Nearly 500 priests in Britain urge synod to stand firm on Communion for the remarried

Priests says that doctrine and practice must ‘remain firmly and inseparably in harmony’

Almost 500 priests in Britain have signed a letter urging those attending this year’s family synod to issue a “clear and firm proclamation” upholding Church teaching on marriage.

In the letter, published in this week’s Catholic Herald, the priests write: “We wish, as Catholic priests, to re-state our unwavering fidelity to the traditional doctrines regarding marriage and the true meaning of human sexuality, founded on the Word of God and taught by the Church’s Magisterium for two millennia.”

Last year’s extraordinary synod provoked heated debate on the question of whether remarried Catholics should be permitted to receive Holy Communion – a proposal presented by retired German Cardinal Walter Kasper. 

In what is thought to be an unprecedented step, 461 priests in Britain have joined together to urge synod participants to resist the proposal. 

They write: “We affirm the importance of upholding the Church’s traditional discipline regarding the reception of the sacraments, and that doctrine and practice remain firmly and inseparably in harmony.”

One signatory, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed there “has been a certain amount of pressure not to sign the letter and indeed a degree of intimidation from some senior Churchmen”. 

Another, who also asked not to be named, said the issue of Communion for the remarried was “a matter of pastoral concern and fidelity to the Gospel”. 

He said: “Mercy requires both love and truth. There’s a lot at stake. Not all priests would be comfortable expressing themselves in an open letter, but I’d be very worried if there were priests who disagreed with the sentiments it contains. 

“The letter calls for fidelity to Catholic teaching, and that practice should remain ‘inseparably in harmony’ with doctrine. The priests state that they remain committed to helping ‘those who struggle to follow the Gospel in an increasingly secular society’, but imply that those couples and families who have remained faithful are not being adequately supported or encouraged.”

Notable signatories to the letter include theologians Fr Aidan Nichols and Fr John Saward, and Oxford physicist Fr Andrew Pinsent. Fr Robert Billing, spokesman for the Diocese of Lancaster, Fr Tim Finigan, blogger and Catholic Herald columnist, and Fr Julian Large, provost of the London Oratory, have also signed the letter.

The priests conclude the letter by urging all participants in the forthcoming synod “to make a clear and firm proclamation of the Church’s unchanging moral teaching, so that confusion may be removed, and faith confirmed.”

Speaking recently at the presentation of his new book, Pope Francis’s Revolution of Tenderness and Love, Cardinal Kasper said Catholics should let their bishops know their hopes and concerns about the synod. But even more importantly they should pray that the Holy Spirit guides the bishops’ deliberations.

He said: “We should all pray for it because a battle is going on. Hopefully, the synod will be able to find a common answer, with a large majority, which will not be a rupture with tradition, but a doctrine that is a development of tradition.”

Full text of the letter and list of signatories:

SIR – Following the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome in October 2014 much confusion has arisen concerning Catholic moral teaching. In this situation we wish, as Catholic priests, to re-state our unwavering fidelity to the traditional doctrines regarding marriage and the true meaning of human sexuality, founded on the Word of God and taught by the Church’s Magisterium for two millennia. 

We commit ourselves anew to the task of presenting this teaching in all its fullness, while reaching out with the Lord’s compassion to those struggling to respond to the demands and challenges of the Gospel in an increasingly secular society. Furthermore we affirm the importance of upholding the Church’s traditional discipline regarding the reception of the sacraments, and that doctrine and practice remain firmly and inseparably in harmony. 

We urge all those who will participate in the second Synod in October 2015 to make a clear and firm proclamation of the Church’s unchanging moral teaching, so that confusion may be removed, and faith confirmed.

Yours faithfully,

[signed by 500 priests]

Originally published in catholic herald 

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