August 26, 2015, Wednesday — Eleven Cardinals and a Pope

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Papal and Cardinalatial Reflections on the Family

“Are we able to think of God as the caress that holds us in life, before which there was nothing? A caress from which nothing, not even death, can detach us?” —Pope Francis today in Rome at his Wednesday General Audience. The talk is one more in a series of reflections on the family in the lead-up to the October Bishops’ Synod on the Family (October 4-25)

“Cohabitation prior to sacramental marriage is very rare and exceptional among young members of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. This irregular type of union is not at all approved of by Indian society.” —Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, 56, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in Trivandrum, in the southern province of Kerala, India, in his essay for the book Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family, due out from Ignatius Press on September 4. He is also head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India

“The more our world of today is sunk down in immorality, the more there is need for the Church to be a light to the world for all to see.” —Cardinal John Onaiyekan, 71, Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, in his essay for the same book, Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family, due out from Ignatius Press on September 4

“Why did God make families? So we would not have to fight with strangers.” —Old saying

Misinformation, disinformation and partial information rage as we approach this fall’s Synod on the Family.

The very “sensus fidelium” (the “sense of the faithful”), which Catholic tradition holds always remains firm and reliable even when tested in the currents of intense theological debate, seems itself troubled and vacillating, as the results of certain recent surveys and polls show (more than 70% of German Catholics recently polled said they would like to see homosexual partnerships recognized and blessed by the Church; see below, end of this email.) This is startling. Clearly, the traditional faith of many Christians has been influenced, and altered, by the broader culture.

The Effort of Pope Francis

Pope Francis has been at pains to “square the circle” — to support an opening to more effective and loving pastoral care and concern for families in troubled and irregular situations, while maintaining the perennial teaching of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage as a permanent union between one man and one woman.

In recent weeks, Francis has been giving a series of talks on the family which are evidently designed to provide a certain framework for the October Synod’s discussions.

His latest catechesis, from today in Rome, is a moving treatment of prayer.

The Pope strongly encourages families to pray together.

And, strikingly, he gives an eloquent insight into his own understanding of how one develops a “personal relationship” with God in and through prayer.

“We think of the formulation of the great Commandment, which supports all the others: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might’ (Deuteronomy 6:5; cf. Matthew 22:37),” the Pope begins. “The formula uses the intensive language of love, pouring it over God,” he continues. “See, the spirit of prayer abides first of all here.”

The Pope is saying prayer is not perfunctory, or directed above all to one’s own needs and concerns, but rather something living, spontaneous, alive, and directed toward a God one knows personally and loves.

“Are we able to think of God as the caress that holds us in life, before which there was nothing?” the Pope asks. “A caress from which nothing, not even death, can detach us? Or do we only think of Him as the great Being, the Almighty who has made everything, the Judge who controls every action?”

Francis sums up: “Only when God is the affection of all our affections does the meaning of these words become full. Then we feel happy, and also somewhat confused, because He thinks of us and, above all, He loves us!”

Enter the 11 Cardinals…

While the Pope is giving these weekly instructions on marriage and the family, other Church leaders have been giving interviews, and writing articles, in an evident desire to set forth guidelines and parameters for the synodal discussions.

This effort has now produced a book which will come out from Ignatius Press on September 4 entitled Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family. This book, reviewed below, is essentially a defense of traditional Catholic teaching on marriage, and the 11 cardinals, from many different countries and continents, eloquently defend the idea that marriage and family are something precious, beautiful, though subject to wounding and suffering.

Two Points: Beauty and Fragility…

Two points perhaps need to be emphasized.

First, that in the indissolubility of marriage, taught by Christ and defended over the centuries by the Church, there is something that surpasses all material considerations and rises to the level of the mystical. This is the reason the defense of marriage is not only a pragmatic matter — the need to provide a safe, stable, loving environment for children, a “womb in the world,” as it were, following the nine months in the mother’s womb — but also a philosophical, theological, metaphysical and mystical matter, that is, a matter that touches on the very highest things humans can know and contemplate and be molded and formed by.

