Pope Francis pleads for faith to be rooted in real world, but are his bishops listening?

Pope Francis pleads for faith to be rooted in real world, but are his bishops listening?

Kevin Rafferty says Pope Francis’ message for a more compassionate Church has real-world implications, but a bitterly divisive bishops’ meeting on the topic of family shows he may not be getting through

In October, Pope Francis pleaded with his 270 brother bishops not to live in a narrow ghetto but to help care for a wounded world as he closed a bishops’ meeting marked by argument, bitter infighting and conspiracies, showing a church that is badly split.

What do Catholic politics matter to the rest of the world? Surely, this fragile planet has enough constant crises, wars and rumours of wars, failing economic growth, rising inequality, global warming, refugees fleeing terror and death, without worrying about the antics and split hairs of men in coloured frocks squabbling over how the teachings of a crucified criminal 2,000 years ago apply to the world today?

In education, health care and social services, Catholics are influential even where only a tiny minority of the people are believers

They matter because the Catholic Church claims more than 1.3 billion baptised followers, maybe slightly more than Islam. In education, health care and social services, Catholics are influential even where only a tiny minority of the people are believers. Hong Kong and India are leading examples.

Equally crucially, the pope as leader of the Catholic Church offers a moral voice not only on religious questions but on vital matters including the care of the planet and dignity of all human beings.

The topic for the synod, which concluded last Sunday, was the family, meaning leading issues of marriage, divorce, contraception, same-sex unions and treatment of gays and lesbians.

Cardinals attend a papal mass for the synod. The final synod document offered a few crumbs to divorced Catholics. Photo: AFP

READ MORE: Pope Francis deserves credit for attempts to modernise the Catholic church

The tragedy for the Catholic Church, and I believe for all humanity, is that the conservative bishops have betrayed Francis. The pope tried to reach out and present a more compassionate and understanding face to lapsed Catholics and the world, without abandoning established teachings; conservatives claim that this approach undermines and threatens to destroy the church.

You can hear the anguish in the pope’s words as he begged brother bishops not to set the church’s teachings “in dead stone to be hurled at others”.

The final synod document offered a few crumbs to divorced Catholics. A divorced Catholic who marries again without getting an annulment cannot receive communion. The document says divorced Catholics should be “more integrated into Christian communities”, suggesting that individual priests may be allowed discretion to bring them back into the fold.

Pope Francis has proved an authentic voice offering Christian healing not only to wayward Catholics but also tending to the world. Photo: EPA

This church is in crisis. I think back to my own parents, who brought up seven children in a damp rented house with an outside lavatory. My father never earned enough money to pay a penny in income tax. My mother was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis for 40 years and had the pain of a prolapsed womb for the last two births.

They showed heroic sanctity. My mother believed, she told me, that contraception was wrong because it denied God, and God himself decided whether and which individual sperm would fertilise the egg to create a human being. You might cynically say that God has been wasting too much time pondering sperm, and neglecting the fragile planet.

Their children were wayward, kicking aside their parents’ beliefs, living together before marriage, getting pregnant before marriage, marrying outside the church, one to an Ulster Protestant Orangeman, another to a Jew, getting divorced.

In spite of all this, my parents never denied their love or their home to any of their children at any time. Grandchildren brought up outside the Catholic Church were cherished equally with Catholic grandchildren.

My challenge to the bishops: if God is a god of love, what kind of love is it that does not match the love my parents showed?

Catholic bishops have been too preoccupied prying into other people’s bedrooms that they have forgotten the grave sexual misdeeds of their own ordained ministers in abusing children. Photo: Reuters

Eminent British Catholic psychiatrist Jack Dominian pointed out that marriage is a contract between the two people; the priest or registrar merely records the deal. He added that marriage is an ongoing contract constantly renewed by the partners, to which a smart Jesuit commented, “So you can only know whether you have been truly married when you are dead.”

Sex is important, but it is love that counts and enriches and shapes an individual’s life. Catholic bishops have been too preoccupied prying into other people’s bedrooms that they have forgotten both the grave sexual misdeeds of their own ordained ministers in abusing children and the wider importance of the church’s mission to a wounded world.

Pope Francis has proved an authentic voice offering Christian healing not only to wayward Catholics but also tending to the world. He has been eloquent in calling for help for refugees fleeing persecution and in urging governments to do something to repair the environment and climate before it is too late. No other leader has the global vision that Francis has shown.

Luckily at the final synod mass, Francis had the text for the day, in which Christ ignores the protests of his disciples urging him to move on; instead, he stops to restore the sight of a blind beggar calling from the roadside.

Francis warned of “a spirituality of illusion” – that “we can walk through the deserts of humanity without seeing what is really there; instead we see what we want to see… A faith that does not know how to root itself in the life of people remains arid and, rather than oases, creates other deserts.”

But are his bishops listening?

Kevin Rafferty was editor of The Universe, the leading Catholic newspaper in English

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Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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