06 November 2014, The Tablet

CDF sets up conference this month on traditional marriage

Just one month after the closing of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Pope Francis is to open a major inter-religious conference in Rome dedicated to traditional marriage.

Many of the discussions at the synod dealt with proposals by Cardinal Walter Kasper and ­others regarding Communion for the divorced and remarried, and the Church’s attitude to cohabiting Catholics and Catholics in homosexual relationships.

The 17-19 November gathering, entitled “The Complementarity of Man and Woman”, is officially sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and co-sponsored by the Pontifical Councils for Promoting Christian Unity, for Inter-religious Dialogue, and for the Family.

The heads of all four offices are scheduled to address the assembly, with Pope Francis presiding over the first morning session, following opening remarks by CDF prefect Cardinal Gerhard Müller. Cardinal Müller has openly opposed Cardinal Kasper’s proposals on Communion for the divorced and remarried.

The conference will feature more than 30 speakers representing 23 countries and various Christian Churches, as well as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism and Sikhism. It will aim to “examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society”.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, who has expressed strong reservations regarding the synod, will be among the participants. Other notable speakers will include Lord (Jonathan) Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain; Anglican Bishops Tom Wright and Michael Nazir-Ali; and the Revd Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in California.

The conference comes amidst fierce disagreement in the aftermath of the family synod on the part of some cardinals and church leaders. Archbishop Chaput  says he was “very disturbed” by the debate over church teachings on gays and remarried Catholics, saying it sent a confusing message, and “confusion is of the Devil”. His criticisms have been echoed by Cardinal Raymond Burke, who likened the Church to “a ship without a rudder” in an interview with the Spanish Catholic weekly Vida Nueva. However, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, who attended the synod, said in a ­homily in Dublin on Tuesday: “I am quite surprised at the remarks of some commentators within church circles about the recent synod of bishops, often making accusations of confusion where such confusion did not exist and so actually fomenting confusion.

“A Church which becomes a comfort zone for the like-minded ceases to be truly the Church of Jesus Christ,” he insisted.

n A document authorised by Pope Francis has decreed that non-cardinal heads of Vatican departments and officials automatically lose office when they reach 75. Meanwhile, the Pope told those attending a course at the Roman Rota that marriage annulments should be streamlined so that people are not left waiting for “justice”.

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