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Vatican examines why its teaching on sex is ignored

04 July 2014


The simple life: Franciscan friars play table football in the convent of Bosco ai Frati, in Tuscany, Italy

The simple life: Franciscan friars play table football in the convent of Bosco ai Frati, in Tuscany, Italy

THE Vatican has published a working document to address a crisis of widespread rejection of Roman Catholic teaching on sexual morality and family life.

Rising rates of cohabitation among young RCs, divorce and remarriage among older RCs, and a widespread rejection of traditional Vatican teaching on pre-marital sex and contraceptives led Pope Francis last year to call the third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

His 75-page document Instrumentum Laboris was presented last week at a press conference in Rome. It will assist the bishops who are to attend the Synod in October, which will focus on "pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation", and the "widespread cultural, social, and spiritual crisis of the family".

Divided into three parts, the document deals first with the understanding of marriage in the context of the gospel and the natural law.

The secretary-general of the Synod, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, told the press conference that "the second part relates to the pastoral challenges inherent in the family, such as the crisis of faith, critical internal situations, external pressures, and other problems."

He promised that, in this context, special consideration would be given to "difficult pastoral situations, such as unmarried couples who live together, and de facto unions, separated and divorced couples, remarried divorcees and eventual further children, single mothers, those who are in canonically irregular situations, and non-believers or non-practising Catholics who wish to marry".

The RC Church had a duty to accompany cohabiting couples "in the trust that they are able to beara responsibility, such as that of marriage, that is not too great for them", the Cardinal said.

He hoped that the document would "offer real knowledge" of the irregular situation of divorcees who had married again, and the RC Church would find solutions "compatible with her teaching, andwhich lead to a serene and reconciled life".

He said that there was also a duty of pastoral care of sexually active homosexuals, "including matters relating to children who may be present".

The document states that almost all bishops said that they would accede to requests to baptise children living with gay couples "with the same care, tenderness, and concern which is given to other children".

The third part of the document relates to education and catechesis on matters tangentially linked to marriage and family life.

Such problems involve the education in the faith of children born into irregular situations, saying that they should always be welcome in RC schools; and alsothe practical difficulties involvedin effectively transmitting and convincingly explaining RC church teachings to unreceptive adults.

Much of the content of the document is based on responses received to a questionnaire sent around the world in November.

Although the document recognises that many RCs do not follow church teaching on contraception, saying that "for many Catholics, the concept of 'responsible parenthood' encompasses the shared responsibility in conscience to choose the most appropriate method of birth control", it is unlikely that the bishops will contradict the papal teaching of the past 40 years. Instead, the document praises natural family planning for equipping couples to decide family size while respecting human fertility, and "the dignity of the sexual relationship between husband and wife".

The document was more critical of "gender theory", by which people decided their gender without "any correspondence to a person's biological sexuality". It said that this underlined the need for an improved understanding of "Christian anthropology".

It noted that the bishops wished to strike a balance between traditional RC teaching on marriage and family life and a non-judgemental attitude towards people living in homosexual unions.

Pope Francis is top of the 'tweeps'

POPE FRANCIS is the most influential Twitter user - or "tweep" - in the world, a new study has revealed, writes Simon Caldwell

Although the Pope is the second most followed world leader after President Obama, he massively outstrips the President in the frequency with which his followers retweet his messages. This makes him the most influential "tweep" on the planet, reports Twiplomacy 2014, a study of how Twitter is being used by world leaders.

More than 14 million people follow the Pope at @Pontifex in nine languages, and each tweet made by him is on average retweeted nearly 17,000 times, Twiplomacy said in a final report.

Although President Obama has 43.7 million followers for his@BarackObama account, his tweets are retweeted an average of only 1400 times, meaning that the Pope's tweets are retweeted more than ten times as often.

Of the two, the Pope enjoys greater global reach, because of the support of his followers for his tweets, which most commonly include the words "God", "Jesus", and "love".

"By this standard, Pope Francis @Pontifex is by far the most influential tweep, with more than 10,000 retweets for every tweet he sends on his Spanish account, and 6462 retweets on average on his English account," the report said.

"Venezuela's President @NicolasMadurois is in second position, receiving on average 2065 retweets per tweet on his Spanish account."

President Obama's Twitter high-point, the report said, came the day after his re-election in 2009, when he tweeted a picture of himself with the slogan "four more years". It became one of the four most popular tweets ever, retweeted 806,066 times.

"However, since then, the engagement on the account has been in decline," the report said. "Despite the account's massive following,the @BarackObama tweets are on average retweeted only 1442 times."

After President Obama and Pope Francis, the third most followed world leader is the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has five millionfollowers. David Cameron (@Number10gov) is in 13th place, with 2.6 million followers; and the Queen(@BritishMonarchy) is 36th, with 671,000 followers.

The Pope's Twitter account was opened by his predecessor, Benedict XVI.


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