More than 500,000 Catholics, including many senior clerics, have signed a petition calling on Pope Francis to reaffirm traditional teaching on marriage and the family after months of confusion over his supposed liberal stance on the issue.
The petition, which was started by U.S. conservative group TFP Student Action, calls on the Pope to “clarify the growing confusion among the faithful” at October’s Synod of Bishops and “implores” him to “prevent the very teaching of Jesus Christ from being watered down”.
The group accuses “dissident Catholic pressure groups” of attempting to subvert Church teaching on marriage, saying: “They are bombarding the Holy Father and the Synod Fathers right now with messages of revolt against traditional moral values as they clamor for “change, change, change” inside the Church.”
The petition has been signed by five Cardinals as well as numerous bishops and archbishops from across the world. Other major figures who signed the petition include former US senator Rick Santorum.
In October, bishops from around the world will meet in Rome to discuss the role of the family in the modern world and make recommendations to the Pope about how he should approach issues such as divorced and remarried Catholics.
Pope Francis has been noted for his statements that make him appear to support a liberal line on various social issues, most famously when he said “Who am I to judge?” when asked about a supposed gay lobby within the Vatican.
As Catholic blogger Father Z points out, however, nothing he said changed or violated Church teaching on the issue:
If they “accept the Lord”, and “have goodwill”… pretty clearly meaning, “if they are trying to live a good Christian life”, which involves continency and chastity, then I can’t point a finger at them and say they are evil, etc. “Who am I to judge?”, depends on what went before in the same sentence. It does not mean, “Anyone can do anything and we don’t have a right to make a moral judgement.”
Some liberal bishops have also suggested the Church should permit divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion under certain circumstances, but such a move is likely to face strong opposition, especially from non-Western bishops.
TFP Student Action director John Ritchie said: “After Ireland and the US Supreme Court both approved same-sex marriage, a strong reaffirmation of Church teaching could save the sacred institution of marriage. The Catholic Church is the centre of history. It is the moral compass of the world. As the Church goes, so goes the world.”