Bigoted, misogynistic, and controlling – scathing critique of Catholic Church by its own members
By John Bingham, Religious Affairs Editor THE TELEGRAPH
The Roman Catholic Church is bigoted, misogynistic, controlling, judgmental, outdated and pharisaical – in the view of some its own most devoted members, according to an unprecedented official snapshot of opinion in the pews revealed by Britain’s most senior Catholic cleric.
The frank and at times blistering assessment of opinion among the faithful is disclosed in a report, published by Cardinal Vincent Nichols ahead of what is expected to be a historic gathering of bishops in Rome next month which will discuss issues including divorce and homosexuality.
Cardinal Nichols said it was vital to be open about the nature some of the comments, which he said showed the Church as a “lively, passionate family” which has its arguments rather than simply a “PR exercise”.
Pope Francis’s decision to call a special Synod of Bishops to discuss the family is being viewed as the centrepiece of his drive to recast the Church’s traditional teaching with a renewed emphasis on the idea of “mercy”.
It has opened up a vocal debate about the exclusion of divorcees who remarry from Holy Communion and the Church’s approach towards gay people.
As part of a process of “discernment” following a preliminary Synod last year, bishops in England and Wales asked Catholics to send in their own responses to a series of broad questions about the struggles of family life, marriage, and parenthood.
While many spoke of family life as a “blessing”, others told of feeling trapped in failed marriages and deep sadness, a situation some argued was compounded by the teaching of the Church.
"I believe it is important for our bishops to know that marriage is not always a ‘gift’ and that Church teaching on marriage has led to untold misery for many couples and has had lifelong, detrimental impact on the mental, physical and spiritual health of their children,” wrote one.
When asked if they had passed on their faith to their children, one wrote: “We are ashamed of our faith – so misogynistic, controlling, self-opinionated.”
Another added: “As children grow into young adults they do not identify with an organisation that holds outdated and misogynist views.
“They live their lives according to what they think is right ... How can it be right for people living with HIV/Aids not to use condoms?
“How can it be right for divorced and remarried people to be refused Communion? How can the Catholic Church's view on the evil of homosexual, cohabitation be right?
“Thank God for the secular world which has blown in to the murky corridors of the Vatican.”
Another remarked: “Children and young people … see a Church which discriminates against those who are divorced, gay, against women, and yet hides internal corruption and displays huge riches in the face of international poverty.”
One diocese summed up responses from its area remarking: “There was a general consensus of the church being pharisaical in its response to who can and cannot receive the blessed sacrament.”
Cardinal Nichols said: “A Synod like this and consultations like this are not PR exercises – it’s not about wanting to put in front of you something that says how good we all are – this is a church of sinners, we make a mess of things, it is messy.
“You can hear all sorts of voices: you can hear those voices, I’ve got letters from gay people saying don’t believe them we are very accepted in our parish, others say it is the opposite.
“What we’ve got is a lively, passionate family and we have our arguments and we have our different points of view and that’s fine because we a shared Lord and we have the places where we meet. And it’s very important that we learn more about how to make everybody welcome in those places.”
On the question of receiving remarried divorcees back into Holy Communion he argued he Church should approach the issue on a case-by-case basis rather than a sweeping change in teaching.
“One of the great issues without a doubt is to see what is the pattern of conversion for people who have experienced failure in their marriage and have found a precious new partner.
“That can only be answered one by one. Marriage and divorced people are not a category and there will be no categorical solution, because they are not a category they are people on a pilgrimage like all of us.”