Friday, November 8, 2013

Each one's decision

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
November 10, 2013

Luke 20:27,34-38

Jesus didn't devote himself to talking a lot about eternal life. He doesn't try to fool anyone by giving fanciful descriptions of life beyond death. Nonetheless, his whole life awakens hope. He lives alleviating suffering and freeing people from fear. He spreads total trust in God. His passion is to make life more humane and happy for all, as the Father of all wants it.

Only when a group of Sadducees approaches him with the idea of ridiculing faith in the resurrection, the conviction that sustains and inspires his whole life springs from Jesus' believer's heart: "he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive."

His faith is simple. It's true that we cry for our loved ones because, at death, we have lost them here on earth, but Jesus can't even imagine that all these children of God who He loves so much are dying on Him. It can't be. God is sharing His life with them because He has received them into His unfathomable love.

The most worrisome feature of our time is the crisis of hope. We have lost the vista of an ultimate Future and the small hopes of this life don't end up comforting us. This hope void is generating loss of confidence in life in quite a few. Nothing is worth the effort. Total nihilism is easy then.

Aren't these times of despair calling us, believers and nonbelievers, to ask ourselves the most radical questions we have within us? Is not this God who many doubt, who quite a few have abandoned, and who many are still asking about, the ultimate foundation on which we can base our radical trust in life? At the end of all paths, at the bottom of all our yearnings, within our questions and struggles, might it not be God as the ultimate Mystery of salvation the one we are searching for?

Our faith remains there, cornered somewhere inside us like something of little importance that isn't worth the bother to care for nowadays. Is that how it is? Certainly it isn't easy to believe, and not believing is hard. Meanwhile, the ultimate mystery of life is asking us for a lucid and responsible response.

That response is the decision of each one of us. Do I want to wipe from my life any ultimate hope beyond death as a false illusion that doesn't help us to live? Do I want to remain open to the ultimate Mystery of existence, trusting that there we will find the answer, the acceptance and the fulfillment that we are seeking as of now?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Jose Arregi: Open Letter to Pope Francis on the Family

The following open letter from Basque theologian José Arregi was published in Spanish on his blog on 11/6/2013. English translation by Rebel Girl.

Dear Pope Francis:

As everything goes so fast today, the questionnaire on the family that you just sent to the bishops all over the world has already come into our hands -- 38 very specific questions organized into 8 thematic blocks. We understand that we are not just the subjects, but also the ones to whom these questions that affect -- and hurt -- us, even more than the bishops, are addressed. Therefore we are allowing ourselves to answer them directly, because of the affection we have for you and the trust you inspire in us. Thank you, Pope Francis, for asking us about so many uncomfortable issues that have been, and still are, taboo. And thanks for listening to us, for receiving our voices speaking from the soul, with their certainties and doubts.

1. Whether the teachings of Sacred Scripture and the hierarchical Magisterium on sexuality, marriage, and the family are known and accepted among the faithful.

Perhaps they're not well known, and certainly they are poorly accepted or simply ignored. We note that in recent decades the gap, or rather the rupture, between official doctrine and the feelings of a wide majority of believers, has grown to a critical degree. It's serious and it grieves us. But we sincerely believe that the reason for the growing break is not the ignorance, much less the irresponsibility of the believers, but rather the hierachy's being locked into patterns from the past.

Times have changed a lot in a short period in everything that has to do with family, matrimony, and procreation, and with sexuality in general. We know they are delicate subjects, that what is most holy is at stake, that the utmost care is necessary. But you can't care for life by repeating the past. We believe deeply that the Spirit of Life goes on speaking to us from the heart of life, with its joys and sorrows. We believe that the living Ruah cannot be closed in any doctrine, or document, or words of the past, and that it goes on inspiring the feelings of all believers and all men and women today. Nothing should ever remain closed.

Pope Francis, we congratulate you on your willingness to listen again to the voice of the Spirit in the men and women of today, and we dare to ask you to keep speaking words of mercy and encouragement, to not go back to obsolete and meaningless "truths" and "norms". In the name of Life!

