Yet more bishops’ conferences are releasing the results of surveys and consultations made in preparations for next fall’s Synod on Marriage and Family Life. Bondings 2.0 provides another round-up of these releases below and you can read about previous coverage of other nations in the ‘Related Posts’ section at the bottom of this page.
Approaching the survey from a non-European perspective, the Japanese bishops have been bluntly critical in their responses to the survey results and of the survey itself. National Catholic Reporter states:
“…church teachings are not known in their country and the Vatican’s Europe-centric view hampers efforts at evangelization in places where Catholics represent a small minority of the population.
“In a sometimes pointed 15-page report issued in preparation for an October meeting of the world’s bishops, known as a synod, the Japanese state the church ‘often falls short’ by ‘presenting a high threshold for entry and lacking hospitality and practical kindness.’…
” ‘It is necessary to go beyond merely saying to men and women who do not follow Church norms that they are separated from the community and actively provide them with opportunities to encounter the Christian community,’ the Japanese state.”
In their report ( official English translation, available here), the Japanese bishops were limited in what they said on LGBT matters. Addressing mostly marriage rights for same-gender couples, the bishops state it is not a prevalent topic in Japanese society at large and may grow in prominence as toleration of gay and lesbian people grows. Of note, the Japanese bishops observe that transgender people are being granted marriage rights legally. Their responses in the section “On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex” were all limited to single sentences, and lack of detail is most telling, as they write:
“b) What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the
promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type
“1. The State does not promote such marriages and the Church has not developed a
particular attitude toward the possibility of eventual change.
“c) What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of
“1. There is as yet no special pastoral attention.
“d) ) In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be
done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?
“1. So far, there have been no cases of this in Japan.”
Following their English counterparts, Ireland’s bishops are refusing to release details about their information gathering efforts, with a conference spokesperson stating any release would “undermine the integrity of the information collection process,” according to UCA News.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is remaining quiet as well. Even as they forgo a public release of survey results, comments by the president, Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, are revealing about both the results and what this leading prelate imagines the Synod to be. The Star reports:
“In Canada, engagement with the survey was mixed. The Archdiocese of Toronto simply linked to the survey on its website and anyone who wanted to respond did so directly with the conference of bishops. But in Gatineau, where Durocher is the archbishop, priests in the Quebec diocese were asked to engage parishioners on five questions of their choice.
“Durocher doesn’t expect doctrinal change from the synods. He describes the survey as the church facing reality: Whether it likes it or not, Catholics are divorcing and Catholic gay couples are adopting babies. How then should the church care for them?
“He gives the example of a gay couple who want their adopted child baptized. Before that can happen for any child, there must be a ‘grounded hope’ the child will be raised as a Catholic. How does a priest determine that when the child’s parents, as a married gay couple, have violated church doctrine? Is it best to wait until the child can decide for him or herself? Such are the kind of guidelines Durocher hopes the synods will provide.”
Combined with reports from Germany’s bishops and those of other European nations, it appears bishops are finally openly admitting the hierarchy’s positions on sexuality, marriage, and family life are out of touch on a number of levels. What happens when they meet in October remains an open question, but check back tomorrow for further commentary on what else could impact the Synod’s outcomes.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry