As the Catholic Church nears the much anticipated Synod on the Family (October 5-19) an increasing number of bishops are playing a dangerous game of expectations setting. In a largely unprecedented manner, prelates are utilizing the media to promote their views, seeking to drive a progressive agenda through interviews and pastoral statements. Those bishops who are espousing some of the more radical changes to the traditional teachings and practices of the Church appear to be growing ever more emboldened in their statements.
Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp is one such prelate. In language that is as disheartening as it is shocking, his excellency released a letter for the faithful earlier this month entitled, “Synod on the Family, Expectations of a Diocesan Bishop.” Bishop Bonny’s words speak for themselves.
When discussing the matter of “regular” and “irregular” situations within Christian families, Bishop Bonny notes:
“In the same context, I have often been forced to observe how offensive the language of the Church can come across with respect to certain individuals and situations. Those who want to enter into dialogue with others must guard against the use of ethical qualifications that do not square with lived reality and as a result sound extremely humiliating. Many of our Church documents are in urgent need of revision in this regard…”
What comes next, however, is truly shocking. Invoking a secular reasoning and emotive language of a contemporary culture which rejects natural law, moral theology and absolute truth, Bishop Bonny offers the following three scenarios:
K and P have been married for thirty years and have four children, roughly three times the average number of children in a Belgian family. After the birth of their fourth child they had reached their limit and decided to use birth control to prevent further conceptions. Can we say without nuance of these parents with four children that because of their method of birth control they are falsifying conjugal love, that they have ruptured the essential bond between marriage and fertility and that they no longer give themselves to one another completely? Or might we not value their generosity as parents, encourage them in the attention they devote to their relationship and to the further development of a welcoming home for their children?
In other words, because the average Belgian family has only 1.3 children today due to the near collapse of the faith in Belgium, the Catholic Church should now accept contraception within marriage. This would of course immediately undermine the meaning and purpose of marriage as it has always been understood by Holy Mother Church, and was most notably restated by Pope Paul VI in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.
The bishop’s second scenario:
A and L did everything they could to have a baby. As L approached her 40th the situation became more urgent. Their desire to have a child was genuine and generous, and supported moreover by a deep Christian faith. Medical problems led them to opt for homologous in vitro fertilisation. Can we say in general terms of this couple that because of their medical option they open a door to the domination of technology over the destiny of the human person, that their deeds are in conflict with the common dignity of parents and children, and that they see their child as a piece of property? Or might we not try to understand their profound desire to keep love and fertility conjoined, and hope that their desire to have a child will be fulfilled with the help of skilled and meticulous medical experts?
A diocesan bishop actually asking the question, “Why not IVF?”
Bishop Bonny presents his final example, suggesting that the Church may actually wish to encourage younger people to seek cohabitation before marriage:
J and M are both in their mid-twenties and both university graduates; they both have a job and they live together unmarried; they plan to stay together and to start a family. Their parents and entire family, moreover, have confidence in the way they are making their way in life as a couple. Can we say a priori of these young people that because they are living together unmarried they have opted for a trial marriage, that human reason points to the unacceptability of their choice and that they are treating one another in a way that runs counter to their personal dignity and against the purpose of love? Or might we not encourage them in the choice they have made for one another in the hope that their relationship might evolve towards civil marriage and sacramental marriage?
He concludes by declaring:
There can be little doubt that such situations deserve more respect and a more nuanced evaluation than the language of certain Church documents appear to prescribe.
In the end it is important to understand what exactly so many are looking toward the synod for: nothing less than the redefinition of marriage and the family.
Brian Williams is a convert who entered the Catholic Church in 2006. He is a graduate of Long Beach State University with a BA in History. Brian blogs on life, liturgy and the pursuit of holiness at liturgyguy.com. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife and five children.
Since Christ was crucified, His Bride must suffer the same fate. In prior centuries, this crucifixion was occurring by enemies from the outside however now it is occurring within. Oh how painful this whole situation is.
I am trying not to be anxious but this gets overwhelming at times.
So many Catholics I know, however, will read these scenarios and say, “What’s wrong? They love each other, don’t they?” Few Catholics understand what is wrong with these situations, and fewer still have the language to explain what is wrong with them. The requirements of a licit and valid Sacrament of Holy Matrimony are no less stringent than those of any other Sacrament, yet it seems that the efforts to reduce it to an optional semi-formal party to vary the pattern of common coupling is growing in places where it should still be revered and respected.
I will repent of my own sins in respect for a very long time.
The Church must hold to the truth. The Bishops, etc. are dispensable. They should be “let go” , let go to be “free” with their opinions in the secular world, and they should make a living outside the Church. That would be most “freeing” for all concerned.
The current primate, Abp André-Joseph Léonard, is a good bishop inline with PBXVI & StPJPII. Who as I primate of Belgium might be in the synod. Let us hope and pray that he will be the voice of a true apostle of today.
