:
And the discussion was very broad and free. Touching also on the subject of gay unions, recalling the Irish vote. “The matter is not a topic of the Synod,” a German priest and theologian points out, “but nonetheless, it is a cultural matter. If there is a strong relationship between two persons of the same sex that leads to a recognition, this must also become a bond for the Church.” He then adds: “Personally, I say that this union should be recognized, even if not as a marriage. If the Church does not recognize it, this doesn’t imply a discrimination, but that it means to reaffirm the principle of the family constituted by one man and one woman.”
An innovative position. No one present opposes it. In fact, the conversation widens. “It’s clear,” a French bishop says, “that we are experiencing a new pastoral reality.” And, on the subject of the divorced and remarried, a professor continues: “With the increasing lifespan, the frontier of faithfulness also shifts. But the discipline of the Church today is far from being stationary. After a failure, an abandonment, one can commit oneself in a new life with another person. These problems come to us from those involved in teaching, as well as from the faithful. Applause, and it continues on.
Ansaldo then quotes one German bishop who comments: “The dogmatists say the teaching of the Church is fixed. Instead, a development exists. And we need a development on sexuality. Even though we don’t need to concentrate only on this.” He adds that a priest, who is also a professor, admits: “Since we live as singles, celibacy for us priests makes it difficult to speak to others about their life as a couple.”
The Italian journalist points out that no one uses the word “parresìa” — frankness —a key word of Francis’ pontificate, but the discussion at the table of the Gregorian “unfolds entirely under its shadow.”
He quotes a Swiss priest and professor who makes rather sexually explicit remarks, and another Swiss participant cites Sigmund Freud and Erich Fromm, saying: “The importance of the sexual drive represents the basis for a lasting relationship.” The participant goes on to say that the lack of sexuality “has something in common with hunger and thirst. The question that characterizes it is: “Do you want to have sex?” But this does not mean desiring the other, if the other does not want. The question should be: “Do you desire me?”. This is how the sexual desire for the other can be joined to love.”
He ends the article with the words:
“The discussion is intense and touches on the Sacraments, Baptism, the complicated issue of Communion for the divorced and remarried. “How can we deny it, as if it were a punishment, to people who have failed and found a new partner with whom to start a new life?”.
Then there’s an opportunity to speak about the pain of the children of those who are separated: “In confessions we hear many accounts of adolescents who blame themselves for their parents’ divorce. But sometimes the separation is also a good thing.”
Words that seem revolutionary if uttered by men in clerical garb, through an initiative taking place in the heart of Rome and sponsored by the Episcopal Conferences of France, Germany and Switzerland. They are bishops considered by many to be avant-garde. It will be up to those of them who take part at the next Synod, like Cardinal Marx who concluded the proceedings, to carry such liberal reflections all the way to the Pope.
One of the participants in last October’s Synod says: “I wish there had been a similar discussion at the Vatican. There still isn’t that freedom to speak that we have had here today. But we have the hope that all of this, now, will help.”
We publish their names below along with most of those who were also present.
The meeting, which aimed to explore various “pastoral innovations” ahead of the Synod on the Family in October, and reflect on a new “theology of love” that critics say would pave the way for Church recognition of same-sex relationships, was not advertised, even at the Gregorian.
The Austrian Catholic internet site Kath.net reported Wednesday that they had learned, via episcopal sources, that many bishops “not sympathetic” to the issues discussed were “neither informed nor invited to the meeting.”
“Also only a certain ‘elite’ among media representatives were invited,” it added. “Many other journalists from Catholic media from German-speaking countries were not even told about it.”
Matthias Kopp, the long-serving spokesman for the German bishops’ conference who was present at the meeting, told me Wednesday that “high-ranking curial officials” were also invited to the meeting but were unable to make it due to the Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops attended by Pope Francis on the same day. Kopp said the study-day was planned before they knew of the synod meeting.
Some of the journalists there reported on the event (Izoard and Ansaldo) and Father Hagenkord of Vatican Radio was a moderator, but that raises the question about the role of the other media representatives present who haven’t so far reported on it. Part of the reason may have been because everyone was instructed not to attribute authorship of the statements to the speakers under a kind of Chatham House Rule. But another possible reason may have been because they are to help further the agenda of the reformers before, during and after the upcoming synod.
Another question the study-day raises is who financed it? If, as Cardinal Marx told me, he was there in a private capacity, does that mean German Church tax revenue wasn’t used to finance the meeting? It’s unlikely that faithful German Catholics would want their taxes spent on a study-day aimed at Church recognition of same-sex relationships — the new so-called “theology of love”.