2. On the place that the concept of "natural law" in relation to marriage has among believers.

We will tell you simply and frankly: For the great majority of thinkers, scientists, and believers in our society, the concept of "natural law" no longer has any place at all. Yes, the nature that we are has a wondrous order, some marvelous laws, and thanks to them, science is possible. But the supreme law of nature is its capacity for change and novelty. Nature is creative and inventive. The fruits of that creative and inventive capability, of that holy creativity, are all the atoms and molecules, every star and galaxy. All of us living beings, all languages and cultures, all religions are fruits of it. For billions of years to come, infinite new forms yet unknown to us will be the results of it.

Nature is inhabited by the Spirit, by the holy Ruah that blew on the waters in Genesis, that goes on vibrating in the hearts of all beings, in the heart of every atom and particle. The family too has been changing unceasingly, from the first clans to the nuclear family, through the patriarcal family we have known until recently.

Before our very eyes, the model of the family is still changing: families without children, single parent families, families with children of different fathers and mothers...And it will go on changing, we don't know how. It's all very delicate. There's a lot of pain. We ask the Church not to speak ill of the new forms of family, since they already have enough living day to day and getting ahead amid the greater threats that come to us from a cruel, inhumane economic system. It's not the Church's job to dictate but, first of all, to provide accompaniment, relief, and encouragement, as you yourself have said.

3. On how faith, spirituality, and the Gospel are lived out and transmitted in families

A crucial question. Yes, we note with sorrow that families have stopped being "domestic churches" where there is prayer and where the good news of Jesus is nurtured, felt, and transmitted. But we don't believe it's fair to blame the families for this. The crisis in religion and the transmission of faith in the family has to do in the first place with the deep cultural transformation we are going through. And a big challenge not only or perhaps primarily for the families themselves, but for the church institution itself, is accepting the new spiritual keys and religious forms that the Spirit is inspiring in the men and women of today.

4. On how the Church ought to face certain "difficult marital situations" (couples who live together without getting married, "common law marriages", divorced and remarried people,...).

Thanks again, Pope Francis, just for wanting to raise these questions again! Thanks for wanting to listen to us and for showing mercy through your questions! You know well the complex and changing history of "the Sacrament of Matrimony" since the beginning of the Church. The history has been quite variable and will go on being so. Look, for example, at what is happening among us, in this ultra-modern Europe. Our young people have neither the houses nor the economic means to get married and live with their partners until their 30s in the best of cases. How can the Church ask them to abstain from sexual relations until that age?

The forms change, but we believe that the criterion is very simple and that Jesus would agree: "Where there's love, there's a sacrament, whether the couple get married or not, and where there's no love, there's no sacrament, however canonically married they may be." Everything else is extra. And if the couple is having difficulties, as happens so often, only God will help them solve their difficulties and love each other again, and only God will help them separate peacefully, if they can't solve their problems and go back to loving one another.

Eliminate, then, we beseech you, the canonical impediments so that those who have failed in their marriages can remake their lives with another love. Let the Church not go on adding more pain to their pain. And let it in no way prevent them from sharing the Bread of comfort at Jesus' table, because Jesus did not impede anybody.

5. On same-sex unions.

The harm caused by the Church to homosexuals is huge, and someday it will have to ask their forgiveness. Let's hope that Pope Francis, in the name of the Church, will ask forgiveness for so much shame, contempt, and feelings of guilt that have been laid on them over the centuries.

The vast majority of men and women in our society today can't understand this obsession, this hostility. How can they go on saying that homosexual love isn't natural, being that it has been so common and natural, for biological and psychological reasons, among so many men and women of all times and on all continents, and in so many other animal species?

In this case, as in many others, the Church should go first, but society precedes us. We celebrate that there are increasingly more countries that recognize that persons of the same sex have the same right as persons of the opposite sex to form unions. What prevents us from calling them "marriages"? Aren't heterosexual unions that, for whatever reason, aren't going to have children called that too? So, let the dictionaries and canon law change to conform to the times and meet the needs of the people.

And what is stopping us from calling homosexual marriage a sacrament? It's love that makes us human and makes us divine. It's love that makes the sacrament. And everything else is gloss and human tradition.

6. On the education of children in irregular marital situations.

We believe that this language -- regular, irregular -- is inaccurate, even harmful. It's harmful to a child to hear that he has been born into or lives within an "irregular" marriage or family. And it hurts their parents, whoever they be. What hurts is not being an exception, but being censured for being an exception. Moreover, we all know that it is sufficient for the cases to multiply for the exception to become the norm. In any case, the Church is not here to define what is regular and what is irregular, but to accompany, encourage, and support each person as they are, where they are.

