Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Cardinal Lopez Trujillo will be spinning in his grave to hear of Workshops held at the Pontifical Council for the Family

Alfonso Cardinal Lopez Trujillo
What would the late Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo think about recent events at the Pontifical Council for the Family, of which he was the President from 1991 till 2008?

I knew the late Cardinal personally.  He was one of the world's greatest defenders of the sanctity of human life and church teaching on the precious value of the family. He was SPUC's guest in Britain in 1996 and 1999.

In June 2005, he wrote to Archbishop Peter Smith, the then  archbishop of Cardiff, about the Pontifical Council for the Family's close working relationship with the Society. His Eminence wrote:
"We have seen that Mr John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, has undertaken a most laudable cause [sic] especially with the NGOs involved in promoting the values of family and life and he has been most helpful to our dicastery precisely in that field".
Reporting on Pope Benedict XVI's homily at His Eminence's funeral, the Catholic News Agency said:
‘“Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, whose motto was "Veritas in caritate", dedicated "his entire life to affirming the truth", said the Pope.’
How times have changed at the Pontifical Council for the Family (PCF)!

According to Catholic World Report, three separate Workshops have been held this year under the auspices of the PCF looking at “the possibility of an evolution of the ecclesiastical doctrine of marriage”. We read that the workshops, while perhaps not “secret,” were not publicized.

Catholic World Report states:
Among the participants was Father Eberhard Schockenhoff, professor of moral theology at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Father Schockenhoff also serves as an advisor to the German Bishops’ Conference ... In addition to Communion for the divorced and remarried, Father Schockenhoff urges approval of homosexual clergy and finds “stable” homosexual pairs to be ethical ... Support for the Schockenhoff’s position was offered by Father Gianpaolo Dianin, an expert on pastoral care of the family and a member of the Theological Faculty of Triveneto ... On the issue of the Eucharist and “irregular unions” it was noted by Father Dianin that today, given contemporary challenges that secularism has put on Catholic marriages, there are numerous pastors who wish to do “something” for their parishioners but feel constrained by Church discipline that “understands little” of the hardships.
These Workshops at the Council are not an isolated example of opposition to doctrinally sound care of the family now prevailing at the PCF. [See my blogpost of earlier today as to why SPUC is concerned about the reception of Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics and my blogpost regarding SPUC's position on same-sex marriage entitled Children are being sacrificed on the altar of adults' sexual "rights"]

SPUC's representatives at a meeting about the Family Synod last January organised by the Pontifical Council for the Family were ignored in the report of the relator of the English speaking group when they sought to raise concerns about the omission of any reference to abortion in the Family Synod's final relatio. The relator preferred to draw attention to  a call for the church to address the "rights" relating to transgenderism.

Moreover, when SPUC's representatives joined fellow delegates to ask Archbishop Paglia, the current president of the PCF,  for his opinion on the proposal to admit the “remarried” to Holy Communion without amendment of life, he would not engage directly with their concerns. His Excellency told them not to worry and that a change in the discipline would only be for a small number of cases.

From my experience of Cardinal Trujillo, over many years, His Eminence will be spinning in his grave to hear of what is happening today at the Pontifical Council for the Family (established by Pope John Paul II in 1981 "for the promotion of the pastoral ministry and apostolate to the family, through the application of the teachings and guidelines of the ecclesiastical Magisterium, to help Christian families fulfill their educational and apostolic mission").

