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By Dr James Kottoor. Editor, CCV
A Church in dialogue, vertically and horizontally, is what constitutes the essence of a living Church. It becomes a living community only when it dialogues constantly between the so-called leaders and followers. Jesus did it with his discouraged disciples, Pope Francis does it with the entire church and the world in conflict and confusion, a living example!
But what about bishops with their flock, Christians or otherwise in the diocese?
Now think of the scandalous state of affairs all over the world in dioceses everywhere or in countries with well established national conference of bishops? Constantly, daily we hear complaints from the faithful whose concerns are met with mute silence by their bishops. How can this be the Church of Jesus? It can’t. A Church with leaders, bishops. who don’t speak to those below, who don’t even acknowledge letters from below is a MUTE Church. A mute church is dead. It must be buried immediately before it does further damage.
On the road to Emmaus, we see a bunch of dispirited disciples in despair thinking of going back to their known trade of fishing for a living. It is here Jesus intervenes uninvited and strikes a conversation with them to uplift their hopes: just the opposite of what our bishops do today. Even when the faithful want to talk to them or write letters, they never even bother to respond.
In India we have umpteen examples. When we tried to start a vertical dialogue with the Syromalabar hierarchy on many burning issues we failed miserably. We regularly send our publications --- articles and questions requiring immediate answers --- but never receive even an acknowledgement. Is there any semblance between the way Jesus treated his followers and the way present day bishops treat their faithful?
The crying child gets the milk, it is said, but that does not happen in the Catholic Church. No wonder many thinking sections are deserting the Catholic Church and join friendlier charismatic churches. No use calling it “sheep stealing”. They are leaving on their own accord, disgusted and in despair.
In contrast see the example of Pope Francis, “I desire a church that knows how to insert itself into the conversations of people, that knows how to dialogue. It is the church of Emmaus, in which the Lord ‘interviews’ the disciples that are walking discouraged. For me the interview is part of this conversation of the church with the men and women of today.”
“Ask me your questions” is the title of his new book to be released on 21 October. Francis delights in interviews and what he says always at the beginning of any interview is: “I desire a church that knows how to insert itself into the conversations of people.” We will be sending this editorial also to all Indian bishops, of course with no hope of receiving response from any one.
In case anyone responds we shall let you know. May our bishops learn to imitate Jesus and his exemplary servant Francis. If they can’t, let them stop calling themselves, “Vicars of Christ” which is an insult to JESUS!
by Martin Pendergast STL, MA
Pope Francis is very fond of referring to “time and space”. In his first Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, he writes,
“Time” has to do with fullness as an expression of the horizon which constantly opens before us, while each individual moment (space) has to do with limitation as an expression of enclosure … Here we see a first principle for progress in building a people: time is greater than space. This principle enables us to work slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results. It helps us patiently to endure difficult and adverse situations, or inevitable changes in our plans. It invites us to accept the tension between fullness and limitation, and to give a priority to time … Giving priority to space means madly attempting to keep everything together in the present, trying to possess all the spaces of power … Giving priority to time means being concerned about initiating processes rather than possessing spaces. What we need, then, is to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups who can develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events. Without anxiety, but with clear convictions and tenacity.1
The close associate of Pope Francis, Cardinal Walter Kasper commented shrewdly that The Joy of Love
“doesn’t change anything of Church doctrine or canon law - but it changes everything! 2 Let’s apply this, then, to our reflections on the development of LGBT pastoral practice and the development of theological reflection which can come from this. When we stand in the midst of a particular space such as this today, perhaps as passionate subjects of the concerns before us, it is often hard to recognise all that is going on. I’d like to suggest that recognising past developments can help us move into a time-filled future, hence “back to the future”!
It was in 1979 that the Social Welfare Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England & Wales, in response to a request for such guidance from the then National Conference of Priests, published An Introduction to the Pastoral Care of Homosexual People. 3 This could now be seen as an example of the kind of Synodal Church activity envisioned by Pope Francis, all these years later.4 The document was produced following consultation with some key moral theologians at the time, as well as a number of lesbian and gay Catholics. It attempted to respond to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1976 Declaration on Sexual Ethics within the context and reality of the Church in England & Wales and the experience of LGBT Catholics.5 Avoiding a head-on collision with the Vatican, it sought to provide the foundation for intelligent and pragmatic pastoral care within the social, cultural, and legal environments of England and Wales. As such it was acclaimed by English-speaking Catholics across the globe and promoted in the United States and Australia, among other places.