7. On the openness of spouses to life.

Fortunately, there are very few among us believers under 60 who have heard of Humanae Vitae, that encyclical by Paul VI (1968) that declared it a mortal sin to use any "unnatural" contraceptive method, any method other than abstinence or adjusting to the female fertility cycle. But it made almost all our parents suffer a lot. That doctrine, adopted against the advice of much of the episcopate, was unfortunate in its time and it is no less regrettable that it is still maintained today.

Today no one understands it and almost nobody complies with it among Catholics themselves. And few priests or bishops dare to lay it out these days. It no longer makes sense to state that sex has to be open to reproduction. It no longer makes sense to distinguish between natural and artificial methods, much less to condemn a method for being "artificial", since for the same reason one would have to condemn any vaccination or injection.

Nowadays we are witnessing a momentous change in everything that has to do with sexuality and reproduction: for the first time after many millennia, sex is no longer necessary for reproduction. It is a technological change that brings with it an anthropological change and requires a new moral paradigm. Sexuality and life remain as sacred as ever and it is necessary to care for them with utmost delicacy. But the criteria and standards of Humanae Vitae don't help in this, but rather make it harder. Let the words of the Church be light and comfort, like the Spirit of God, as Jesus' words were in his time and would also be in ours.

8. On the relationship between the family, the individual and the encounter with Jesus

We believe that Jesus comes out to meet us on all paths, in every situation. In whatever model of family, in any family situation. We believe that Jesus doesn't distinguish between regular and irregular families, but tends to each situation, with its grace and its woundedness. We believe that being closed in on ourselves (our ideas and norms, our fears and shadows) is the only thing that separates us from others and from God. And we believe that humility, clarity, and trust bring us closer each day to others and open us every day to the Presence of the Living One, being where we are and being as we are. And we believe that a Church that would proclaim this, like Jesus, would be a blessing to humankind in all its situations.

José Arregi

[Arregi follows his letter with this poem/prayer by Jesuit José Enrique Ruiz de Galarreta on which to meditate. I have included it in both Spanish and my English translation - RG]

Bendito seas mi Dios, mi aire,
que estás ahí, tan cierto como el aire que respiro.
Bendito seas, mi Dios, mi viento,
que me animas, me empujas, me diriges.
Bendito seas, mi Dios, mi agua,
esencia de mi cuerpo y de mi espíritu,
que haces mi vida más limpia, más fresca, más fecunda.
Bendito seas, mi Dios, mi médico,
siempre cerca de mí,
más cerca cuanto me siento más enfermo.
Bendito seas, mi Dios, mi pastor,
que me buscas buenos y frescos pastos,
que me guías por las cañadas oscuras,
que vienes a por mí
cuando estoy perdido en la oscuridad.
Bendito seas, mi Dios, mi madre,
que me quieres como soy
que por mí eres capaz de dar la vida,
mi refugio, mi seguridad, mi confianza.
Bendito seas, Dios, bendito seas

Blessed are you, my God, my air,
who are there, as sure as the air I breathe.
Blessed are you, my God, my wind,
who encourages, pushes, and steers me.
Blessed are you, my God, my water,
essence of my body and my spirit,
who makes my life cleaner, fresher, and more fertile.
Blessed are you, my God, my healer,
always near to me,
closest when I'm feeling the sickest.
Blessed are you, my God, my shepherd,
who finds good fresh pastures for me,
who leads me through the darkened canyons,
whom comes for me
when I am lost in the shadows.
Blessed are you, my God, my mother,
who loves me as I am,
who is able to give your life for me,
my refuge, my safety, my trust.
Blessed are you, God, blessed are you.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Teresa Forcades: The Jornal I interview

By Marta F. Reis (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Jornal i (em português / en español)
October 22, 2013

At 47, the Benedictine sister Teresa Forcades, trained in medicine and theology, divides her life between the San Benet monastery in Montserrat, an hour away from Barcelona, and intense political participation, as she's not afraid to say. She's one of the faces of the citizen movement Procés Constituent, which is creating a model for an independent state free of capitalism in Catalonia. She is coming to Portugal in November to present her book A Teologia Feminista na História, now translated into Portuguese. She leaves no one indifferent. Since April, the Catalan movement has gathered 45,000 supporters. On the Internet, there's a petition with 4,700 signatures asking the Holy See to intervene and restore the peace and quiet shattered by Teresa, who supports abortion and homosexual marriage. [Translator's note: a parallel pro-Teresa Forcades Internet petition has received 12,873 signatures to date] She says she received only one letter from the Vatican in 2009 to which she responded by invoking her right to her opinion.

