Two bishops in the UK have reminded the nearly 500 priests who recently signed an open letter resisting change to the Church’s current moral teaching not to use the media to make their voices heard, reports The Tablet.
Debate in the UK on issues such as allowing Communion for those divorced and remarried to be raised at October’s Synod on the Family has exposed tensions in the Church with one bishop refusing to meet a prominent lay group pressing for change.
Meanwhile, two other bishops have reminded the conservative-minded priests who recently signed an open letter resisting change to the Church’s current moral teaching that other channels exist by which to make their voices heard.
Following news that the Bishop of Lancaster, Michael Campbell, had refused to meet diocesan members of Acta (A Call to Action), the head of the organisation issued a statement saying that she believed her group’s stance was “what Pope Francis wants.”
“He told the youth in Brazil to ‘make a mess’ in their dioceses,” said Eileen Fitzpatrick, Acta’s national chair. “We hope the Bishops of England and Wales will catch up with him if they haven’t already done so. Acta are not going away and if doors don’t open to us, we shall continue to knock.”
She said Acta had about 2,000 members, with groups in each of the dioceses in England and Wales – and in about 10 areas groups had met with their bishops. But speaking on BBC Radio Lancashire, Alex Walker of Acta said Bishop Campbell had refused to meet with his group on many occasions.
“It flies in the face of all that Pope Francis is saying about getting smelly with the sheep,” said Mr Walker. “We are smelly. Come and talk to us … listen to what we want to say.”
What Pope Francis wanted the synod to do, said Mr Walker, was to get the Church to catch up with the modern face of the family, whose issues included gay marriage as well as divorce and remarriage.
But Bishop Campbell, who was also interviewed, reacted angrily, saying he found Mr Walker’s comments “unacceptable … what [does] rile me … was to say I’m in disagreement with Pope Francis …[It is] absolutely appalling and unworthy … To say that a Catholic Bishop of Lancaster is not fully in agreement and communion with the Pope is quite false and quite offensive.”
Two bishops contacted by The Tablet have reaffirmed Cardinal Nichols’ statement slapping down the 461 signatories to the letter published in The Catholic Herald.