Rome Study Day of the presidents of the Swiss, French and German Bishops’ Conferences in Rome on the theme of the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops:
“THE VOCATION AND MISSION OF THE FAMILY IN THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD TODAY”
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop of Munich and Freising
Archbishop Georges Pontier, president of the French Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop of Marseille
Bishop Markus Büchel, president of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, Bishop of St. Gallen
Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, Germany
Bishop Heiner Koch of Dresden-Meißen, Germany
Bishop Felix Gmür of Basel, Switzerland
Bishop Jean-Marie Lovey of Sitten, Switzerland
Bishop Bruno Ann-Marie Feillet of Reims, France
Bishop Jean-Luc Brunin of Le Havre, France
Father Hans Langendörfer SJ, secretary general, German Bishops Conference
Father Hans Zollner SJ, professor of psychology, vice-rector, Pontifical Gregorian University
Father Achim Buckenmaier, professor of dogmatic theology in the “Akademie für die Theologie des Volkes Gottes” Institute of the Pontifical Lateran University, Rome; consultor to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization
Father Andreas R. Batlogg SJ, professor of philosophy and theology, chief editor Stimmen der Zeit
Father Alain Thomasset SJ, professor of moral theology at Centre Sèvres, France
Father Humberto Miguel Yañez SJ, dean of moral theology, Pontifical Gregorian University
Father Eberhard Schockenhoff, professor of moral theology at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany
Father Philippe Bordeyne, professor of theology, Institut Catholique de Paris
Professor Thomas Söding, professor of biblical theology at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany
Professor Werner G. Jeanrond, theologian, Master of St Benet’s Hall, Oxford, England
Professor François Xavier Amherdt, theologian, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
Professor Erwin Dirscherl, dogmatic theologian, University of Regensburg, Germany
Professor Monique Baujard, director, Service National Famille et Société at the French bishops’ conference
Professor Eva Maria Faber, dogmatic and fundamental theologian and rector of Chur Theological College, Switzerland
Professor Thierry Collaud, theologian, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
Professor Francine Charoy, professor of moral theology, Institut Catholique de Paris
Professor Anne-Marie Pelletier, biblicist at the European Institute of Science of Religions (IESR)
Msgr. Markus Graulich SDB, prelate auditor of the tribunal of the Roman Rota
Marco Impagliazzo, President of Sant’Egidio lay community
Simon Hehli, journalist, Neue Zürcher Zeitung
Tilmann Kleinjung, ARD television correspondent
Michael Bewerunge, ZDF television correspondent
Jörg Bremer, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Vatican and Italy correspondent
Frédéric Mounier, correspondent, La Croix, Catholic daily, France
Marco Ansaldo, journalist, La Repubblica (Italian daily)
Antoine-Marie Izoard, director, I-Media French Catholic news agency, Rome
Father Bernd Hagenkord SJ, director of Vatican Radio (German edition)
The booklet’s authors — Archbishop Aldo de Cillo Pagotto of Paraíba, Brazil, Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa, Calif., and Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary of Astana, Kazakhstan — describe the publication as a “vade mecum [handbook] on the family.”
Said Bishop Vasa, “There is nothing new or revolutionary in this book. We just simply felt that, in light of the upcoming synod on the family, it was time to reiterate those things the Church has clearly and consistently taught.”
“We want to call attention to the truth of certain doctrines, many of which were raised at last year’s Extraordinary Synod [of Bishops] on the Family,” philosophy professor Tommaso Scandroglio told the Register at a Tuesday launch of the booklet in Rome.
Scandroglio, who presented the booklet entitled “Preferential Option for the Family — 100 Questions and Answers Relating to the Synod,” said it was “important to show the pastoral solutions we can apply as principles in our day.”
The authors write that they wish to address relevant fundamental issues on marriage and the family.
“The pastoral needs of the moment also require us to be entirely clear on crucial and delicate points debated in the latest synod, whose interpretation was partially distorted by some theological schools with overwhelming support from the mass media,” the bishops write in the introduction.
“It, therefore, seems appropriate to reiterate some fundamental doctrinal truths and pastoral requirements essential to the problem of the family, whose real situation is quite different from the one they would have us believe.”
Countering the ‘Anti-Family Offensive’
They add that the publication is designed “primarily” to serve as a guide not only for “bishops, priests, religious, catechists” and individual lay faithful in positions of responsibility and leadership, but also any laity concerned about attacks on the family who are “wishing to counter the reckless and powerful anti-family offensive of the mass media.”
The booklet, available in several languages, is divided into 13 chapters, with simple questions and answers. It begins by explaining the synod of bishops and its authority and preparation for the upcoming synod. It then goes on to answer questions on the Church’s relationship with the family, the sexual revolution, moral teaching and pastoral practice.
It discusses personal conscience and the magisterium, the nature and purpose of marriage, declarations of nullity, divorce and separation and Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried. It also covers homosexuality and same-sex unions, applications of mercy to the family situation and the role of supernatural grace in the commitment of family chastity.
The answers to each of the questions “continually recall doctrine of the Catholic Church on these matters,” Scandroglio said.
One chapter is given to analyzing some key words used at the last synod — what it calls “talismanic words” — that carried “strong emotional content” and therefore were perceived as “entirely flexible and changeable.”
