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Cardinal Nichols warns young people about casual sex

10 October 2014


See-green: Pope Francis celebrates mass at St Peter's Basilica, to mark the opening of the synod, on Sunday

See-green: Pope Francis celebrates mass at St Peter's Basilica, to mark the opening of the synod, on Sunday

PROMISCUITY among young people undermines future marriages, the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has said. "Casual relationships" were wrong, he went on, because they involved sexual intercourse with a person's future spouse.

"I don't doubt that most young people aspire to having their own family," the Cardinal said in a filmed interview with the US-based Catholic News Service, posted on YouTube. But this was "within the context of a stable relationship between husband and wife, having the family with a sense of permanence and a permanent faithful commitment. . .

"Nobody wants a wife or a husband who is unfaithful; so what we have to get across to people is that casual relationships before marriage is actually being casual with somebody's future husband or wife."

His comments came on Tuesday, the second working day of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family being held in Rome, which Cardinal Nichols, the President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, is attending.

It is the first meeting of some 184 RC bishops from all over the world, together with 69 other delegates, to discuss the range of pastoral challenges to the family since 1980. Cardinal Nichols had attended the previous synod as a priest assisting a participating bishop.

Also on Tuesday, Cardinal Nichols told a press conference that the bishops at the synod had discussed the principle of "graduality" on Monday. He described it as a "law of pastoral moral theology which permits people - all of us - to take one step at a time in our search for holiness in our lives".

Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, said that Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI which forbade married couples from regulating their fertility with contraception, "needs to be considered in light of the law of graduality", because so many Roman Catholics ignored it.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany, said that the German bishops generally supported the extension of the principle of graduality to Roman Catholics married after divorce - one of the most contentious areas that will be addressed.

On Sunday, Pope Francis opened the two-week synod by celebrating mass in St Peter's Basilica. In his homily, he warned the bishops against pride, hypocrisy, and greed. "We can thwart God's dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us that wisdom which surpasses knowledge, and enables us to work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity.

"Synod assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent. They are meant to nurture and tend better the Lord's vineyard, to help realise his dream.

"In this case, the Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity."

The next day, Pope Francis encouraged the delegates to speak their minds openly and without fear about the issues they were going to address.

Among the lay Roman Catholics to address the synod on its first day were Ron and Mavis Pirola, a married couple from Sydney, Australia, who argued that the welcome that families could give to homosexual couples might act as a model of evangelisation, and an expres- sion of Christian "compassion and mercy".

Cardinal Nichols told reporters that the synod responded to the Pirolas' testimony "very warmly, with applause".

The synod will close on 19 October, when Pope Francis will beatify Pope Paul VI, the author of Humanae Vitae.

Next year, a larger synod will be convened, which will report back to the Pope, who called the meeting to respond to the "widespread cultural, social, and spiritual crisis" that threatened the family today.

Two days before the synod opened, Rome also hosted an international conference on pastoral care for homosexual and transsexual people, "The Ways of Love", which took place in the Waldensian Faculty of Theology.

Delegates heard that the Church should desist from using "harsh language" when referring to questions of human sexuality.

Fr Tom Rosica, the English-language spokesman at the synod, reported that one participant had argued that such phrases as " living in sin", "intrinsically disordered" and "contraceptive mentality" ought to be avoided.

At a press conference on the third day of the synod, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, Nigeria's leading Catholic cleric, told a media briefing that doctrine was not up to discussion.

He said that the participants would question only the pastoral approach toward difficult issues of human sexuality and family life.

He also said that while the Church remained opposed to homosexual marriage it was also against the harassment and victimisation of gay people.

"We would defend any person with a homosexual orientation who is being harassed, imprisoned or punished," the archbishop said, adding that the Church did not seek to punish such people.

"The [Nigerian] government may want to punish them but we don't, in fact we will work to tell the government to stop punishing those who have different orientations," he said.

Archbishop Kaigama also criticised the pressure on African nations exerted by international organisations seeking to control population growth with contraceptives.

"We want food, education, good roads, good health and so on … good health," he said, adding "but we are given certain things and we are expected to accept just because we are poor."

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