VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis and his bishops got a wake-up call Tuesday (Oct. 7) from a Wisconsin couple who said the Catholic Church was failing to deal with the collapse of the traditional family.

Jeff and Alice Heinzen of La Crosse told the pope and 180 bishops attending a synod devoted to family issues that they were alarmed by the number of young people born out of wedlock or living with divorced parents.

The couple are one of 14 married couples invited to give their testimony.

“We have seen the number of marriages decline each year and the rate of cohabitation increase,” said the Heinzens, who have been married 34 years. “We know countless divorced adults who have joined other faith communities because they do not feel welcomed in the Catholic Church.”

What’s more, the couple added, the church’s pastoral programs were failing to address the forces impacting marriage and family life.

Pope Francis officiated at the weddings of 20 couples at St. Peter’s Basilica earlier this month. Religion News Service photo by Cathleen Falsani

Pope Francis officiated at the weddings of 20 couples at St. Peter’s Basilica in September 2014. Religion News Service photo by Cathleen Falsani


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In a statement released earlier, the bishops’ synod noted that marriage is an “indissoluble sacrament” but stressed that “imperfect situations must be considered with respect.”

“For instance, de facto unions in which couples live together with fidelity and love present elements of sanctification and truth,” the bishops said.

Acknowledging the church’s declining clout, the bishops called for greater humility to deal with the “rejection of clericalism.”

“At times the church seems more concerned with power than with service, and for this reason she does not inspire the hearts of men and women,” the bishops said.

As the bishops continue to debate the definition of marriage the head of the German bishops said a majority of his colleagues supported the position of Cardinal Walter Kasper on allowing some divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion.

Kasper is well known as a liberal theologian and was appointed by Pope Francis as a synod speaker for the two-week event that officially opened Sunday (Oct. 5). His views have already provoked an intense reaction from conservative cardinals.

Under current church law, divorced Catholics who remarry without first obtaining a church annulment — a complicated and sometimes expensive venture — are barred from Communion because they are considered to be living in sin. Critics say the practice alienates otherwise faithful Catholics and perpetuates the stigma around divorce.

(David Gibson contributed to this story.)

YS/AMB END MCKENNA

22 Comments

  1. “Acknowledging the church’s declining clout, the bishops called for greater humility to deal with the “rejection of clericalism.”

    “At times the church seems more concerned with power than with service, and for this reason she does not inspire the hearts of men and women,” the bishops said.”

    Also, it may be that the celibate cleric and the married couple with kids live in two very different lifestyles. What can a man never having been married and fathered children, and living in all paid for housing, medical, and education, know about what couples struggle with? In what manner can he truly understand this stress? Does he concern himself with college expenses? Retirement expenses? How about care and expense of house and cars? Also, I know of young couple setting out on their own after college who have decided to live together for two very important reasons: shared expenses and safety.

    • Augustine Thomas

      It’s funny. All of modernity was built on societies where people who lived lives that were different from those of priests in many respects took advice from the priests and it worked brilliantly. But now we have representatives of the society with the highest rates of STDs, fatherless children, unhappy people, etc. telling us that they know better.
      I know you don’t realize it, but you’re doing Satan’s work.

      • And yet we are safer now than we have ever been. The threat of war, famine, genocide and even violent crime, is dramatically less now, for more people in the world, than it was back when people listened to priests as you declared.

        The past you long for was a raging craphole. .

        • You really believe that? Open your eyes and take a look at the world… You are blind in your little American nest… Remove the scales and take a look at the big picture… We are in relativistic quicksand…

          • It isn’t belief, it is a fact.
            http://reason.com/archives/2014/10/01/world-safer-now-despite-scaremongering

            http://www.salon.com/2013/04/23/the_world_is_actually_safer_than_ever/

            http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117226/world-war-i-anniversary-world-safer-today-100-years-ago

            The world is safer now than it was a century ago or centuries past. People are living longer, large scale wars and famine almost hardly seen anymore. Genocide, which was fairly common back when “people took advice from priests”, and even encouraged by religious authorities is hardly seen these days.