A stable marital union provides not only physical security to the two spouses and their children — and their children’s children, and their children as well. It also provides a metaphysical landscape, a country of the soul, within which not only bodies, but also souls, can live, grow, and flourish.

This is why, in small Italian villages, where daily life could be tough, in the old days, when one asked a villager what was the most important thing in human life, they often would say, without even pausing to reflect, “La famiglia” — the family.

Because the family transcends the individual.

The family comes before and comes after the individual.

And this is why a society which exalts the individual, which turns the individual into a type of demigod, seems intent on diminishing the family, on loosening or even dissolving the ties of brotherhood and sisterhood, of fatherhood and motherhood, of all those family loyalties that were once thought to be of the highest importance for a person’s life.

That is why this issue is not in the end an economic one, or even a matter of civic or state interest, but rather a matter of those ultimate moral principles which provide a framework for the moral development of the human person, for an understanding of reciprocity, of sharing, of sacrificing, of loving and forgiving, of what God’s “unconditional love” may be like — a love that is “forever” (even when, as may happen, personal emotions and feelings no longer support and ensure that unconditionality).

Then, the Shadow…

And then we come to the shadow.

This is the second point that needs to be emphasized.

A shadow, sooner or later, falls into each of our lives, into each of our relationships, and even into spousal and family relationships.

A shadow of selfishness, misunderstanding, anger, self-justification, sin.

This shadow causes division, casts the beautiful reciprocity of relationships into a certain darkness, leading often to the destruction of those relationships, humanly speaking.

Brothers may turn against brothers, fathers against sons, daughters against mothers, and spouses against spouses.

This is when the unity of the family — that high ideal which is in fact often a profound and much-appreciated reality — is torn and, tragically, in too many cases, broken.

We have in the story of the Prodigal Son a story of broken family unity. And we all know of other such stories…

In Christ’s telling of the story of the Prodigal Son, family unity is restored in the end — without erasing the fact that it had been truly lost, for a time.

This is what Francis, as the spiritual father of the Church, as a man with great compassion for those who are wounded and suffering, seems to wish to accomplish.

He would like the Church to help the healing of all who have gone to their own personal Babylons, of all who have been reduced to the loneliness and misery of eating the scraps left by the swine they are tending (metaphorically speaking), and who have expressed a desire to return, to turn from Babylon and come home.

The effort Pope Francis is making is, first of all, to offer support and praise to those who enjoy the unity and beauty of marriage and family: that unity and beauty which is summarized in the words “home” and “hearth” — another way of saying “sanctuary” in the world, a place where the members of the family know with utter certainty that they are welcome, and loved, and “at home,” and so, in pace, in peace.

Then, second, after supporting and praising all families who preserve their sometimes fragile unity, Francis is also seeking to reach out to all who have lost that unity, or never had it, in the same way that the father in the story of the Prodigal Son reached out to his younger son, going out to greet him while he was still far off on his journey home…

The following book review on the upcoming book by the 11 cardinals is by Dr. Maike Hickson, and it was posted on the Rorate Caeli website yesterday (link at the end of the review).

unnamedDr. Maike Hickson (photo), born in Germany, studied History and French Literature at the University of Hannover and lived for several years in Switzerland where she wrote her doctoral dissertation. She is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Her articles have appeared in American and European journals such as Catholicism.org, The Wanderer, Culture Wars, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Apropos, and Zeit-Fragen.

Book Review — Pre-Synod Book Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family

Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family: Essays from a Pastoral Standpoint, dedicated to the issues of Marriage and the Family to be discussed in the October Synod (Winfried Aymans, Editor) published by Ignatius Press, will be available in September.

Eleven Cardinals Defend Traditional Catholic Moral Teaching on Marriage and the Family

Book review by Dr. Maike Hickson

On September 4, Ignatius Press will release a new book defending the traditional moral teaching of the Catholic Church (https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-synod-11-cardinals-enter-field-to.html), entitled: Eleven Cardinals Speak On Marriage and the Family. Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. decided to redouble his effort in support of those princes of the Church who fight to uphold the authoritative teaching of the Church based upon the words of Christ Himself. Last year, Ignatius published the Five Cardinals Book, this year the Eleven Cardinals Book.

