Vatican Praise for UK Prelate's Defense of Family

Lancaster Bishop’s «Fit for Mission» Gets Rome’s Thumbs Up

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LANCASTER, England, JAN. 6, 2009 ( A document released by the bishop of Lancaster has won Vatican kudos.

Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, praised «Fit for Mission? Church,» released last August by Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue.

In a Dec. 5 letter, the cardinal particularly pointed to the bishop’s defense of marriage and the family: «The section on Marriage and Family Life is also well done and a good response to the perils of the philosophy of gender which is so widespread nowadays. Your underlining the importance of self-gift is also very pertinent as well as giving explicit example[s] and statistics regarding the consequences of the culture of death that surrounds us.»

In a response to the Vatican note, Bishop O’Donoghue wrote: «Now, more than ever, Catholics need to have a confident understanding of the Church’s teaching on marriage and family life. We need to help society resist the reduction of human nature and life to a ‘consumable’ that can be manipulated without restraint, as we see in the homosexual and transsexual culture or IVF and experiments on embryonic human beings, just to name a few.»

Praise from the Pontifical Council for the Family follows similar endorsements from Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Archbishop Luis Ladaria, secretary to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy.

Bishop O’Donoghue continued: «We must shout this truth from the rooftops, ‘God has made human beings in his own image, as male and female. True happiness and fulfillment in sexual love can only be found in the diversity and complementarity between a man and a woman, united in lifelong marriage and open to new life. Anything else is a delusion. To live by a delusion that denies this truth not only harms individuals, it also obviously harms their families, their communities and society in general.»

Walk the walk

The prelate noted that the endeavor to not only proclaim this truth, but also to live by it, had resulted in separating a charity in his diocese from affiliation with the Catholic Church.

He explained how he asked Catholic Caring Services to seek legal avenues to uphold the teaching of the Church against legislation that seeks to place Catholic children with individuals in same-sex unions. The trustees’ refusal to abide by his request, and the «clear moral teaching of the Church, has painfully resulted in the Diocese of Lancaster declaring that Catholic Caring Services is no longer a Catholic charity, and can no longer claim the support of Catholics,» he said.

For the beginning of the New Year, Bishop O’Donoghue wrote further on the theme of marriage and families: «The Church is living through troubled times, but it is perhaps reassuring to know that there hasn’t been a time in the history of the Church that has been untroubled!

«We mustn’t become despondent or angry, but rather, allow the Holy Spirit to deepen within us the virtues of faith, hope and charity, as Pope Benedict XVI invites through his wonderful teaching.»

The prelate went on to praise the present «deepening of the doctrine and appreciation of the sacrament of marriage» in the Church.

«I see this as part of a wider development of the Church’s defense of the dignity and destiny of the human person against attack on a variety of fronts, such as assisted suicide, same-sex unions, and experiments on embryonic human beings,» he added. «What we are discovering is that respect for the sanctity of marriage is foundational to human life.»

Bracing for the crunch

The Lancaster bishop also sounded a warning about the effects of the recession on marriages.

«Tragically, the suffering resulting from the credit crunch will be exacerbated by the decline of strong, extended families held together and protected by the commitment and love of wives and husbands,» he predicted. «Many people are going to struggle with financial hardship and stress on their own, while before, during other economic depressions, families provided support. […]

«Therefore, in view of the lack of support for marriage from the government and media, the Church, in collaboration with others of good will, must be responsive to the strains that the credit crunch will put on marriage and family life.»

One of the means the bishop recommended is active parish life.

And, he added, «faced with the failure of successive governments to promote the benefits of marriage, it is up to the Church to step into the breach and promote the goods of marriage to society. One practical step I recommend is that parishes and schools should work closely together to show young people, in a realistic and positive way, the joys and rewards of lifelong, permanent, monogamous marriage between men and women.»

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On the Net:

ZENIT commentary on «Fit for Mission,» with link to full document:

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