            As for divorce, single parents, and STD’s. Its more a matter of discussing these things more openly than in the past. People tended to hush such things up when they had to worry about being ostracized for their “sins”.

            You are too mired in false nostalgia to notice.

            Btw there is nobody more relativistic than a Christian. Christian notions of “morality” seek to excuse any act of malice or harm, if one claims to be doing it in service of their faith. Whatever you think God thinks is OK will be permitted no matter how repugnant. No sense of connection to humanity, no sense of empathy or exercising of conscience. Just outsourcing moral decisions to authority figures and their arbitrary excuses.

      • “It’s funny. All of modernity was built on societies where people who lived lives that were different from those of priests in many respects took advice from the priests and it worked brilliantly. But now we have representatives of the society with the highest rates of STDs, fatherless children, unhappy people, etc. telling us that they know better.
        I know you don’t realize it, but you’re doing Satan’s work.”

        Wow, are you in denial of the reality OF THE LIVING GOD. You condemn your own doctrine through what you say. You think people lived happily and without suffering? And that children should remain the object of abuse in your houses? ABUSES ARE ONLY NOW COMING TO LIGHT. This is just the beginning of this grand scheme of deception on the part of your orders. Who is doing the work of the enemy? Not ME. I would think you would be ashamed to speak as you do. But I see you are one not wanting people to know of these abuses, and so you put up screens of foul smoke to try to steer thinking. What has accumulated under the “guardianship” of such secrecy and foul play? What has been brought down upon the sees with no vision? I laugh at your contempt of me, for it shows its own style of dissemination, breeding illegitimate worth.
        What man has done to silence the female voice in your organization is criminal, and it will be seeded as such. You have not read and discerned in the Parable as needed for Love. You are fool to believe your clerics carry anything more than what a layperson can offer. How very arrogant and of poor judgement you see.

        Have you not understood what is of a royal priesthood? The Roman Catholic Institution as God? Not my God …

        Peace to you Augustine of the Roman Catholic.

        • “Not my God”

          In that one little phrase lies the entirety of the protestant heresy.

          You and the rest of the false christians have created your own little personal gods, in your own likeness and image, For you God doesn’t define himself through His revelation and His one Church (Catholic by the way). You get to define him. It’s really a blasphemy.

          In protestantism satan has pulled off his most brilliant deception. The protestant is actually confused enough to think he is a Christian and that he loves Jesus but he is not, and does not. The protestant by DEFINITION rejects the true Jesus and substitutes a false Jesus of his own creation (“my god”). And he loves that false Jesus instead.

          Protestants and atheists are two of a kind. Except the atheists are not deceptive about it.

          • I love it when members of Christian sects get snippy with each other. It shows that even in the absence of outside opposition, Christians will find reasons to be disrespectful and nasty to people. Even ones who share the same basic tenets of faith.

    • You’re crazy, ophelia. These celibate priests are going by the commands of our God Who, in human form, was also celibate and childless and who told us that marriage is forever, period. Your sophistic defense of fornicating couples is so transparent. Living together for safety and economy? Not in the main, by any stretch. They’re living together (and- let’s be honest- sleeping together) because they have no moral core, they’re slaves to secular values, they want to have sex and they don’t want to commit. Let’s be honest here.

      • Johann says: “You’re crazy, ophelia. These celibate priests are going by the commands of our God Who, in human form, was also celibate and childless and who told us that marriage is forever, period. Your sophistic defense of fornicating couples is so transparent. Living together for safety and economy? Not in the main, by any stretch. They’re living together (and- let’s be honest- sleeping together) because they have no moral core, they’re slaves to secular values, they want to have sex and they don’t want to commit. Let’s be honest here.”

        I think you believe you are the judge of all manner of behavior without knowing ANYTHING of the cases I brought forth. You know NOTHING of what I speak in these. In your mind, it is sex-sex-sex. Have you no level of accuracy in your thinking?
        But now that you speak of this “sleeping together” … what beds do you live within your so-called “moral” place, where destruction of child is determined by men in heavy corridors wearing robes to hide their life choices? You are a bastard of dereliction in your preaching. Shame on you, Johann, allowing daughters to be targets of abuse. Your rigid, plastic typecasts are nothing but foolhardy attempts at raising institution to appear above others. Have you not heard that God shows no favoritism? Go back to the Christ Figure of the Parables and learn where you stepped outside your suffocating tent and slipped in your own mess.