In September, the BBC called you Europe's most radical nun. Do you like that title?

I've never liked labels. Instead of putting a label on me, I like it when people talk about me because they know me. Now, the truth is that I believe the Gospel calls us to a radical response against social injustice. If that's why they call me radical, because I say that you can't serve God and money and that today we have an economic system that puts money above people, it's true. That's what I am. That's what I'm trying to denounce.

Do you feel like you're doing politics?

I think the word "politics" is good. What I'm not doing, particularly in Catalonia, is creating a political party. I'm not doing partisan politics, professional politics. I also don't feel that I'm replacing my monastic vocation with a political calling. But, from my monastic vocation, just as everyone participating in the Procés Constituent movement has a distinct professional vocation, we realize and argue that democracy calls for political participation by all people. Partisan politics is one thing and what I want to do -- participate in local assemblies, give my opinion, and contribute so that common life really is such -- is something else. This type of change can never come from above. For me the most important thing is to structure people power, for us to organize ourselves to truly live in democracy. And we need everybody -- whether of the church or not -- everybody.

Did you feel a personal need to participate in this movement and are you doing it to show that the church is also part of civil society?

I joined the movement because I was asked. Since I have a certain popularity in Catalonia, when a movement starts, it's important to have familiar faces and I was called upon to stand up for it. I put my popularity at the service of a cause I believe to be just. I didn't think twice; it was spontaneous. Now yes, I realized that for many people it was a way of thinking that there's also room in the church to participate in movements for change and democratic processes.

In Portugal we see priests commenting about politics, but not nuns. They seem to be more hidden. Are you also a sign for women in the Church?

Yes, that is also important to me. I support women in the Church having an equal role in every sense.

Including being able to celebrate Mass?

I have said that I believe that, theologically, there's nothing against that.

A week ago you had an important moment for your movement, a gathering.

Yes, we had what we called the first main event of the Procés Constituent, a movement that began April 10. We called these first six months "make or break." We didn't know if we would have enough popular support. Now we've entered a new phase where the most important thing is to have a structure that allows us to make decisions and to allow us to have an influence in the politics of our country. We have to figure out an organization that allows us to affirm ourselves and includes everyone. We are already 45,000 strong. There are many of us, aren't there?

Was so much support expected?

In this main event, we brought together 10,000 people, which was already quite a lot. But what's important is that we're organized in almost a hundred local communities throughout Catalonia. Now we've launched a campaign called "Building the Catalan Republic of the 99%", which excludes a margin of 1% who are the corrupt installed powerful. On November 16th, we will have a national day of simultaneous meetings and, until November 30th, we will have civil disobedience actions, with great potential for more mobilization.

Do they let you do these types of actions in the monastery?

Well, I had to consult them before beginning. I spoke with the bishop and with my community, and while they didn't all agree, they agreed that if I felt this was a call to something I should do, they didn't want to stop me.

But does it feel like a calling?

When they asked me, it didn't come from me. What I did was take that request to prayer, like everything else, and through my discernment, felt a responsibility to say yes. I'm not in the movement as the ultimately responsible one, but as someone committed to making this voice greater.

The bishop must be an open-minded person...

The bishop is a man of peace, someone who doesn't see his job as pastor as authoritarian but as of service.

Do you feel the same empathy with Pope Francis?

