The Pope’s Reply to the Scholars’ Statement

wijngaardsOn the 23rd of January I sent a letter to Pope Francis (address: Secretariate of State, Vatican). I enclosed a copy of the Catholic Scholars’ Statement on Marriage and the Family with the scholars’ signatures attached to the document.

I also sent copies of the Statement to Cardinal Peter Erdö, Relator General of the Synod; to the Synod’s Secretariate in Rome; to to Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster (London) and to a number of key Cardinal advisors of the Pope. Some responded saying they would study the document.

Here are copies of my correspondence with the Pope.

My letter to the Pope in Spanish / Mi carta al Papa Francesco

Sínodo sobre la Familia 2014
23 de enero de 2014

Querido hermano en Cristo:
El próximo Sínodo sobre la Familia implica un gran potencial para el porvenir de la fe y el bienestar espiritual de muchos de nuestros hermanos creyentes. En nombre de un grupo internacional de estudiosos católicos, le estoy enviando nuestra Declaración sobre el Matrimonio y la Familia [En Inglés: Catholic Scholars’ Declaration on Marriage and the Family] que, esperamos, pueda serle útil a usted en la planificación de dicho Sínodo.
Soy consciente de que la mayor parte de la información preparatoria estará siendo recogida a través de las Conferencias Episcopales locales. Nuestra Declaración —por estar firmada por académicos de nivel internacional— no corresponde a ningún país en particular, y es por lo que le estoy enviando una copia directamente a usted. No obstante, he enviado una copia de cortesía al Arzobispo Vie Nichols, Primado de Inglaterra y Wales.
La primera redacción de la Declaración fue elaborada por el profesor Joseph Selling, moralista de la Universidad Católica de Lovaina, Bélgica. A continuación fue debatida y firmada por 74 católicos expertos en muy variados campos: dogmática teología, ética, sicología, medicina, teología moral, Biblia… y otras. Su puede considerar que su visión representa la opinión mayoritaria de los expertos católicos de todo el mundo.
En las últimas décadas, la libertad genuina de expresión ha sido suprimida en el ámbito eclesial. Muchos teólogos, sacerdotes y laicos, están convencidos de que un determinado número de las llamadas «enseñanzas de la Iglesia» no resisten un escrutinio serio. Esto es verdaderamente dañino para la Iglesia, mina la credibilidad de la autoridad y quiebra la confianza de los creyentes. Por esto es por lo que estamos expresando nuestros puntos de vista con franqueza, conscientes del hecho de que nuestra «libertad de investigación, libertad de pensamiento y libertad de expresión», reconocida por el Vaticano II (Gaudium et Spes, nº 62), no es sólo un derecho, sino también un deber. «Por encima del Papa como expresión de la fuerza vinculante de la autoridad eclesiástica, está todavía la propia conciencia personal, que debe ser obedecida antes que cualquier otra cosa. Si fuera necesario, debe ser obedecida incluso contra el requerimiento de la autoridad eclesiástica. La conciencia nos convoca a un supremo y decisivo tribunal, que está por encima incluso de los reclamos de la Iglesia oficial» [Joseph Ratzinger, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, ed. Vorgrimler, 1968, parte 1, capítulo 1].
Creemos que ha llegado el momento de que la Iglesia ajuste su postura oficial en un cierto número de reglas de ética sexual, que no son ni doctrina revelada, ni tradición inmutable; derivan más bien de la filosofía griega y las percepciones pre-científicas de la Edad Media. Es impostergable que las orientaciones de la Iglesia sobre la moralidad de la vida matrimonial reflejen la teología, la ciencia y la visión de nuestro tiempo.
Le deseamos la bendición de Dios en este importante proceso de consulta y de decisión que va a ser posible gracias a este Sínodo.

Con respetuosos saludos en Cristo,

John Wijngaards
(see English translation below)

_______

Reply from the Vatican / Respuesta del Vaticano

letterrome

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English translation of my Letter to the Pope

Synod on the Family 2014
23 January 2014
Dear Father in Christ,
The proposed Synod on the Family holds great potential for the survival of faith and the spiritual well-being of many of our faithful. On behalf of an international group of Catholic scholars I am sending you our Statement on Marriage and the Family with the scholars’s signatures which, we hope, will be of use to you in your planning of that Synod.
I realise that most preparatory information is being gathered through the medium of local Bishops’ Conferences. However, our Statement – on account of the international character of academic signatories – does not fall under any particular country, which is why I am addressing a copy directly to you. I have, however, sent a complimentary copy to Archbishop Vince Nichols, Primate of England and Wales.
The original draft of the Statement was drawn up by Professor Joseph Selling, emeritus moral theologian of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. It has been subsequently discussed and signed by 74 Catholic experts in many fields: dogmatic theology, ethics, psychology, medicine, moral theology, sacred scripture, and so on. Their views are representative of the considered opinion of the majority of Catholic scholars world wide.
In recent decades, genuine freedom of expression has been suppressed in Church circles. Many theologians, priests and lay people realise that a number of so-called Church ‘teachings’ do not stand up to scrutiny. This is very damaging to the Church. It undermines the credibility of authority and shakes the confidence of the faithful. That is why we are expressing our views frankly, conscious of the fact that our “freedom of research, freedom of thought and freedom of expression” acknowledged by Vatican II (Gaudium et Spes § 62), is not only a right but also a duty. “Over the Pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else. It must be obeyed if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. Conscience confronts us with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim even of the official Church” [Joseph Ratzinger, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, ed. Vorgrimler, 1968, part 1, chapter 1].
We feel that the time has come for the Church to adjust its official position on a number of regulations affecting sexual ethics. These regulations are neither revealed doctrine, nor unchangeable traditions. Rather they often derive from Greek philosophy and scientific perceptions of the Middle Ages. It is imperative that the Church’s guidance on the morality of married life reflects the theology, science and understanding of our own time.

We wish God’s blessings on the important process of consultation and decision making that will be made possible through this Synod.

With respectful greetings in Christ,

John Wijngaards
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English translation of the Pope’s reply

wellsDear (Brother) in the Lord,
In this Secretariat of State we have received a thoughtful letter of yours addressed to the Holy Father which contains certain considerations on Marriage and the Family, in advance of the celebration of a Synod on this topic.

His Holiness Pope Francis appreciates the concern you show for the good of the Church, a Church which is always anxious to guide the People of God according to the salvific designs of the Lord, manifesting his goodness and mercy to humankind and every single person.

I take this opportunity to express to you my appreciation and esteem in Christ.
Monsignor Peter B. Wells,
Undersecretary, Secretariat of State