Words such as “hurt persons,” “mercy,” “welcome,” “tenderness” and “deepening” have an “elasticity,” the authors write, that make them “susceptible to being used for propaganda purposes and abused for ideological ends.”
When these words are used, they continue, it can “push the faithful to replace a moral judgment with a sentimental one or a substantial judgment with a formal one, coming to regard as good, or at least tolerable, what at first was considered bad.” The booklet then goes to explain in more detail what this means for each of the words mentioned.
In his preface, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship, underlines that most objective observers would agree that the family finds itself in a “real and profound crisis.”
“Facing this reality, it would not be a wise attitude to ignore or minimize this crisis,” he writes, adding that the Church must “evaluate its scope and magnitude and strive to find ways to overcome it.”
“This is the goal pursued, with realism and hope, by this booklet,” he says, and he later stresses that what is most important when facing the crisis of the family is conversion of heart, something that presupposes a “radical purification of thought.”
The Tradition, Faith and Property (TFP) movement is backing the publication of the booklet, which is being sent to all of the world’s bishops.
Those involved in the booklet project, including spokesman Scandroglio, are also promoting the “Filial Appeal” on the future of the family — a petition to the Holy Father calling for more clarity on the Church’s teaching in this area. The petition has gained more than 250,000 signatures, including those of four cardinals, 23 bishops and archbishops, academics and public figures, and will be presented to Pope Francis before the October synod.
Speaking at the launch of the booklet, John Smeaton, chief executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said it is a “wonderful publication” that addresses the “confusion of ordinary Catholics, formed in the faith but overwhelmed by the cultural whims of the sexual revolution.”
“It provides us with a language with which to speak to young people about marriage, faithfulness, chastity and salvation,” he said. “It gives us a sense of the power of God, of his grace, which brings true human happiness.” By contrast, he added, the sexual revolution has been orchestrated by powerful lobbies “in order to destroy families and destroy happiness.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
Copies of the ‘Preferential Option for the Family’ booklet can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling +39 366-9971856.
One of the key topics discussed at the closed-door meeting was how the Church could better welcome those in stable same-sex unions, and reportedly “no one” opposed such unions being recognized as valid by the Church.
Participants also spoke of the need to “develop” the Church’s teaching on human sexuality and called not for a theology of the body, as famously taught by St. John Paul II, but the development of a “theology of love.”
One Swiss priest discussed the “importance of the human sex drive,” while another participant, talking about holy Communion for remarried divorcees, asked: “How can we deny it, as though it were a punishment for the people who have failed and found a new partner with whom to start a new life?”
Marco Ansaldo, a reporter for the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica, who was present at the meeting, said the words seemed “revolutionary, uttered by clergymen.”
French biblicist and Ratzinger Prize-winner Anne-Marie Pelletier praised the dialogue that took place between theologians and bishops as a “real sign of the times.” Accordingto La Stampa, another Italian daily newspaper, Pelletier said the Church needs to enter into “a dynamic of mutual listening,” in which the magisterium continues to guide consciences, but she believes it can only effectively do so if it “echoes the words of the baptized.”
The meeting took the “risk of the new, in fidelity with Christ,” she claimed. The article also quoted a participant as saying the synod would be a “failure” if it simply continued to affirm what the Church has always taught.
The closed-door meeting, masterminded by the German bishops’ conference under the leadership of Cardinal Marx, was first proposed at the annual meeting of the heads of the three bishops’ conferences, held in January in Marseille, France.
The study day took place just days after the people of Ireland voted in a referendum in support of same-sex “marriage” and on the same day as the Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops met in Rome. Some observers did not see the timing as a coincidence.
The synod council has been drawing up the instrumentum laboris (working document) for the October synod on the family. Integrated into the document will be the responses of a questionnaire sent to laity around the world. Those responses, particularly from Switzerland and Germany, appeared to be overwhelmingly in favor of the Church adapting her teachings to the secular world.
Why the Lack of Publicity?
No one would say why the study day was held in confidence. So secret was the meeting that even prominent Jesuits at the Gregorian were completely unaware of it. The Register learned about it when Jean-Marie Guénois was the first to report the information in a story in Le Figaro.
Speaking to the Register as he left the meeting, Cardinal Marx insisted the study day wasn’t secret. But he became irritated when pressed about why it wasn’t advertised, saying he had simply come to Rome in a “private capacity” and that he had every right to do so. Close to Pope Francis and part of his nine-member council of cardinals, the cardinal is known to be especially eager to reform the Church’s approach to homosexuals. During his Pentecost homily last Sunday, Cardinal Marx called for a “welcoming culture” in the Church for homosexuals, saying it’s “not the differences that count, but what unites us.”
Cardinal Marx is also not alone, among those attending the meeting, in pushing for radical changes to the Church’s life. The head of the Swiss bishops, Bishop Büchel of St. Gallen, has spoken openly in favor of women’s ordination, saying in 2011 that the Church should “pray that the Holy Spirit enables us to read the signs of the times.” Archbishop Pontier, head of the French bishops, is also known to have heterodox leanings.