I believe that Pope Francis has given signs of hope but at the same time, very aware that there is a structure in the church that is opposed to changes in the direction of justice. I believe we have a deficit of real democracy in the Church, I mean, we are many but the decisions are made by a few. I keep my eyes and ears open in the hope that Pope Francis can move forward. But for me the important thing is that, whether in the Church or in society, getting more social justice will never be a top down movement. Pope Francis will only be able to make changes if he allies himself with the people at the bottom who have been asking for them for many years. The Good Pope, John XXIII, made changes with the Second Vatican Council but he didn't make them alone. He could do it because throughout the twentieth century there were many movements, such as the one for liturgical reform or the new theology one, with people who spoke publicly and demanded that the Catholic Church approach modernity. It was this base that John XXIII promoted in his role as Pope. I think this is the position Francis is in. He will not be the one to bring about change. Because I even believe that bad changes come from top to bottom, as we see today in the social cutbacks we are having in our countries. If Francis does it, it will be because there's a base in the Catholic Church that has been asking for change for years.

Is it a silent plea?

Very quiet and prayerful. I work with my hands, heart and mind. This thing we call prayer is a profound mystery. When I speak of the people who have worked in recent years for change, I'm not just talking about those who met in committees, produced documents and held public demonstrations. I'm talking a lot about people who in their hearts and in prayer asked for change.

How could the Church change to support society more?

I think intraeclesial reform is essential. Today there are many people who are touched by the Gospels and have deep respect for the figure of Christ. But they soon collide with impossible church structures that they can't accept. So I think the first duty of the Church to society is to offer the message of Christ without adding superfluous things.

For example?

This structure which requires, for example, having liturgy in a previously consecrated room. A liturgy could take place in the woods, but some bishops don't allow it. Any limitation that exists in this sense doesn't come from the gospel. For example, that priests can't celebrate the Eucharist with divorced people and a divorced person can't take Communion. Communion and any other sacrament should never be denied to anyone.

Not to divorced people, not to homosexuals?

It's what has been lacking -- to nobody and whenever they ask. Now, well, if it were Pinochet, someone who has committed obvious public crimes of which he has not repented, there I would see a possibility of denial. Now people who think differently, gays, divorced people or those who have had abortions, they should never be denied a sacrament.

You even support homosexual marriage. On what grounds?

Marriage is a sacrament that enables faithful love between two people. I think that when a couple loves sincerely and faithfully, they should be able to celebrate that love as a sacrament, that is, as a sign of God's love. If the possibility of procreation were a requirement for the sacrament, postmenopausal women ought not to be allowed to marry and the church has always permitted that.

Your position on abortion is also controversial.

I think no woman should be forced to continue a pregnancy. I think the attitude that respects women's freedom is closest to the way I believe God treats us. Now, I repeat, this is not because I think that abortion doesn't matter. It's important to me. Now I don't want a woman who thinks differently than I do to be required to continue the pregnancy. I'm not saying that having or not having an abortion is the same; I think it's necessary to help the mother make a decision in favor of life while respecting her ultimate decision.

But how can this respect be reconciled with the Church's commandment not to kill?

It's a conflict between two fundamental rights: the right to life and the right to self-determination. One human being should never be considered a means to save the life of another person or group of people. The human being is always an end in him- or herself, not a means. My question is: Why doesn't anyone oblige a father who has a compatible kidney to donate it to save his child's life? What is the Catholic moral principle that allows that not to be imposed on him? Why isn't that principle applicable in the case of the mother?

Do you have problems with the Vatican because of these positions?

In 2009, I got a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and I answered with an explanation that is published in the book Diálogos com Teresa Forcades ("Conversations with Teresa Forcades"). [They asked her to publicly manifest her adherence to Catholic doctrine and Forcades said she respects the magisterium of the church, but has the right to express contrary opinions.]

Do you still practice medicine?

No. In the monastery, I've been in charge of the infirmary but lately I've done some research and am writing about the medicalization of society. It's a way to stay in it.

What concerns you?

Not just the excessive medicalization we've seen in our societies but especially this idea that people's problems are treated with pills. Look at the treatment of hyperactivity in children. We have 10% of children medicated with drugs whose mode of action is similar to cocaine. In the U.S., we have 45% of young people who have been diagnosed at some point in life with depression. And medicated. I agree that some have problems, but 45% is impossible. It would be an epidemic.

And this is due to what?

Many things. It was previously thought that it was normal to go through the age of stupidity in adolescence. The person begins to think outside the nuclear family, falls in love for the first time, defies the parents. It's normal to have days when they're down. Now some parents say, "Cheer up, it's normal"; others say that they need to go to a psychiatrist then. Families have less and less time; the lifestyle increasingly reduces the time between parents and children.

