Friday, November 8, 2013

Francis really is giving us a lead, for those with eyes to see it

If we are to connect with the world around us rather than the world as it used to be or the world as we would like it to be, then we must look, learn and listen to this world. With minds and hearts informed by the Word of God. Of course!

So when not in Rome one might do well to do what the Romans do. In this case, in respect of the minefield of modern marriage and marriage-like relationships, Francis is giving a lead to all who wish to be doctrinally faithful and pastorally fruitful. As you can read here. And the 39 Articulated Questions can be found by heading to Liturgy here.

Will all Anglicans consider following this lead in working out how to move through the 21st century with acute pastoral commitment to work with the complexities of relationships?

A great hornet's nest is being opened up with these questions:

"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?"

I wager that very, very few Catholic families in a country such as our own follow their church's teachings on contraception. Time for that teaching to catch up on reality. Wait, that is a principle many Protestant commenters here do not agree with!!!!!

POSTSCRIPT: Archbishop Roger Heerft of Perth offers a model of episcopal care and carefulness in this opinion piece in a local newspaper and in this letter explaining why he will not give his assent to a motion agreed to by the other houses of his synod. Of particular interest to me is his concern for care in theological priorities.


liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

Do you, or anyone else here have a full copy of the 39 questions?


where have I met that number before?...



Peter Carrell said...

No, I don't ... readers, with time on your hands, your task for the day is ...

(Yes, Bosco, Francis is a secret member of the Prayer Book Society).

Father Ron Smith said...

"Francis has said priests should baptise children even when the parents are not married and, when asked recently about his views on gays, he replied: “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?”"
- Vatican Report -

This sounds a lot more like Jesus than some protestant clergy and Church leaders.

Bryden Black said...

39 Steps surely Bosco?!

liturgy said...

Found them, & will post a.s.a.p.



Father Ron Smith said...

"It seeks to be an inclusive Church (Perth Anglican). Married, divorced, single, gay, lesbian, and queer people are welcome in parishes in this diocese. In fact, there are gay and lesbian clergy serving in the priesthood. They are licensed and honoured as disciples of Jesus, serving with integrity and holiness. Lay people who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender are equally welcome to worship with us."

- Archbishop Roger Herft -

Abp. Herft's admission that, in his diocese of Perth, there are Gays and Lesbians already working as clergy, and that 'Lay People' who are Gay, Lesbian or trans-Gender are "Welcome to worship with us" - is at least one step towards the acceptance of such people in both the life and ministry of the diocese.

However, in his refusal to accept a motion which expresses the mind of both clergy and laity in his diocese on the prospects of Same-Sex Marriage; the Bishop may be, perhaps (a favourite word of mine), waiting for other Churches to catch up on the idea, before he is willing to commit himself to such a proposition.

That could be considered the most generous view of what may be going on in Perth.

In my view, what really needs to be sorted out is the problem of the affirmation of LGBT people, while denying to them their legal need to be recognised in society in a blessed, and monogamously faithful relationships - such as is available to heterosexual couples even those unable, or unwilling, to procreate!

No longer does the Church insist that heterosexual marriage has to be consummated - with the prospect of producing children - in order to be validly recognised by the Church. Therefore, the requirement that marriage must be open to procreation no longer holds sway.

So, why the objection to the marriage of two same-sex persons who are ready to commit themselves to one another for their life-time? Surely this would be truly preferable to promiscuity? And may even be a good example of marital fidelity to heterosexual couples?

Bryden Black said...

If one examines carefully the brief Peter you will see that both your marriage and mine may be made to fit the bill too! See

But a story to drive home the point. When Frank Little was RCC’s Abp of Melbourne a few years back, he asked his private secretary to gather a group of people who were in “mixed marriages” aka “interchurch families”. None RC spouses were from Pentecostal, Orthodox, Baptist, Anglican, UCA, Presbyterian and “interdenominational” communities. After a great Saturday together, he asked by way of conclusion if there was one single thing he might speak to Abp Frank about that would enrich/assist our families’ lives. Within barely a couple of seconds, all spoke of intercommunion as the most pressing single concern.