The meeting’s organizers were unwilling to disclose the names of everyone who took part, but the Register has obtained a full list of participants. They included Jesuit Father Hans Langendörfer, general secretary of the German bishops’ conference, who has been the leading figure behind the recent reform of German Church labor laws to controversially allow remarried divorcees and homosexual couples to work in Church institutions.
Among the specialists present was Father Eberhard Schockenhoff, a moral theologian. Faithful German Catholics are particularly disturbed about the rise to prominence of Father Schockenhoff, who is understood to be the “mastermind” behind much of the challenge to settled Church teachings among the German episcopate and, by implication, at the synod on the family itself.
A prominent critic of Humanae Vitae (The Regulation of Birth), as well as a strong supporter of homosexual clergy and those pushing for reform in the area of sexual ethics, Father Schockenhoff is known to be the leading adviser of the German bishops in the run-up to the synod.
In 2010, he gave an interview in which he praised the permanence and solidarity shown in some same-sex relationships as “ethically valuable.” He urged that any assessment of homosexual acts “must take a back seat” on the grounds that the faithful are becoming “increasingly distant from the Church’s sexual morality,” which appears “unrealistic and hostile to them.” The Pope and the bishops should “take this seriously and not dismiss it as laxity,” he said.
Father Schockenhoff has also gone on record saying that moral theology must be “liberated from the natural law” and that conscience should be based on the “life experience of the faithful.”
He has also insisted that the indissolubility of marriage is “not seriously called into question” by admitting remarried divorcees to holy Communion, writing a book to push his thesis in 2011 entitled “Opportunities for Reconciliation?: The Church and the Divorced and Remarried.” He has further proposed that the term the “official Church” should be done away with because of a growing gap between the institutional Church and the Church of the faithful.
Also present were Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Sant’Egidio lay community; Jesuit Father Andreas Batlogg, professor of philosophy and theology and chief editor of the liberal periodical Stimmen der Zeit (Voices of the Time) — the journal has devoted its June issue to same-sex relationships and the synod — and Salesian Msgr. Markus Graulich, prelate auditor of the tribunal of the Roman Rota, one of very few Curial officials to attend. Some of those participating, such as Msgr. Graulich, took part in the previous synod.
Also noted were the large number of media representatives. Journalists from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, German broadcasters ZDF and ARD, the Italian daily La Repubblica and French-Catholic media La Croix and I-Media were also present. Their presence was “striking,” said one observer, who predicted they will be used to promote the agenda of the subject matter under discussion in the weeks leading up to the synod.
Monday’s meeting is just the latest attempt to subtly steer the upcoming synod in a direction opposed by many faithful Catholics. A statement on the study day released by the German bishops’ conference May 26 said there was a “reflection on biblical hermeneutics” — widely seen as code words for understanding the Bible differently from Tradition — and the need for a “reflection on a theology of love.”
Critics say this, too, is undermining Church teaching. By replacing the theology of the body with a “theology of love,” it creates an abstract interpretation that separates sex from procreation, thereby allowing forms of extramarital unions and same-sex attractions based simply on emotions rather than biological reality. Gone, say critics, is the Catholic view of marriage, which should be open to procreation.
The statement, which conspicuously failed to mention sin, ended by saying that “further discussion on the future of marriage and family is necessary and possible” and that it would be “enriched by a further, intensive theological reflection.”
This, too, is code for wanting a change in teaching, giving the impression that the doctrine in these areas is open to change. But for the Catholic Church, it is a settled issue.
“Imagine if the Church accepted homosexual relationships,” said one source speaking on condition of anonymity. “Ultimately, that is what these people want.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
In the message to Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador, the Holy Father said Blessed Óscar Romero “knew how to lead, defend and protect his flock, remaining faithful to the Gospel and in communion with the whole Church.”
Around 250,000 people gathered in Salvador Plaza of the Mundo de San Salvador for the beatification Mass, celebrated in the city’s cathedral.
Archbishop Romero, a vociferous defender of the poor and oppressed, was killed in hatred of the faith on March 24, 1980, when he was shot dead by a gunman as he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel. His martyrdom came in the midst of the birth of a brutal civil war between leftist guerrillas and a far-right dictatorial government.
His cause was opened in 1990 but stalled due to concerns over whether he was killed in hatred of the faith or for political reasons. Benedict XVI unblocked the process in 2012, and Pope Francis confirmed his beatification earlier this year. The date of his death will now be the blessed’s feast day.
Blessed Romero’s ministry was “distinguished by a particular attention to the most poor and marginalized,” the Pope wrote in the letter, read at the beginning of the Mass, adding that, in the moment of his death, while celebrating “the Holy Sacrifice of love and reconciliation, he received the grace to identify himself fully with the One who gave his life for his sheep.”
