VATICAN CITY — A large group of clergy from English-speaking countries have unanimously reaffirmed their support for Church teaching on marriage and the family, implicitly rejecting proposals at the 2014 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family that the Church alter pastoral practice and doctrine in this area.
In a statement issued at the end of a five-day conference in Rome Jan. 5-9, the Confraternities of Catholic Clergy in the United States, Australia, Britain and Ireland said they pledged their “unwavering fidelity to the traditional doctrines regarding marriage and the true meaning of human sexuality, as proclaimed in the word of God and set out clearly in the Church’s ordinary and universal magisterium.”
During last October’s extraordinary synod on the family, controversy erupted when attempts were made to promote changes in pastoral practice concerning marriage and human sexuality.
Cardinal Walter Kasper of Germany was a lightning rod, suggesting in a keynote speech that launched the synodal process, that the Church should allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion. Opponents argued that such changes would not be consistent with the Church’s doctrine.
Controversy also focused on elements of the synod document that addressed pastoral practices dealing with homosexuality and cohabitation.
Having discussed issues pertinent to the upcoming second synod on the family, to take place in October this year, and responding “to the Holy Father’s call for reflection,” the priests stressed their commitment to “presenting anew the Good News about marriage and family life in all its fullness and helping, with the Lord’s compassion, those who struggle to follow the Gospel in a secular society.”
The priests also affirmed the “importance of upholding the Church’s traditional discipline regarding the reception of the sacraments and that doctrine and practice must remain firmly and inseparably in harmony.”
The confraternities, who represent nearly 1,000 priests in Anglophone countries, told the Register they believe the statement is clear and charitable, but fair, and expresses the sense among “many Catholic priests” of the issues discussed at the synod. They also said that such a “united expression of orthodoxy” gives them “joy and hope.”
The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy in the United States is based in San Diego. Its president is frequent EWTN contributor Father John Trigilio.
Cardinal Burke’s Homily
During his homily at a Mass for the priests in St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 9, Cardinal Raymond Burke encouraged them not to give up.
The patron of the Knights of Malta said the “frighteningly troubled times in which we live surely make us more conscious of the great and seemingly overwhelming struggle” that priests today are facing.
“Confusion and error about the most fundamental truths of the moral law lead our culture into a greater and evermore self-destructive corruption,” the American cardinal said.
Cardinal Burke added, “The Church exists to call the culture to conversion and to transform it, but in the struggle to row the boat of the Church against the troubled waters of the confusion and error which surround us, there is the temptation to give up and let the boat move with the times, with the result that the same confusion and error enters into the very life of the Church.”
But he said that, at the same time, “it is the occasion to set aside our useless self-pity and fear and recognize that Christ is alive in our midst, that he comes to us upon the deeply troubled waters through which we are called to navigate the boat of this mystical body.”
Cardinal Burke invited the priests to “strive every day” to give their lives completely to Christ and to be confident that, “with Christ,” the turbulent waters become “navigable.”
And he stressed that the strength to meet today’s challenges, teach the truth of the faith and minister the saving mysteries to the faithful “comes solely from the holy Eucharist, from our union with Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice and our communion with him in his body, blood, soul and divinity.”
He concluded, “If the reality of the priestly office, as it must be exercised in the present time of profound confusion and error, instills in us an understandable fear, we must at the same moment open our eyes to behold Christ, walking toward us on the turbulent waters, and open our ears to hear his voice coming from his Eucharistic heart: ‘Courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.’”
Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, was among the conference speakers. He underlined that the mission of the Church needs a clear and unambiguous witness to Christ.
“The Confraternities of Catholic Clergy, in their service to the Church and the world, are committed to prophetic witness, which challenges contemporary culture,” the priests said in a closing statement. “We share the Holy Father's care and concern for the family and pray that the upcoming synod enables the Church to more effectively proclaim Christ’s vision of marriage and family.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
Links to the confraternities:
United States: catholicclergy.net