Part IV

Catholics, marital status and homosexuality

The struggle for truth is fought on many battlefields, religion and Christianity not excluded. Irreligion has made great advance, especially during the last 25 years under the umbrella of “the permissive society.”

Parts one and two of the series reflected upon the effects of moral permissiveness within the United and Anglican Churches in Canada.  Part three started the discussion of the tensions within the Catholic Church in Canada, beginning with the nature of theological dissent and the status of theological faculties.

Part four examines how cultural pressures may lead to tensions between a national hierarchy and the universal Church.  It illustrates how the papal office serves as a corrective to keep the Church on course in defence of age-old truths and morals.

Quebec Bishops

On the weekend of March 1-2, 1986, the Quebec bishops devoted their annual study meeting to the Women’s Movement in the Church “Present were 29 bishops, 86 women (two from each diocese, plus some 30 from women’s organizations) and 13 lay men and priests.  Discussions ranged over such topics as language, violence, power, family and sexuality.  This, in turn, resulted in a number of recommendations to the president of the Quebec Bishops’ Social Action Committee, who, at this time, is the Bishop of Hull-Gatineau, Msgr. Adolphe Proulx.  He is to formulate general policies for all Quebec dioceses by the summer of 1986, together with the representatives of a new network of diocesan women coordinators.  The bishop has promised “to go to the limit to assure that the recommendations of this assembly are implanted.”

Recommendations

Among the recommendations are the following:

  • Not only is “inclusive language” to be adopted, but all language which implies paternalism, misogyny, and the non-existence of women in church life is to be removed.
  • The question of the permanent diaconate for women (perhaps also for the wives of deacons) is to be investigated.  Bishops are to be vigilant and open to the idea of the ordination of women priests which is to be pressed in Rome.
  • Women must be included in the formation process of priests, deacons and seminarians, in decision-making positions.  Women should have equal representation in liturgical celebrations. (Archbishop Jean-Marie Fortier of Sherbrooke, President of the Quebec Bishops Assembly, and Roland Parrot, member of the liturgy planning team, proclaimed the Gospel together and preached a shared homily during the meeting’s eucharistic celebration).
  • Working conditions of all women employed in the diocese are to revised and improved.  Salaried women’s co-ordinators are to be appointed in every diocese.
  • People who find themselves in an irregular marital status are no longer to be regarded as “marginal.”  A proper marital status is no longer to be used as a measuring rod but all the baptized are to be welcomed “no matter what their marital condition.”  (Le Droit, March 3.)  They are to be given high-profile responsibilities commensurate with their own personal development and talents. (Gazette, March3).
  • Women are to be consulted before the church speaks out on sexual issues, including contraception and abortion.   (Delegates made it clear that contraception and abortion are to be treaded as separate issues.)

Readers will be aware of the direct connection between contraception and abortion, historically and philosophically.  While they remain different kinds of actions with only abortion and abortifacients involving the death of a human life, the one precedes the other.

As the requirement that women be consulted before the hierarchy speaks on sexual morality, this appears to rest on the new, and baffling notion that theological truth depends on gender.

This view was brought forward in an absurd but sad attack by the Montreal Jesuit monthly, Relations, on the December 1981 Quebec Bishops’ statement, A Call to Respect Life, which, among other things, condemned the Quebec funding of abortion clinics.  The January 1982 attack was written on behalf of the whole editorial ‘team’ of Relations by the editor-in-chief Father Julien Harvey, former Provincial Superior of the Quebec Jesuits.

Its extraordinarily muddled message included the following charges: that the Episcopal statement was misbegotten because it was badly received (total proof: two editorial quotations); that it had a negative tone; that it was written by men, not women; that on abortion, the individual conscience may legitimately follow a different approach from that of the Bishops; that the state may have legitimate reasons for operating abortion clinics; that the Church should often be blamed for abortions because she causes unwanted pregnancies by insisting on natural family planning; and that it is inappropriate in a pluralistic society for bishops to impose their views.

Having done his duty in explaining the views of his editorial team, Harvey concluded that he personally accepted the Bishops’ “call” but did so unhappily.  The pastoral letter, he said, was not a truly prophetic message: it placed duty (une morale de devoir) ahead of celebration (une morale de bonheur); it was not the product of feminine co-responsibility; and, finally, instead of a pastoral letter, the Bishops should have adopted an entirely different mode of addressing the issue.