The Pope said his beatification is “a favorable moment for a true national reconciliation” in the face of today’s challenges. The Salvadoran is a “bishop and martyr, pastor according to the heart of Christ, evangelizer and father of the poor, heroic witness of the kingdom of God,” the Holy Father wrote.
‘Not Ideological, but Evangelical’
In his homily, Cardinal Angelo Amato, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, who presided over the beatification, said that “the figure of Romero is still alive and giving comfort to the marginalized of the earth.”
“His option for the poor was not ideological, but evangelical. His charity extended to the persecutors.”
In a May 23 article for L’Osservatore Romano, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator of Archbishop Romero’s beatification cause, said Blessed Romero is “linked in a strong way to the Church of today and her mission,” especially the pontificate of Pope Francis and his Church “of the poor, for the poor.”
The newly blessed could “smell the sheep,” and they “listened to his voice and followed it,” he continued. The postulator, who is president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said Romero was a bishop “in the best tradition of Trent, who was then enriched by the teaching of Vatican II.”
He was not an intellectual, theologian, manager or administration, he added, “neither was he a reformer, let alone a politician, as some have wanted to see him, exploiting his name.” Instead, he was a “man of God, a man of prayer, a man of obedience and love for people,” he said.
Chris Bain, director of the British Catholic aid agency CAFOD, said “labeling Romero left or right did not fit the man.” He added that he is sure there are “many reasons” why it is perceived that the left hijacked the Romero story, but to him, a key one is that El Salvador at the time was “run by a repressive, self-styled right-wing regime whose brutality was justified as doing what was necessary to stop the country becoming communist, an approach supported by the U.S. government at the time.”
For this reason, Bain argues, the political left “made him in their image without understanding him fully, and the right colluded.”
“Neither wanted to understand how he was a critic of the way some liberation theologians had embraced Marxism or that all the evidence suggests he was a social and theological conservative,” Bain continued. This, he said, “was evidence of the repression, affecting both ordinary people and servants of the Church, that led him to speak out — his belief that every person was a child of God, and the brutality was unconditionally wrong.”
CAFOD honors Romero because at the time of his martyrdom he was a CAFOD partner, and the aid agency supported many of his archdiocesan social and communication programs, including the diocesan radio station that broadcast his homilies.
Strength Through Prayer
Archbishop Paglia stressed that, through prayer, Archbishop Romero found “rest, peace and strength.” He recalled how the archbishop had written of his fears that his life was in danger just a few days before his martyrdom but took solace in the fact that the Lord assists the martyrs, who “feel his closeness when offering their last breath.”
Archbishop Paglia also noted how much the martyred archbishop was surrounded by a climate of persecution and had lost 30 priests from his diocese — either killed, deported or expelled. Hundreds of catechists and faithful had also been killed or disappeared.
“The leaders of [Romero’s] killer wanted to silence the Church of Vatican II by his death,” said Archbishop Paglia, one of the founders of the Sant’Egidio lay community. “So he was killed at the altar.
“His martyr’s death occurred in odium fidei [in hatred of the faith] because, as shown in the carefully documented examination carried out in the process of beatification, it was caused not only for political reasons, but for hatred of a faith that, imbued with charity, would not be silent in the face of the oppression of the people.”
“John Paul II — who knew well the lives of two other saints killed at the altar, Stanislaus of Krakow and Thomas Becket of Canterbury — effectively noted: ‘They killed him right at the most sacred moment, during the highest and most divine act,’” Archbishop Paglia said. “The killers, preventing Romero from concluding the Mass, wanted to divide the worship of God from his mercy.”
“The martyr Romero reminds us,” Archbishop Paglia concluded, “that one cannot separate the Eucharist from the poor. And Pope Francis never ceases to show us this with words and gestures.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
ROME — The Chinese Communist Party will never end the “one-child policy” because the policy is effectively terrorizing the Chinese people into keeping the Communist Party in power, according to Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, who gave testimony on April 30 to the U.S. Congressional Executive Commission on China on the effects of the country’s population-control measures.
The 35th anniversary of the policy, which continues to impose forced abortions on countless Chinese mothers, will be marked on Sept. 25. In this May 8 interview with the Register in Rome, Littlejohn explains in more detail what is keeping the policy in place, why reports about China ending the policy are incorrect and why a more accurate name for it would be “China’s forced-abortion policy.”
What have been the effects of the one-child policy?
First of all, you have to look at the demographics. The Chinese Communist Party is very aware that its one-child policy has caused, and is continuing to cause, an increasing demographic disaster — in three ways.
One, because of the traditional preference for boys, girls are selectively aborted, so they have approximately 37-40 million more men than women living in China. This is driving human trafficking and human slavery in China and is also a recipe for domestic instability.
Two, they have a rapidly aging population. The reason why they instituted the one-child policy 35 years ago is that, during the Mao era, fertility rates among women became very high — 5.9 births per woman. Under the one-child policy, it has plummeted to approximately 1.3 to 1.5 births per woman, depending on who you ask. But the population explosion under the Mao era is now heading towards retirement, so they don’t have a young population to support that elderly population, and they don’t have social security as we know it. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.
