Bishops working on marriage, family statement

  • August 29, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - Forty years after the release of the encyclical Humanae Vitae, Canada’s bishops are working on a new document on marriage and family that will try to bring together the Catholic Church’s teaching in this area.

Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisgerber, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, told The Catholic Register in late August that the bishops have asked the conference’s Theological Commission to draft a statement. He added that the statement is expected to be ready for review by the end of the year.

“The Catholic bishops of Canada have always been faithful to the teaching of the church,” he said. “But there continue to be people who doubt that.”

Besides reassuring doubting Thomases, Weisgerber pointed out that none of today’s bishops were bishops in 1968 when Pope Paul VI touched off a storm of controversy with his encyclical, which reaffirmed traditional Catholic opposition to artificial contraception. They would like to reassert Catholic teaching in a manner that would reach today’s Catholics.

“People are asking us questions about this, so we’re going to look at it,” he said.

Humanae Vitae was issued on July 25, 1968. Its reaffirmation of the ban on contraception was largely unexpected and the encyclical was severely criticized in some church quarters. Two months later, at their annual plenary, the Canadian bishops issued a statement of support for the encyclical. Known as the Winnipeg Statement, because the plenary was held in Winnipeg, the statement itself was criticized because of one paragraph on the primacy of conscience. Critics argued that this paragraph gave dissenters the permission they desired to ignore church teaching.

Over the decades, some Catholics have continued to call upon the bishops to revoke the Winnipeg Statement.

One such group, called the Rosarium, conducted a petition last spring in which it again called on the bishops to revoke their statement. It gathered about 1,750 individual signatures, according to John Pacheco, one of the two men who lead the group.

Pacheco said he has sent letters to every bishop who leads a Latin rite parish in the country, informing them of his request.

At their annual plenary, to be held in late September in Cornwall, Ont., the bishops will participate in a private discussion of all church teaching on the issue since the Second Vatican Council, Weisgerber said.

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