Letter to the Pope

Letter to the Pope

Synod on the Family 2014

23 January 2014

Dear Father in Christ,

The proposed Synod on the Family holds great potential for the survival of faith and the spiritual well-being  of many of our faithful. On behalf of an international group of Catholic scholars I am sending you our Statement on Marriage and the Family with the scholars’s signatures which, we hope, will be of use to you in your planning of that Synod.

I realise that most preparatory information is being gathered through the medium of local Bishops’ Conferences. However, our Statement – on account of the international character of academic signatories – does not fall under any particular country, which is why I am addressing a copy directly to you.  I have, however, sent a complimentary copy to Archbishop Vince Nichols, Primate of England and Wales.

The original draft of the Statement was drawn up by Professor Joseph Selling, emeritus moral theologian of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. It has been subsequently discussed and signed by 74 Catholic experts in many fields: dogmatic theology, ethics, psychology, medicine, moral theology, sacred scripture, and so on. Their views are representative of the considered opinion of the majority of Catholic scholars world wide.

In recent decades, genuine freedom of expression has been suppressed in Church circles.  Many theologians, priests and lay people realise that a number of so-called Church ‘teachings’ do not stand up to scrutiny. This is very damaging to the Church. It undermines the credibility of authority and shakes the confidence of the faithful. That is why we are expressing our views frankly, conscious of the fact that our “freedom of research, freedom of thought and freedom of expression” acknowledged by Vatican II (Gaudium et Spes § 62), is not only a right but also a duty. “Over the Pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else. It must be obeyed if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. Conscience confronts us with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim even of the official Church” [Joseph Ratzinger, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, ed. Vorgrimler, 1968, part 1, chapter 1].

We feel that the time has come for the Church to adjust its official position on a number of regulations affecting sexual ethics. These regulations are neither revealed doctrine, nor unchangeable traditions. Rather they often derive from Greek philosophy and scientific perceptions of the Middle Ages. It is imperative that the Church’s guidance on the morality of married life reflects the theology, science and understanding of our own time.

We wish God’s blessings on the important process of consultation and decision making that will be made possible through this Synod.

With respectful greetings in Christ,

John Wijngaards



Petition to Widen the Circle of Consultants at the 2015 Family Synod

Widen the Circle of Consultants at the 2015 Family Synod

Petition to Cardinal Baldisseri and the Bishops of the World

Widen the Circle at the 2015 Family Synod
of 6,000 signatures

Campaign created by Deborah Rose-Milavec

As faithful Catholics, we are deeply concerned that the perspective and experience of a large number of Catholics will not be represented at the upcoming Synod. Therefore, we are writing to urge you to widen the circle of people invited to participate in the upcoming Family Synod 2015.

We know our Church would benefit from listening to representatives of the many constituencies present in the church community and from engaging in the dialogue Pope Francis has been calling for since the beginning of his papacy. The Lineamenta points out, “In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis advocates for engaging in pastoral activity characterized by a ‘culture of encounter’ and capable of recognizing the Lord’s gratuitous work, even outside customary models.”

We urge the Vatican Synod office to make every effort to include a wide diversity of Catholics, especially those from the constituencies being discussed including divorced and remarried people, cohabitating couples, interfaith families, impoverished families, single parents, families with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members, same-sex couples, and families torn by the violence of war and abuse. These women and men can share their lives and stories in a way that creates greater understanding among the bishops who will, in the end, make critical recommendations about the Church’s priorities and pastoral practices for years to come.

We ask that Synod planners reach out to those on “life’s periphery” (Evangelii Gaudium), those who have not felt welcome in our church. Their invaluable perspectives will greatly enrich and enlighten discussion at the Ordinary Synod on the Family in October.

As stated in Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church (2014): “The baptized….are endowed as members of the body of the Lord with gifts and charisms for the renewal and building up of the Church….Not only do they have the right to be heard, but their reaction to what is proposed as belonging to the faith must be taken very seriously. . . “ (#74).

We assure you that the mission of the Family Synod is in our prayers.

Click here to sign this Petition.

Why is this important?