When you were young, you thought of becoming a nun but rejected the idea because of celibacy. You only entered the monastery after you turned 30. What changed?

In adolescence, I thought that I couldn't be happy without having a companion. Today I accept that life in community also has its compensations. It's different from married life, but since I've been a nun, it doesn't mean I haven't had experiences of falling in love. Now each time I fell in love, it was a commotion. One is caught off guard, but one has to work with this, always understanding that God wants happiness and not repression.

Were you able to live cloistered?

I live cloistered, but in the Benedictine order we have the constitutional cloister, where we can leave. There is another type of cloister that I've never experienced which is the papal cloister, instituted in some women's convents in the 16th century and where everything is imposed from the outside. They can't leave. I don't think it's good.

Do you have plans to come to Portugal soon?

Yes, in November. I'm going to present my book and attend a conference on feminist theology on the 14th and 15th.

On your Facebook page there are lots of criticisms of austerity. Is there also a message in that sense?

I see austerity as something positive so what I wish is that they would change the name of the measures imposed by the European troika on countries that don't meet their economic convergence criteria -- they aren't austerity measures, they're criminal measures. They impose penalties on citizens with more modest incomes and divert the money via bank bailouts to the wealthiest.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Clelia Luro, bishop's wife and activist for a married priesthood, dead at 86

by Jesús Bastante (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religion Digital
November 5, 2013

Clelia Luro, the widow of Jeronimo Podesta, former bishop of Avellaneda [Argentina] and a key figure in the Movement of Third World Priests, who had been hospitalized in the Güemes sanatorium there, died last night, according to a posting on theologian Leonardo Boff's Twitter account.

Luro was born into a well-to-do family in the Recoleta neighborhood in Buenos Aires and studied at the Colegio del Sagrado Corazón. From her youth, she had a deep religious vocation and wanted to be a nun, but she also had "strong views of the Gospel, of Jesus' message, that I couldn't reconcile with the institutional Church," she confessed some years ago in a news report.

She lived ten years in one of the Patron Costas' sugar mills and there, with the presence of a brutal reality, reached a different level of awareness. "My consciousness was raised there," she said.

"From Santa Fe y Callao, I soon got married and went to live at the Salta mill and began to experience the reality of the indigenous people, the reality of the country. I was from an upper middle class family and had not had the opportunity to experience the tragedy of the people. I had taken courses in preventive medicine at the Red Cross, so I would grab the horse and go to the huetes, the harvest huts in Oran, to teach them how to feed the children, collaborating with the mill doctor. I was doing prevention because the kids there were dying like flies," she said.

In 1966, back in Buenos Aires again, when she was now a separated woman with six children, she met Jeronimo Podesta who was bishop of Avellaneda, with whom she then shared her life -- love, advocacy, and the presidency of the Latin American Federation of Married Priests until Podesta's death at 79 on June 23, 2000.

Remembering that time, she said, "Jeronimo was a leader in the country. He was the bishop of the workers. Any problem -- strikes, stoppages, he was with them."

Statement from Clelia Luro's family, as translated from her Facebook page

Dear mother, dear grandmother, dear great-grandmother, beloved friend,

Last night, on November 4th, after a few hours of hospitalization at the Guemes Sanitorium, Clelia decided to go and be reunited with Jeronimo, who had departed 13 years ago.

After Jeronimo's death, she was never the same. She missed him every instant of those 13 years.

She stayed busy, restless, trying to edit his letters, writing books, spreading his thoughts, continuing the struggle for optional celibacy and for married priests, preparing the foundation that would bear his name. But it was a lot of grief that made her fade away.

Clelia was a warrior. She and Jero fought for their love all the way to the Vatican.

A priest? No, he wasn't just a priest. He was the bishop of Avellaneda, Monseñor Jerónimo Podestá.

They suffered, But that made them stronger. They were assailed, exiled and persecuted. And they went on together, always together.

The Church hurt her, and she was always present trying to help us to think of those who would make a real Church of the People of God on the March. The country hurt her, and she fought to support the processes of change that took place in those years when she thought and felt that Jeronimo would have liked to experience and share this vigorous United Latin America.

