Catholic Church 'out of touch' on marriage and families, say English Catholics
Members of the Catholic Church in England and Wales have issued a strong critique of the Church's teaching on marriage and families.
The document describes the Church as "out of touch, unbending", and "unrealistic" while offering a "lack of support for same-sex partnerships and contraception".
The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Nichols, said a key response is a renewed focus on personal relationship to Jesus following the example set by the Pope.
In the document, some Catholic laity said they lacked confidence in the clergy and criticised inadequate marriage preparation.
They were speaking out in response to the survey sent out by the Bishops of England and Wales in advance of the forthcoming Synod on the Family in Rome.
One said: "The Church's treatment of women has alienated my wife from church attendance."
There were complaints of a lack of care for those who are divorced and remarried or abandoned by their spouses.
Some said they struggle with a lack of mercy shown by the Church and that it fails to acknowledge that though people make mistakes, they still need their church community.
"I see many people at extraordinarily difficult times in their lives, struggling with marriage, sexual orientation. One of the great joys of my job is that I can accept them for exactly who they are, without any hint of judgment. I wish the Catholic Church would be similarly open and accepting of people of different sexual orientations," one person said.
Cardinal Nichols admitted the challenge of the Church's approach to sexual ethics, highlighting Christ's call to fidelity and selfless giving.
"I doubt that there has ever been a time in the last 2,000 years when the teaching of the Church about sexual ethics and marriage has sat comfortably with people. It is addressing such a profound and vital part of our human nature so there is lots of discomfort, because what Christ puts before us is a remarkable call," he said.
He added that Pope Francis was seeking a refocusing of the Catholic Church away from externals to personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the starting point for discussion.
Nichols told Christian Today the Pope "is wanting everything that we do – reading of scripture, celebration of sacraments, our daily effort, our willingness to be fashioned and taught and our desire to change to arise from our relationship with the Lord."
He said the central concern highlighted by these complaints as being the relationship between the mercy of God and the justice of God.
The Catholic Church excludes those who are divorced and remarried to enjoy the sacrament of Eucharist, which has led to great hurt in the church.
The Cardinal said that it is important that we work hard to include those who feel excluded, yet maintained that "to receive Holy Communion is to be willing to change; nobody should receive it as a badge of acceptance, but a challenge to be different."
Nichols denied that the mercy of God meant we should allow all to partake in the Eucharist, rather defining his mercy as the "passion that we change and become more like his son; the passionate unending desire of God that we convert."
This "conversion" when referring to those who are divorced and remarried "can only be answered one by one as married and divorced people are not a category, but rather people on a pilgrimage like all of us."