In October 1985, Fr. Harvey was invited to speak at the annual conference of Catholic Bishops in Ottawa.  He is reported to have warned the Bishops not to follow blindly the new social trend toward more “rigid,” personal, family and sexual morality.

Comments

The Quebec resolution to support women’s ordination was mentioned by many newspapers.  But the recommendation which drew most interest from the national press concerned the idea that the church should extend an “unconditional welcome” to remarried, divorced people, unmarried couples, single parent families and others whose family situation may be unconventional.

It is this resolution which is the main subject of this article.  What did or does this recommendation mean?

There are two immediate difficulties with the statement: the lumping together of disparate groups and the theological vagueness of the terms employed.  For example, it may be perfectly in order for a single parent to be an active member of the Church and receive the sacraments, but it is not so for individuals or couples “living in sin” – as the old description put it.

To arrive at an answer, it is necessary to compare the reports covering the various opinions and answers of spokesmen to questions put to them by journalists.

What is on record ranges from general statements – which can mean almost anything – to specific examples which contradict the Church’s intention and teaching.  For example, Gisele Turcot, a staff member of the Longueuil diocese, stated that “something new is…coming in our Quebec Church” and “tomorrow won’t be the same any longer.”

But another participant was more specific.  Nano McConnell is a member of Canadian Catholics for Women’s Ordination (CCWO) and a delegate to the meeting for the diocese of Hull-Gatineau.  She told the (Ottawa Citizen that the recommendations had to be interpreted as meaning that “the model marriage of the 19th century isn’t that way anymore.  People live in various lifestyles and the Church has to meet them where they are.”  She further explained that the CCWO supports the ordination of both men and women with no strings attached to their lifestyles, that is, married or celibate.

Bishops

More important, of course, are statements by bishops.  In general, those quoted were effusive in praise of the meeting, although not specific about detail.  There was one exception, the Chairman of the Committee to whom the recommendations were directed.

Bishop Adolphe Proulx, of Hull-Gatineau, explained to the (Ottawa Citizen that families living in unconventional situations may be officially excluded by church laws but “there is really nothing to prevent anyone of good faith from receiving the sacraments.”  Was this a statement of fact, or was it an encouragement to others to follow the same course of action?  From other statements by Bishop Proulx, one must conclude that it is a case of the latter rather than the former.

First, at the conference itself, Bishop Proulx stated that the resolution (about marital status) may help make it clearer to parish priests that they should be “comprehensive” about allowing members of all sorts of families access to the sacraments (Ottawa Citizen).  Then, in answer to a reporter’s question, he specifically stated that this access should include homosexual couples.  (Gazette, March 3.)  The bishop later endorsed this statement in a telephone enquiry from a fellow bishop.

A little later, Bishop Proulx was interviewed again, this time by the Catholic Register of Toronto, once more regarding the reception of Holy Communion by those who were divorced and remarried without a Church annulment.  The Bishop answered that:

…if they feel that the first marriage was invalid but they cannot prove it to a tribunal, and if they feel the need to receive Holy Communion, and they feel in conscience they have a right to, nobody has a right to reject them at the (Communion) table.”

The only comment needed here is to note that the Bishops’ statement is contrary to the teaching of the Church.

The same Bishop Proulx received much publicity recently about his invitation to Maureen McTeer to meet with him.  McTeer, the wife of Canada’s Minister of External Affairs, publicly joined and endorsed Canada’s national pro-abortion organization, CARAL, in February 1986, insisting at the same time that she was a “practicing Catholic.”  The meeting with her bishop took place some time ago, but no public statement has been issued to clarify McTeer’s position.

The Bishop’s statements appear to leave two questions: first, are Canadian Catholics to believe that subjectivism overrules objective standards in the matter of family morality; second, does a priest not have the right and obligation to refuse Communion to someone who publicly mocks the binding moral teaching of the Church?

More confusion

According to the (Ottawa) Citizen, both Bishop Proulx and Bishop Leonard Crowley, Bishop of English-speaking Montreal, claim that the women’s resolutions do not depart from Church teaching and only affirm the direction the Church has been moving.

Once more this is a puzzling statement, one more in line with a secular attitude [of the Law reform Commission] which holds that morality “evolves,” and that what is condemned as unacceptable one year may be all right the next when the community decides that that’s the way it should go.

Church trends

To what trends were the Bishops referring?