How tragically prophetic - in particular the last sentence below - are the words of a study signed by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, on 13th May 2006, and presented to Pope Benedict XVI under the title "The Family and Human Procreation":
It is true that the natural institution of marriage and the family has never been prey to such violent attacks as it is now. New models of the family have emerged from radical movements ... Homosexual couples claim the same rights as those reserved to husband and wife; they even claim the right to adoption.
... It is not a matter of an alternative activity or one in competition with other sectors of pastoral care ... The centrality of the pastoral care of the family and of life in the Church's pastoral ministry thus characterizes her action. Today, the new evangelization in which the family is called to participate finds itself having to respond to challenges that it is not an exaggeration to call epochal. Those challenges more closely connected with the family concern the civilization of love and the service to life through responsible fatherhood and motherhood.
The Holy Father Benedict XVI said to the Bishops representing the Episcopal Commissions for the Family and Life of Latin America: "It is therefore indispensable and urgent that every person of good will should endeavor... to safeguard the fundamental values of marriage and the family. They are threatened by the current phenomenon of secularization"
It seems to me that the spirit of secularisation is alive and well and presiding now at the Pontifical Council for the Family.

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Why SPUC is concerned about reception of Holy Communion by divorced and civilly remarried Catholics

I am occasionally asked: Why is SPUC, through Voice of the Family, engaging in the Family Synod; and, in particular, why is SPUC so concerned about the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and civilly remarried Catholics?

SPUC is a non-confessional human rights organisation which has in its ranks members of all faiths and none. In common with virtually every other pro-life group in the world, many, if not most, of our members are Catholics.

All members of the Church enjoy the freedom to share their views with members of the hierarchy and with each other. In fact all Catholics have a duty to do so in certain circumstances. The Code of Canon Law states:
According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they [the Christian faithful] have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons. (Canon 212)
The Church has always taught that marriage is an indissoluble union of one man and one woman, which ends only with one of the death of one of the spouses. If a person “remarries”, without the first marriage being declared null by the Church, they are guilty of adultery. They cannot therefore receive Holy Communion until they have confessed this sin and resolved to amend their lives. This has been very clearly taught by the Church throughout her history and Catholics at every level of the Church have a right and a duty to defend this teaching.

This doctrine has been authoritatively restated numerous times in the last few decades including in the following documents:
- Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 22 November 1981

- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of the Faithful who are Divorced and Remarried; 4 September 1994

- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Concerning some Objections to the Church’s Teaching on the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful, 1st January 1998

- Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of the Faithful who are Divorced and Remarried, 24 June 2000

- Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, 22 February 2007

- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Responsum to the question "Can a confessor grant absolution to a penitent who, having been religiously married, has contracted a second union following divorce?"22 October 2014
You will note that the most recent decree was promulgated by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith during the pontificate of Pope Francis and since the Extraordinary Synod. In other words, the position adopted by SPUC is exactly that of the Church’s magisterium, both past and present.

Nevertheless the question remains: Is it in SPUC 's remit to campaign on this issue?

In November 2011 SPUC’s Council, our policy-making body which is elected by our grass roots volunteers, adopted a motion that the Society should “to do its utmost to fight for the retention of the traditional understanding of marriage in the history, culture and law of the United Kingdom, namely the exclusive union of one man with one woman for life; and accordingly instructs its officers and executive committee to conduct a major campaign to this end...” The defence of the traditional understanding of marriage is therefore now clearly part of SPUC’s remit. The vote of Council on that occasion in support of the resolution was unopposed.

The reason why marriage is so important is because all aspects of sexuality, marriage and the family are closely interconnected. In his encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae Pope John Paul II taught:
“It is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not help the young to accept and experience sexuality and love and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection. Sexuality, which enriches the whole person, "manifests its inmost meaning in leading the person to the gift of self in love". The trivialization of sexuality is among the principal factors which have led to contempt for new life.”
I am convinced that we cannot defeat abortion if our society does not value marriage as the exclusive and indissoluble union of one man and one woman. I have had the privilege of speaking about this topic at conferences in various parts of the world. Marriage is the natural habitat of unborn children, the place where God intends them to be conceived, educated and nurtured. When we destroy the habitat we end up destroying children too. The statistics bear this out; four out five aborted children are conceived outside of marriage. If an organisation that worked to protect orang-utans refused to do anything to protect the rainforest they would be generally considered to be failing in their duty. Similarly any organisation fighting to defend unborn children must defend their natural habitat, which is the family founded on marriage. It is for this reason that SPUC will continue to fight for the traditional understanding of marriage.

