7 Family Issues Pope Francis Should — But Won’t — Discuss

Oct 10, 2014

Image courtesy of Catholic Church of England and Wales

By Herb Silverman

There’s an elephant roaming through the Vatican these days, but apparently the pope hasn’t noticed. Its name is Women.

Pope Francis recently called for a two-week meeting of Catholic bishops to consider matters related to “the family.” The pope publicly encouraged the bishops to speak openly on family issues without fear of censure. Of course, the bishops are all men. It seems that women’s thoughts would be irrelevant, though women do tend to be present in almost every family.

I wish I could be cautiously optimistic that this “open” dialogue will bring about significant policy changes to an anachronistic institution, but the Vatican is not known for major changes. Here are some issues we won’t hear bishops discuss with Pope Francis, but might hear from the Nuns on the Bus or countless other Catholic women — if they were invited to participate.

1. The Church should stop treating women as second-class people, and not just in family issues. Women should have the same rights and privileges as men in the Church. We can only dream that one day there will be a Pope Frances. At this point, women cannot even be priests.

2. It’s time to end the Church’s celibacy requirement for priests and nuns. While promoting natural law, the Church fails to acknowledge how unnatural celibacy is. Here’s a novel idea: Shouldn’t priests be viewed as role models with families, rather than as unquestionable messengers who act as necessary intermediaries to God?


 

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48 comments on “7 Family Issues Pope Francis Should — But Won’t — Discuss

  • The pope has a problem! It is all those things to do with SEX which the RCC hierarchy considers controversial, and most other people regard as normal.

    Spouting dogma has never been a problem for the RCC be it on Galileo or Dawinian evolution.

    However they now have a serious flumixing problem!

    The pope commissioned a survey and the results show Catholics are simply ignoring the churches silly edits!! Horrors!!!!!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27060172

    The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has turned down a request by members for the results of a sexual ethics survey to be made public.

    The unprecedented worldwide poll was commissioned by Pope Francis.

    Reformers said refusing to publish the results would suggest the Church was not sincere about sharing responsibility with lay people.

    A Church spokesman said a senior Vatican official had expressly asked for summaries to remain confidential.

    The survey was sent to Catholic bishops around the world last November, with instructions to consult as widely as possible.

    It tackled sensitive subjects such as contraception, cohabitation and homosexuality.

    Many Catholics saw the inclusion of such questions as a sign that Church teaching in such difficult areas might be reformed, and that lay people might be allowed a greater say in how the Church was governed, he added.



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  • The media are probably going to milk these stories for all they are worth hailing these “monumental changes”, as the RCC takes tiny steps towards the 21st century while trying to be less irrelevant to modern living!

    Perhaps some of their faithful can drag the fossilised leadership a little way towards modern thinking, but I don’t expect much progress! They might even progress as far as the 20th century!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-29493895

    Roman Catholic Church leaders from around the world begin a two-week brainstorming session this weekend, on how to better present their teachings on marriage, family life, and sexuality to their flock.

    In Vatican terminology, the closed-door session is called an “extraordinary synod”, and the current Pope’s historical legacy could well depend on its perceived success or failure.

    The conference agenda was drawn up after an unprecedented opinion survey of the faithful, ordered by Pope Francis last year, to find out why Rome’s teachings are increasingly being rejected or ignored.

    A ban on artificial contraception decreed by Pope Paul VI in his Humanae Vitae encyclical in 1968 has been routinely disregarded by Catholic couples for years.

    And while the Church continues to insist on the indissolubility of Christian marriage, which it considers a sacramental union of a man and a woman, not merely a civil matter; many countries, even strongly Roman Catholic ones, have legalised abortion, divorce and same-sex marriages.

    The Philippines, which has Asia’s largest Roman Catholic population, has recently passed a birth control law allowing the government to distribute free contraceptives, which could be the prelude to legalising divorce too.

    The 263 participants in the Synod of the Family are almost all celibate males, with no first-hand experience of creating their own families, although a dozen hand-picked Roman Catholic married couples will sit in and share their experience with the synod “fathers”.



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  • It is not just that bishops are men, they are men who have rejected family life, and who have rejected relationships, presumably because they are pedophiles or other outer philias and feel obliged to suppress them.