The Agit-Prop for Altar Girls began in the low countries and, after the fashionable pro forma objections of the abuse were issued (absent any discipline applied to the miscreants), the Agit-Prop intensified and it was eventually rewarded and which intermittent operant conditioning only served to strengthen the resolve of the modernist miscreants.
If that was the outcome desired M.J. can not say but that outcome was only to be expected for doctrine, absent discipline, is eventually subverted.
O, that opening speech at Vatican Two which foreswore the application of discipline; how’s that working-out for ya Shadow Church?
But what sort of shepherds are they who for fear of giving offense not only fail to prepare the sheep for the temptations that threaten, but even promise them worldly happiness? God himself made no such promise to this world. On the contrary, God foretold hardship upon hardship in this world until the end of time. And you want the Christian to be exempt from these troubles? Precisely because he is a Christian, he is destined to suffer more in this world.
St. Francis practiced beastiality.
“There can be little doubt that such situations deserve more respect and a
more nuanced evaluation than the language of certain Church documents
appear to prescribe.”
No. They don’t deserve more respect and nuance. They deserve the truth. Those in these “situations” deserve the respect of honest language. Words have meaning. When we use them, we owe our listeners the *true* meaning of the words we use. And if the words are hard, we work toward *honest* solutions. Pretend language is for children.
Sorry, was Jesus Himself not respectful for the adultary woman, accused by the scribes and jewish priests. He treated her as a human and said He Himself was not condemming her eather, but let her go with the “mild” message not to sin anymore. What bishop Bonny is pleading for is a mercyful approach, not of accepting anything, and for sure he is pleading for a more careful use of words; Who are we to judge others in their particular situations; situations we don’t know all the aspects of it, and for sure we don’t know the heart of these people, their hopes and fears and weaknesses and failures. We are not to jugde them, but we are to strengthen them and helping them to keep on listening to the Lord through the teachings of the Church. By condemming them, we are hard and not at all working toward ‘honest solutions’, on the contrary, we are expelling these people from the Church, who after all is a Church of sinners (dixit Pope Francis). Mercy is a key-word for Christians, don’t forgot that never.
I hear what you’re saying Frans, however I must point out that Jesus Himself, while befriending Mary Magdalene, because of her soul, not because of her sin, did let her know strongly that her behaviour was not the way to behave. Being God, He did therefore judge as only He can. By doing this, He let us know how to love the sinner, not the sin. Therefore, we are to encourage others to follow His rules, His teachings, and encourage others to follow Him too. While we do not “judge”, we encourage others to follow God’s guidance for us. And while many do not like some of His rules, e.g. natural contraception only, and to not live together before marriage, indeed they are His rules. Who can argue with Him?
“Who are we to judge others”, you ask? We are nothing. I am no judge. But THE CHURCH is THE BRIDE OF CHRIST, our MATER ET MAGISTRA, Mother and Teacher. THE CHURCH can and must judge in order of teach the Truth She was endowed with. I can’t judge what isn’t of my knowledge; the Church, however, MUST judge, telling apart truth from error and teaching the truth, as She has been doing for 2000+ years. And no coward faithless gutless bishop will bring the Church into error.
Mercy, the real Mercy, is daughter of Truth. The Truth IS Christ, and His truth must be shouted from rooftops, not hidden beneath a cover of “non-judgementalism”.
Error is error. I know that, for I do sin a lot, as most people do. But it would be an outrage to God if I demanded my sins to be treated as virtues. They are sins, to be treated as such, and I must work to correct myself and become a less sinful man. That’s how it is. All else is lying doubletalk .
Why does Belgium always have the worst bishops? How in the world could this guy have become a Catholic priest, let alone a bishop. He doesn’t even know the obvious answers to basic Catholic issues.
Pope John Paul 2nd when he came to power in 1978 almost right away DEMOTED Jadot of Belgium Preventing him from becoming a Cardinal a given for a archbishop of Jadot’s stature at the Time. Listen to Jadot now dead, retired Daniels-AB(Celebrate Homosexual marriage?) statements and this sorry excuse for a bishop you will understand why the Catholic faith church weekly mass going is down to single digits in the low countries , 2% in Netherlands and not much better in Belgium
Really sorry, but I know bishop Bonny nearly 30 years and I know he’s a good priest and a good bishop. He doesn’t deserve at all this kind of judgment.
Nobody is judging Bishop Bonny as a person, but rather his fitness to hold the position he does. To say a man who is afraid of cutting and blood would not make a good surgeon is not to judge him, but to make a common sense assessment.
So while we can hope that people will progress toward living the Faith, there will be no hope of that progression if what the Faith is and requires is not clearly communicated. Especially when it is not even spoken of clearly to actual Catholics in the pews.
