Most priests are not adequately prepared to deal with difficult pastoral situations, according to Vatican officials studying the pastoral challenges to the family.
This was one of the topics included in the Instrumentum Laboris, or working document, for the upcoming Synod on the family. The document was the result of a consultation process, which involved sending questionnaires to bishops conferences around the world.
Although the intent was to have as many faithful as possible respond to the survey, it did not receive the same distribution in all parts of the world. The end result, however, appears to be a comprehensive picture of the current openness to the Church’s teaching on marriage, family, sexuality, and related issues.
The questionnaire appears to have revealed a fundamental problem: lack of education on the part of both lay people, and priests.
The working document cites a lack of knowledge of church teaching as the fundamental challenge in several areas. Most Catholics have not read any of the Vatican II documents, or post-Vatican II encyclicals related to marriage and the family. Marriage preparation classes are often perfunctory, a “missed opportunity” for evangelization, and many divorced Catholics do not seek an annulment because they assume their first marriage was valid. Similarly, Natural Family Planning is touted as ineffective, but few people actually know what that method of family planning entails.
When it comes to difficult pastoral situations, like same sex unions, there are few concrete guidelines for priests to follow. This leads to a wide range of responses from priests, not all of which are effective. The working document states that priests themselves asked for the formulation of pastoral guidelines for these situations.
Challenges to family go beyond education, however. Poverty and unemployment are cited as two factors that can breakdown of a marriage, or move young people to cohabitate instead of marrying. “The Church is called to offer real support for decent jobs, just wages and a fiscal policy favouring the family as well as programmes of assistance to families and children,” according to the synod of bishops.
While the content of the working document is, in many cases, exactly what the faithful have been saying amongst themselves for years, this is the first time those views and assessments are being stated openly in a Vatican document.
The Vatican has not yet named the experts who will participate in the Synod.
A late breaking development from Rome regarding clerical sex abuse:
Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the former nuncio to the Dominican Republic, has been found guilty of sex abuse by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The sentence: laicization. He will no longer be able to minister as a priest. The former nuncio has two months to appeal the decision.
The Vatican Gendarme is still conducting a criminal investigation. The Vatican said on Friday that the archbishop has been able to move freely until now. Given the findings of the CDF, “appropriate measures” will be taken to ensure he cannot flee before the criminal investigation is completed.