The synod would benefit from listening to Catholic representatives from diverse constituencies and from engaging in the dialogue Pope Francis has promoted throughout his papacy. We believe widening the circle will create greater understanding among the synod fathers whose final recommendations to Pope Francis may impact our Church’s pastoral practice for years to come. This petition is sponsored by:

Aggiornomento, Australia (ACCCR)
American Catholic Council
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests
Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Renewal (ACCCR)
Australian Reforming Catholics ARC (ACCCR)
Call to Action
Catholic Church Reform International
Catholics for ministry CfM, Australia (ACCCR)
Catholics for Renewal, Austraiia (ACCCR)
Catholic Network for Women’s Equality, Canada
The Cyber Community, Australia (ACCCR)
Federation of Christian Ministries/Roman Catholic Faith Community Council
Fortunate Families
The Friendship Group WA, Australia (ACCCR)
Inclusive Catholics, Australia (ACCCR)
International Movement of We Are Church
Loretto Women’s Network
National Coalition of American Nuns
New Ways Ministry
Noi Siamo Chiesa (Italian section of IMWAC)
Pfarrei-Initiative, Schweiz
Pfarrer-Initiative Austria
Parrish Initiative Switzerland
Roman Catholic Womenpriests RCWP-USA
Sisters of Providence Peace With Justice Committee, St. Mary-of-the-Woods
Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference
Vision of Faithful People (Netherlands)
Voice of the Faithful
We are All Church, South Africa (WAACSA)
Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual
Women and the Australian Church WATAC (ACCCR)
Women’s Ordination Conference
Women’s Ordination Worldwide

How it will be delivered

On March 4, 2015, we will deliver the signatures by email and mail to all the English speaking bishops and to Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops in Rome. We will also hand deliver the petition to Cardinal Baldisseri at the Synod of Bishops in Rome.

Archbishop: School that fired gay teacher showed ‘character’

Archbishop: School that fired gay teacher showed ‘character’

By MARYCLAIRE DALE July 13, 2015 4:07 PM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Roman Catholic school officials who fired a married gay teacher are not seeking controversy but showed “character and common sense” by following church teachings, Philadelphia’s archbishop said Monday.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, in a statement, thanked Waldron Mercy Academy leaders “for taking the steps to ensure that the Catholic faith is presented … in accord with the teaching of the church. They’ve shown character and common sense at a moment when both seem to be uncommon.”

The church opposes gay marriage. Of homosexuals, Pope Francis has said: “Who am I to judge?”

Teacher Margie Winters recently told a newspaper that she lost her job last month as religious instruction director even though she had told the school about her same-sex marriage when she was hired in 2007. She was told she could be open about her marriage with faculty but not with parents at the school, Winters told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“So that’s what I’ve done,” Winters said. “I’ve never been open. And that’s been hard.”

Nonetheless, she said, a few parents found out and complained to the school or the archdiocese. She was fired after she refused a request to resign, Winters said.

“In the Mercy spirit, many of us accept life choices that contradict current church teachings,” Principal Nell Stetser said in a letter to parents obtained by the Inquirer, “but to continue as a Catholic school, Waldron Mercy must comply with those teachings.”

Many parents are upset by the dismissal, and Philadelphia’s Democratic nominee for mayor, Jim Kenney, a Catholic-school graduate, has criticized the firing.

Spokesman Ken Gavin said last week that the archdiocese “did not influence” Waldron’s decision at the nondiocesan elementary school.

However, Chaput on Monday weighed in with his statement.

“Schools describing themselves as Catholic take on the responsibility of teaching and witnessing the Catholic faith in a manner true to Catholic belief,” he wrote. “There’s nothing complicated or controversial in this. It’s a simple a matter of honesty.”

As archbishop of Denver in 2010, Chaput supported a diocesan Catholic school in Boulder that refused to let two young children of lesbians re-enroll. Chaput, in his weekly column, called it “a painful situation and said the church “never looks for reasons to turn anyone away from a Catholic education.”

However, he said parents choose Catholic schools for their children so they can see their religious beliefs “fully taught and practiced.”

“That simply can’t be done if teachers need to worry about wounding the feelings of their students or about alienating students from their parents,” said Chaput, who described people with different viewpoints on marriage as “often people of sincerity and good will.”

Chaput said children of single and divorced parents are welcome in diocesan schools as long as their parents support the Catholic mission.

Chaput is scheduled to host the pope’s two-day visit to Philadelphia in September for the World Meeting of Families.