How??? this fellow became or remained a priest let alone became a Bishop is quite astonishing. If JP 2nd had known of this Bonny sorry excuse for clergy fellow etc he would have been ousted by JP 2nd as he did with Jadot of Belgium and Huthausen of Wash. state USA a long time ago.
As a Belgian Catholic, I often ask myself the same question. What have we done to deserve this? Until the Second Vatican Council, Belgium was a highly religious country that sent numerous missionaries to developing countries. Currently, many people under the age of 50, including young people in Catholic schools, cannot even answer the most basic questions about their faith. Spiritually, we’re left to starve by our own leaders (with the exception of Archbishop Leonard) and they don’t seem to care. If some people (maybe 3% of the population) are still going to Mass every Sunday, this is happening in spite of our bishops, not thanks to to them!
NOT surprised sad to say. I in the USA cannot recall ANY Bishop, Arch bishop or administrator of ANY Catholic institution on a Yearly basis state what the teaching of the Catholic faith is on Abortion drugs contraception- Humane Vitae is let alone promote or defend it. Obviously too many sorry excuses for Clerics like Dolan-NYC who in numerous public interviews like this sorry Belgium Bishop- Dolan has stated he has NEVER promoted ANY aspect of the Catholic faith on Morals sexual or otherwise for years or decades..
To cease to proclaim the full truth of moral doctrine is to cease to love those to whom you bishops were called to serve.
I know Bishop Johan Bonny since nearly 30 years, at the beginning when he was professor at the Seminar of the Diocese of Bruges (Belgium). He is a man with a great love for the Church, for Her Tradition and Her Teachings. But as well he is a person who listens to the people who, in daily life, try to follow Christ, work for the good of the Church and the people around them. I have read his letter and highly appreciated the mild tone, critical indeed, but with a great sense for nuance and carefull in it’s words. As a bishop he has done a great work in his diocese to refresh church life, bringing the teachings for the Church as a message of salvation and hope. He rightfully expresses the hopes from so many good catholics in an official letter to the Fathers of the Synod, He doesn’t deserve at all the ‘angry’ voices I read here. He is truely a very good bishop highly esteemed by the great majority of his priests and catholics. He’s entitled to let hear the voice of all these who are faithfull to the Church.
That is why I am trying to remain calm. These media stories only tell a small piece of the big picture. I am torn because of love of Church tradition and at the same time knowledge of my own past sins of cohabitation and contraceptives. While I was in sin, I snuck in the back door and listened and eventually realized my error and totally converted. If I let my fear of my sin hold me back I would be still lost. I want sinners to have access to the beautiful teachings of the Church. How can they learn if they are not allowed in. On the other hand how can they learn if they are not taught the truth. So confused!
Charitable teaching of the fullness of the Truth is what is needed. Straight talk doesn’t need to be fire and brimstone, it never has been. But for some, the fire and brimstone unvarnished Truth is what finally breaks through the barrier of thinking there is no sin and need for conversion.
Church going on a weekly basis(Sunday and Holy days etc.) is down to single digits (2% Netherlands and similar in Luxemborg & Belgium) in the low countries and birth rate is 1.3 child per person there -LC. This fellow Bonny is an example of the collapse of the faith in West Europe-Belgium to say the least !!
2-3 % of Catholics go to mass on Sunday-Sabbath in Belgium. Bonny and Daniels are a reason why. WHY this silly apostasy is embraced by Francis???. Does he NOT SEE the damage caused by these apostates in Belguim Ireland Germany and the USA etc.
“Or might we not try to understand their profound desire to keep love and
fertility conjoined, and hope that their desire to have a child will be
fulfilled with the help of skilled and meticulous medical experts?
So what about all the human beings murdered with every IVF?? As far as I know not all embryos created are ALWAYS implanted in the woman.
F***in HELL! Are these Bishops for real??
1. Anticipation: Is this Vatican II all over again? That people anticipated even before the council finished and made changes that has significant impact to the abuses in the church? Nothing is wrong with Vatican II, it is Spirit-led…but the people that claim the ‘spirit’ of Vatican II never even read the document. Is this going to be like Vatican II again?
2. Secular Reasoning: If it was a priest, I wouldn’t take much notice and pray hopefully the Bishop will do something about it. But a BISHOP? Under the disguise of ‘compassion’, with secular reasoning try to undermine the Truth? What era are we living in? How on earth they could become Bishops? Bloody HELL!
Would it be compassionate to let people go to hell? Sure there are more loving and charitable way to correct one’s fault than being ‘compassionate’ in letting them do what ever they want. The Church is the Mother and it’s the parent’s DUTY to teach the children.
Gosh…this issue makes my blood more boiling than seeing someone living in sin.
Just like Jesus in the Gospel…he’s very hard on the religious and very compassionate towards sinners. So am I feeling extremely mad to the bishops and I am compassionate to fellow friends that may not living in the fullness of the truth.
Relativism. Putrid. If…The Word of God is the onlly sure thing, no IFS, ANDS OR BUTS.