Quick Hit--Please, Stop With That

Cardinal Luis Tagle is the Archbishop of Manila, and one of the three people appointed to chair the upcoming Synod on the Family in October.  For this reason, it was particularly disheartening to read his comments regarding the survey of Catholics on family issues.  Here's what he said:

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, told Catholic News Service he found the responses "shocking, if I am allowed to use that word."

"Shocking because almost in all parts of the world, the questionnaires indicated that the teaching of the church regarding family life is not clearly understood by people, and the language by which the church proposes the teaching seems to be a language not accessible to people,"

"So this is my hope, not for change -- how can you change the biblical teachings? But maybe a real pastoral and evangelical concern for the church: How do we present the good news of the family to this generation, with its limitations, with its greatness, with its unique experiences?"

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

No.

The notion that there is some formula that can be found to explain, say, the prohibition on artificial birth control, in a manner that will cause between 60 and 90% of Catholics to change their mind is Magical Thinking.  The problem is not that the teaching is "not clearly understood," the problem is people understand it fine and don't agree with it.  They think you are wrong, Your Eminence; they think that the Church is wrong.  You may struggle to see how that can be, as you evidently view these issues as the product of clear "biblical teachings."  But, that's the reality.  For anything productive to come out of this Synod, that reality must be recognized.

Locating Church teaching in its current cultural and social context is a good thing.  But if the bishops view this Synod, as Cardinal Tagle apparently does, as essentially an off-site to brainstorm marketing strategies, then then this whole thing will be a massive waste of time, and they should cancel it now.  There is no marketing strategy to be found.  Please, take seriously the observation of Bishop Lynch in St. Petersburg, Florida.

"On the matter of artificial contraception, the responses might be characterized by saying, 'That train left the station long ago.' Catholics have made up their minds and the sensus fidelium [the sense of the faithful] suggests the rejection of church teaching on this subject."  

In fact, I would ask Cardinal Tagle, and all the bishops at the Synod, to consider my modest proposal.  If you decide to make changes, I would welcome them.  However, if you decide to keep the status quo, then say the following: "this is how it is, and how it is going to be, and at the end of the day you are either going to listen to us or not."  I can live with that.  But please, please stop telling me that I don't understand the secret wisdom of these teachings, and that if I listen to your new presentation of the same old ideas, all will suddenly become clear.  That is unbelievably patronizing and insulting to the intelligence of the people who sit in the pews. I, and many if not most of the people in the pews, understand the teaching perfectly well and simply don't agree.  If you would just assume we leave, that's fine, but at least do us the courtesy of respecting that these are real opinions, and not misunderstandings.

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