Evangelisation will take the church back into the dangerous waters of arrogance and control.

3. The Pastoral Care of the Family in Evangelization
a) What experiences have emerged in recent decades regarding marriage preparation? What efforts are there to stimulate the task of evangelization of the couple and of the family? How can an awareness of the family as the “domestic Church” be promoted?

The Catholic Church continues to affirm the family as being the significant purpose of marriage, though the partnership is also given prominence by parish priests, who realise that there may not be children for years, if at all. The importance of the marriage being between two Catholics seems to be of less concern, as parish priests are pragmatic, and realise they are lucky to have the couple in their church at all. The fact that any subsequent children will be baptised is usually assumed — otherwise why would the couple bother to marry in the church, when they could do so in their reception hotel, or on a foreign beach instead.

Demographic shifts have seen an increase in investment in resources addressing mixed marriages, especially with respect to pastoral concerns. This is evidenced by the Bishops’ Conference and the recommendations to consult and involve and have a continuing dialogue with those affected.

Since the sacramental status of baptism of other Christian denominations was legally validated in 1970, there has been considerable progress in Christian ecumenism and such marriages can point to Christian unity. However, by highlighting the issue of children, it’s evident that inter-religious marriages have been far more problematic: whilst such marriages can be seen as opportunities for growth, there remain many challenges to faith, especially in the wider community context. Nevertheless, recent pastoral initiatives, especially those that seek affirmation of the other denomination, have fostered new theological reflections that may point a way to something analogous to ecumenism. Time will tell how all these pastoral and theological developments in inter-religious marriages will affect Canon Law, which appears to be increasingly left behind.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke of matrimony as “a Gospel in itself, a good news for the world of today, especially the de-Christianized world.” This shows how much of an anachronism he was.

Evangelisation will cause resentment amongst those who want to learn, to think and to develop spiritually. Evangelisation will take the church back into the dangerous waters of arrogance and control. 

Pope Benedict hinted at how little he understands, when he said, “the problem of divorced and remarried persons is one of the great sufferings of today’s church. And we do not have simple solutions.” He also said that “even if it is not possible to receive absolution in confession, [divorced-remarried Catholics] can nevertheless have ongoing contact with a priest, with a spiritual guide.”

Anyone who has made any form of spiritual progress, as many former Catholic priests and laity have, will see the sad prospect that these words offer for the continuation of the Catholic Church. Go to Austria, the Netherlands or Scandanavia and see how Catholic priests there spiritually inspire the members of their church, despite the arrogance and opposition from Rome.


Natural Law — not what they want it 2b

2b) Is the idea of the natural law in the union between a man and a woman commonly accepted as such by the baptized in general?

Birthrate statistics show that this clearly is not the case. Spain has more Catholic priests per capita than any country and the lowest of any birthrate: 1.2 children per couple. The higher the literacy rate in a Catholic country, the lower the birthrate.

Natural law may be commonly accepted by poorly educated people in african countries, but there could be other factors, rather than poor contraception that gives the increased birthrate figures there.

2c) How is the theory and practice of natural law in the union between man and woman challenged in light of the formation of a family? How is it proposed and developed in civil and Church institutions?

It is presented as an impractical and ineffective alternative to medical, mechanical or surgical contraception. Civil institutions, such as schools and medical clinics present it as an eccentric choice forced upon a minority of people. Church institutions, other than Catholic, present it in the same way as civil institutions.

Catholic institutions present it as the preferred option for those with no children and that although it might be considered by those who are already parents, it is up to the conscience of the individual to make the final choice.

2d) In cases where non-practicing Catholics or declared non-believers request the celebration of marriage, describe how this pastoral challenge is dealt with?

It took my grandfather 14 years of arguing with the soon to be Archbishop Downey — whose declared aim was the conversion of non–Catholic partners — that he could be a Catholic and a Freemason simultaneously.

I think Dr Downey was pleased to agree to the marriage in the interim, to relive the pressure he had to endure from my grandfather’s insistence on being a Freemason, which was far greater than the relentless pressure Downey brought to bear upon non-Catholic partners in mixed marriages. My grand–father’s argument: I made an oath under God when I became a Freemason, do you wish me to break it? If so, what value the oath you want me to make under God in my marriage?

By the time of my own marriage in 1961, the Church was still to recognise the validity of a protestant baptism. We had a bizarre situation, similar to the one that still existed in 1970, when this impediment was removed.