While the 2014 book dealt with the so-called “Kasper-proposal” – which wants to allow “remarried” divorcees who live objectively in the state of adultery to receive Holy Communion – the Eleven Cardinals in the new book speak about the adequate pastoral care with regard to marriage and the family. Ignatius looked for this in this book for Cardinals who are both deeply rooted in the Church’s long tradition and aware of the challenges of contemporary culture.

The Eleven Cardinals who contributed to Father Fessio’s book are the following: Cardinals Carlo Caffarra (Italy), Baselios Cleemis (India), Paul Josef Cordes (Germany), Dominik Duka (Czech Republic), Willem Jacobus Eijk (Netherlands), Joachim Meisner (Germany), John Onaiyekan (Nigeria), Antonio Maria Varela (Spain), Camillo Ruini (Italy), Robert Sarah (Guinea), and Jorge L. Urosa Savino (Venezuela). This list shows that many parts of the world, with their specific conditions and problems concerning marriage and the family, are aptly represented in this book.

The authors all write in a form of an essay about what they think would be the right pastoral approach to the current crisis of marriage and the family. Constructive ideas are presented as to how the Church can help Catholics to lead a life according to God’s Will and known Commandments without giving them the impression that the Church approves of immoral behavior. Most striking and most touching are two accounts by Cardinals from India and Africa – Cardinals Baselios Cleemis and John Onaiyekan – because they show to us aspects and practices of their own churches that are now much lost (or at least forgotten) in most of the West.
As Cardinal Cleemis (photo) shows, in the Catholic Church in India marriage and the family are still regarded as being very important for the Church. Practically, this means that Bishops and priests take much interest in wedding celebrations, and it is not seldom that ten or more priests will be present at a wedding liturgy, together with the local bishop. Cleemis describes how a European guest observed this presence of the clergy at the wedding he attended and asked a priest why this is the case.

Cleemis says:

“One of our priests gave him this answer: ‘In our Church, marriage is a great, joyful event for all concerned, including the Church, and a very decisive event for the couple and their families. We share our joy with them.'” (p. 15)

Like a voice from another planet, this Cardinal reports: “At present, the SMCC [Syro-Malankara Catholic Church] does not experience the problem of heavy secularization among its youth. Pastors also meet them and speak with them regularly.”

Since the Indian society as a whole still refrains from approving cohabitation, the Catholic Church, according to Cleemis, is less confronted with this problem than in the West: “Cohabitation prior to sacramental marriage is very rare and exceptional among young members of the SMCC. This irregular type of union is not at all approved of by Indian society.”

The involvement of the priests in the life of the faithful is indeed striking and touching. Cleemis recounts: “Our priests follow a similar approach [as with the sacramental weddings] in moments of sorrow and difficulties experienced by families. Participation of bishops and many priests in a burial service is not a matter of wonder!”

And he continues: The presence of the parish priest at almost every event of small or great significance in the families who are members of his parish, his easy availability to his parishioners at any time, the personal contact with their bishops and with a large number of the faithful of their dioceses […] serve to attest to the place of family in the Church and to strengthen the family life of the faithful. (p. 16)

A Church which takes interest in and cares for the faithful and their spiritual well-being obviously bears much better fruit than a Church which is neglectful or somewhat detached from her faithful – and even from the explicit teaching of Christ – as can often enough be seen in the West.


The description of African society by the African Cardinal (Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Nigeria, photo) — with its still existing problem regarding polygamy — also touches upon a point which should cause the Western churches to make a deep examination of conscience. In Nigeria, children are of great significance.