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Sunday, 23 August 2015

My promise to African Catholic bishops at Ghana bishops' pro-life conference this month

A quiet moment with Fr. Nicholas Afriyie 
Secretary General of Ghana's
Catholic Bishops' Conference
In a talk earlier this month in Accra, Ghana, at a pro-life conference organised by the Ghanaian Catholic bishops' conference I explained how African families are gravely threatened by western governments, international agencies as well as by Vatican departments.

A little earlier this year, in June, a consultative meeting of African prelates had been held in Accra which culminated in the 45 bishops and 5 cardinals who represented episcopal conferences across the continent expressing their intention to present a united determination to defend Church teaching about marriage and family at the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family.

I therefore finished my talk with a promise that my family would be praying for them. I said:
Thank God for the African bishops. My family and families throughout the world will be praying for you in the coming months – that you continue to be courageous apostles of the unchanging and unchangeable Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of the family, the Gospel of life.

Ghanaian Catholic Bishops' Pro-Life Conference 7th and 8th August

The conference was entitled Protecting Life and Family Values in the continuing Culture of Death. It was a two day event and the first day was held in a building in the grounds of Holy Spirit Cathedral, Accra. 13 of Ghana’s 20 bishops and archbishops attended for most of the event, with a few leaving in the afternoon. The seven bishops who did not attend were either out of the country, on holiday, or ill.
Uju of Culture of Life Africa addresses conference

The second day of the conference was directed at young people who heard excellent talks, including unambiguous teaching from two bishops, and an inspirational address from Obianuju Ekeocha (Uju for short), founder of Culture of Life Africa, who also addressed the bishops and their guests on the first day..

Uju told the bishops' conference: "IPPF has recently started a campaign to promote vasectomies in Ghana. This is an egregious attack on the African societies and can easily be seen as the castration of men and we reject that. The recent scandal involving planned parenthood in America reveals to the world the true barbaric nature of the culture of abortion. Africans have been called primitive for our dark history of human sacrifice but today the "modern" abortionists are killing unborn babies and then harvesting their organs. This is primitive and barbaric and it is happening in our time."
Little pro-life marcher + transport

The talks were followed by a pro-life march through the streets in which the bishops participated. A similar event took place in an outlying district of Accra in which around 500 altar servers from the archdiocese participated.

As Catholic News Agency reported, the bishops issued a powerful statement in which they said they would continue to resist:
“the persistent and pernicious attempts to impose population control on Africa by wealthy philanthropists, donor nations and international organizations who are pursuing this agenda subtly under the platform of sexual and reproductive and health rights.”

In addition, they reaffirmed that sacramental marriage was instituted by God as a permanent, indissoluble union of one man and one woman. The bishops rejected adulterous unions and same-sex unions as “inimical to the mind of the Creator” and as damaging to “the integrity of the human being and the family.”
The forces of the culture of death are very much in evidence in Ghana. I saw huge advertisement hoardings promoting the pill under the headline “Embracing the power of choice”; the Ghana Times on the day I arrived carried a full page story on a project funded by the Norweigan Development Agency promoting sexual and reproductive health (i.e. contraception and abortion) in poor urban and peri-urban areas of Ghana.There is no time to be lost and I believe Ghanas' Catholic leaders understand that.

However, Africa's Catholic bishops will need all the prayers they can get from our families! Last year a leading cardinal from the west caused great offence in Africa and throughout the church by telling the African bishops effectively to keep out of discussions at the Synod on doctrinal issues relating to marriage and the family saying " ... they should not tell us too much what we have to do."

And now I see that, according to Catholic News Agency, the Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund and a major U.S. foundation have helped fund an LGBT activist project intended to counter West African bishops at the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family. I see too that Bishop Felix Gmur of Basel, Switzerland is president of the Lenten fund’s foundation council, which oversees the NGO’s directors group. Will the Bishop Gmur disown this effort to undermine the witness of African Catholic bishops? We shall see.

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