I read a great editorial in the Our Sunday Visitor weekly newspaper that I felt succinctly addressed some current concerns among attentive Catholics seeking clarity regarding the many candid papal opinions that have arisen in news interviews. I found it quite timely and helpful, and would like to share it with you.
It’s been three years since Pope Francis told young people gathered for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro to go into the world and “Hagan ho!” The phrase has been translated as “make a mess”, “make a fuss”, or, as found in the official Vatican text, create “noise.” “I want the Church to go out into the streets. I want us to resist everything worldly, everything static, everything comfortable, everything to do with clericalism, everything that might make us closed in on ourselves,” the Holy Father said. “May the bishops and priests forgive me if some of you create a bit of confusion afterward.”
It is undeniable that Pope Francis has taken his own words to heart during his time as pontiff, and such moments have given rise at times to both laudation and heartburn from those within and outside of the Church. Since his election in March 2013, Francis has stretched the bounds of comfort for many within the Church by his frank, off-the-cuff comments on numerous hot-button topics, including migration, contraception, homosexuality, women, and marriage and family life – often issued in the form of in-flight press conferences following an exhausting international visit.
Two comments made by Pope Francis at the end of June alone have caused a stir within the media and among the faithful: how he stated that “a great majority” – later amended by the Vatican to “a portion” of “sacramental marriages are null” because couples do not enter into the union with a proper understanding of its permanence; and how he believes that Christians should apologize for the role they have played in helping to marginalize homosexual persons, as well as, others it has offended, such as exploited women and the poor. Pope Francis also has spoken occasional, seemingly harsh words toward the clergy, sometimes chastising them for being ambitious, clerical and cruel.
Such statements are, without a doubt, messy, adding more than a little noise to the streets and causing an at-times justifiable amount of frustration for many faithful Catholics, including many priests and bishops. As popular columnist and pastor Msgr. Charles Pope commented recently: “Please, Holy Father, enough of these ad hoc, impromptu sessions, whether at thirty-thousand feet or at ground level.”
And perhaps it should be so. Doubtless, if Pope Francis spoke less frequently and less freely, there would be less consternation, polarization, and confusion within an already consternated, polarized and confused Church and the world. For many Catholics who grow weary of regularly responding with doctrinal clarifications, such a reality would be no small blessing. But this is not Pope Francis’ modus operandi. And perhaps that is its own blessing, simply for the reason that the absence of noise often means an absence of discussion altogether. Francis would rather make the mess in order to jumpstart the conversation on important issues rather than have no conversation at all. Would the world be cleaner and quieter with less mess and little noise? Likely so. But it’s through navigating the noise that we, as individuals and as a Church, learn how to stretch and grow outside of ourselves and to recognize – even if we may not agree with – the perspective of the other.
Our role as Catholic faithful, then, is to embrace this noisy challenge, whle always remembering to pray for the Holy Spirit to inspire the words and actions of our Holy Father – whether prepared or impromptu – and for that same Spirit to guide our own words and actions as we respond.”
I hope you found that helpful. And now I would like to close by adding a few remarks on the issue of Natural Family Planning (NFP). Fr. Rooney and our in-parish NFP instructor, Amy Karney, will be addressing this important subject for you at all this weekend’s Masses, as I will be with our youth group at the Orlando conference. I cannot emphasize enough the critical importance that your knowledge and understanding of the moral soundness and familial strengthening that this totally safe and most effective planning regimen provides. The Catholic Church supports NFP methods because they respect God’s design for married love. In fact, NFP represents the only authentic approach to “family planning” available to husbands and wives. Because NFP methods are not contraception, these methods can be used to both achieve or (when a serious circumstance justifies doing so) avoid pregnancy. And, unlike contraceptives, it is completely safe…as no drugs, devices or surgical procedures are used to avoid pregnancy. Yet, its efficacy, its effectiveness, is far greater than any of the health threatening contraceptives being prescribed. Studies show that couples who follow their NFP method’s guidelines correctly and consistently acheive effectiveness rates of 97 to 99%.
NFP reflects the dignity of the human person within the context of marriage and family life, while promoting openness to life, and recognizing the value of the child. By respecting the love-giving and life-giving natures of marriage, NFP can also serve to enrich the bond between husband and wife.
Natural Family Planning, love, mercy, life, opening the heart of marriage.
Yours in prayer for strengthening the family,