The modern day Scribes and Pharisees of the Catholic Church

Saturday 18 October 2014: Breaking news – Synod of Bishops reject “welcome to Gays” and also reject accepting divorced and remarried Catholics.

The conservative bishops in the Catholic Church have won, and Pope Francis’s attempt to “modernise” the Church has failed. A triumph for the old order. But only just. At stake was the acceptance of homosexual relationships and the end to the permanent excommunication for those who had divorced and then remarried. What was needed was a two thirds majority for these proposals. There was a majority, that is the good news, but not a sufficient majority to bring about change.

This though is just the start of the battle. The Catholic Church has a problem with sex and gender; the symptoms are for all to see, from paedophile priests to the bizarre ban on all forms of “artificial” contraception, as well as the issue of women’s ministry in the Church. Our bishop has resigned, a good bishop, because he could not cope with the demands of a celibate life. These bishops and archbishops and cardinals have been appointed by conservative popes – the miracle is that so many are willing to look again at Catholic teaching and practice and to vote for change.

There is another problem. An arch- conservative faction of the laity, now gathered under an umbrella called “The Voice of the Family”. There are other organisations, such as the Association of Catholic Women. A faction that sees itself as the guardians of the true Church, ready to write to the bishop each time there is a deviation from the “true” teaching of the Church.

And where would Jesus be in all this? What would he say, he who turned on those trying to trap him saying “Alas for you lawyers also! You load men with intolerable burdens, and will not lift a finger to lighten the load” (Luke 11:46 – from the Gospel read on Wednesday 15th October 2014). What would Jesus say to those wishing enforce “Church teaching” in all its rigidity? Such teaching that denounces all gay relationships, bars those who are divorced and remarried from the life of the Church, or prevents couples resorting to IVF when this is the only hope of having a healthy child and demands total celibacy from a 100% male clergy? Would a modern day Gospel have Jesus dining at the home of Zechariah and his partner? Would the marriage at Cana be between a man and a woman who have both been divorced?

Pope Francis is to be commended for his efforts to bring the compassion of Jesus back into the pastoral teaching of the Catholic Church.

And for this who oppose this, the Scribes and Pharisees of the Catholic Church? Did Jesus really say at the Last Supper “take this and eat, but only if you obey the letter of the law”?