Cardinal Onaiyekan says:

“Also noteworthy in our concept of marriage is the importance of offspring. Marriage is meant especially for the continuation of the human species. The love of offspring in marriage is so strong that children are almost considered a necessary condition for the validity of marriage.” (p. 67)

While Onaiyekan honestly speaks about the problems inherent in his culture – namely, that a husband might look for a second wife if his first wife is unable to bear children – he still reminds us in the West of the importance of having and forming children, unto eternal life, not just for temporal abundance. There was a time in the West, too, where large families were regarded as an honor to the father of the family.

In his conclusion, the Nigerian Cardinal also speaks words of truth which the West should better listen to, as well:

“The synod [on the family] has not been called to decide whether or not divorced and remarried couples can receive Holy Communion. This is certainly not the purpose of the synod. Nor has the synod been called to discuss the issue of homosexuality and whether or not two Catholic men or two Catholic women can present themselves at the altar for marriage. […] These are issues that are already clear in our doctrines. Synods are not called to change the doctrines or teachings of the Church.” (p. 71)

And Cardinal Onaiyekan beautifully ends his essay with these words: “The more our world of today is sunk down in immorality, the more there is need for the Church to be a light to the world for all to see.”

Referring to the Holy Family, the “model of Christian marriage,” he says: “We place all our efforts under its patronage.”

In light of these two voices from Africa and India, the problems of the West become more clear: the pastoral care, as well as the doctrinal teaching concerning marriage and the family have been neglected.


Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk (photo) says it in his essay forthrightly when he speaks of a “faulty knowledge of the faith or a lack of faith per se” among the married couples today and says that “catechesis has been seriously neglected for half a century.”

And he concludes:

“True pastoral ministry means that the pastor leads the persons entrusted to his care to the truth definitely found in Jesus Christ who is ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6). We must seek the solution to the lack of knowledge and understanding of the faith by transmitting and explaining its foundations more adequately and clearly than we have done in the last half century.” (p. 51)

Eijk reminds us that Christ entrusted the Church “to proclaim the truth.”

Practically, he proposes to make the thorough preparation for future spouses an emphatic and persevering duty of the Church, and to ask the future spouses explicitly, at the onset, whether they accept the indissolubility of marriage. If they deny this doctrine, he says, they should be denied the sacrament of matrimony.

unnamed-4Concerning the effects of Communism on the whole world, the Czech Cardinal Duka (photo) also has much to teach us. He examines the situation on the background of his own country’s protracted experience with Communism. In his eyes, the destruction of the family has been on its way since the end of the first half of the nineteenth century, and it started with the 1848 “Communist Manifesto.”

He asks us:

“Do we understand the significance of this ideological pressure that has lasted for more than a century and a half?”

The family has been demeaned and besmirched for a long time: “The family has been pilloried as an exploitative institution, as a place that oppresses spontaneity and destroys hedonistic desire, individual liberty, and so on.” (p. 39)

In studying the sacred traditions and the biblical foundations of our faith, says Duka, we can find greater strength and consolation in these times of gathering oppression and persecution: “Here we find the basis for the Church’s warning, because she is convinced that father and mother are irreplaceable.” (p. 41)


Much importance, finally, has to be given to the essay by Cardinal Carlo Caffarra (photo, with Pope Francis) who reminds the reader of the existence of sin, the consequences of the fall of man, and the redeeming love of Christ and the mercy of His Father. All these factors must lead us to see that we are in need of God’s forgiveness which He is willing to grant to us under two conditions, namely, in Caffarra’s own words:

“Recognition of one’s own condition of moral misery, one’s own sin: ‘What I did is not right.’ This is the repentance that is expressed in confession. The consequence of this – the second act – is the decision not to do in the future what we acknowledge to be wrong: the resolution.” (p. 6)

It is refreshing and encouraging to read such clear teaching here. St. Thomas Aquinas is often quoted, and Cardinal Caffarra makes very clear that there can be no admittance to the Sacraments if a person is living in the state of sin – such as adultery.

There can be, accordingly, no true mercy without a sincere conversion and an enduring amendment of life: “Mercy without (any requirement for) conversion is not divine mercy.”

