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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).
On March 9, my appeal to Pope Francis to give room to a free, unprejudiced and open-ended discussion on the problem of infallibility appeared in the leading journals of several countries. I was thus overjoyed to receive a personal reply from Francis immediately after Easter. Dated March 20, it was forwarded to me from the nunciature in Berlin.
In the pope's reply, the following points are significant for me:
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I wish this project well having long had a high regard both for Professor Kung and for his writings. However, the questions could have been better worded. As a priest of the Church of England (for 56 years) I signed of course as a Catholic priest – a designation Hans Kung himself would regard as including not only Roman Catholic, Melkite Catholic, and Maronite Catholic priests but also Anglican and Episcopalian, Old Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox – and indeed I think he would not regard the orders of the ministers of “non-conformist” Churches as invalid.
(The Revd Dr) John Bunyan
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said Tuesday that the clergy should serve lay people and not make use of them and spoke out against clericalism, calling it one of the greatest distortions affecting the Church in Latin America. His comments came in a wide-ranging letter reflecting on the role of the laity that was addressed to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. The Pope’s letter was a follow-up to the commission’s recent Plenary Assembly whose theme was “the indispensable role of the lay faithful in the public life of Latin American countries.” In his letter, Pope Francis explained that he wished to follow-up the discussions and reflections that emerged during the Plenary Assembly in order to prevent them "from not bearing fruit."
He urged the clergy to look closely at the people and lives of the lay faithful and avoid falling into the trap of adopting certain slogans on their behalf that seem well-meaning but in practice don't succeed in supporting the lives of our communities. Pointing to the example of a famous phrase “it’s time for the laity,” he noted that in this particular case, that clock has ground to a halt.
Please reinstate Hans........a great theologian. One we are most proud of. His thinking is such an asset to us.