    These are the last people who should be making up the rules for heterosexual families. They are clueless.

    People will always take power if they can. The ones to blame are those who LET these old birds bully them.



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  • If the aim of the church is to maximise the congregation, banning divorce is a strange way to do it. Divorced couples don’t have more babies . Remarried ones do.



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  • Pope Francis recently called for a two-week meeting of Catholic bishops to consider matters related to “the family.”

    @link – But Vatican experts cautioned against expecting big changes.

    Not really a surprise!!! The bronze-age is still the bronze-age!



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  • 8
    aquilacane says:

    I agree. It’s not up to Herb to what extent women should play a role in the church or any other internal issue. I hope they don’t make ignorance more appealing to women, haven’t they punished them enough. Their conclussions will be meaningless because it’s from a perspective that is built on a flaud fondation. Everything will crumble under stress.

    The best we can hope for is complete failure.



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  • Women should leave the church, but they do not. That is the frustrating truth.

    The Catholic Church’s stance on birth control has been one of the most destructive forces on earth, particularly in Africa, but the Church would have no power if women did not shoulder their burdens like Atlas. They do. I do not understand it at all.



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  • This is why the Protestant megachurches in the US are burgeoning with single mothers, because these denominations (largely Baptist) know on what side their bread is buttered and have dropped their prohibitions against divorce. This has not ended the exploitation of women, however. It sentimentalizes and exploits their experiences, yoking them to tithing for the church even in their poverty. Of course, these congregations are against birth control, which could have prevented poverty in the first place.



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  • Kristine Oct 10, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    Women should leave the church, but they do not. That is the frustrating truth.

    That is why the indoctrination of children makes them mind-slaves – often for life!

    @ OP link – Introducing the main points that the synod should address over the next two weeks, Cardinal Peter Erdo, the archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest in Hungary, stressed Monday that church teaching remained valid when it came to issues like the “indissolubility of marriage” as well as divorce and remarriage.

    “In the case of a consummated sacramental marriage, after a divorce, a marriage recognized by the church is impossible, while the first spouse is still alive,” he said.

    At the same time, the cardinal said that the church should seek ways to provide pastoral care for divorced and remarried Catholics, and also suggested ways the church might simplify the annulment process to allow more Catholics to remarry, should the church accept the first marriage as invalid.

    Fortunately my children were never captured by the RCC, choose their own partners without reference to priests, and don’t give a damn what the RCC thinks about their domestic arrangements.
    We had a nice family get together in an hotel for my grand-daughter’s naming and introduction to friends and relatives, (including some Catholic relatives and Muslim friends) – which had nothing whatever to do with Christenings!



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  • Divorce may be officially forbidden but, after the payment of a fee ( probably called an Administrative Fee) an annulment can be obtained quite easily, even if the marriage produced several children. I don’t know what status this gives the children; are they now considered illegitimate?

    This is the sordid method by which business is conducted. One rule for the rich and one for the poor!



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  • 13
    Cairsley says:

    It is good when such a polite writer as Professor Silverman comes out with such a clear, even strong, statement as this. He has written here pure common sense, but his recommendations to the Pope and the bishops in conference are still far too optimistic. The Catholic Church needs to jettison its belief in spiritual entities, natural and supernatural, in order to allow abortion, artificial contraceptives and even masturbation. Without belief in spiritual entities, the Catholic Church (along with all its fellow Christian churches) has no reason for existing, for it is in order to extend to each and every one of us the hope of eternal happiness in a supernatural afterlife that the Church teaches what it teaches, having been commissioned by you know who, who was not merely human but … you know … etc.

    I had to smile when I read that the first presentation given at this synod on the family was by an Australian married couple, who talked about the importance, even centrality, of sex in their marriage over some decades. A bishop afterwards was reported (regrettably, I cannot find the on-line article) that episcopal discussions on such matters as marriage and family do not usually deal with sexual matters in such a direct and practical way. Indeed, the Church’s theological approach to such matters has always assumed the inherent fallenness or inherent depravity of sexual intercourse (shades of Augustine) and concentrated on the practice of the virtues, natural and (more importantly) supernatural in marriage for the raising of more souls destined for heaven. It was sad to read also of the immediate expressions of disapproval from conservative bishops, but it was reported that the Australian couple’s presentation received a generous round of applause. But, yes, a more positive regard for sex, including an explicit renunciation of Pauline and Augustinian theology concerning it, would make it much easier for Catholic hierarchs to steer their church away from the rocks of delusion that it is fast approaching in the much-more-fact-based culture of modern society.

