John Smeaton: Spirit of secularisation now presides at Pontifical Council for the Family

What would the late Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo think about recent events at the Pontifical Council for the Family, of which he was the President from 1991 till 2008?

I knew the late Cardinal personally.  He was one of the world’s greatest defenders of the sanctity of human life and church teaching on the sacredness and inviolability of the family. He was SPUC’s guest in Britain in 1996 and 1999.

In June 2005, he wrote to Archbishop Peter Smith, the then  archbishop of Cardiff, about the Pontifical Council for the Family’s close working relationship with the Society. His Eminence wrote:

We have seen that Mr John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, has undertaken a most laudable cause [sic] especially with the NGOs involved in promoting the values of family and life and he has been most helpful to our dicastery precisely in that field.

Reporting on Pope Benedict XVI’s homily at His Eminence’s funeral, the Catholic News Agency said:

Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, whose motto was “Veritas in caritate”, dedicated “his entire life to affirming the truth”, said the Pope.

How times have changed at the Pontifical Council for the Family (PCF)!

According to Catholic World Report, three separate Workshops have been held this year under the auspices of the PCF looking at “the possibility of an evolution of the ecclesiastical doctrine of marriage”. We read that the workshops, while perhaps not “secret,” were not publicised.

Catholic World Report states:

Among the participants was Father Eberhard Schockenhoff, professor of moral theology at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Father Schockenhoff also serves as an advisor to the German Bishops’ Conference … In addition to Communion for the divorced and remarried, Father Schockenhoff urges approval of homosexual clergy and finds “stable” homosexual pairs to be ethical … Support for the Schockenhoff’s position was offered by Father Gianpaolo Dianin, an expert on pastoral care of the family and a member of the Theological Faculty of Triveneto … On the issue of the Eucharist and “irregular unions” it was noted by Father Dianin that today, given contemporary challenges that secularism has put on Catholic marriages, there are numerous pastors who wish to do “something” for their parishioners but feel constrained by Church discipline that “understands little” of the hardships.

These Workshops at the Council are not an isolated example of opposition to doctrinally sound care of the family now prevailing at the PCF. (See my blogpost of earlier today as to why SPUC is concerned about the reception of Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics and my blogpost regarding SPUC’s position on same-sex marriage entitled Children are being sacrificed on the altar of adults’ sexual “rights”.)

SPUC’s representatives at a meeting about the Family Synod last January organised by the Pontifical Council for the Family were ignored in the report of the relator of the English speaking group when they sought to raise concerns about the omission of any reference to abortion in the Family Synod’s final relatio. The relator preferred to draw attention to  a call for the church to address the “rights” relating to transgenderism.

Moreover, when SPUC’s representatives joined fellow delegates to ask Archbishop Paglia, the current president of the PCF,  for his opinion on the proposal to admit the “remarried” to Holy Communion without amendment of life, he would not engage directly with their concerns. His Excellency told them not to worry and that a change in the discipline would only be for a small number of cases.

From my experience of Cardinal Trujillo, over many years, His Eminence will be spinning in his grave to hear of what is happening today at the Pontifical Council for the Family (established by Pope John Paul II in 1981 “for the promotion of the pastoral ministry and apostolate to the family, through the application of the teachings and guidelines of the ecclesiastical Magisterium, to help Christian families fulfill their educational and apostolic mission”).

How tragically prophetic – in particular the last sentence below – are the words of a study signed by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, on 13th May 2006, and presented to Pope Benedict XVI under the title “The Family and Human Procreation”:

It is true that the natural institution of marriage and the family has never been prey to such violent attacks as it is now. New models of the family have emerged from radical movements … Homosexual couples claim the same rights as those reserved to husband and wife; they even claim the right to adoption.

… It is not a matter of an alternative activity or one in competition with other sectors of pastoral care … The centrality of the pastoral care of the family and of life in the Church’s pastoral ministry thus characterizes her action. Today, the new evangelization in which the family is called to participate finds itself having to respond to challenges that it is not an exaggeration to call epochal. Those challenges more closely connected with the family concern the civilization of love and the service to life through responsible fatherhood and motherhood.

The Holy Father Benedict XVI said to the Bishops representing the Episcopal Commissions for the Family and Life of Latin America: “It is therefore indispensable and urgent that every person of good will should endeavor… to safeguard the fundamental values of marriage and the family. They are threatened by the current phenomenon of secularization.”

It seems to me that the spirit of secularisation is alive and well and presiding now at the Pontifical Council for the Family.