Then the third problem is that China’s workforce is actually beginning to become depleted. 2013 was the first year when the trend went down, and the number of workers is going down. It’s actually too late. Taiwanese demographers say that the recent modification of the policy is too little, too late to stave off the threefold demographic disaster they’re heading into.
Why do they keep the policy?
China’s population problem isn’t that they have too many people — it’s that they have too few young people and too few women. I believe I can answer the unanswerable and explain the unexplainable. I believe that the reason the Chinese Communist Party has not abandoned and will never abandon the one-child policy is that the one-child policy is keeping them in place.
How does it keep them in place?
In four ways. No. 1, when the one-child policy was instituted 35 years ago, China was experiencing a population explosion, and I believe it was originally instituted as population control. The terror that is caused by forced abortion and forced sterilization was a by-product of the policy and was not the purpose of the policy. Now that the policy makes no sense whatsoever, I believe terror is the purpose of the policy.
China has many different human-rights abuses — they have problems in terms of executing prisoners to harvesting organs for transplant, persecuting of Christians, Falun Gong and other faiths, overuse of the death penalty and the detention of human-rights lawyers and journalists. All of these are human-rights abuses of the Chinese Communist Party, but they affect only a thin sliver of the society.
The one-child policy is unique because it affects everyone. It is a way for the Chinese Communist government to instill terror across the board in China and to demonstrate to people that the reach of its power extends from Beijing to every single woman in China — the power to declare life or death over the baby in that womb. That is terrifying. So I believe this is social control masquerading as population control.
The spirit of the “cultural revolution” lives on in the family-planning police. The family-planning police function as domestic terrorists; and in my opinion, forced abortion is official government rape. That’s what they’re doing to the population.
What are the other reasons for maintaining the policy?
The second reason is that they’re making a lot of money out of it. According to one estimate, the Chinese Communist Party has taken in $314 billion in fines through the family-planning police, so women are fined in all kinds of different circumstances. These fines are arbitrary; they’re not uniformly imposed throughout the country.
But if you get someone pregnant without a birth permit, a fine can be 10 times your annual salary. And these fines are completely not regulated. They’re not accounted for. There’s complete opacity, there’s no transparency in where this funding is going, and local officials have been accused of pocketing the money. So that’s a big reason not to get rid of the policy.
The third reason is that the family-planning officials, the family-planning police, form a wide infrastructure of coercion. According to one estimate, there are approximately 1 million people engaged in coerced population control in China. If that were a standing army, it would be the sixth-largest standing army in the world, on par with the army of North Korea. Social unrest is on the rise in China; it’s sharply increasing. They can use this army of family-planning police, turn it in any direction, to quash dissent in any direction. So why would they get rid of this elaborate infrastructure of coercion? They need it to keep the population down, to keep security in China.
The fourth reason, I believe, is to deliberately rupture the natural relationships of trust with the Chinese people. In China, they employ a system of paid informants, where anyone can inform on a woman who is pregnant without a birth permit.
It can be her neighbors, her friends, her co-workers, people in the villages, who are paid to look at women’s abdomens to see if they’re a little bit bigger. So since anyone can inform on you, there’s no relationship of trust.
Do you have any examples of this?
A couple of years ago, I testified in Congress about a woman who had had five forced abortions in a factory in China. She said that, in her work unit, if one person became illegally pregnant, the entire work unit would be punished, so all the women were spying on each other to report on each other about an illegal pregnancy. Then, if a woman runs away because she wants to have her baby, because she wants to run away from the family-planning police, they can detain her family, her parents, her husband and her extended family. They can be detained and tortured.
So if the one-child policy can be used to rupture relationships with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors, it can be used to keep down organizing for democracy. If you cannot trust anyone, you cannot organize for democracy.
Could China be forced to end the policy?
I don’t think that the Chinese Communist Party will ever abandon the one-child policy. What’s frustrating, for me, is there’s such a misunderstanding of the one-child policy, because it has been misnamed. The one-child policy is actually not a one-child policy: There are many exceptions to the policy, and the Chinese Communist Party is heading towards this demographic disaster and creating exceptions of small segments of population that can have another child.
There were media reports not long ago about China ending the policy. Can you explain why this was not correct?
On Jan. 1, 2014, they [the Chinese government] said if one member of a couple is an only child, that couple can have a second child. Because it’s called a one-child policy and a couple can have a second child, Western media blares out, “China Abandons One-Child Policy,” and people say, “Oh great, I’m so glad they’re not doing that anymore.”
But, actually, you need a birth permit for the first and second child. The core of the policy is not that the Chinese government allows a woman to have one child or two children. The core of the policy is that they’re telling people how many kids they can have, and they’re enforcing that limit coercively, including through forced abortion and forced sterilization.
