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,