Friday, November 22, 2013

Theologians Call Catholic Sexual Teachings "Incomprehensible," Urge Lay Input

The National Catholic Reporter has also posted an important article noting that over fifty Catholic academics in a dozen countries have signed a statement calling "the church's teachings on marriage and sexuality 'incomprehensible' and . . . asking bishops around the world to take seriously the expertise of lay people in their preparations for a global meeting of the prelates at the Vatican next year."

The signers urge the synod bishops to listen carefully to the experience of ordinary people who find unlivable the traditional church teachings on divorce and remarriage, cohabitation before marriage, same-sex marriage and contraception -- and they also urge all Catholics to take every opportunity to voice their experience by participating in the pre-synod questionnaire.

What is gratifying to me in particular is that the academics' critique of church teachings on human sexuality is sometimes a verbatim statement of the comments I made when I completed the church reform groups' survey.

National Catholic Reporter Offers More Ways to Give Input to Family Synod

The National Catholic Reporter has run several more articles on the questionnaire issued to prepare for the 2014-2015 Synod on the Family.

Among the most helpful was Lay Groups Launch Surveys to Answer Vatican Questionnaire, posted on Nov. 16, 2013.  It announces two surveys posted online for Catholics to communicate their input.

One of them, posted by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good on Nov. 1st at, is not as helpful as some, because in allows for feedback only in narrative form.

However, the other is better:  it allows for multiple choice answers to many of the questions, followed by narrative comments if desired.  Launched by a coalition of 15 church reform groups, it's open for input through Dec. 15th. at

The church reform groups, primarily members of Catholic Organizations for Renewal, include Call to Action, Voice of the Faithful, FutureChurch, DignityUSA, the Women's Ordination Conference, and CORPUS (which originated as the Congress of Resigned Priests United States, but now dubs itself simply as "a ministerial community").

I completed the church reform groups' survey and found it very helpful in providing my input.  Being able to use the comment fields after the multiple choice questions allowed me to give the rationale for several of my answers.  I highly recommend it to anyone who would like their input heard.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

There Are Ways for Catholics to Participate in the Vatican Survey on Family Synod Issues

There has been quite a buzz over the announcement November 5th that, in preparation for a 2014-2015 Synod on the Family, Pope Francis has asked for input from Catholics around the world on several controversial issues impacting family life today.

The controverted issues include divorce and remarriage, contraception, cohabitation without marriage, same-sex marriage, as well as how to provide pastoral care and inclusiveness to people who find themselves in such "irregular" situations (as the Vatican document describes them).

There is disagreement regarding the significance of the Vatican initiative (does it go beyond previous pre-synod practice, for example?) and whether the Vatican expects national bishops' conferences to get actual input from the people in the pews, or even perhaps the unchurched (the Bishops of England and Wales turned the questionnaire into a web link where anyone can give their opinions; still digging in their heels against "the Francis effect," the U.S. Bishops seem determined to avoid the laity at all costs).

But as the New York Times reported, this particular Vatican pre-synod initiative seems to go well beyond previous ones in the scope of its outreach and in unusually detailed content -- and to be unique because it seems to be in preparation for two back-to-back synod gatherings in 2014 and 2015.

Regardless of the U.S. Bishops' ultimate strategy on the questionnaire, there are ways for individual U.S. Catholics to participate in giving their personal opinions on the questions asked.

The National Catholic Reporter provides links not only to the questionnaire itself, but also to various cover letters that distributed it and contain physical addresses where written responses may be sent.

The Bishops of England and Wales are also open to survey answers on their website from Catholics in other countries (and apparently anyone who cares to join in).    But they have set a November 30th deadline for completing their survey online.

Progressive Catholics who have lobbied fifty years for more input from the baptized and more collegial decision-making in updating church teachings should not miss out on this historic opportunity:  Tell church leaders what we think and how they ought to extend pastoral outreach, care and inclusion to those who object conscientiously to church teachings grown out of touch with the deepest longings of the human heart.