It should really be called “China’s forced-abortion policy” because that doesn’t end. The forced-abortion policy doesn’t end, no matter how many children they allow you to have. So that would be a better name for the policy.
Of course, they didn’t name it that — because it sounds so terrible — but it’s much more accurate.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent
In the letter published over the weekend, the bishops said they thanked Bishop Oster for his opinions on the ZdK statement and that they agreed “wholeheartedly” with his remarks on the importance of Church teaching, especially concerning Christian marriage “based on the teaching of Jesus in Scripture and on the tradition of Church.”
Last week, the ZdK — the Central Committee of the German Catholics — released a declaration that called for the admittance of civilly remarried divorcees to holy Communion, acceptance of all forms of cohabitation, the blessing of same-sex couples and the reconsideration of the Church’s teaching on contraception.
Bishop Oster criticized their statement for being “incomprehensible” and said that, if enacted, it would mark a “dramatic change of much that has been valid concerning marriage and sexuality” based on holy Scripture, Tradition and the magisterium.
Congratulating Bishop Oster, the five bishops said: “We live in a highly secularized society in Germany. This fact should not discourage us and make us look at harmonizing ourselves with the mainstream, but rather be an opportunity to rediscover the uniqueness of the Christian vocation in the world today.”
They agreed with the bishop that “an essential condition” to accomplishing this is “a frank and faithful proclamation of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels and the development of a relationship with Him as a richness for our lives.
“We are therefore convinced that many believers are also most grateful for your clear words,” they concluded.
The letter was signed by Bishops Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg, Gregory M. Hanke OSB of Eichstätt, Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz, Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, and Friedhelm Hofmann of Würzburg. All but one of their dioceses are in traditionally Catholic Bavaria, including Passau. Germany has 27 dioceses in total.
The bishops’ letter, and the statement of Bishop Oster, show the beginnings of a possible backlash against the general direction of the episcopate which is generally sympathetic to the kind of vision put forward by the ZdK. However, they continue to be generally silent regarding any public criticism of the bishops’ conference itself, headed by Cardinal Reinhard Marx.
The Zentralkomitee der deutschen Katholiken (Central Committee of the German Catholics, or ZdK) issued a statement Sunday calling for the admittance of civilly remarried divorcees to holy Communion, acceptance of all forms of cohabitation, the blessing of same-sex couples and the reconsideration of the Church’s teaching on contraception.
The organization is heavily financed by the German bishops and overseen spiritually by Bishop Gebhard Fürst of Rottenburg-Stuttgart.
The ZdK’s appeals were contained in a document called “Between Teaching and Building Bridges With the Living World — Family and Church in the Modern World.” The statement, unanimously agreed upon at the organization’s general assembly in Würzburg in early May, was written in anticipation of the Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family in October.
The document states that nonmarital forms of lived partnerships “make a great contribution” to social cohesion and have to be “treated justly.” It goes on to say that “values” are found in other forms of communal living, which “have to be honored, even if they are not to be found in the form of the sacramental marriage.”
“We think here of enduring partnerships [cohabitation], civil marriages, as well as civilly registered partnerships [i.e., homosexual unions],” the ZdK states. The document also calls for a “re-evaluation of the methods of artificial contraception” because of a “great discrepancy between the papal magisterium and the personal conscientious decisions in the daily life of most faithful Catholics.”
The organization further calls for “blessings of same-sex partnerships, new partnerships of divorcees and for important life-changing decisions within families.” It says liturgical forms should be developed for such couples and asks that the Church recognizes the “pastoral change that Pope Francis has called for, both as an encouragement and as a chance for the bishops’ conferences to develop pastoral paths concerning marriage and the family that are appropriate and theologically responsible.”
But the document met some stiff resistance from Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau, who said on his Facebook page the document was “incomprehensible.” If enacted, what the ZdK is proposing would mark a “dramatic change of much that has been valid concerning marriage and sexuality” based on holy Scripture, Tradition and the magisterium, he said.
Bishop Oster, 49, added that, through Revelation, the Church has always taught that “lived sexual practice has its only legitimate place within a marriage between a man and a woman, both of whom are open to the procreation of life and both of whom have made a bond that lasts until the death of one of the spouses.”
“This bond is called a sacrament and is strengthened with the help of God’s explicit promise to be the third party in this bond between the two,” he reminded. “He is the one who binds this relationship, who sanctifies it, makes it indissoluble and who is also again and again the source of salvation for them.”
Bishop Oster’s stance places him at odds with other members of the German bishops’ conference, who appear to favor some of the things the ZdK is proposing. The bishop criticized the ZdK’s emphasis on blessing same-sex couples because of the “values” they show and stressed the Bible’s teaching that any sexual relations outside of marriage are either fornication or adultery and have “very dramatic consequences for those engaging in them.”
He added that if blessings of such unions were allowed, would people supporting them only limit them to couples and not three or more people of the same sex? “Why not also bless these relationships?” he said facetiously. “They would nevertheless have lived ‘values’ within them.”