    Yet how to do that without discarding superstitious beliefs in immaterial entities both natural and supernatural is something not even an infinitely intelligent, infinitely wise entity could do without contradicting itself; so we must not expect too much of His Holiness and his episcopal confrères.



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  • 14
    Cairsley says:

    WARNING: This comment is about matters based solely on superstition. Those who do not care for superstition may not wish to read further.

    I did not have enough time to edit my comment above to include another example of how Catholic (or Christian) belief in immaterial entities both natural and supernatural arise as obstacles to common sense. In the case, also mentioned above by Professor Silverman, of excluding women from priestly ordination, the basis of the Church’s stance is (at least in theory) that of sacramental theology, where the sacramental “sign” (be it bread or water or chrism or gesture or human being (in the case of priesthood) and so on) is claimed to make present in the real here and now the entity that it signifies or stands in for. The use of this notion of sacrament as an argument for excluding women from the priesthood (and thus from all the positions of real power in the church) is a remarkably lucid example of the blinkered, nay, prejudiced, thinking in the Catholic Church’s doctrinal development. On this understanding of the sacraments, one does have to wonder why Jesus Christ in his full divinity and full humanity can be fully present under the signs (or forms) of bread and wine in the eucharist but not fully present in the fully human sign of an ordained woman (the priest being the sacramental sign in the case of priesthood). One has to wonder why the maleness of Jesus, who exercised a role of leadership not generally exercised by women in his own day, should be an obstacle to women of present times, who do exercise roles of leadership, being included in the priesthood. In the eucharist we see no similarity at all between sign and signified, yet in holy orders we see an insistence on the sign (the priest) having something the same as the signified. Should it surprise us that that something happens to be sex? I for one therefore suspect that there has been more to the exclusion of women from the priesthood than sacramental theology.

    I would also like to clear up one small matter, mainly of terminology, I think. Nuns are female monks. Although we are most familiar with priests (male) and nuns (female) in the Catholic Church, the male correlative of ‘nun’ is ‘monk’, not ‘priest’. Nuns are often referred to as sisters and monks as brothers, though there are canonical complications to these terms that need not concern us here. Nuns and monks are, in the Christian tradition, people who, to use the traditional phrase “leave the world” to dedicate themselves solely to God and his service. This “leaving the world” has traditionally included the renunciation of marriage, hence such fetching phrases as “brides of Christ” in reference to nuns, especially young, nubile ones. A nun, then, is someone who has freely (actually, this was often not true in the past, especially during the Middle Ages, but never mind) chosen to renounce marriage in favor of God. The priesthood, as understood by the Catholic Church, is something very different: the sacramental representation of Jesus Christ himself in the midst of the community of the faithful. Obviously, how one thinks a community should be organized and regulated, especially with regard to such matters as who does what and who exercises what roles, will largely determine how one interprets and applies something like the sacramental theology of holy orders. The prior assumption (i.e. prejudice) that women cannot preform the rational and responsible roles of leadership inherent in the priesthood, indeed that women are by nature in need of the authority and guidance of men for the right regulation of their own lives (the flipside of insisting that men are by nature suited to be in charge), seems to be a determining factor in the way the Catholic Church has applied sacramental theology to exclude women from the priesthood, whether many well-meaning Catholic priests and apologists for male-only priesthood are now aware of this or not (… long-established traditions, after all, have a momentum of their own).



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  • 15
    Cairsley says:

    The point of my clarification of the terms ‘priest’ and ‘nun’ in my previous comment was to explain why it makes sense to argue for the removal of the requirement of celibacy for priesthood but makes no sense to argue for the same with regard to nunhood (or monkhood). If the Catholic Church ever admits women to the priesthood, nuns may then also choose to be ordained in holy orders, as some monks have long done so.