The Catholic Church regarded a marriage with an unbaptised person as invalid in principle. It would not become a marriage unless the impediment to marriage has been removed by an ecclesiastical dispensation and even then it is still dissoluble.

So we are saying that the local Bishop or maybe the Vatican’s Apostolic Delegate could say whether the marriage could take place, and even then, the couple could at some stage divorce.

In effect what it always came down to was the Catholic had to sign a form to say there were compelling reasons that meant he/she had to marry a non–Catholic partner: pregnancy was an acceptable reason, otherwise the Catholic was told to tick the box that said ‘financial dependency’.

Even the most devout of Catholics amongst my relatives refused to perjure herself in this way and wrote on the form, “My fiancé and I earn exactly the same amount as we do exactly the same job. I am a virgin. If you won’t let me marry in my own church, the Anglican vicar is happy to do so in my partner’s church.” The dispensation was routinely granted.

Natural Law — I don’t think they know what that is …

Question 2a: What place does the idea of the natural law have in the cultural areas of society: in institutions, education, academic circles and among the people at large? What anthropological ideas underlie the discussion on the natural basis of the family?


Natural Law has no marriage and therefore no marriage rules. Natural law is derived from observation of the species. Natural law shows that some species mate for life; others stay with one partner, then swap that one partner for another with whom they stay for another period of time.  Within other species it is the norm for every male or female to mate with any other member of the opposite sex and no partnerships to form. There are more natural partnership laws than there are species.

In non–primate mammals copulation is generally dependent on ovarian secretion of œstrogen and progesterone. In the majority of primates copulation will still occur even when the ovaries have been removed, so copulation is not linked solely to reproduction.

Homosexual behaviour is documented amongst Sumatran Orang–utans: fellation and ano–genital contact resulting in ejaculation. The participants observed were generally young adults and many showed hetero–sexual behaviour when they were older. Iso–sexual behaviour has been documented between female Japanese macaques. Dominance was eliminated as a cause and all activity interpreted as mutual sexual attraction and gratification amongst the participants. Females in same sex activity were observed to achieve orgasm.

If we consider a close primate, gorillas reproduce every four years with an infant mortality rate of 38%. The birth spacing is obtained through lactational amenorrhea which lasts three years. Sexual activity is not linked to reproduction and is generally initiated by the female, who selects a male from the group and solicits his attention. Where there are several males in the group, during her œstrus period, a female may be coerced by several males to copulate.

We can clearly see that natural law includes hetero–sexual, homo–sexual  and bi–sexual behaviour. The behaviour of the orang–utans shows similarity to pederasty, except that both participants were young.

In contemporary and recent primitive societies, the variety of sexual behaviours seem to be evidence of tradition, as Greek pederasty was, rather than innate preference. However, although homosexuality is rarely found amongst Orthodox Jews, that doesn’t make it wrong when it occurs; it just makes it unusual. What is wrong is to criticise or castigate someone for being kind and caring to whomever and in whatever way they choose.

Civilisation is about acceptance and tolerance of different lifestyles; barbarity is about punishing and condemning those whose lifestyle differs from our own, when individuals are consenting and act with love.

Observation of the human species shows us that in some advanced cultures a male and female had several sexual partners, but choose to stay with one who proved to be fertile. A marriage being affirmed once the man had shown his ability to make the woman pregnant.

In Celtic culture, which formed much of the early ‘Christian’ practice outside of Rome, the woman could later divorce the man, if he was unfaithful to her or did not treat her according to the law. This law was repealed, curiously by the action of the Roman Archbishop of Canterbury in 1284, as it allowed a divorced woman to keep half the property after seven years of marriage and required a landowner’s property to be divided amongst all his sons, including those who were illegitimate.

Once again the church abolished a fair and just law, not on any moral ground, but so that it could claim a share of land or property.

Celibacy was practiced amongst some monastic groups, it was not mandatory but voluntary. Celtic communities were celibate, had married monks and nuns, or had both. The Roman patriarchal priesthood, being politically oriented, rather than spiritually, included wives, mistresses and children.

Sexual mutilation was practiced by the Roman Church, for entertainment, from the 16th century to the late 19th. This was certainly unnatural.

Until recent times, life–expectancy was short, so it was rare for two people to be married for very long: war, illness or disease would disrupt the union. Since marriage was introduced by the church 700 years ago, divorce has been allowed for political reasons — under the label of annulment. In the last hundred years, changes in family circumstances have demanded a change of permitted circumstances from the church.

