Speaking to the World Meeting of Families, Cardinal Sarah has warned that softening Christ’s teaching on marriage is heresy.
“Even members of the Church can be tempted to soften Christ’s teaching on marriage and the family,” the cardinal said. “To varying degrees, the idea would consist in placing the Magisterium in a pretty box and separating it from pastoral practice, which could evolve according to such circumstances, fashions and emphases.”
Cardinal Sarah heads the Vatican Congregation for Sacred Worship. He should take his message to his colleague in the Vatican, Cardinal Muller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who mistakes Vatican doctrine for “God’s word”.
….. he (Cardinal Muller) said that “it’s not possible” for those who have violated church doctrine with regard to divorce, homosexuality or abortion to be fully welcomed back into the church: “It’s not an academic doctrine. It’s the word of God.”
Both Cardinals were looking head to next month’s Family Synod, and fears in some quarters that it may modify the rules on communion for those divorced and remarried and welcoming gay people, but neither of these would in any way contravene either Christ’s teaching, or core Catholic teaching. Cardinal Muller is simply wrong: what would be modified by changing pastoral practice, is bringing into conformity, not conflict, with “the word of God”.
So, what did Christ in fact teach on the family? First, he was clearly against divorce. (We should remember though, the context: Jewish divorce was grossly unfair to women. By opposing it, he was in fact asserting the equal value of women in the marriage relationship). However, there is not suggestion anywhere, that anyone in the synod has any desire at all to change teaching on divorce itself. All that is proposed, is some change to the rules on communion, in conformity with Christ’s own teaching on mercy, and in the spirit that the Eucharist is not a reward for good behaviour, but a help for all in our varied struggles.
What did he say on the family specifically? It’s not what most people think. He did NOT praise or promote what is often described as the “traditional” family (which is in fact a relatively modern invention). Instead, he encouraged his followers to leave their families, to call no man “father” – and to make their own families among fellow believer – which is exactly what he did himself. In all the New Testament, there is not a single instance recorded of his ever spending any time with a so-called “traditional” family. Instead, he associated primarily with his close band of twelve. His closest personal relationships seem to have been with his “Beloved Disciple”, and with the household of Martha, Mary and Lazarus in Bethany. Christ’s own “family” was very queer indeed, showing marked resemblance to the extended families of choice made by many modern gay men, especially in the metropolitan gay ghettoes.
So what did Christ have to say about homosexuality? Not a thing – but by agreeing to go to the home of the Roman centurion to heal his sick slave, knowing full well that in the custom of the Roman army, the onlookers will have assumed a sexual relationship between them, he demonstrated once again a clear willingness to welcome all outsiders – including those in a same – sex relationship. Here too, the proposals before the Synod have nothing at all to do with changing Church doctrine on homosexuality, but simply to bring pastoral practice into closer conformity with Christ’s teaching and example – and the Church’s own teaching on the importance of “respect, compassion and sensitivity”, and opposition to unjust discrimination and any form of malice, “in word or in action”.
By placing the modern nuclear family on a pedestal as the only acceptable form of human relationships, Vatican doctrine has veered markedly away from Christ’s own teaching. Cardinal Mueller should take note: Cardinal Sarah has warned that this is heresy.
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