Here we touch upon certain developments in Canada over the last 20 years which cannot be discussed at length in this article for lack of space.  Suffice it to say, that at the time of the 1980 Synod of Bishops in Rome, on the family, all four Canadian delegates touched upon issues similar to those discussed at the March Quebec meeting.

Re-examination

According to the Canadian Bishops in 1980, traditional Church teaching on family morality is failing to reach the masses and, therefore, required new forms of expression.  It was felt that the Church should change her approach.  Instead of re-iterating “signs of the times.”  This, they thought, would help to change or develop the teaching itself.

Archbishop Henri Legare of Grouard-McLennan, Alberta, made the need to re-examine “our pastoral ministry and the theology on which it rests” the subject of his intervention.  As a result of changes in perceptions of sexuality, fertility control, feminine and masculine roles, the Archbishop said, marriage and the family “no longer mean what they did for previous generations.”  Thus he urged the Synod to adopt a theology of marriage “that would start courageously with today’s experiences, without however neglecting the riches of the past.”

His intervention included sentences such as these:

“Present pastoral ministry does not pay enough attention to the situation of those who after experiencing the loss of a first love, live another in fidelity, are involved as Christians in the name of their faith, and want to enjoy full participation in the Eucharistic table.”  Again:

“Re-examination of doctrine on the sacrament of marriage is thus made necessary by the application of a ministry of mercy which continues to welcome people without denying the evangelical demand for conjugal fidelity.

Cardinal Carter of Toronto agreed that today the Church’s moral guidance should be presented in a “post-traditional” context, this, he said, must go “beyond the present and the past, beyond the conventional mode of expressing guidance in an authoritarian form to forming a new consensus through concrete pastoral prescriptions both on the universal and on the regional and national levels.”

The Archbishop of Edmonton, Joseph MacNeil, hinted at the same concept when he stated: “as pastors…we will listen to what the Lord says through families…In this process of common response the meaning of God’s word is discovered and celebrated.”

Decentralization

Because of this feeling that Church teaching was not achieving its purpose, the idea of decentralization of “law” and decision making in the Church gained strength among Canadian bishops, especially with regard to matters having to do with women and the family.  They made this explicit in an 11-point written intervention submitted to the Synod’s relator, Cardinal Ratzinger, “One overreaching question is the greater discretion or autonomy of regional or national Episcopal conferences in some matters touching marriage and family life…”  (A relator is the person who explains the subjects of discussion at the beginning of the Synod and who summarizes the discussions at the half-way mark.)

Permissiveness?

The Canadian bishops hinted at changes by raising questions about the prevalence of divorce, pre-marital relations, contraception, etc., and requesting that these be investigated to see what it all could mean.  These requests and questions together with those of some bishops from other English-speaking countries, were widely interpreted by the world press as requests for changes in favour of permissiveness.

The Bishops, naturally, denied that this was the intent.  But if there was a fine line dividing the true from the false, it was difficult to find.  Cardinal Carter, after noting the contemporary non-conformity to the prescribed rules of past moral conduct, added that he didn’t know whether this was a case of “the Holy Spirit trying to say something” or “the beginning of a period of moral decadence.”  But that, of course, is precisely the question.

If the model for proposed changes – this case the contemporary culture of sexuality and family ethics – is itself tainted, then reformation threatens to bring deformation.  Certainly, seen in the larger context, the Canadian proposals carry the unmistakable mark of the same processes at work in the United Church and Anglican communities described earlier, where sociology, the science of society, has come to replace theology, the science of God.

John Paul II

At any rate, the new Pope would have nothing to do with it.  John Paul II in harmony with the large majority of the 1980 Synod, decided to leave no doubt.  The Church’s ban of contraception, he declared, “is not a matter of regarding a law as a pure ideal to be reached in the future but as a command of Christ to overcome the difficulties.”  (The former may be said to have been the practical, if not the intended, consequence of the Canadian Bishops’ September 1968 Winnipeg statement on the encyclical On Human Life).

On divorce and re-marriage, the Pope repeated the Church’s teaching that prohibits the civilly divorced who have re-married (without a Church annulment) from receiving Communion.  Such couples can return to full membership in the Church, he said, only be being truly penitent and “sincerely embracing a form of life that is not in contrast with the indissolubility of marriage.”  Such a form would require those Catholics to “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from acts which only married couples engage in.”