It seems that the human family is naturally part of a cohesive social group with very sophisticated rules that recognise the fair and just rights of the individual, and balance those with the benefits to the social group itself. As long as everyone lives harmoniously and in agreement with the consensus of what is fair, the rules will reflect that, and will be relevant in application when someone needs to leave a relationship or the group.

If we try to look for examples of a natural family relationship in the scriptures, we are rather constrained.

The Old Testament doesn’t present a good model:
Adam ate some fruit and blamed his wife; Cain needed anger management and killed his brother; Abraham passes his wife off as his sister — twice — gets another woman pregnant and thinks infanticide is okay;  Lot is in favour of incest and letting strangers rape his daughters; Isaac and Rebekah have favourites and she plots with her favourite against her other son and her husband, so that her favourite has to leave home to save his life: Jacob has thirteen children by four different wives, and he hasn’t learned from his parents — his favourite son is chucked down a well and his other sons boast to Jacob that they have killed him … families feud amongst themselves and with other people; incest and adultery are common practice and encouraged; recalcitrant children are not taught the error of their ways, but stoned and killed by the elders of the village … and I haven’t even got to Solomon’s concubines.

If you want a dysfunctional family, that’s all you’ll find in The Torah.

The New Testament doesn’t present much about family life at all. If you understand it’s spiritual purpose it does not need to. Of course what is lacking is made up for by the Coptic stories of Jesus’ upbringing in Egypt. If you want to believe Jesus killed teachers and was rude to mother and other adults, even turning their children into pigs, you will find it there, but like anything of Jesus’ life, it is just a story and not to be taken factually. So the family stories are metaphors, and the closest we get to a family role model ends with the nativity.

When it comes to family planning, we have the gorilla model that can be applied for spacing offspring. In general, it would appear that the more frequent and the longer the episodes of breastfeeding, the longer will be the period of anovulation, and the longer the period of infertility. Taking into account certain well defined conditions (frequent feedings, no supplementary feeding before 4-6 months, method only to be used in the absence of menstruation), LAM can be relied on for contraceptive protection for up to 1 year post partum.  So for birth spacing that’s natural and fine.

For a practical solution to child–rearing, we need to feed them — natural food we can source, but when we clothe them and house them all our actions become unnatural. It isn’t natural to live in houses or wear clothes, and there is no logical or spiritual precedent why we can’t be creative and inventive with the spacing of our family.

God doesn’t want more children in the world than it can feed,  though we do know that if we consider what the Bible tells us that God wants, he wouldn’t mind if they starved — or drowned. But that God is the man–made god of Judeans and not the compassionate God that Christians know.

If we go back to nature for our clue, we see that God is the biggest abortionist: 80% of embryos do not reach fœtus stage, they are spontaneously aborted. Nature also confirms that the soul does not take up residence at conception: 80% of souls would be scrapped too, and monozygotic twins or quadruplets would have to share one.

So nature confirms that there is nothing natural about prohibiting contraception or abortion. No–one has the right to force a child to be born, any more than they have the right to force a woman to conceive, that would be an act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person — the latter would make the Catholic Church one that promotes an act of rape.

How widespread is the Church’s teaching?

Question 1c: How widespread is the Church’s teaching in pastoral programmes at the national, diocesan and parish levels? What catechesis is done on the family?

Fortunately, in the schools, both Catholic and non–denominational, in UK, France and Austria, in which I have taught, the Church’s teaching is not emphatic. Image

UK Catholic schools differ only from other schools in that the Church’s teaching creates a greater positive ethos than non–denominational schools. The UK curriculum insists on teaching comparative religion through all Key Stages.

It is balanced and a little anachronistic, in the early years, in the way if teaches Christianity. I was surprised, that Catholic schools teach little that is Catholic, focussing on sacraments and rituals.

Grace before or after meals is an asset to the teacher: it focuses the class and makes unruly teenagers settle down. Spirituality is absent everywhere, myth abounds.

Catechesis is largely absent in UK Catholic secondary schools, though slogans may appear on posters on the wall. In Austria it is the subject of discussion and debate.

Religion is not allowed to be taught in french schools, Wednesday is set aside as a day for religious instruction, most family send their children to sports clubs or music lessons instead.

In my own family, Catechesis was the subject of discussion and debate as long as I can remember, so for over 65 years. Nothing was accepted unless it made sense, and yes … fitted with one’s conscience.