        Crazy? Greatly imbalanced in the head? I see they have sent in the troops to try to discredit the mind of female, as they have done for centuries, but little … so little … do they they know … even most of your priests will tell you that you are without Spiritual Sense. At least I do my homework. You preach in a fog.

        Peace oh god of failing acumen.

      • “What, exactly, do you know about what it takes to get to heaven?”

        I can say with absolutely objectively credible authority that unless you know someone who was there and came back, you don’t know the answer to that question with any measure of certainty.

        Since you have no evidence to support your claim. Any answer you give to the contrary merely reflects faith. Belief in the absence of evidence.

        It is not just a canard. It is an objectively credible way to evaluate claims.

    • Ah, seriously, Geraldine Marie? How you all struggle to hold your place in line … as your titles wither … under their own errancy. Your institution did it to itself, but it is a great sorry that so many should suffer.

      Peace

  2. “These celibate priests are going by the commands of our God Who, in human form, was also celibate and childless and who told us that marriage is forever, period.”

    This statement does not say much for the Orthodox Priests and the “protestant” pastors and clerics that are married … some having divorced …
    Convenient for the Roman Catholic variety to discredit everyone according to THEIR OWN Scriptural interpretations. It also does not say much for the abused in a marriage of his interpretation.

    Think, people … does ‘his’ statement marry with the Christ Figure of the Parables?

    Peace

  3. The Patriarchal Cheerleader (as my CATHOLIC friend calls them) says:

    “Not my God”

    In that one little phrase lies the entirety of the protestant heresy.

    You and the rest of the false christians have created your own little personal gods, in your own likeness and image, For you God doesn’t define himself through His revelation and His one Church (Catholic by the way). You get to define him. It’s really a blasphemy.

    “In protestantism satan has pulled off his most brilliant deception. The protestant is actually confused enough to think he is a Christian and that he loves Jesus but he is not, and does not. The protestant by DEFINITION rejects the true Jesus and substitutes a false Jesus of his own creation (“my god”). And he loves that false Jesus instead.

    Protestants and atheists are two of a kind. Except the atheists are not deceptive about it.”

    ***************

    A priest friend of mine is meeting with Pope Fran in January. I just have to have him share with Pope Fran this comment and a few others on this thread.
    As you can all plainly see, many of these Roman Catholics believe GOD IS the Roman Catholic Church. It just took a little challenge for them to come out and admit what they really think of those not Roman Catholic. According to them … we are all going to their hell. Nope, sorry to disappoint you, Rc, that is YOUR hell, not mine ;)

    You made that bed … you LIE in it.

    Peace

    • opheliart – you obviously are a very devout person who cares very much about God. I’m sure you are very well read and intelligent. But I think in your passion and intelligence, you are forgetting something Jesus said: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Maybe focusing more on improving your own self, instead of spending so much energy criticizing and blaming others, would be good for you?

  4. The question of marriage, divorce, and everything in between!
    One can argue over the flavor of your religion & the fine points that make yours better than everyone else’s. My belief system is simple: before the Jewish Faith, before the Catholic Faith, before any Faith, it’s only God and God alone bound a relationship between two people. Man can only feebly perform ceremonies and rituals with all the rules and regulations. The Catholic Church, in one word regarding the sacrament of marriage is wrong historically and biblically. The good news is do not argue with people who do not want to change. God likes to keep things simple; so do I. The first commandment is to love God above all. The second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. You can’t get a closer neighbor than your significant other! Everything else is minutia. I once had lunch with two priests who were brothers, one of which is a good friend of mine. I stated to my friend’s brother that the Bible & all its rules were written for stupid people to help them follow what was correct behavior! PS If you believe every word in the bible was written by God through earthly people, please accept my apology & have a good day.

  5. Really! What has happened to common sense! Get out of a celibate church if you want to be married – oh! but that might mess up my pension; think of all the years it has taken me to amass my retirement; oh! but the entire celibate church will understand; they will accept us… really!

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