Prior to the Synod the Pope who had written extensively on marriage while still a teacher and bishop, had begun a year long weekly instruction on the Unity of man and women in the Book of Genesis.  After the Synod was over, he continued these reflections which were published in December 1981 as The Rule of the Christian Family in the Modern World. He re-affirmed again all traditional marriage teaching of the Catholic Church and he has continued to do so since, wherever he has spoken or visited.  In the fall of 1983, for example, he declared that “contraception is to be judged objectively so profoundly unlawful as never to be, for any reason, justified.”  (Osservatore Romano, October 10, 1983).

Bishop Crowley

Shortly after the March meeting in Quebec, there were other incidents involving the above-mentioned bishops.  At the end of April 1986, Human Life International (HLI) from Washington, U.S.A., held a much-needed and high-powered symposium in Montreal, on various aspects of modern sexuality. Its speakers were known experts in their fields, as well as Catholics who accept the Church’s teaching on sexual morality without mental reservations or public disclaimers.  Its director is the energetic Fr. Paul Marx who, it should be said, is also quite outspoken and occasionally annoys people.

In his regular circular to his priests, Bishop Leonard Crowley informed them that he had declined to give the opening prayer at the Symposium.  Stated the Bishop: “I am unable…to associate myself with HLI, as I cannot support the objectives and the manner in which its organization operates.  There has been an evident lack of respect toward persons and their right to their reputation; also, I cannot agree with the limited perspective taken by the organization on the whole are of human life…” (New Notes, April 1986).

Catholic Homosexuals

Three weeks after his refusal to say a prayer at the HLI symposium, Bishop Crowley celebrated Mass at the Canadian Convention of Dignity, an organization of homosexual Catholics.  The following is taken from an interview which the Bishop gave the (Montreal) Gazette, on May 10, 1986.  It is given as it appeared.

“The Lord Jesus came to save all people,” the bishop said in an interview yesterday.  “They (homosexuals) are part of humankind that he has come to liberate.”

“Obviously, the Church disagrees with homosexual practices.”

Catholic bishops have informally accepted Dignity Canada as a way of helping its members grow spiritually and “in their ability to live within the dictates of the Gospel.”

This does not indicate acceptance of everything the group’s members may do in private.

“The Lord said, ‘I have come for sinners,’ and we are all sinners.”

The bishop said some Dignity Canada members live chaste lives.

He said the issue involves matters of conscience, as with Catholics who take communion although they practice artificial birth-control techniques or have had abortion contrary to church teaching.

He said that the Church does not recognize Dignity of Canada officially and “is not fully cognizant with what happens within Dignity” wit regard to such matters as whether its members recognize homosexual acts as sinful.

Here we have a re-iteration of the themes mentioned above, namely that it is up to the individual whether or not to receive the sacraments and that the task of the hierarchy is essentially that of facilitator and enabler without asking further questions.

As for not “being fully cognizant” of the character of Dignity, the first speaker on the roster at the convention gives a clear indication.  Svend Robinson, justice critic for the NDP in the House of Commons, has a record as the most publicly pro-abortion and pro-homosexual MP in the country over a number of years

Dignity

The basic point about Dignity is that it is not a support group as the term is usually understood in pastoral ministry, as for example, in the manner of Alcoholics Anonymous.  AA helps those who recognize that they have a problem that this problem cannot be successfully treated except through a mutual support system.

Dignity, on the other hand, denies that the homosexual condition is a problem and it rejects Church teaching that homosexual activity is a moral disorder.  This was not immediately understood in the early seventies, when the organization first presented itself as a “support” group for Catholic homosexuals.

At its first annual convention in Los Angeles, Dignity declared as its first duty “to forward to the Catholic bishops of the United States an affirmation and an appeal which states our loyalty to the Church and requests the Church to meet the need we have as gay Catholics for increased acceptance by the whole Church, bishops, priests and laity.”  (September 1973).

Many bishops and priests interpreted the statement as an appeal for pastoral care by people in difficulty, a request for compassion and sensitivity for those trying to escape from a miserable way of life.  Ministry to the homosexuals was to include making people aware of the homosexual as an individual person with human needs and values.

But Dignity’s interpretation of “the need we have as gay Catholic” was very different from what many thought.  Dignity proved to a Catholic version of the “Gay Drive for Acceptance.”

As Dignity sees it, homosexuals have a right to be recognized by the Church, precisely as homosexuals.  Instead of acknowledging the homosexual lifestyle as a psychological and moral disorder, it defends it as normal and legitimate.

