Synod day # 3 – Petitioning Archbishop Kurtz and the Heinzens to remember the “Voices of the People”

Day 7 in Rome

Petitioning Archbishop Kurtz and the Heinzens to remember the “Voices of the People”
Representing the 16,582 who completed the survey on the family in November and December 2013 sponsored by 15 reform organizations, Deb Rose-Milavec of FutureChurch and Kate McElwee of Women’s Ordination Conference greeted Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, President of the USCCB near the gate of the Synod Hall as he arrived for the day’s work. Thanking him for his leadership, Rose-Milavec gave him a copy of the “Voices of the People” report reminding him that he had received a copy in February 2014.  She asked him to consider all Catholic voices including the ones represented in the survey as he conducts his work in the synod.  Kurtz acknowledged receiving the report and promised to look it over again. He slipped it into his bag, gave a final “thank you” and continued toward the gate.

A few minutes later, Jeffrey and Alice Heinzen, the American couple from Wisconsin invited as auditors came through. Rose-Milavec and McElwee greeted them both. Thanking them for their work at the synod, Rose-Milavec handed Alice Heinzen the “Voices of the People” report, asked her to read it and consider how the voices of the 16,500+ who responded to the survey would be represented during the work of the synod.  Alice took the folder, said she would look it over, thanked us and headed into the synod with her husband.

The Heinzens spoke to the synod assembly and in important ways it was disappointing. Unlike couples such as Stephen and Sandra Conway from South Africa who shared their difficulties and failings and the subsequent inspiration for their work, the Heinzens presented their particular upbringing and faith formation as the ideal.  Recalling their parents faith, the faith they received, they contrasted it sharply with the many who fail to live out their faith according to that standard.

“Our parents bore faith witness to the joy and beauty of God’s plan for love and life. Unfortunately, not only in our evaluation of current culture, but also due to our pastoral experience, we know that many young people do not see the witness of married love that we experienced.  They grow up in homes broken by divorce or with no experience of married parents due to out-of-wedlock pregnancies.”

More than a crisis, the Heinzens go on to wonder how children who are raised without the blessing of married parents could create life-long marriages?”

Reflecting a Mueller-like framework that is light on mercy and big on blame, they suggest that what is needed are new methods for evangelization because the truth is already set.

Fernandez and Kaigama – a contrast 
Nigerian Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama and ArgentinianArchbishop Victor Fernandez took center stage at the press briefing today sounding in unison the mantra that “doctrine cannot be changed.”

But there were big differences between them.

Fernandez, clearly the star in the room as an adviser to Francis who purportedly helped write “Evangelii Gaudium,” was surrounded by a crowd of journalists after the briefing. With ease, he cited Pope Francis’ exhortation to talk openly and freely joking that the bishops would not have to worry about “Cardinal Mueller coming after them.”

And while he defended the “no change of doctrine” mantra, he also suggested that it could be deepened and developed.

Kaigama, on the other hand, sounded a defensive tone blaming outside influences for changes and problems in Nigeria.  He also defended the bishops against accusations that they stood with the government in criminalizing homosexual behavior.

“The catholic church respects all human beings.  All are created in likeness and image of God,” said Kaigama.

On the defensive, he stated the bishops of Nigeria did not support the entirety of the controversial law.  While they supported marriage as being between a man and woman, they did not support the criminalization of homosexuals.

“They [those who criticize the bishops] forgot we are defenders of human rights,” said Kaigama.  “We go to prisons and defend women and men.  We would defend any person who is of homosexual orientation and who has been harassed.  We respect human beings, but where there is a defect, or they are not in conformity with our traditions, we don’t punish them. The government may punish them, but we walk with them.”

Toward the end of the press briefing, Kaigama softened slightly. When asked if he was fearful of any change of practice, he stated, “The holy father told us to dialogue and talk. We start and end with prayers.  And it is the Holy Spirit that dictates what we will do.  For now we remain in what is doctrinal, but we are trying to change pastoral practices.”

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