For Immediate Release
Contact: Rene Reid
Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI) is both hopeful and disappointed in what Pope Francis has said in his Apostolic Exhortation, but in the end finds encouragement for current efforts to promote more participation by the grass roots in the governance of the Church.
There are many signs of hope in the document, which (1) urges church leaders to move away from being rigid enforcers of doctrine to become nurturing pastors (##305-312); elevates transformative love and tenderness over “dry and lifeless doctrine” (#59) and recognizes that “a general law or rule … is not enough to discern and ensure full fidelity to God … as to matters of detail” (#304) (2) reaffirms that “every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration” (#250); (3) recognizes that “a negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about … the culpability of the person involved (#302) and that “individual conscience needs to be better incorporated into the Church’s praxis in certain situations which do not objectively embody our understanding of marriage” (#303); exhorts the clergy to accompany people and dialogue with them, most especially with those who do not live the reality of an ideal marriage (#293); (4) acknowledges that we could draw from the experience of the broad oriental tradition of a married clergy (#202); and (5) reinforces the sanctity of personal conscience (#222) and the obligation of pastors “to encourage an ever greater trust in God’s grace” (#303) and “to form consciences, not to replace them” (#37).
The Exhortation also has its disappointments, which are poignant reminders that this continues to be a pilgrim Church. Despite the love that is blossoming from a new energy that is coming from Francis in Rome, the People of God remain divided over whether particular Church teachings are unjust and unloving as proclaimed by those who seek reformation of these teachings, or whether such changes in Church teaching would betray a long tradition. The Exhortation does not resolve these divisions, but instead calls the Church to live at the grass roots.
The Holy Father has made it clear that he does not want to be a monarchical leader. Throughout his three-year papacy, he has been urging bishops to dialogue with their people and then come to him with requests for the changes needed in each diocese throughout the world, recognizing that not one modification fits for all. “Our deepest concern, along with Future Church and Call to Action,” says CCRI director Rene Reid, “is that the majority of bishops will continue to run parishes as they see fit without heeding the appeal of Francis to enter into dialogue with the People of God. Unless bishops and pastors implement these guidelines of the Holy Father, the Church will once again find itself at an impasse.”
Through his Apostolic Exhortation, the Holy Father is guiding the Church toward becoming a merciful, forgiving church – one that understands human frailty and does not hold people hostage forever. He suggests that if someone’s first marriage fails, and they, in good conscience, enter into a second marriage, they should not be forever banned from the Eucharistic Table. There must be a penitential path for them to be readmitted to full participation in the community.
CCRI strategy team member, Clyde Christofferson says: “What Francis is saying is that relief from injustice must come from the grass roots and from a fresh pastoral emphasis on listening to the grass roots, so we are encouraged to continue our current work, which is to promote small gatherings in communities throughout the world to openly reflect upon how to make this a more just Church.” CCRI is encouraging people to call meetings on their own and invites other communities to join with us in this process. These small gatherings should know that they are not alone.
CCRI considers spreading this word to be their small contribution to support Pope Francis and his exhortation which is appropriately titled the joy of love.
Laity Voice - a voice for the voiceless (India - published in Germany)