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An open letter to the Synod from over 100 converts

posted Oct 5, 2015, 8:41 PM by Rochester Ordinariate   [ updated Oct 5, 2015, 8:55 PM ]
It was my intention to not post anything about the ongoing Synod on this site.  There is little we can do save pray.  However, after seeing so many of our faithful clergy of the Ordinariate, including our own Ordinary, Msgr. Steenson, were signatories to this Open Letter, it is reproduced here for the faithful to see and meditate on:
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Your Holiness; Dear Fathers in Christ,

We are all converts to the Catholic faith. Some of us were raised in other Christian communities; some of us came, unbaptized, from other faiths; some of us had once been thoroughly secular and thought of ourselves as agnostics or atheists. Despite the diversity of our backgrounds we all have this in common: we entered the Church as adults. As you prepare for the Synod on the Family we hope that you will be encouraged by the multitude of lay faithful who were, and continue to be, attracted to the Church in large part because of what she proposes about the human being in her teaching about sexual difference, sexuality, marriage and the family.

Early on, most of us would have objected to at least some elements of the Church’s teaching about such matters. Yet, as we began to notice how harmful were the effects of popular conceptions of human sexuality, and as some of our own congregations began to give way to the dominant culture − its ideas about freedom, equality, progress, and its growing gnostic tendencies − each of us started to suspect that there was something right about the Church’s understanding of things. Unpopular though they often were, the Church’s teachings about the facts of life became strangely attractive to us. And in time, we became convinced that they expressed the deepest truth of ourselves, a truth that is both good and beautiful, howsoever demanding. What is more, the certainty the Church had in her teachings and her confidence in pronouncing them even in the face of hostile opposition was for us evidence that we could encounter in her the life of Jesus Christ as He truly is. As human beings we understand the dramatic nature of desire and the self-justifying “dictatorship” that often accompanies it. But as converts we also know the tendency, wherever ecclesial bodies lack a visible, historical, and authoritative bond with Christ through His vicar, to adapt Christianity to the dominant mentality. In short, the fact that the Catholic Church held fast to the deepest truth about our embodied human existence was for us a point of attraction, and a sign that the Church was the surest link to Jesus Christ Incarnate.

With respect to the bewildering diversity of contemporary opinions about the human good, especially where questions about the human body are concerned, we understood that the radical nature of the Christian claim − that God, the Son, had taken up all flesh into Himself − was at stake. Christ “revealed man to himself” (Gaudium et Spes 22). He thereby “made clear” the meaning of our humanity – and with it the meaning of the body, of sexual difference, of sexuality, marriage and the family. He did this, for example, when the Pharisees asked him about divorce, and he turned them (and his own disciples) back to “the beginning,” to human nature as it was created. What is more, he brought something new to that same humanity, bestowing on it, mercifully, a share in His own fidelity to the Church. It was not by accident, then, that early Christians were drawn to the Church through the radiant humanity of His followers, manifest, for example, in their unique attitudes toward women, children, human sexuality, and marriage. And it was not by accident that, for the same reasons, we too were drawn to the Church many centuries later.

We are keenly aware of the difficult pastoral situations that you will be confronting at the Synod, especially those concerning divorced Catholics. We also share something of the burden you carry in confronting them. Some of us have experienced the pain of divorce in our own lives; and virtually all of us have friends or close relatives who have been so afflicted. We are therefore grateful that attention is being paid to a problem that causes such grievous harm to husbands and wives, their children, and indeed the culture at large.

We are writing you, however, because of our concerns about certain proposals to change the church’s discipline regarding communion for Catholics who are divorced and civilly re- married. We are frankly surprised by the opinion of some who are proposing a “way of penance” that would tolerate what the Church has never allowed. In our judgment such proposals fail to do justice to the irrevocability of the marriage bond, either by writing off the “first” marriage as if it were somehow “dead,” or, worse, by recognizing its continued existence but then doing violence to it. We do not see how these proposals can do anything other than contradict the Christian doctrine of marriage itself. But we also fail to see how such innovations can be, as they claim, either pastoral or merciful. However well meaning, pastoral responses that do not respect the truth of things can only aggravate the very suffering that they seek to alleviate. We cannot help but think of the abandoned spouses and their children. Thinking of the next generation, how can such changes possibly foster in young people an appreciation of the beauty of the indissolubility of marriage?

Above all, we think that the proposals in question fail to take to heart the real crisis of the family underlying the problem of divorce, contraception, cohabitation and same-sex attraction. That crisis, as Benedict XVI observed, is “a false understanding of the nature of human freedom.” Still worse, as he continued, we now have to confront an outlook that “calls into question the very notion of being − of what being human really means” (“Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI on the Occasion of Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia,” 2012). Not only are the changes in the Church’s discipline called for by some far from adequate to the challenge before us, they seem to us to capitulate to the problem they purport to address.

As has everyone else, we have witnessed the human wreckage brought about by the culture of divorce. But as converts we have also witnessed Christian complicity in that culture. We have watched our own communities abandon the original radical Christian witness to the truth about man and woman, together with the pastoral accompaniment that might have helped them live it.

And so we turn to you. We look to you to uphold Christ’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage with the same fidelity, the same joyful and courageous witness the Catholic Church has displayed throughout her entire history. Against the worldly-wise who counsel resignation and concede defeat, let the Church once again remind the world of the beauty of spousal fidelity, when lived in unity with Christ. Who is left who can offer the world something other than an echo of its own cynicism? Who is left who can lead it toward a real experience of love? Now more than ever the world needs the Church’s prophetic witness! As Pope Francis said to the thousands of young people at World Youth Day in Brazil:

"Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion....They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘forever,’ because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the time; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love."

As you gather in Rome for the Synod on the Family, we want to offer you the witness of our conversion, which testifies to the attractiveness of the truth about man and woman as it has been “made clear” by Christ through His Church. It is our hope that our witness will strengthen yours so that the Church may continue to be the answer to what the human heart most deeply desires.
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Signatory list is here.

It contains many notable names, especially for us, many of the clergy of the Ordinariate, as well as:

Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson – Ordinary, Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande in the Episcopal Church USA

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