If given a voice in the reform of the Church in my part of the world, I would strongly support the following:
There are many very personal reasons why Catholics divorce and later remarry. For the Church to make an absolute statement that all who divorce and remarry are no longer welcomed to participate in the Eucharist is to deny the importance of personal conscience. “Over the pope…there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.” This statement was made by Joseph Ratzinger—now Pope Benedict emeritus—in his 1968 commentary on a key Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes. In evaluating reforms that should be implemented from the highest levels of the Church, this clearly is a matter that the Church’s official stand must be that this matter be left up to one’s individual conscience.
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The longstanding teaching of the Church on birth control must be reevaluated. For the Church to hold fast that Catholic couples must have all the children they are physically capable of having is irresponsible. There are many factors that must be considered in choosing parenthood, not the least of which is the couple’s emotional, financial, and psychological capability. For decades now, numerous Catholics are practicing responsible parenthood. The Vatican knows this and has chosen to remain silent on this subject. It is time for the highest levels of the Church to acknowledge what is already an accepted practice in many Catholic families and free the remaining Catholics to use their judgment on this very personal family matter.
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Optional Celibacy in the Priesthood
There is a shortage of priests in the Church today. There has been a massive withdrawal of practicing Catholics as well. Churches are closing all over the world. If we the Church would begin by reeducating people regarding matters of conscience (as referenced above), there will inevitably be a massive growth in our membership. Even now with our declining membership, there is a shortage of priests. But once needed reforms are introduced, there will be inevitable growth. Then, more than ever, we will need more priests. Imposed celibacy is one key factor that contributes to the shortage of priests. It is time to make celibacy optional for the priesthood. “When a priest, after mature consideration, wishes to marry, there is no reason why he must automatically resign his office when his bishop and his parish choose to stand behind him.”The door is already opened a crack as we are accepting married Episcopal ministers into the Church to serve as priests. It is time to officially allow priests to marry and to allow married men to become priests. This is a move that is long overdue but is essential to the future of the Catholic Church.
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Expanding the role of Religious Women in the Church
Women religious already play a colossal role in the Church today, teaching, nursing, and actively participating in social justice issues worldwide. Their contribution is drastically understated and undervalued. There is a sense that the hierarchy is clamping down on them, attempting to redirect their missions, and, in some cases, even ordering them to go back into wearing their habits. The mission of each community, their rules, and their clothing – these are decisions that should be theirs and theirs alone. They do not need the papacy or the hierarchy to restrict their work or determine their role in the Church. It would be timely and appropriate for the Papacy to issue a declaration acknowledging the good work they do for peace, justice, and integrity throughout the world.
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Ordination of Women to the Priesthood
“For many years we have been praying for God to send us more vocations to the priesthood. Our prayers have been answered. Our loving God, who created us equal, is calling women to be priests in our Church. Let us welcome them and give thanks to God.” Joining our voice with Father Roy Bourgeois, excommunicated from the Church in 2012 for his stance on this issue, we ask Pope Francis to seriously evaluate the doctrinal basis for women to become priests and allow this matter to be decided by local church communities.
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Acceptance of all Catholics
We ask the Church to embrace our
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender brothers and sisters and recognize them as beloved persons of God who should be allowed to participate fully in all aspects of life within the Church and society.
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Disciplinary Action Needed
One of the issues that has caused worldwide disrespect for our Church is the pedophilia scandal. While the number of pedophiles in the priesthood are no greater proportionately than outside the Church, still more is expected of a Catholic priest. For the most part, the bishops and pastors know who these men are. Yet, while other priests have been excommunicated for speaking out in good conscience on issues of needed change in the church – issues with which past papacies did not agree or approve – not a single pedophilic priest has been excommunicated. Nor has a single Bishop or Cardinal been excommunicated for covering up the scandals. It is not enough to resolve the problem by giving money to victims. It is long past time for the papacy to take an official stand. The entire world will respect specific disciplinary action taken in this matter. Let us join with Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Emeritus, who identifies three major tasks to be performed in eradicating sexual abuse from the Church: identifying and removing all offenders; reaching out to, and assisting, all victims and survivors; and identifying and overcoming the causes of both abuse and the poor response to abuse by the Church’s hierarchy. To join in their petition, click Here.
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