And conversion from what? “From the condition that objectively contradicts the good of indissolubility granted by Jesus. A contradiction that on the practical level is adultery.”

May this Catholic witness of Eleven Princes of the Catholic Church be heard and resolutely acted upon at the Synod in October.

Link to the Hickson article in English on the Rorate Caeli website: https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com

Link to an Andrea Gagliarducci article on this same book in Italian: https://www.acistampa.com/story/le-sfide-pastorali-del-sinodo-delineate-da-11-cardinali-1277

Here is the text of Pope Francis’ teaching today in Rome:


“On Praying as a Family”

(Courtesy of the Zenit International News Service)

Here is the text of the address Pope Francis gave at the general audience this morning, held in St. Peter’s Square, as he continued with his catechesis series on the family. Today was the Holy Father’s 100th general audience.

* * *

By Pope Francis

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

After reflecting on how the family lives times of celebration and work, we now consider the time of prayer. The most frequent lament of Christians has to do, in fact, with time: “I should pray more … I would like to, but I often lack the time.” We hear this continually. The regret is certainly sincere, because the human heart always seeks prayer, even without knowing it, and if it does not find it, it has no peace. However, to find it, it is necessary to cultivate in the heart a “warm” love for God, an affectionate love.

We can ask ourselves a very simple question. It is good to believe in God with all one’s heart; it is good to hope that He will help us in difficulties; it is good to feel the duty to thank Him. All this is right. But do we also love our Lord a bit? Does the thought of God move us, astound us, make us tender?

We think of the formulation of the great Commandment, which supports all the others: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5; cf. Matthew 22:37).

The formula uses the intensive language of love, pouring it over God. See, the spirit of prayer abides first of all here. And if it abides here, it abides all the time and never leaves. Are we able to think of God as the caress that holds us in life, before which there was nothing? A caress from which nothing, not even death, can detach us? Or do we only think of Him as the great Being, the Almighty who has made everything, the Judge who controls every action?

All this is true, of course, but only when God is the affection of all our affections does the meaning of these words become full. Then we feel happy, and also somewhat confused, because He thinks of us and, above all, He loves us!

Is this not impressive? Is it not impressive that God caresses us with the love of Father? It is so beautiful! He could have simply made Himself known as the Supreme Being, given his Commandments and waited for the results. Instead God has done and does infinitely more than this. He accompanies us on the way of life, He protects us, He loves us.

If affection for God does not enkindle a fire, the spirit of prayer does not warm time. We can also multiply our words, “as the pagans do,” says Jesus, or also exhibit our rites, “as the Pharisees do” (cf. Matthew 6:5.7). A heart inhabited by affection for God also makes a thought without words become a prayer, or an invocation before a sacred image, or a kiss sent toward a church. It is lovely when mothers teach their little children to send a kiss to Jesus or to Our Lady. How much tenderness there is in this! At that moment the heart of the children is transformed into a place of prayer. And it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Let us never forget to ask for this gift for each one of us! Because the Spirit of God has that special way of saying in our heart “Abba” – “Father,” in fact it teaches us to say “Father” as Jesus said it, a way that we can never find on our own (cf. Galatians 4:6). It is in the family that one learns to ask for and appreciate this gift of the Spirit. If one learns to say it with the same spontaneity with which one learns to say “father” and “mother,” one has learnt it forever. When this happens, the time of the whole of family life is enveloped in the womb of the love of God, and seeks spontaneously the time of prayer.

We know well that family time is a complicated and crowded time, occupied and preoccupied. It is always little, it is never enough, there are so many things to do. One who has a family soon learns to resolve an equation that not even the great mathematicians know how to resolve: within the 24 hours there is twice that number! There are mothers and fathers who could win the Nobel Prize for this. Of 24 hours they make 48: I do not know how they do it but they move and do it! There is so much work in a family!

The spirit of prayer gives back time to God, it steps away from the obsession of a life that is always lacking time, it rediscovers the peace of necessary things, and discovers the joy of unexpected gifts. Good guides in this are the two sisters Martha and Mary, spoken of in the Gospel we just heard: they learned from God the harmony of family rhythms: the beauty of celebration, the serenity of work, the spirit of prayer (cf. Luke 10:38-42). The visit of Jesus, whom they really loved, was their celebration. However, one day Martha learned that the work of hospitality, though important, is not everything, but that to listen to the Lord, as Mary did, was really the essential thing, the “better part” of time.

Prayer flows from listening to Jesus, from the reading of the Gospel. Do not forget, every day to read a passage of the Gospel. Prayer flows from intimacy with the Word of God.

Is there this intimacy in our family? Do we have the Gospel at home? Do we open it some times to read it together? Do we meditate on it while reciting the Rosary? The Gospel read and meditated in the family is like good bread that nourishes everyone’s heart. And in the morning and in the evening, and when we sit at table, we learn to say together a prayer with great simplicity: it is Jesus who comes among us, as he was with the family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.

There is something that I have very much at heart and that I have seen in the city: there are children who have not learned to make the Sign of the Cross! But you, mother, father, teach your child to pray, to make the Sign of the Cross: this is a lovely task of mothers and fathers!

In the prayer of the family, in its intense and in its difficult seasons, we remember one another, so that each one of us in the family is protected by the love of God.


Tomorrow we celebrate the Memorial of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine. We entrust, to the intercession of these Saints, newlyweds and Christian parents so that, like Monica, they will accompany the way of their children with their example and prayer. We recommend comfort and constant attentions for the neediest sick as well as youth so that, like Augustine, they tend always to the fullness of Truth and of Love, which is Christ: He alone can satiate the profound needs of the human heart.

Text found at:


Here is a report on a survey conducted by German Catholic students:

Students’ synod questionnaire meets with surprisingly wide response

By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

Deeply disappointed by the complicated language and low level of distribution of the official Vatican questionnaire issued before the Synod of Bishops on the family, three German Catholic theology students decided to prepare their own.

More than 12,000 Catholics of all ages from 42 countries and different backgrounds, most of whom regularly attend Mass, responded to the questionnaire on marriage and the family circulated by Anna Roth and Tobias Roth from Münster University and Sarah Delere from the Free University of Berlin between September 2014 and March 2015.

The students “translated” the Pope’s questionnaire into a more familiar language. From September 2014 to January 2015, in the first phase of their research project, they took the questionnaire on a research trip to coastal cities in Europe, North Africa, Latin and North America.

They distributed copies in parishes in England, Poland, Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain Italy, Morocco, Brazil and the U.S. By hand delivering the questionnaire, the students were able to supplement answers with valuable informal interview material. From January to March, they published their questionnaire online in seven languages.

The large majority of the 12,400 responses, namely 7,873, came from Germany, but it is interesting to note that responses to the questions concerning Mass attendance, church weddings, practicing the faith in the family, and the importance of praying with children also received similarly high percentages in the other 41 countries.

The responses show that, with the exception of the under 30-year-olds, a large percentage of the German participants attend Mass more than once a month.

“The majority of the German participants can be described as active churchgoers, a conclusion that was drawn from the number of times they attended Mass,” the study said. “Roughly half of the participants attended Mass once a week or more often, 80% more than once a month. The same applied to participants from other countries. … It is striking that even 60% of those who said they did not agree with Church teaching on the family, attended Mass more than once a month.”

More than 90 percent of the respondents in all the 42 countries said that a church wedding was very important and more than 95 percent wanted a Christian education for their children. Sixty percent replied that they prayed with their children at least once a week and thought morning and evening prayers, grace before meals and singing hymns in the family were important.

Opinions on more controversial issues, such as Church teaching on remarried divorcees, homosexual partnerships, mandatory priestly celibacy and women deacons, differed more widely across the countries.