Question 1d: To what extent — and what aspects in particular — is this teaching actually known, accepted, rejected and/or criticized in areas outside the Church? What are the cultural factors which hinder the full reception of the Church’s teaching on the family?

Since 1963, when educated and thinking Catholics everywhere were led to believe that the church would see sense and leave them to sort out their marriage and child–rearing arrangements, the Church’s teaching has been ignored.

The birth–rate in Catholic countries with a high literacy rate, has dropped to one that is sustainable with the planet’s resources. In Europe the birthrate is below replacement level, so Catholic populations will fall. Amongst the uneducated in Africa it is around 6 to 7 children, but this at least may reduce with education and is not as unsustainable as the 10 children that were common in Catholic families 75 to 100 years ago.

Criticism comes from those who want to retain their priests. Priests don’t want to be celibate and they do want to be priests. Congregations want priests, regardless of gender and to be part of the church. If God only recognises the spirit of a person, why is the Church interested in their gender.

Congregations also demand spiritual progression and guidance that is found in Buddhism or even some Hindu practices. They want more kindness and Dalai Lama and less condemnation and Papal Patriarch.

Criticism comes from outsiders, many who see the church as arrogant and exclusive and only wanting to offer the hand of friendship to religions, if they can recruit those followers who want to retain a patriarchal management, at a time when their more Christian priests want to broaden their vocation to include everyone who wishes to take on the role regardless of gender, marital status or sexuality.

the Church’s teaching… is it accepted fully?

Question 1b: In those cases where the Church’s teaching is known, is it accepted fully or are there difficulties in putting it into practice? If so, what are they?

I had no problem with the Church’s teaching until I was ten. It was then that I started asking questions.

I used to hear voices in my head. I put my hands on animals or people and they felt hot. I could tell where someone felt a pain and what it felt like. I asked my mother was it anything like Jesus talked about in the Bible.

I was sent to a psychiatrist — who asked the most ridiculous questions: did I ever hear the voice of someone who wasn’t there? Yes, we had a phone in our house! It was obvious that he didn’t know what he was talking about and just didn’t want to understand.

Fortunately my grandmother, the devout, always–at–Mass, clutching–a–rosary, teacher of Catechism to converts, helped me out. “Don’t worry, I hear them too, usually my mother, and I even see your Aunty Nell, just don’t tell your mother.”

It took a quarter of a century to find an answer, but I can now following in Jesus’ footsteps … or perhaps those of Francis of Assisi, I work as an animal communicator and healer.

Thank God no–one introduced me to that superstitious nonsense that makes you obsessed with evil spirits … and I met the exorcist for the diocese of Nice, before I’d heard of Gabriel Amorth, of whom Père Testoris vehemently disapproved.

My next problem arose when I was fourteen. The church had strange opinions on sex. That changed to strange opinions on marriage and contraception. And later I discovered it had an opinion on masturbation. So back to the conscience and saved by St Augustine once again.

My conscience was reinforced by a boyfriend at a De La Salle teacher training college, who was winning philosophical contraception arguments daily with the brothers; a cousin who was a newly ordained priest, who protested at Vatican II and never accepted a parish; an Amplethorpe student of Basil Hume who left the priesthood to marry, and an inadequate parish priest who had no answers but found them with the Archbishop or a whisky bottle.

My conscience told me that fidelity to someone you loved was important and that I had a duty to bring up and care for any children that I had. I didn’t need any rules and the Catholic Church was in no position to give them. Certainly Encyclicals didn’t help, the church broke its own quite clearly, it ran boarding schools, which children in my family attended, whilst simultaneously condemning families for sending their children away from home for their education.

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How are Catholic Church’s teachings on the value of the family understood …

1. Question1a: Describe how the Catholic Church’s teachings on the value of the family contained in the Bible, Gaudium et Spes, Familiaris Consortio and other documents of the post-conciliar Magisterium is understood by people today? What formation is given to our people on the Church’s teaching on family life?

Answer: 1a.

In the Old Testament, the Bible gives a very curious view of the family, condoning incest, adultery and prostitution.

The New Testament gives a different view, that is usually misunderstood as most people take it literally.

Gaudium et Spes is of little help to those educated in spirituality as its first chapter begs a question: “The Church certainly understands these problems. Endowed with light from God, she can offer solutions to them, so that man’s true situation can be portrayed and his defects explained, while at the same time his dignity and destiny are justly acknowledged.”

