Pro-family coalition condemns bizarre Synod proposal by Algerian bishop

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ROME, 3 October 2014: An international coalition of pro-family groups has condemned the bizarre proposals of an Algerian bishop in the run-up to next week’s Synod on the Family in Rome. Voice of the Family http://voiceofthefamily.info issued the response from its operational base near St Peter’s Square in Rome. Jean-Paul Vesco, the bishop of Oran, Algeria, made his proposals in an interview this week in La Croix, the French Catholic newspaper (English translation: http://www.globalpulsemagazine.com/news/bishop-offers-a-solution-on-catholic-divorce-and-remarriage/114 ) (see Note 1 for Editors below)

John Smeaton, co-founder of Voice of the Family, commented: “Bishop Vesco makes the extraordinary claim that the Church can and should endorse new sexual relationships for those Catholics whose sacramental marriages have sadly broken down. He claims that such relationships do not constitute adultery. This claim contradicts Christ’s teaching: ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her’ [Mark 10:11] (see Note 2 for Editors below)

Additionally, Bishop Vesco claims that such adulterous relationships are indissoluble.

Mr Smeaton continued: “Rejecting two millenia of definitive Catholic teaching, Bishop Vesco asserts that the concept of the indissolubility of sacramental marriage is false. He argues that it should be replaced by the concept of the ‘indissolubility of love’.

“Even more extraordinary is his utterly ungrounded claim that ‘Jesus did not invent indissoluble marriage or decree it.’ This claim again contradicts Christ’s teaching in the Gospel of Mark: ‘What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder’ [Mark 10:9]. (see Note 2 for Editors below)

“Bishop Vesco explicitly attacks the Church, claiming – without evidence – that its ‘position does violence not only to people but to the foundations of our faith’.

“Using a definition of adultery which has never appeared in Catholic teaching, Bishop Vesco claims that adultery only means a ‘simultaneous relationship with two people’. He asserts that subsequent (that is, not simultaneous) relationships after a sacramental marriage are thus not adulterous.”

Mr Smeaton concluded: “The starting of another sexual relationship after the breakdown of a sacramental marriage is not a one-off ‘instantaneous offence’, as Bishop Veso puts it. It is a continuing offence which creates an ongoing situation of pain for families, especially children. To pretend otherwise is in no one’s interests, and certainly not in that of the couple, who should be invited, with true love and mercy, to move out of a morally damaging situation. Bishop Vesco’s theory is one of the worst proposals for the pastoral care of the family to be concocted in the run-up to the Synod.”

Related releases/commentary from Voice of the Family:

Voice of the Family is an international lay coalition of major pro-life and pro-family organizations that has formed to offer expertise and resources to leaders of the church, the media, NGOs, and governments before, during, and after the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family. The Synod will be held from October 5 to 19 in Rome. We are supported by:

The following truths are at the heart of Voice of the Family’s work:

  • Sacramental marriage, binding parents together in an indissoluble union, is the greatest protector of children both born and unborn.
  • The artificial separation of the unitive and procreative dimensions of the sexual act is a major catalyst of the culture of death.
  • Parents are the primary educators of their children and it is through the education and formation of parents, and future parents, that the culture of life will be built.

Voice of the Family can be contacted by email to enquiry@voiceofthefamily.info or by telephone on +39 33 833 09443 (Italian mobile) or +44 (0)20 7820 3148 (UK landline)

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Notes for editors:

Note 1:

Five key quotes from Bishop Vesco’s proposal:

  • “My outrage also stems from the fact that the Church’s position does violence not only to people but to the foundations of our faith: alliance, divine mercy and the sacrament of reconciliation, the sacrament of the Eucharist.”
  • “They are faced with an impossible decision, quite simply because their second union has also become indissoluble.”
  • “In real life, adultery means maintaining a relationship with two people at the same time. That is not the life of those who divorce and remarry.”
  • “It is not the sacrament that makes the marriage indissoluble; it is the indissolubility of any genuine relationship of love that makes the sacrament possible.”
  • “Jesus did not invent indissoluble marriage or decree it, but he revealed the sacred character of all genuine human love from the first union of man and woman.”

Note 2:

The Gospel of Mark, chapter 10, verses one to 12 (RSV Catholic Edition): [1] And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again; and again, as his custom was, he taught them. [2] And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” [3] He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” [4] They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.” [5] But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. [6] But from the beginning of creation, `God made them male and female.’ [7] `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, [8] and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. [9] What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” [10] And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. [11] And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; [12] and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”