Statement of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy concerning marriage and family life
In recent days, following the release of excerpts from the documentary ‘Francesco’, there has been much discussion – and confusion - concerning the position of the Catholic Church regarding the legalisation of same-sex unions and the adoption of children by same-sex couples. In this context, the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy - representing over 500 priests in Great Britain and with members throughout the world - desires to reassert its commitment to authentic Catholic teaching on human sexuality and the family.
First, it is important to state that pastoral charity demands sensitivity to all, and no unjust discrimination towards individuals with same-sex attraction (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2357). The same charity, however, demands that the Church and society discourage same-sex activity, and the normalisation of same-sex relationships, as harmful to individuals and damaging to marriage. The Church’s official teaching on these matters is clearly expressed in the document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Considerations Regarding Proposals to give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Per-sons.(CDF 2003). Here we read: ‘The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions’ (CDF 2003, 11).
The Church has an obligation not only to protect Christian marriage but also to support the Natural Law which is valid for all people at all times. Thus, the Church has a duty to uphold monogamous Marriage between the two sexes, open to life and built on love, as the foundation of society. The promotion of civil same-sex unions would ‘not promote the common good’ and ‘there is a real danger that the deeply rooted understanding of marriage as a permanent and exclusive relationship between a woman and a man, and as the best con-text for raising children, will be eroded’ (Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, Statement on Civil Partnerships, 2005)
The reality of the natural family, founded on the union of man and wife, holds a unique position and is alone in deserving state encouragement. While for a variety of reasons children may sometimes find themselves without one of both of their parents, and in such situations deserve the utmost support and loving care, a good society should not seek to generate situations where the complementarity of male and female parents is absent. Such an endeavour is particularly harmful and therefore immoral. (cf. CDF 2003, 7).
St John Paul II wrote extensively on these matters and commented that ‘civilisation passes by way of the family’. It is the duty of the clergy, the faithful and indeed all people of good will, to speak the truth about marriage and human sexuality and to resist all attempts to undermine, dilute or derail their importance. ‘The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself’ (CDF 2003, 11).
It is also necessary for pastors of souls – again following the example of St John Paul II - to speak clearly and unambiguously when dealing with these often difficult and controversial subjects, in order that faith be strengthened and confusion avoided.
Statement regarding the teaching of Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in Catholic Schools
The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy represents over 500 British priests and deacons, the vast majority of whom are involved in Catholic education, whether as school governors, chaplains or parish priests. We wish to express grave concerns about the government’s decision to make SRE a compulsory part of the school curriculum, and the Catholic response to this so far.
Parents are the principal educators of their children and their right to teach their own children about matters of human intimacy and relationships must be maintained. The right to withdraw children from lessons parents judge to be age inappropriate, insufficiently tailored to their child’s unique needs or against their own legitimate religious beliefs must be held as an unassailable principle. Efforts should be made to maximise parental involvement and partnership in delivering good education in these matters.
It is of course very important that children and young Catholics should learn to live out their faith in the world as it is today, with all its challenges. As such, it is right and proper that they learn – at the appropriate age, and not before - about the existence of the various relationships and family structures common in today’s society, even where these differ from our own Catholic understanding. It is also essential that they are taught that all people – even when they make the wrong decisions or hold a different vision of life – must be treated with dignity and respect. This is a fundamental aspect of our Catholic faith.
However, learning about the existence of these alternative lifestyles cannot be equated with ‘celebrating’ them or ‘agreeing’ with them, as if they were on a par with the manner of life mapped out for us by Scripture and Tradition. Catholic teaching is clear – the only proper place for sexual relations is in the lifelong marriage of a man and a woman, entered into for their mutual wellbeing and open to the gift of children. Any sexual relationship other than this is contrary to the will of our Creator. It is of fundamental importance that young Catholics have a robust understanding of the Catholic teaching on marriage and family before they begin to learn about alternative relationships, otherwise their faith will be undermined, and great harm done. They must also be equipped to say not only ‘what’ Catholics believe but ‘why’ Catholics disagree with certain views and lifestyles.
Because this is such an important and sensitive subject, it is essential that any teaching materials used in Catholic schools are completely faithful to Catholic doctrine in its entirety. Given this, it is impossible to understand how materials produced by certain campaigning organisations can possibly be used in our schools, since these groups promote a vision of sexuality and relationships diametrically opposed to that of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, it is to be expected that any teacher or educational contributor who addresses these matters in a Catholic school be given full and appropriate training in Christian anthropology and Catholic teaching.
In conclusion, we urge all with responsibility in this area – in particular the Catholic Education Service – to do everything possible to ensure that Catholic doctrine is faithfully taught and errors corrected – and we pledge ourselves, as Catholic pastors, to play our part in ensuring this.