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Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons

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Catholic families still deserve an apology for that dreadful Synod interim report

Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons

July 15, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- The World Meeting of Families can be a vital moment in the Church for strengthening Catholic marriages and families.  Growth in greater love and trust in families requires clarification of issues and regular requests for forgiveness when indicated.

Many Catholic spouses, children and families report being confused and traumatized by the sections of interim report of the Synod on the Family related to cohabitation, same-sex unions, the indissolubility of marriage and the reception of the Eucharist by those living in irregular unions, that is, couples who do not live in a state of grace.

The interim report has psychologically and spiritually traumatized no small number of Catholic parents and families by its attempt to radically change the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, cohabitation and the Eucharist.  Rather than teach the truth in these vital moral and pastoral issues, which were previously addressed clearly in the writings of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict, recommendations are being given to “accept and accompany.”

At the World Meeting of Families Catholic families need a clarification on the Church’s 2,000 year teaching on these issues.  Also, an apology and request for forgiveness for the severe confusion and conflicts caused by the interim report of the Synod, which did not contain the proceedings of the Synod Fathers, would be helpful in rebuilding damaged trust.  In Catholic family life when emotional, physical or spiritual harm is inflicted upon family members, a request for forgiveness is often the first step in the healing process.

Cohabitation

The section of the interim report entitled, positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation, stated, “we also indicate the constructive elements in those situations that do not yet or no longer correspond to that ideal.”…"They need to be welcomed and accompanied with patience and delicacy."

Knowledgeable Catholic parents who love and wish the best for their children first warn them about the serious emotional and spiritual risks associated with cohabitation rather than simply welcoming such unions into their families.  Many families have witnessed their sons, daughters and grandchildren traumatized by cohabiting unions with their high rates of infidelity, lack of loyalty, abuse of partners, far higher rates of depression and other psychiatric illnesses and psychological trauma to and physical abuse of children.‬‬‬‬‬

Responsible Catholic parents teach their children about the true nature of Catholic marriage which has been so clearly communicated in the writings of St. John Paul II.  They also discuss the vital importance of sacramental graces in order for two to become one in a loving relationship.  Catholic families expect priests and members of the Hierarchy to provide this essential teaching.

Homosexuality

In the welcoming homosexual persons section of the interim report, the document states: “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.” It then asks: “Are our communities capable of providing [them a welcoming home], accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”

In fact, the Church has for over 30 years been welcoming Catholics with Same Sex Attractions into its highly effective international apostolic outreach, Courage.  Courage provides weekly support groups and spiritual direction to help those with SSA lead chaste lives.  Participation in Courage has been shown in a psychological research study to have empirically proven psychological and spiritual benefits for those who participate through growth in deeper friendship with Christ and in chaste friendships.

The good news of the Courage Apostolate for those with same-sex attractions was ignored at the first Synod.  Hopefully, this mistake will not be repeated at the Fall Synod.

The interim document completely ignored the serious medical, psychiatric and spiritual risks associated with same-sex unions and the homosexual lifestyle that are well known by many Catholic families.

The report goes on, “The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge.”

Several research studies of youth with SSA have demonstrated that the attractions are not fixed or biologically determined, but rather are fluid and are regularly replaced by heterosexual attractions.  Most Catholic families and parents do not desire that their loved ones integrate homosexuality into their personalities.  They prefer their children try to understand the origins of their SSA (www.cathmed.org, Homosexuality and Hope) and try to follow the Church’s teaching.

The report goes on to discuss children, “Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.”  The authors of the report failed to defend the basic right to children to a mother and a father and the serious life long damage that is done to youth who are deliberately deprived of their need for and right to a father and a mother.

Troubling for many Catholic parents and families was that even though the recommendations of the interim report were not passed by the Synod Fathers, nonetheless, the Holy Father has insisted that they be brought forward into the next Synod.

Response of Hierarchy

Many members of the Hierarchy have offered strong criticism of the interim report.  South African Cardinal Wilfred Napier, A Synod Father responded, “The message has gone out that this is what the Synod is saying, this is what the Catholic Church is saying, and it’s not what we are saying at all,” he said. "No matter how we try correcting that ... there's no way of retrieving it."

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"The message has gone out and it's not a true message," he added. "Whatever we say hereafter is going to be as if we're doing some damage control." 

Cardinal Raymond Burke, another Synod Father, described the interim report as, “a manifesto, a kind of incitement to a new approach to fundamental issues of human sexuality in the Church.” 

Bishop Athansius Schneider responded,

During the Synod there had been moments of obvious manipulation on the part of some clerics who held key positions in the editorial and governing structure of the Synod. The interim report (Relatio post disceptationem) was clearly a prefabricated text with no reference to the actual statements of the Synod fathers. In the sections on homosexuality, sexuality and “divorced and remarried” with their admittance to the sacraments the text represents a radical neo-pagan ideology. This is the first time in Church history that such a heterodox text was actually published as a document of an official meeting of Catholic bishops under the guidance of a pope, even though the text only had a preliminary character.

"Such a synod document, even if only preliminary, is a real shame and an indication to the extent the spirit of the anti-Christian world has already penetrated such important levels of the life of the Church. This document will remain for the future generations and for the historians a black mark which has stained the honor of the Apostolic See.” 

The interim report created confusion in many Catholic families about the Church’s teaching that was intensified by a lack of clarification by the Holy Father.

Request

Catholic spouses, children and families would be greatly helped by a clarification from the Holy Father at the World Meeting of Families on the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, cohabitation, sexual morality and the Eucharist.  The public support of the constant teaching of the Church concerning homosexual conduct and persons with same-sex attraction (SSA) is needed. CCC nos. 2357 -2359.

Just as St. John Paul II made requests for forgiveness for the human errors in the Church at the beginning of the third millennium, with all due respect, a similar request for forgiveness for the severe stress and confusion caused by the interim report of the Synod on the Family would resolve confusion, build trust and strengthen the Faith of Catholic families.

Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons, MD, is the director of the Institute for Marital Healing and a psychiatrist. In his 40-year career he has worked with thousands of couples, and frequently speaks and writes on marriage. He has been an adjunct professor at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C., and a consultant to the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy.

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