Together with other groups of Christian homosexuals (Integrity-Anglican, Affirm, United Church), Dignity members speak of the “negativism” of traditional Judeo-Christian teaching concerning homosexuality.  These, they say, “grew from social factors which are no longer relevant and from an ignorance of homosexuality which is no longer excusable.”  Homosexuality, they claim, is natural and equal to normal sexual relations as a valid way of love.  Thus they speak of being “gifted” with homosexual orientation.

In literature published in 1978, Dignity states that “we move towards a time when a gay Catholic life-style is accepted.”  In 1979, the international president of Dignity, Frank Scheuren, stated that Dignity accepts the view that homosexual activity is in keeping with the teaching of Christ.

“We can be openly expressing our sexuality…that includes genital contact in a responsible fashion, and still be member of the church.”

One may readily assume that the author was aware that in February 1976 the Vatican, in its Declaration on Sexual Ethics, had reaffirmed its rejection of this position.

Support from theologians

From the early seventies on, some theologians such as Gregory Baum in Canada and the Jesuit John McNeill in the U.S.A., took up the defence of homosexuality among Catholics, publicly challenging the Church’s teaching.  Published in the by then anti-Vatican Catholic weeklies Commonweal and the National Catholic Register (NCR), both still widely read among the clergy, their writings were further broadcast by the homosexual community itself as proof that the teaching of the Catholic Church had been found wanting or was in the process of being changed.  In November 1980, the NCR published a full-page advertisement by a group called Catholic Coalition for Gay Civil Rights with 1,769 individual endorsements of mostly priests, brothers and sisters.

Meanwhile, Baum and McNeill had been joined by prominent dissenting moral theologians, Charles Curran and Richard McCormick, the latter demanding “full sacramental support,” including Holy Orders, for so-called “irreversible” homosexuals as early as January 1975.  In March 1984, Dignity of Canada members welcomed the United Church’s recommendation for accepting homosexuals in the ministry.  These views have found wider acclaim among Catholic clergy than most people realize.

Guindon

Other theologians such as André Guindon of St. Paul’s Catholic Theology Faculty, Ottawa, helped give homosexuality and other moral disorders unwarranted respectability not so much by defence or wholesome praise of the homosexual positions, as by ridiculing traditional standards.  In his book The Sexual Language (1976), Guindon dismisses much of Catholic moral teaching as the work of “code-moralists,” arbitrary, curialist, backward, and rigid.  Building moral standards according to more enlightened methods of his own, he reconstructs most of the traditional positions, except to disagree with some fundamental points at the end, thus setting the whole structure adrift after all.

With respect to homosexuality, Gindon devotes 50 pages to demonstrating what is lacking in this way of life, but then concludes that the foregoing is no judgment on any one homosexual individual (p.353).  He proceeds to condemn its promiscuous variation, but concludes that for those he deems incapable of ordinary relations, it is “the most moral thing to do in settling down with a homosexual partner and so finding a workable adaptation to life.”

Nothing illustrates better how thoroughly Guindon misunderstands what is at stake than his put down of New York Catholics, fighting – already in 1974 – a threatened political  ban on “discrimination” against homosexuals, on the grounds that he could see no evidence of ill consequences.  If he had waited a few years he would have seen how in 1985, New York Mayor Koch threatened to cut off $70 million of city support to Catholic hospitals and other charitable endeavours over the issue.

Change the Church

Supporters of Dignity do not disguise their desire to change the teaching of the Church.  In 1978 Father Tim Ryan, then chaplain of Dignity Toronto, following the footsteps of Baum and McNeill, explained in detail, in an article in the Chelsea Journal, how mistaken the Church’s opposition to homosexuality really is.

In 1981, Dignity of Toronto submitted a brief to the Ontario Legislature that would have forced Catholic schools to accept the homosexual lifestyle of teachers.  The brief, presented by Fr. Tim Ryan, was couched in terms which made it appear as if homosexuals were being denied basic human rights, a common device employed by homosexuals to gain special political rights and recognition.  The Ontario Bishops were forced to submit a brief of their own in order to present the true position of the Church.

In Alberta, University professor Phillip Knight submitted a brief to the Canadian Human Rights Commission on behalf of Dignity Edmonton in March 1980.  Homosexuals had been betrayed by the Alberta Human Rights Commission he said, because it had refused to ask the government to include sexual orientation in the Individual’s Rights Protection Act.  A similar plea for legal protection of the homosexual “lifestyle” was entered before the House of Commons Equality Commission during the summer of 1985.