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  • Nitya Oct 10, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Divorce may be officially forbidden but, after the payment of a fee ( probably called an Administrative Fee) an annulment can be obtained quite easily, even if the marriage produced several children.

    Catholic marriage is about spreading the meme and dominating the population.

    First, they only recognise Catholic marriage ceremonies as “Trrooo marriage”, and bring pressure to bear via their mind-slaves to recruit.

    I mentioned “Catholic relatives” coming to meet my grand-daughter.
    These are “entrapped Catholics”!
    One of my wife’s cousins married a Catholic in a Catholic church, having been pressurised to convert as a condition of marriage – thus recruiting him and his family, because of his devotion to his partner.

    As more people in the population become cultural Xtians or Nones, and more choices of partner are available, resistance to these pressures becomes easier.
    This is especially so where church monopolies as centres of cultural gatherings are broken with Nones out in the open.



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  • I want to promote the idea-

    “A religion, as lived, is what its adherents say it is.”

    I think not only is it palpably true, but the sub concept of a “religion, as lived” doesn’t just return control to you, it says you always had control of it. There is no copyright or patent. It is “prior art”, so have at it folks.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prior_art



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  • Cairsley Oct 10, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    It was sad to read also of the immediate expressions of disapproval from conservative bishops, but it was reported that the Australian couple’s presentation received a generous round of applause. But, yes, a more positive regard for sex, including an explicit renunciation of Pauline and Augustinian theology concerning it, would make it much easier for Catholic hierarchs to steer their church away from the rocks of delusion that it is fast approaching in the much-more-fact-based culture of modern society.

    A much better solution for society, is that they hold their course, run aground, and sink, leaving only a few die-hards in flimsy lifeboats, where they can be in sanctimonious truly humble monastic isolation, ignored by the rest of the shipping, if they don’t want to come aboard modern society.
    Stopping the funding of palatial Vatican luxury “delusion rides”, for pompous bishops would help reduce the perceived status of supernatural delusions!



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  • I have to shake my head at the Church’s obsession with who gets to fuck (am I allowed to say that here?) who, and under what circumstances. It’s as if they lie away at night fantasizing all the wicked ways people can offend God with their genitals. As the purported representative of God’s Will on earth, the Church is appallingly silent about genocide (except in the most superficial, ritualistic, and generalized laments) and the now obvious human degradation of the earth’s ecosystem.

    I spit on their shiny red slippers.



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  • Their flock in developed countries is scattering rapidly. But sadly they will escape their deserved comeuppance. Their growth (impervious to most developed world blandishments) is in unequal developing countries and those poverty stricken. Here they can self justify their own importance as “agents of necessary social change” and shrug off the details of the rest of their poisonous package.

    Elsewhere (as you know) Melvin talked of a UN projected peak of 3 billion Africans by 2100. In fact the median projection for Africa is 4 184 577 thousands by 2100. The RCC’s latex loathing capacity to actively generate human misery here is apocalyptic.

    Melinda Gates for Pope!



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  • 22
    Cairsley says:

    Hi Alan4D. That was the way it seemed to be going under the previous pope, and, although the present pope is certainly more sympathique and apparently trying to deal more openly and earnestly with the problems facing the Catholic Church, the vision you conjure up here may yet come to pass. Delusions never were a good basis for the survival of organizations no less than of individuals.



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  • “I am…, and also a recovering Catholic” is how an actress on a major tv show introduced herself to the audience. Knocked me over with a feather, it did, way to go!

    At least one offended catholic woman rushed to the blogosphere to complain. Probably more to follow, but(!) how many females, unhappy with their current RCC faith, got courage to think of leaving, and all with just one statement!



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  • 27
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Where are Wikileaks and private site hackers when you need them?…

    In any case, so much for the Pope Francis’ “new policy of transparency” in the RCC.



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  • Alan. I married into an extremely devout, catholic family. Considering my irreligious background, concepts and terminology bandied around by family members were completely new to me. It was like learning a foreign language in another country.
    The sort of ideas expressed by Cairsley in his following four comments were totally beyond my understanding though they were considered very important precepts.
    It was a family member who proudly announced the ease of his annulment despite the fact that it had been performed in a Catholic Church (accompanied by a nuptial mass) and resulted in three children. He also made the cynical observation that anything could be achieved if enough money was thrown at the problem.