They adored one another. They were very happy.

A story of love and struggle, surrounded by daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren, close friends, faithful and loyal companions.

A rich life of knowledge and learning, added to their great Faith.

A clear ideology, where being an individual was paramount.

A very strong woman who defended her life story to the end.

Thank you for having given us life and having accompanied us with so much love.

Your big family will miss you...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Surveying the faithful

UPDATE 11/13/2013:

A coalition of 15 progressive Catholic organizations has made the survey available electronically to all the faithful here.


Below are the questions that the Vatican has asked national bishops' conferences to answer by polling the faithful at the parish level prior to the proposed synod on the family next October. The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales elected to post an electronic version of the survey that the faithful in that country could complete. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent the survey out to their members, allowing each diocese to provide feedback as it sees fit. Meanwhile, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good has made an unofficial abbreviated version of the survey available electronically for Catholics to fill out.

1. The Diffusion of the Teachings on the Family in Sacred Scripture and the Church's Magisterium

a) Describe how the Catholic Church's teachings on the value of the family contained in the Bible, Gaudium et spes, Familiaris consortio and other documents of the post-conciliar Magisterium is understood by people today? What formation is given to our people on the Church's teaching on family life?

b) In those cases where the Church's teaching is known, is it accepted fully or are there difficulties in putting it into practice? If so, what are they?

c) How widespread is the Church's teaching in pastoral programmes at the national, diocesan and parish levels? What catechesis is done on the family?

d ) To what extent -- and what aspects in particular -- is this teaching actually known, accepted, rejected and/or criticized in areas outside the Church? What are the cultural factors which hinder the full reception of the Church's teaching on the family?

2. Marriage according to the Natural Law

a) What place does the idea of the natural law have in the cultural areas of society: in institutions, education, academic circles and among the people at large? What anthropological ideas underlie the discussion on the natural basis of the family?

b) Is the idea of the natural law in the union between a man and a woman commonly accepted as such by the baptized in general?

c) How is the theory and practice of natural law in the union between man and woman challenged in light of the formation of a family? How is it proposed and developed in civil and Church institutions?

d) In cases where non-practicing Catholics or declared non-believers request the celebration of marriage, describe how this pastoral challenge is dealt with?

3. The Pastoral Care of the Family in Evangelization

a) What experiences have emerged in recent decades regarding marriage preparation? What efforts are there to stimulate the task of evangelization of the couple and of the family? How can an awareness of the family as the "domestic Church" be promoted?

b) How successful have you been in proposing a manner of praying within the family which can withstand life's complexities and today's culture?

c) In the current generational crisis, how have Christian families been able to fulfil their vocation of transmitting the faith?

d) In what way have the local Churches and movements on family spirituality been able to create ways of acting which are exemplary?

e) What specific contribution can couples and families make to spreading a credible and holistic idea of the couple and the Christian family today?

f) What pastoral care has the Church provided in supporting couples in formation and couples in crisis situations?

4. Pastoral Care in Certain Difficult Marital Situations

a) Is cohabitation ad experimentum a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage?

b) Do unions which are not recognized either religiously or civilly exist? Are reliable statistics available?

c) Are separated couples and those divorced and remarried a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage? How do you deal with this situation in appropriate pastoral programmes?

d) In all the above cases, how do the baptized live in this irregular situation? Are they aware of it? Are they simply indifferent? Do they feel marginalized or suffer from the impossibility of receiving the sacraments?

e) What questions do divorced and remarried people pose to the Church concerning the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation? Among those persons who find themselves in these situations, how many ask for these sacraments?

f ) Could a simplification of canonical practice in recognizing a declaration of nullity of the marriage bond provide a positive contribution to solving the problems of the persons involved? If yes, what form would it take?

g) Does a ministry exist to attend to these cases? Describe this pastoral ministry? Do such programmes exist on the national and diocesan levels? How is God's mercy proclaimed to separated couples and those divorced and remarried and how does the Church put into practice her support for them in their journey of faith?

5. On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex

a) Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?

b) What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?

c) What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?

d) In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?

