The Episcopal Perspective

I often wonder if there is a certain amount of insularity which is unavoidable for the episcopacy. Given the position of our bishops, it would concern me, from the position of a business leader, that organisationally, they might lack self-evaluation and perspective. In this regard, one has to look to the recent influx of new bishops, and hope that they bring with them some external perspective which could prove invaluable to the Bishops Conference of England and Wales.

Fundamentally, what I am getting at here is my old clarion call about catechesis-- or the extraordinary lack of it we have experienced, and continue to experience. It's not just me either.

Clare Short is a Catholic mum of three beautiful children and has been married for 14 years.

She blogs over at Faith in our Families, always a good read. The other day she posted a really insightful reflection from the trenches, if you like, that is, from those who are in the muck and bullets, about the Synod on the Family. Having witnessed the strange public posturing of Cardinal Kasper and Cardinal Baldesseri, Clare is wondering why the main issues do not seem to be addressed at all. In point of fact, she correctly asserts that there seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding surrounding the issues, which are not about the impossibility of following the Church's teaching, but the confusion and lack of understanding of just what that teaching is!

Clare summarises these in four questions aimed at the episcopacy:
1. How can the Bishops expect people to foster a happy and successful Catholic marriages if they give them no proper marriage prep, and no ongoing support?
2. How can the Bishops expect couples to understand the indissolubility of a sacramental union if (due to complete lack of adult formation) they don’t even know what a sacrament is?
3. Why have the Bishops not put proper ongoing practical measures in place to protect and support the Catholics they are responsible for, who are in mixed marriages?
4. Why have the Bishops not promoted and explained the central importance of NFP in a Catholic marriage?
Is there some sort of prevalent theme emerging here do you think?

Clare goes on to explain her own experience and how she failed to understand what she was getting into when she herself was married. Indeed it is only through her own investigation, much of it on-line, at the Vatican Website and reading Pope St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body, that she came to understand how powerful & valuable Catholic Marriage really is! All credit to Clare, but seriously, you have to ask why? Why do we have to search out the valuable pearls of wisdom taught by the faith? Why are we not being formed when we prepare to receive the Sacraments? Why are our children not being taught this at our Catholic Schools? 

Clare goes on to look at the way we are prepared for the Sacraments in this post. In it, she questions the lack of joined-up thinking when it comes to Catechesis:
Why do we not have a central recommended programme of Catechises and Evangelisation for each diocese? It seems absolutely ridiculous to me that in one parish you will get brilliant formation and catechises based on Holy Scripture, the Catechism and Papal doc’s, and in the parish up the road you will get a load of heretical nonsense based on people’s own personal opinions of what they would prefer the catholic faith to look like. Why are we playing catechetical roulette? Bishops, are you not aware of this problem?
I can understand that everyone has different ideas about what is important in terms of Catechesis, but it would make sense if there was some sort of policy to refer to; a minimum standard if you will. I think there is, from the Vatican, but we don't seem to bother with that in this country, certainly I've never heard it referenced. I don't know why that is. In the context of the Synod, how on earth can the Bishops expect couples to understand the indissolubility of a sacramental union if (due to complete lack of adult formation) they don’t even know what a Sacrament is?

Please do go and read her full blog post and let me know what you think.


  1. Yes an interesting article by Clare Short, though I have some quibbles. Saying Catholics may get divorced is somewhat misleading. An abandoned Catholic spouse may have recourse to the civil remedy of divorce in order to obtain certain protections for himself or herself, and any children. But that does not dissolve the marriage, as a valid marriage is indissoluable.

    I am also increasingly concerned about the rhetoric here and elsewhere about 'the central importance of NFP in a Catholic marriage.' I think we run the real risk of using NFP with a contraceptive mentality when we place such stress on it. In fact, marital love is ordered to procreation, and whilst the use of NFP is licit for 'well-grounded reasons' (HV §16) I think that we should be far more accepting that large families are the norm. As someone who has himself been a victim of such thinking (and regret, now, having a small family) I feel strongly on this subject!

    1. Great points Ben and I concur whole-heartedly. I do think Clare shows one of those great things about the Catholic faith: even when it is suppressed and not taught, we reason to it. We get there ourselves. We are all on a journey of faith, and while we might not be as far along as you are, we can benefit from your experience and wisdom. So thank you!


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