Vatican salutes Bishop O’Donoghue for defending marriage

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Patrick O’Donoghue, Bishop of LancasterBishop O’Donoghue for defending marriage Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue has received the robust support of His Eminence Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, for his strong defence of the dignity of the human person and the sacrament of marriage in his teaching document Fit for Mission? Church.

Bishop O’Donoghue sees the Pontifical Council for the Family’s endorsement of Fit for Mission? Church as opportune in light of the recent controversy concerning the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s document on the dignity of the person [Dignitas Personae] and the misrepresentation of Pope Benedict XVI’s address to the Roman Curia about the ‘ecology of man’, and the importance of protecting the nature of human beings as man and woman from a distorted ideology of gender.

Bishop Patrick writes, ‘Now, more than ever, Catholics need to have a confident understanding of the Church’s teaching on marriage and family life. We need to help society resist the reduction of human nature and life to a ‘consumable’ that can be manipulated without restraint, as we see in the homosexual and transsexual culture or IVF and experiments on embryonic human beings, just to name a few. This is one of the reasons why I wrote Fit for Mission? Church, to put the fullness of the Church’s teaching in the hands of the ordinary faithful and all people of good will.’

Bishop O’Donoghue is particularly pleased with the following comment made by Cardinal Antonelli in his letter of 5 December 2008:

‘The section on Marriage and Family Life is also well done and a good response to the perils of the philosophy of gender which is so widespread nowadays. Your underlining the importance of Self-Gift is also very pertinent as well as giving explicit example and statistics (p.69) regarding the consequences of the culture of death that surrounds us, is also useful in bringing home the point. The encouragement to deepen the notion of the Theology of the Body is also a sound idea to be encouraged.’

Cardinal Antonelli (who was appointed to his present post on 7 June 2008) offers the hope that Bishop Patrick’s ‘laudable’ document will receive a ‘widespread diffusion’.

The Pontifical Council for the Family’s enthusiastic endorsement of Fit for Mission? Church follows the praise of two Dicasteries and one other Pontifical Council: earlier this year Cardinal Renato Martino, President, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Archbishop Luis Ladaria S.J., Secretary to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, Secretary, Congregation for the Clergy, congratulated Bishop Patrick for his challenging document promoting an authentic Catholic identity for today’s Church. First published in August 2008, in response to popular demand Bishop Patrick issued an expanded edition with the Catholic Truth Society in October.

Bishop O’Donoghue concludes his response to this latest letter from the Holy See:

‘We must shout this truth from the roof tops, ‘God has made human beings in His own image, as male and female. True happiness and fulfilment in sexual love can only be found in the diversity and complementarity between a man and a woman, united in life-long marriage and open to new life. Anything else is a delusion. To live by a delusion that denies this truth not only harms individuals, it also obviously harms their families, their communities and society in general.

We must not only proclaim this truth, we must also endeavour to live by it. This is why I have insisted that Catholic Caring Services (Diocese of Lancaster) must seek legal avenues to uphold the teaching of the Church against legislation that seeks to place Catholic children with individuals in ‘same-sex’ unions. The refusal of the Trustees (of CCS) to abide by the clear moral teaching of the Church, has painfully resulted in the Diocese of Lancaster declaring that Catholic Caring Services is no longer a Catholic charity, and can no longer claim the support of Catholics.’

A further Message from the Bishop of Lancaster is issued for the beginning of the year 2009:

‘The Church is living through troubled times, but it is perhaps reassuring to know that there hasn’t been a time in the history of the Church that has been untroubled! We mustn’t become despondent or angry, but rather, allow the Holy Spirit to deepen within us the virtues of faith, hope and charity, as Pope Benedict XVI invites through his wonderful teaching.

Looking at the persecutions and heresies that the Church has endured, we see the people of God emerging from such suffering renewed with a deeper love and knowledge of Jesus Christ and the dignity and destiny of the human person. To me, this is a sign of the abiding presence of our Risen Lord, the source of our hope. (Matthew 28: 20).

At present the Catholic Church is enjoying a wonderful deepening of the doctrine and appreciation of the sacrament of marriage. I see this as part of a wider development of the Church’s defence of the dignity and destiny of the human person against attack on a variety of fronts, such as assisted suicide, same-sex unions, and experiments on embryonic human beings. What we are discovering is that respect for the sanctity of marriage is foundational to human life.

In his Pastoral Letter for the Feast of the Holy Family, Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds has recently pointed out the hopelessness and despair that dominates our society, where there should be a sense of hope that comes from the realisation that we are all treasured by the Father. We find this same sense of hopelessness and despair about the capacity of men and women to form lifelong, fulfilling marriages. It is up to us to witness to the truth that – made in the image of God – women and men are capable of amazing feats of self-giving love and commitment to life.

The break-down of monogamous marriage and the absence of responsible and loving fathers or mothers is the root cause of a range of social problems harming British society, such as teenage pregnancy, knife and gun crime, rising rates of abortion, and the cycle of deprivation that traps so many in poverty.

Without secure, dependable, loving relationships between men and women, children don’t thrive, individuals with a frustrated vocation to marriage become alienated and mentally-ill, and communities become violent and dysfunctional, seen in the rise of alcoholism and drug abuse. Marriage offers society its only realistic hope out of these harmful dysfunctions.

Tragically, the suffering resulting from the credit crunch will be exacerbated by the decline of strong, extended families held together and protected by the commitment and love of wives and husbands. Many people are going to struggle with financial hardship and stress on their own, while before, during other economic depressions, families provided support.

As Pope Benedict XVI points out poverty threatens the peace of the family, and consequently, the peace of society and nations. (World Day of Peace Message 2009) Therefore, in view of the lack of support for marriage from the government and media, the Church, in collaboration with others of good will, must be responsive to the strains that the credit crunch will put on marriage and family life.

Active parishes are basic grass roots communities that can help provide solidarity and mutual support during times of unemployment, increased poverty and racial tensions. As St Francis tells us – in imitation of Christ – where there is despair in life, let us bring hope.

Finally, faced with the failure of successive governments to promote the benefits of marriage, it is up to the Church to step into the breach and promote the goods of marriage to society. One practical step I recommend is that parishes and schools should work closely together to show young people, in a realistic and positive way, the joys and rewards of life-long, permanent, monogamous marriage between men and women.’

+Patrick O’Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster

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Rt Rev Dr Patrick O’Donoghue Bishop of Lancaster Bishop’s Office The Pastoral Centre Balmoral Road LANCASTER LA1 3BT

T: 01524 596050

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The Catholic Truth Society's expanded edition of Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue's Fit for Mission? Church is available at: http://www.cts-online.org.uk