6. The Education of Children in Irregular Marriages

a) What is the estimated proportion of children and adolescents in these cases, as regards children who are born and raised in regularly constituted families?

b) How do parents in these situations approach the Church? What do they ask? Do they request the sacraments only or do they also want catechesis and the general teaching of religion?

c) How do the particular Churches attempt to meet the needs of the parents of these children to provide them with a Christian education?

d) What is the sacramental practice in these cases: preparation, administration of the sacrament and the accompaniment?

7. The Openness of the Married Couple to Life

a) What knowledge do Christians have today of the teachings of Humanae vitae on responsible parenthood? Are they aware of how morally to evaluate the different methods of family planning? Could any insights be suggested in this regard pastorally?

b) Is this moral teaching accepted? What aspects pose the most difficulties in a large majority of couple's accepting this teaching?

c) What natural methods are promoted by the particular Churches to help spouses put into practice the teachings of Humanae vitae?

d) What is your experience on this subject in the practice of the Sacrament of Penance and participation at the Eucharist?

e) What differences are seen in this regard between the Church's teaching and civic education?

f) How can a more open attitude towards having children be fostered? How can an increase in births be promoted?

8. The Relationship Between the Family and the Person

a) Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the human person. How can the family be a privileged place for this to happen?

b) What critical situations in the family today can obstruct a person's encounter with Christ?

c) To what extent do the many crisis of faith which people can experience affect family life?

9. Other Challenges and Proposals

What other challenges or proposals related to the topics in the above questions do you consider urgent and useful to treat?


The problem this survey contains for the U.S. bishops is that Catholics in this country have been repeatedly polled on the "hot button" questions. We have covered these surveys regularly on this blog. See:

Birth control

  • 66% say the individual, not church leaders, should have the final say on this issue (NCR, 2011)
  • 60% believe you can be a good Catholic and use birth control (NCR, 2011)
  • 79% of Catholics support the use of artifical contraception (NYT/CBS, 2013)
  • 59%/64%/71% of Catholics think the Pope should be in favor of or take a more liberal approach to artificial contraception (Angus Reid, Quinnipiac, and NYT/CBS, 2013)
  • 41% of Catholics think that use of contraceptives is morally acceptable and 36% don't think it's a moral issue at all (Pew, 2013)

Same sex Marriage

  • Only 35% of Catholics view opposition to same sex marriage as important to their Catholic identity (NCR, 2011)
  • 57% say the individual, not church leaders, should have the final say on this issue (NCR, 2011)
  • 62% of Catholics think same sex marriage should be legal (NYT/CBS, 2013)
  • 54% of Catholics support same sex marriage (Quinnipiac, 2013)
  • 40% of Catholics think the Pope should take a more liberal position on same sex relations (Angus Reid, 2013)
  • 74% of Catholics think you can be a good Catholic while disagreeing with the Church's position of homosexuality (Public Religion Research Institute, 2011)
  • 54% of Catholics think homosexual relations are morally acceptable (Gallup, 2009)
  • 54% of Catholics think same sex marriage should be legal (Pew, 2013)
  • 53% of Catholics say homosexual behavior is not a sin (Pew, 2013)


  • 47% say the individual, not church leaders, should have the final say on this issue (NCR, 2011)
  • 47% of Catholics think the Pope should take a more liberal approach to divorce (Angus Reid, 2013)
  • 68% of Catholics say divorce is morally acceptable to them (Public Religion Research Institute, 2011)
  • 71% of Catholics think divorce is morally acceptable (Gallup, 2009)
  • 32% of Catholics think that use of contraceptives is morally acceptable and 45% don't think it's a moral issue at all (Pew, 2013)

Sex outside of marriage

  • 53% say the individual, not church leaders, should have the final say on this issue (NCR, 2011)
  • 48% say you don't need to be married in the Church to be a good Catholic (NCR, 2011)
  • 67% of Catholics think that sex between unmarried men and women is morally acceptable (Gallup, 2009)
  • 61% of Catholics think having a baby outside of marriage is morally acceptable (Gallup, 2009)


We already have a pretty good picture of what U.S. Catholics are thinking on these issues from sources outside of the Church with no vested interest in the outcome of their surveys. We can use this information to evaluate the quality and the reliability of the data yielded by whatever methodology the U.S. bishops decide to use to answer the Vatican's questions. Let's hope the end results don't differ so widely from what is already known that we can no longer trust our religious leaders to report accurately on the views of the faithful.