“I desire a church that knows how to insert itself into the conversations of people, that knows how to dialogue. It is the church of Emmaus, in which the Lord ‘interviews’ the disciples that are walking discouraged. For me the interview is part of this conversation of the church with the men and women of today.”
from Adesso fate le vostre domande, published 19 October 2017
on 2 July 2015 by Dave Szollosy to Toronto York Region Labour Council
Laudato Si’ was addressed to the whole world, rather than senior leaders of the Church, because of the enormity of the ecological crisis which looms. The last time this happened was in 1963 when Pope John XXIII wrote “Pacem in Terris”.
Laudato Si’, in which Pope Francis talks about the “Gospel of Creation” (Chapter II) is authoritative teaching added to the body of the Church’s Social Teaching.
Dave's slides speak better than mere words.
“If there is one word that we should never tire of repeating, it is this: dialogue. We are called to promote a culture of dialogue by every possible means and thus to rebuild the fabric of society. The culture of dialogue entails a true apprenticeship and a discipline that enables us to view others as valid dialogue partners, to respect the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy of being listened to. Today we urgently need to engage all the members of society in building ‘a culture which privileges dialogue as a form of encounter’ and in creating ‘a means for building consensus and agreement while seeking the goal of a just, responsive and inclusive society’. Peace will be lasting in the measure that we arm our children with the weapons of dialogue, that we teach them to fight the good fight of encounter and negotiation. In this way, we will bequeath to them a culture capable of devising strategies of life, not death, and of inclusion, not exclusion.”
[Pope Francis in his Address upon receiving the Charlemagne Prize, May 6, 2016]
by Dr. George Therukaattil MCBS
In the introductory paragraphs of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Love and Family, Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis plainly sets out his moral and pastoral approach. He asks the Church to meet people where they are - to accept them in the concrete circumstances and complexities of their lives. He pleads the Church to respect people’s consciences and their discernment in moral decisions and underscores the importance of considering norms and mitigating circumstances in pastoral discernment.
The Apostolic Exhortation is mainly a document that reflects on family life and encourages family persons in their struggle to be faithful to the Lord. But it is also the Pope’s reminder that the Church should avoid simply judging people and imposing rules on them without considering their struggles. The goal of the Exhortation is to help families—in fact, everyone—experience being touched by an unmerited, unconditional, gratuitous mercy of God and know that they are welcome in the Church.
In the introduction of the Exhortation itself Pope Francis makes it clear that although unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary for the Church, it does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. In his address at the end of the Synod of the 2015, he also drew attention to different contexts where what is lawful in one place is deemed outside the law in another. “What seems normal for a bishop on one continent is considered strange and almost scandalous – almost! – for a bishop from another; what is considered a violation of a right in one society is an evident and inviolable rule in another; what for some is freedom of conscience is for others simply confusion.” 
Stating this, the Pope referred to declarations of his predecessors, included the contributions of Synods on the family held in 2014 and 2015 and also quoted a number of declarations of bishops’ conferences of various countries for references. Using insights from the Synod of Bishops on the Family and from Bishops’ Conferences from around the world, Pope Francis affirms Church teaching on family life and marriage and strongly emphasizes the role of personal conscience and pastoral discernment, urging the Church to appreciate the context of people’s lives when helping them make good decisions”
Though much of AL incorporated “the propositions voted upon by the Bishops at both 2014 and 2015 Synods as much as possible, as we see from the abundant references he makes to them in the footnotes of AL”, Pope Francis calls his pastoral and moral approach as something new with regard to the pastoral practice in the way pastoral care is to be extended as help and encouragement to those in difficult marital situations or in irregular unions and to families in their daily commitments and challenges. The Pope asks for a compassionate pastoral concern to such persons since they continue to be members of the Church and brothers and sisters of God’s household. In addition he encourages everyone to be a sign of mercy and closeness wherever family life remains imperfect or lacks peace and joy. In addition to these, the introductory section of Amoris Laetitia’s significant account and vision of conscience and communal discernment (including more input and collaboration from the laity) on moral matters that is consistent with the exhortation’s pastoral practice mentioned above. Further, Pope Francis’ call in his Evangelii Gaudium for “a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets,” suggest that the moral and pastoral practice of the Church should be more attentive to the realities and complexities of life in the concrete rather than in the abstract. “The result is a challenging reappraisal that expects moral theologians to promote a genuine culture of discernment in the church.”
Details of Pope Francis’ new moral and pastoral approach can be seen especially in Chapters Six and Eight of Amoris Laetitia. In Chapter Six one can see the Pope’s pastoral perspectives (AL199-258) and in Chapter Eight he writes about the need of accompanying, discerning and integrating weakness (AL 291-312).