My wife and I will be submitting this story and its conclusion via official channels. We’ve already done this before, but have met with closed doors when reaching into the higher echelons of the Liturgical Secretariat ... Lk 18:1ff springs to mind!

Anonymous said...


where have I met that number before?..."

Surely you haven't forgotten it's the number of lashes you can give your slave.
No, I mean the number of prohibited activities on the Sabbath.
Silly me, it's the number of book in the canon of the Old Testament, as affirmed by Jerome and the Reformers.
Yes, this Francis is certainly sending a message ...

Martino Fibonacci

John Sandeman said...

Is there a difference? Pope Francis wants to improve pastoral practise. The Lib/Rad position wants to do that, but also redefine/revision doctrine.
Or am I misreading Pope Francis' message?

Bryden Black said...

At first blush, John, one might imagine the agendas to be pretty similar. Yet when one actually engages with the Preparatory Document itself, rather than the media’s 13 sec sound byte blurbs, then the radical [double entendre!] differences emerge clearly.

Chris Spark said...

I'm not sure what 'catch up on reality' means here Peter. I am not fully conversant with the issues on contraception etc, but the practise of many people (even many Christian people) is not a simple mark by which to decide whether a teaching is right or wrong. If that were the case, Paul would have had many less issues with Corinth and Galatia in their practises and thinking. Their different problems in those churches seemed to be very widely spread (I know at times he refers to the 'practises of all the churches', and that is a factor in the whole thing, but my point is it is not a sufficient one). Bonhoeffer and Barth in 1930s Germany would have likewise have needed to change their minds. (Not to mention Jesus in his understanding of himself and God's kingdom around Passover in 33AD)

My point is that I think the RC teaching on contraception, as I understand it, misunderstands the purpose of sexuality. But the fact that RC people aren't keeping that teaching doesn't in itself necessarily indicate that the teaching needs to be changed - maybe it means the issue needs to be addressed more openly and with better pastoral theological understanding and care. As I say, in this case the theological understanding, in my opinion, actually means the teaching is wrong. However, in many csaes where majority views and practises differ from some teaching or other, it doesn't necessrily mean the teaching is wrong. It may be that the teaching needs to be better understood, or pastoral issues with it need to be properly explored and applied, etc. It may even be (and this is by no means incompatible with the other possibilities previously mentioned) that people's itchy ears actually need gentle, unwavering, pastoral, gospel challenging (2 Tim 4:2-5).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Chris
Christianity has always bent to a degree on prevailing social conditions. E.g. Christians may be against abortion but recognising that abortions are nevertheless sought, many of us accept that it is better that abortions take place safely in government standard clinics than in back street kitchens. There is a very good theological case for not using artificial contraception (as once recognised by one Lambeth Conference only for the next one to reverse its position) but pragmatically it appears that many Catholics do not find the theological case fits the practicalities of modern life (which is not that sympathetic to families with lots of children).

Incidentally, I don't think it is itchy ears that lead people to disagree with their church's teaching on contraception!

Chris Spark said...

Thanks Peter, I guess that makes a little more sense to me, just that being to a certain amount flexible about the way a teaching is applied, if it is sound biblically, is not the same as dismissing a teaching because it is not in line with current practise. And we do need to be careful with that line of thinking re the praqgmatic realities of modern life I would think - following Jesus is not and has never been pragmatically convenient in various ways - it always both sets us free and constrains us (in ways that are ultimately good for us but have a lot of appearance of inconvenience or even suffering). That is the nature of carrying a cross I would think? It just makes me a little nervous about setting up the expectation that it will always be fit the pragmatics of modern life.

Flexibility to deal with the non-ideal circumstances in a broken world is not the same as our perception of reality (always modern) defining what reality is, so that teachings have to 'catch up; to this perception. That is where my question lay, in that I think reality is ultimately defined theologically.

Chris Spark said...

and re itchy ears - the ears are always involved when it comes to dealing with Christian applied teaching, even if there are other, erm, factors too!

Peter Carrell said...

The life of a Christian disciple, Chris, indeed involves carrying the cross.

But even Paul, who understood that very well, bent the reality of being a Roman citizen to save him at times, until the right time to become a full martyr!