Sunday, 18 May 2014

Bishop Wants Taboo Free Discussions

Bishop Galantino
Photo from: California Catholic Daily

The Tablet reported earlier this week that Bishop Galantino, the Secretary General of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, had said: “I don’t identify with the expressionless person who stands outside the abortion clinic reciting their rosary, but with young people, who are still against this practice, but are instead fighting for quality of life, their health, their right to work.

Bishop Galantino is also reported saying: “My wish for the Italian Church is that it is able to listen without any taboo to the arguments in favour of married priests, the Eucharist for the divorced, and homosexuality.

Pope Francis personally appointed Bishop Galantino as the Secretary General of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. He did so on 30 December 2013 on a temporary basis and then confirmed it as a permanent appointment on 26 March 2014. It should be noted that the leader of a national episcopal conference is normally decided by the members of the bishops’ conference[i]. In Italy however it is the Pope who personally appoints the Secretary General.

While some of the content of Bishop Galantino’s statements is concerning of its own, it is no doubt the fact that he was personally appointed by Pope Francis as Secretary General of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, which has led to greater attention by the media and bloggers.

There have been two notable responses to Bishop Galantino’s statements that I have read.

The first is an open letter from John Smeaton, director of SPUC (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children), to Bishop Galantino. You can read the letter below and can also read more of John Smeaton’s comments at his Blog.

Your Excellency,

I have read your reported comments, quoted today by The Tablet, saying, amongst other things, that you "don't identify with the expressionless person who stands outside the abortion clinic reciting their rosary".

I do hope you have been misreported. Please let me know if that's the case.

I thought I would let you know that I do identify with the person outside the abortion clinic praying their rosary, whether or not the person is expressionless.

Just 30 minutes ago I received the following message from a wonderful group in England which organizes, at great personal sacrifice, people to stand outside an abortion clinic in Twickenham, west London. The message said: "Pray hard for "Lucia", 20 weeks pregnant. Her abortion is booked for next week in Twickenham."

I have prayed for Lucia. I did so before writing to you. Whilst writing, may I ask that you pray for her too and ask others to do so?

In my experience, these prayers work. I am constantly getting messages from the same source, the wonderful group in England,which tell me about young women who, seeing the people outside the abortion clinics praying, change their minds and keep their baby.

If I may, I will send you a full report on the work of this group.

Also, may I ask you a question in relation to what you reportedly say: "In the past we have concentrated too much on abortion and euthanasia"? (Again, I hope you have been misreported. Please let me know if that is the case.)

It's probably fair to say that tens of thousands of unborn children, each one made in the image and likeness of God, are killed every day throughout the world. For example, there are 500 killed daily in Britain, thousands in the US, thousands upon thousands in China, to name just three of the world's 193 countries.

Your Excellency, if it were Catholic priests or Jews who were being killed, or threatened with being killed, by national laws in Britain or in other parts of the world – would we expect, any day of the week, ever to enter a Catholic Church for Mass without the matter being mentioned, or being prayed about at that Mass? Would we not be denouncing, and rightly denouncing, the killing of Catholic priests or Jews, in every pulpit in the world – notwithstanding the past sins and scandals associated with members of the Catholic Church? The Jew, the priest, the unborn child are all created in the image and likeness of God.

I really don't think you would be saying, if national laws had allowed the killing of Catholic priests or Jews over the past few decades: "In the past we have concentrated too much on the killing of Catholic priests or Jews...". Indeed, you would probably be saying: "We can never do enough to denounce this grotesque evil".

Your Excellency, please reconsider your reported position.

May I come to meet you, in the company of one of my colleagues who has had an abortion, and discuss the whole matter with you?

Assuring you of my prayers.

God bless

John Smeaton
Chief Executive

The second is the response given by Ed Peters, a well-known Canon Lawyer, on his Blog “In Light of the Law”. Below is part of that response. His full comment can be found on his Blog by following the link.

Galantino is calling for a “taboo-free discussion” of priestly celibacy, administration of holy Communion to divorced-and-remarried Catholics, and homosexuality (sic: homosexual acts?). His call for a ‘taboo-free discussion’ of these topics suggests, of course, that, till now, their discussion has been hindered by taboos, or at least, that Galantino thinks they have been discussed only amid taboos. I suggest the first implication is false; the second, necessarily, mistaken. Passing familiarity with the Catholic literature that each of these topics has generated over the centuries should be enough to dispel allegations of “taboos” in their regard except perhaps in the minds of some who dislike the Church’s position on one or more of these topics.

But it is Galantino’s gratuitous remark about “expressionless persons praying rosaries outside abortion clinics” that attracts my attention. I worry when ranking prelates disparage the simple and prayerful piety that some lay faithful show even before the Gates of Death.

There is not much more that I can add to what John and Ed have said on this matter. I would love to hear what your opinions are.

[i] Canon 452

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