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  • Nitya Oct 11, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Alan. I married into an extremely devout, catholic family. Considering my irreligious background, concepts and terminology bandied around by family members were completely new to me. It was like learning a foreign language in another country.

    When I was working for a county teaching support team, one of the jobs we did was cover staff absences in schools with staff shortages.
    I worked for periods of weeks in several English RC “Faith Schools”, where local priests were chairs of governors and came into the schools to take religious assemblies.

    As you say – it was like some language and ritual imported from a foreign country with children crossing themselves chanting creeds, and counting beads.



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  • 30
    Miserablegit says:

    Of course the RCC would never do anything to alter its position on the family namely the mans word is the law and the woman’s job is that of a means of providing male offspring to perpetuate the problem.



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  • They should stick to their guns and die out already. Celibacy, anti gay marriage, anti contraception and no female priests are some of the things they have built their religion around and they are entitled to do so. Why should they change to suit the current trends? If you wish to be catholic these are things you must be in agreement with, should you disagree, you are not supposed to be a catholic. Find another denomination that has cherry picked things that suit you better. They cannot really change any of the teaching of the bible although possibly they are cussing at the church meetings in Rome in 382 and Carthage in 397 for not assembling a more ambiguous bible. One they could interpret more freely to suit a changing world.



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  • Cairsley:

    But, yes, a more positive regard for sex, including an explicit renunciation of Pauline and Augustinian theology concerning it, would make it much easier for Catholic hierarchs to steer their church away from the rocks of delusion that it is fast approaching in the much-more-fact-based culture of modern society.

    Aye, there’s the rub ! But never mind. It only took the RCC about 400 years to realise that Galileo was right about the Earth orbiting the sun. With modern communications, they might actually realise a bit sooner that Herb is giving them some sound advice, from their point of view, if they want to keep their show on the road.

    As for the “rocks of delusion”, they are far more likely to run aground on the mist enveloped mud banks, as the tide goes out whilst their theological navigators argue about the charts.



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  • While I agree, on the issue, that is a remarkably stupid remark.
    There’s a reason why it’s usually a bad idea for players to officiate games.



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  • Mr DArcy Oct 12, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    As for the “rocks of delusion”, they are far more likely to run aground on the mist enveloped mud banks, as the tide goes out whilst their theological navigators argue about the charts.

    Quite possibly! The muddy waters of theological “interpretations” of charts drawn when the Earth was considered to be flat, probably won’t help much!



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  • 37
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    I mentioned “Catholic relatives” coming to meet my grand-daughter.
    These are “entrapped Catholics”!
    One of my wife’s cousins married a Catholic in a Catholic church, having been pressurised to convert as a condition of marriage – thus recruiting him and his family, because of his devotion to his partner.

    Funny you should mention that. I just finished reading the chapter in Darrel Ray’s book “Sex and God: How religion distorts sexuality” that specifically deals with this issue. The chapter is entitled “The Jesus trap”. An excellent read if haven’t already.



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  • I cannot conceive of any group less qualified to discuss family than a group of celibate males. The Catholic Church may be lead by men in dresses, but this is not the same thing as having real women.



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  • I see those know-it-all RCC faith-thinkers are still meddling in reproductive medicine.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-29594091
    Kenya’s government has dismissed allegations made by the country’s Catholic Church that a tetanus vaccine can cause sterility in women.

    “It’s a safe certified vaccine,” Health Minister James Macharia told the BBC.
    Mr Macharia said the vaccine had been approved by the World Health Organization and Unicef.

    Catholic priests have been telling their congregations to boycott a campaign that begins on Monday to vaccinate women against tetanus.

    Tetanus is regarded as a big threat to babies in Kenya, with a new-born child dying every day of the infection.

    According to Kenya’s health ministry, about 550 babies died of tetanus in Kenya last year.

    Some 40% of Kenyans are Catholics and the Church warning could deter many women from getting vaccinated, says the BBC’s Frenny Jowi in the capital, Nairobi.