Ninety percent of Germans would like to see second marriages recognized and blessed. The picture differs slightly in other countries, but 75 percent of all those who filled in the questionnaire thought that permanently excluding remarried divorcees from the Eucharist was disproportional. One deacon from Salvador, Brazil, said it was completely incomprehensible that murderers could receive communion again after going to confession, but remarried divorcees remained excluded for life. Many German Catholics consider the present practice unmerciful and want remarried divorcees to be allowed to receive the Eucharist — although “possibly only after examining each case individually.”

The picture differs considerably in other countries, however, the report said.
“Even if on the whole Catholics in these other countries tend to want remarried divorcees to be allowed to receive the Eucharist, the bar in these other countries is raised far higher with some saying only the ‘clearly innocent parties of a divorce’ should be allowed to receive communion again.” The big exception is Poland, where 50% said they were in favor of adhering to present church law and excluding all remarried divorcees from the Eucharist.

While 70 percent of German Catholics would like to see homosexual partnerships recognized and blessed, “no clear picture emerges as far as allowing homosexual partners to marry in church is concerned,” the report said. “A frequent mexplanation given in many interviews is that according to Catholic church teaching the significance of sacramental Church marriage is that it is open to having children by the man and woman concerned. Participants see this as so important that homosexual partners are per se excluded from marriage.”

The majority of Catholics in Poland, southern Europe and Brazil, however, clearly reject recognizing and blessing homosexual partnerships and homosexual Church marriages.

Opinions on whether or not priestly celibacy should be made voluntary differed widely. While 75-85% of Catholics in the German-speaking countries — that is in Germany, Austria and Switzerland — are in favor along with the majority of Catholics in France, North America and Brazil, this is not so in southern Europe and Poland.

Eighty-seven percent of German Catholics are in favor of introducing the diaconate for women. Assessing the situation in other countries proved impossible at the outset during the field-work stage, however. “Due to the difficulty of translating the term ‘diaconate,’ it proved impossible to draw a valid intercultural comparison” the report said.

Many of the participants criticized the church for seeing things exclusively in black and white.

“These are people’s lives. One can’t just produce a template and say they fit or they don’t,” one priest from Casablanca, Morocco, said. “The majority of participants demand that an ideal be seen as an ideal and that categories of failure and the principle of gradualness be included in church teaching.”

The survey also showed that there was a great desire for open, honest dialogue.

“The participants who do not want church teaching changed frequently judge Pope Francis negatively,” the report stated. “The clear majority of the participants are in favor of change, have a high opinion of the Pope and voice numerous wishes and constructive suggestions for changing church practice and teaching.”

The results were evaluated at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and the Free University of Berlin and presented in Berlin Aug. 19. A detailed account of the entire research project has been published in the September issue of the German Jesuit theological monthly Stimmen der Zeit.

The astonishingly wide response from the questionnaire attracted widespread attention in the German-speaking countries. The questionnaire was reported on German television news programs the night of its release.

The high response seems to show that the relatively low response to the Vatican questionnaire cannot necessarily be attributed to a lack of interest on the part of the diocesan faithful, the authors said. On the contrary, the response shows the potential of a methodically well-founded Catholic opinion poll when it is used as an instrument of nuanced listening. It is a good example of how it would be possible to systematically record the real life of the Catholic faithful and bring it in to discussions on church law, the students said.

German Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, who will be accompanying Cardinal Reinhard Marx and Archbishop Heiner Koch to the synod in October, will present the results of the students’ questionnaire to the synod participants.

Link to this article in the National Catholic Reporter: link.

Note: For those who would like to travel with us on pilgrimage:

On December 8, 2015, and again on November 20, 2016, we will be in Rome when Pope Francis opens the Holy Door to begin the Special Jubilee Year of Mercy, and when he closes the door to end the Jubilee Year. If you would like to join us on one or more of these pilgrimages, email now for more information…

We also often travel to Norcia, in central Italy, where there is a flourishing Benedictine monastery we visit.

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What is the glory of God?

“The glory of God is man alive; but the life of man is the vision of God.” —St. Irenaeus of Lyons, in the territory of France, in his great work Against All Heresies, written c. 180 A.D.

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