More than 130 notable converts to Catholicism have published an open letter begging Pope Francis and the bishops gathered at the Vatican Synod on Marriage and the Family to stand firm in teaching traditional Christian beliefs regarding the permanence of marriage, human sexuality, and the meaning of the family.
The signers note that the Church’s faithfulness to Christ’s unpopular teachings on the human person and sexuality made a significant impact on them when they were discerning whether or not to become Catholic.
The converts express their hope that the bishops “will be encouraged by the multitude of lay faithful who were, and continue to be, attracted to the Church in large part because of what she proposes about the human being in her teaching about sexual difference, sexuality, marriage, and the family.”
As other Christian communions have little by little caved under the pressures of modern society–abandoning age-old Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality and adapting their standards to a secular morality–the Catholic Church alone has stood firm, they assert.
“We have watched our own communities abandon the original radical Christian witness to the truth about man and woman, together with the pastoral accompaniment that might have helped them live it,” they contend.
The drafters of the letter, sent to the Synod fathers in mid-September but just released publicly, find especially problematic certain proposals championed by progressive bishops such as German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who has suggested allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion, and a relaxing of Christian sexual ethics.
Kasper has accused Christians who follow Christ’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage as expressed in His teaching on divorce and adultery of being “fundamentalists,” a word suggesting ignorant religious extremism in European discourse.
This sizable group of Catholic converts begs to differ.
“However well meaning, pastoral responses that do not respect the truth of things can only aggravate the very suffering that they seek to alleviate,” they state. “Thinking of the next generation, how can such changes possibly foster in young people an appreciation of the beauty of the indissolubility of marriage?”
The signers assert that “the proposals in question fail to take to heart the real crisis of the family underlying the problem of divorce, contraception, cohabitation and same-sex attraction.”
As lay people, most of whom are married, the converts throw down the gauntlet to the bishops of the Church, urging them to resist the temptation to water down the teachings of Jesus, as unpopular they may be in the modern world.
“Who is left who can offer the world something other than an echo of its own cynicism? Who is left who can lead it toward a real experience of love? Now more than ever the world needs the Church’s prophetic witness!” they write.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.