    Last week, a meeting of Catholic bishops in western Kenya called on the government to stop the rollout of the vaccination campaign, saying it was a plot to target women of child-bearing age.

    The bishops called for more tests to be done on the vaccine.



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  • I am disappointed that my reference to a poem by an embittered ex-catholic alcoholic has obviously been removed by the moderator…I thought it was a poignant one-liner used as a talismanic motif by your typical catholic as he/she tries to prevent their child from experiencing the joys of onanism!



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  • I cannot conceive

    The bane of the RCC, those words.

    A just released summary of the talks thus far, indicate easement of certain church rules. Looks good on paper – dollars to donuts it’s a clever ruse to keep siller in the kist.



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  • The ongoing child molestation problem in the catholic church can be most easily solved in 2 ways:

    1) End the prohibition against practicing heterosexuals and women in the priesthood. (Unfortunately, there is no enforced prohibition against practicing child molesters, as numerous incidences have shown that the church merely sends molesters from parish to parish as complaints build up.)

    2) Start having bishops and popes who are mothers. An angry mother is the most vicious creature in the universe!

    Of course, a better solution would be for the Pope to just to close all the churches and admit that religion is a delusion.



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  • bonnie Oct 13, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    A just released summary of the talks thus far, indicate easement of certain church rules. Looks good on paper . . . .

    But even that is too much for the die-hard dogmatic brains still immersed in the bronze-age when it comes to votes and actual decisions.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-29677779

    Pope Francis has suffered a setback as proposals for wider acceptance of gay people failed to win a two-thirds majority at a Catholic Church synod.

    A draft report issued halfway through the meeting had called for greater openness towards homosexuals and divorced Catholics who have remarried.

    But those paragraphs were not approved, and were stripped from the final text.

    The report will inform further debate before the synod reconvenes in larger numbers in a year’s time.

    Correspondents say the text welcoming gay people and remarried Catholics had been watered down in the final version that was voted on – but it appears that they still met with resistance from conservatives.



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  • My news services are reporting that the Pope has been rolled by the conservative cardinals on homosexuality and divorced Catholics. The conservatives still rule. I wonder what god thinks given the Pope is his local franchisee.

    It’s time for the Catholic church to split. It’s time for the conservatives to put their brand of Catholicism to the market. See how many rosary beads they can attracted against a reformed, modernized and liberal catholic church. Given the parishioners already ignore the conservative teachings, I suspect they the conservative catholic church would be a tiny rump. And yet they still rule. They can publicly pull the nose of the Pope. God’s representative on earth.

    It’s time for a bankruptcy (Of Ideas) sale. Liquidate the lot. Throw in a set of steak knives as well.



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  • This could be great news.

    The gestural patching up of the evil old men in the back room maybe isn’t the policy for now. Schism would be a far greater statement of moral intent than pretending they were in another parrish, or worse actually playing mindfuck in Africa.

    I wanted Rowan Williams to take the Anglicans to schism over his clerical homophobes but the “nice man” rated unity over morality.

    Clearly Papa Frank would get the horses head treatment if he tried, but the gesture would be galvannic. His warning is clear.

    Ever since his election last March, he has made clear his belief that the church needs to become more inclusive and understanding of real people’s lives if it is to survive, let alone grow.

    I hope he sees this as a test…

    Just about every Catholic I know is far, far better than their religion.

    The moral catastrophe of homosexuality in Africa, may become a critical point of leverage.



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  • David R Allen Oct 19, 2014 at 4:28 am

    My news services are reporting that the Pope has been rolled by the conservative cardinals on homosexuality and divorced Catholics. The conservatives still rule.

    I seems some of them are paying a price, in the politics of Vatican in-fighting.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-29669231

    Catholic Synod: Cardinal ‘demoted’ by Pope Francis

    A leading American cardinal has told BuzzFeed that he is to be demoted from his position running the Catholic Church justice system.

    Cardinal Raymond Burke is a staunch critic of Pope Francis’ moves to soften the Church’s stance on homosexuality.

    He said that he was to be moved to the far less senior post of patron of the sovereign military order of Malta.



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