Six months later Knight explained to the student newspaper, The Gateway, that perhaps most significantly, Dignity tries to educate the Catholic Church.  “Our ultimate goal is to alter the Church’s stand on homosexuality.”  Citing other groups who also feel the Church is outdated and needs to change, he listed: Catholic married couples who use birth control, anybody who is divorced and remarried, anybody who thinks women can be priests and anybody who thinks priests should be allowed to marry.

Five years later Knight admitted to the same paper being upset by the Catholic Church’s ‘hypocritical acceptance of lesbians and gays while rejecting their lifestyle.’  “No one can tell a homosexual that it is his vocation to be chaste since a vocation has to be chosen.”

Among others who think the Church should change is Calgary priest Ray Lowing, presently head of the diocesan marriage tribunal and a member of the Calgary AIDS Committee.  In a workshop held for Edmonton priests in Red Deer, in 1981, he carefully explained the details of the 1976 documents issued by the Vatican and the United States Bishops.  He then attacked them in the manner of McNeill, showing that the Church’s position was radically in error and that changes must be made.

One of the five priests attendance, a padre in the Armed Forces, nodded his head vigorously in agreement as the speaker scored his points.  Five months later he was court- marshaled and sentenced to four years for molesting alter boys.

Scandal

There have been other convictions of priests for sexual assault and homosexual incidents over the last few years in Canada.  They number few, but even a few are too many.  In Quebec a priest was sentenced to 20 months in 1983, two others were sentenced in Ontario and Alberta, another two were killed under mysterious circumstances in Ottawa a few years ago.  Directors of Catholic Seminaries in Ottawa and Toronto have permitted the ordination of some young men know to be homosexuals, with subsequent personal disasters.  And in Edmonton, Dignity’s members address the seminarians at Newman Theological College and encourage dialogue with parish councils.

In May 1986, the Ottawa Citizen carried on its front page the news of charges against an Ottawa priest, followed almost immediately by charges against a second priest, formerly of Cornwall but now in the diocese of Hull-Gatineau.  In June the Bishop of Hull, Adolphe Proulx, appointed the dissenting theologian Andrė Guindon to look at ways the Catholic Church could deal with these charges.

Conclusion

The Catholic Church in Canada obviously needs to put its house in order on matters mentioned above.  This can only be done by drawing closer to the teaching authority of the university Church, not by seeking greater distance from it.  It is the former which is the true “trend of the time” not the latter.

Many people misunderstand the notion of “collegiality” between Pop and Bishops, either because of false comparisons with political institutions, or because of misinterpretations by dissenting theologians.  Pope John Paul II himself drew attention to the true nature of collegiality in a 1984 address to the bishops of Switzerland.  After inviting everyone to re-read the key passage in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, he spoke of the “solidarity” that should bind the head and members together.

Collegiality in the strict sense, he said, means “more than the collaboration of Bishops between themselves, it united all the Bishops together around the Successor of St Peter.”  This solidarity, he went on to say, should be both “affective” and “effective.”  Brotherly relations and trust must always play a great part, as is normal for the disciples of Christ whose first commandment was to live in love and unity.”

But for collegiality to be “effective,” it “presupposes oneness of mind about doctrine and oneness of will about the great mission of the Church.”  This is the meaning of having a “solicitude” for the whole Church to which their office binds them.  “All the bishops in fact, should act to safeguard the unity of the Faith and common discipline of the totality of the Church…”  In other words, true collegiality is the opposite of religious and sociological separation.

In another passage Pope John Paul dealt with the idea that Episcopal conferences ought to have more power because Rome is incapable of understanding the local situation, needs, culture or experience.  “There can,” the Pope said, “sometimes be a certain tension between, on the one hand, the wishes and needs of the Christians on the spot…and the principles and directives of the Magisterium of the whole Church.  The problem is similar to that of enculturation in the young churches.  It is indeed true that Christians and their pastors on the spot are well placed to find the opportune way to present these principles, with convincing reasons and precise applications.  But it equally true that they – the Christians on the spot – “are subject to pressure from their environment, and opinions and practices not deriving necessarily from the Faith, or which are not all compatible with it.”

“The Universal Church – and notably the Bishop of Rome, with the departments of the Apostolic See – provides the inestimable service – even if in more general terms and from a standpoint above particular circumstances – of tracing the sure path based on the living Tradition; takes account of all the different aspects of the Christian mystery and Christian ethics; avoids simplification and pitfalls; and preserves the unity of all the churches.”