How is a church, so detached from the spiritual message of its origins, “endowed with light from God“. This is not only a false premise, it denies the church’s own history: the light was stamped out from the time of Emperor Justinian, wherever it flickered the “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” as it called itself, put the spiritual light out.

Familiaris Consortio starts to sound as though maybe the family is in with a chance after the fiasco that I remember as a young parent following Vatican II — when all my four friends in seminaries left the priesthood or the church.

We are encouraged to know that the Magisterium recognises: “The Need To Understand the Situation.” We are disappointed to see that it has made no progress by the end of Part 1: “So that the goal of this journey might be clear and consequently the way plainly indicated, the Synod was right to begin by considering in depth the original design of God for marriage and the family: it “went back to the beginning,” in deference to the teaching of Christ.(19)”

In other words, Familiaris Consortio can still be translated as a fellowship of slaves. The church doesn’t want us to make spiritual progress on our own, it wants to reaffirm its presumed right to tell us what to do.

Other documents — how long have you got?

“What formation is given to our people on the Church’s teaching on family life?” None, it isn’t a formation process, it’s a take it or leave it one.

Never once was I given a spiritual reason for celibate priests. I had to find it for myself: By the sixth century, the pope had decided that married priests posed a threat to church property. He introduced laws that stopped newly ordained priests from passing their property on to their children.

Pope Gregory later declared all sons of priests illegitimate (daughters couldn’t inherit). In 1022 Pope Benedict VIII banned marriages and mistresses and in 1139 Pope Innocent II made all marriages invalid and new priests had to get divorced.

Ironic when you think that the enemies of the 12th century church were the ones with prohibitions on sex: Much of this was seen to be instigated by the Gnostic thinking of groups like the Cathars, who thought that sexuality weakened you spiritually. Sects like the Cathars and Bogomils led an ascetic life and had had a significant impact on spiritual thinking.

The Bogomils did not reject sex, but thought that reproduction was spiritually counter–productive: the more children that were born, the more souls there were and so it would take longer for every soul to make its way back to God and reunite.

Bernard of Clairvaux and the Knights Templar were particularly influenced by the Cathars and the Templars were the Pope’s banker, so the ‘spiritual’ influence could well have come from them.

By the time of the French Revolution things started to turn the other way and in 1789 the state confiscated all church property. Disillusioned priests and nuns, relieved to be free of Rome’s restrictive control, were glad to be told by the french government they must marry!

My next question: why does the Church say you can’t marry a none Catholic? No help on that either. So I found out for myself.

Marriage didn’t have much significance to the Church until 12th century. It wasn’t until the 12th century that a priest would witness a marriage ceremony, and it would take another hundred years before the ceremony was actually performed by a priest. So marriage, as far as the Church was concerned, was to do with the inheritance of property, controlling the rules of primogenitor, and how property changed hands when someone married.

Nice one Church, how’s God feeling about all this?

At least the thing that has changed is the threats, if you disregard what the Church dictates and make your own educated mind up, you don’t feel guilty and feel that you have let God or the church down.

Thank God that the Church taught us that our conscience is the final arbiter of what is right.

Q1. The Diffusion of the Teachings on the Family in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s Magisterium

So we start Section 1.

Q1. The Diffusion of the Teachings on the Family in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s Magisterium

Akhenaten, Nefertiti and three of their Daughters; limestone; New Kingdom, Amarna period, 18th dynasty; c. 1350 BC. Egyptian Museum Berlin, Inv. no. 14145.

All the depictions of the ‘heretic pharaoh’ Akehnaten’s family life show his wife Nefertiti, the ‘beauty who comes here’, and his daughters. The dominant figure in these family scenes, is no longer the pharaoh but the royal couple ‘united’, bearer of the same divinity and bound to their family by their mutual love. They sit, in love, under the disc representing the Aten, the one almighty God, whose long arms extend through the Pharaoh to the family and us.

As early as 2400 BCE, the importance of the family is shown, with the wife depicted alongside her husband. Their children are shown too, even when the man is receiving his social subordinates. The wife appears with the husband in depictions of celebration, sport and leisure as well as in their home. The couple depicted the great love bond between Isis and Osiris.

By the time of Akhenaten, 1000 years later, the family was used to demonstrate the universal love that we should all have for each other. A divine bond that united members of a family, each family to every other and to the pharaoh, to the Universe and the Aten.

If the earliest scriptures of the Ancient Egytians show the importance of the family, it should still be important to us.