Bishop Oster said the ZdK omitted the “biblical image of man and the biblical understanding of Revelation” and that he found the lay organization’s unanimous desire to go along such a path “very troubling.”
He added that he did not see any statement from Pope Francis coming “remotely close” to what the ZdK was proposing and said the group was “instrumentalizing” the Holy Father for its own ends. Many Catholics, he said, “no longer feel represented by the ZdK today.” He closed by asking if it can really be the organization’s goal to confuse the faithful.
The ZdK responded to Bishop Oster, saying on May 12 that it wasn’t proposing a new understanding of marriage but was trying to “bridge a gap” between the magisterium and “experienced reality.” ZdK’s secretary general, Stefan Vesper, said it was not meant as an attack on Church teaching, but had to be read in the context of the entire statement. He said those who wish to implement these new pastoral practices are not “turning away” from the teaching of the Church, but, rather, towards it.
Vesper added that the faithful had been asked by the Pope to give their opinions ahead of the synod, and these “must be perceived” to be part of the synod’s deliberations. Critics, however, point out that the number surveyed was only 1,000-2,000 people — so few that the German bishops’ conference preferred not to reveal the exact numbers questioned. They also argue that such responses should refer only to the catechized faithful rather than the laity in general.
‘True Meaning of Marriage’
Prominent German Church commentator Mathias von Gersdorff noted that the ZdK’s initial statement failed to mention the “true meaning of marriage” and that the organization has shown that it fails to adhere to the magisterium, preferring to propagate ideas more common to television soap operas.
“No one needs a Catholic Church that falls to this level,” he said. “No one needs a ‘Central Committee of German Catholics’ that is no longer Catholic.”
Von Gersdorff also called the ZdK’s response to Bishop Oster “a joke,” adding that it merely “repeated its own points,” and the bishop’s arguments were not engaged.
Further comment on the ZdK statement came in a May 13 article penned by Felix Neumann, editor of Katholisch.de, the official Internet news site of the German bishops’ conference that is heavily financed by the church tax. Noting that Bishop Fürst did not veto the statement, he said the ZdK’s document was “not a provocation” and called the homosexual lifestyle a “matter of conscience.”
Neumann added that Tradition is “hollow, formal and unfeeling” and that any scandal lies not over same-sex unions per se, but “that it is still necessary to demand respect and appreciation for love.”
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the Register May 13 that he had “no comment” in response to the ZdK’s statement, nor to the recent decision by Germany’s bishops to amend the Church’s labor law to allow “remarried” divorcees and those in homosexual relationships to work in Church institutions.
“I think it is a matter for the episcopate,” he said. German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, also declined to comment.
Despite the gravity of the potential consequences on the universal Church, the reasons for the Vatican’s public silence are not immediately clear. Subsidiarity and a decentralized system of authority is probably a primary reason, yet some critics speculate that hesitation may be related to fear of jeopardizing revenues from a wealthy German Church, as well as some sympathy for the pastoral innovations favored by many in the German Church.
On May 15, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, issued a statement saying “several claims” made in the ZdK statement were “theologically unacceptable.” He added that the blessing of same-sex unions and civilly remarried couples, and the “unreserved acceptance” of cohabiting same-sex couples, was contrary to “the teaching and Tradition of the Church.” Both issues “require further theological clarification, not hasty, bold claims,” Cardinal Marx said, adding that “theological debate and an inner-ecclesial dialogue are not promoted that way.”
Poles Apart: Cardinal Marx Rebuffed
However, Cardinal Marx’s May 15 intervention did not establish that he has abandoned his own promotion of changes to the Church’s pastoral practices with respect to some of the same issues.
The Register has learned via well-informed, high-level sources that Cardinal Marx was recently rebuffed by Polish bishops when he proposed that the two episcopates meet in Berlin to strive for a consensus on revising the Church’s approach to marriage. The Polish bishops have been firm about their continued support for Church teaching.
Well-informed sources say that Cardinal Marx made the proposal in early May, during lunch with Polish bishops at the 70th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. The cardinal is understood to be anxious to win all-important Polish support ahead of the October synod.
Observers say this is another attempt by the German hierarchy aimed at increasing the pressure for change at the synod and carried out by bypassing the Vatican and, in particular, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
This would be consistent with comments from Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, a close adviser to Pope Francis, who said in a recent interview that the Curia “is not an essential structure” and that the Pope need only rely on himself and the “College of Bishops” to serve the people.
And yet the will of many in the German episcopate seems to be to continue the trajectory of imposing its vision on the rest of the Church in a way that many believe to be both heretical and arrogant.
It’s also an approach that has long been rejected by key German Churchmen.
In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, Cardinal Josef Frings, then archbishop of Cologne, said, after praising the Church’s heroism in resisting Nazism, “Our German people must listen to the word of God and must pass voluntarily on the way of conversion! That arrogance [of thinking] that we are a master race which other nations must serve has to disappear from every strata of society.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.