The last half of 2018 was a difficult time for the Catholic Church. The clerical abuse scandal has again reared its ugly head, and the extent and nature of what has been revealed, has shaken many to the core. For all who strive to grow in the virtue of chastity in their own lives, however imperfectly, there is a deep sense of betrayal that comes with the realization that some priests and bishops have habitually abandoned these principles, and also that some priests and bishops have lacked the courage to speak up when they had knowledge or suspicions of abuses of power and trust, and of lifestyles contrary to vows, among their fellow clergy.

Ironically, certainly not coincidentally, at the very time the enormity of this was coming to light, in what some now refer to as the “Summer from Hell”, there was also a sign of great hope, in the gathering in Southern California of 750 people from 36 states and six countries, who came to increase their understanding of, to celebrate, and grow in faithfulness to, the Catholic teachings on sexual morality and God’s design for love and life.

Unlike other Christian denominations, the Catholic Church has never wavered in its clear teachings of the universal call to chastity, appropriate to our individual vocation and situation in life “since man cannot find true happiness, for which he yearns with his whole being, unless he respects the laws inscribed in his nature by God, laws which he ought to observe with understanding and love.” Humanae Vitae 31. The greatest lie, which tempts us all, is that happiness and fulfillment can be found outside of this truth. And while the Catholic Church has never wavered in this conviction, it has stumbled badly, and for decades, in boldly and clearly proclaiming it, and inviting all to live chastity in their own lives. It is no coincidence, that at the very time we were burdened with the realization of the enormity of the failure to live these principles among some charged with teaching them, that we are also reminded of the solution, in the exuberance and joy of those gathered to celebrate them at the 50th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae. That teaching, along with the earlier encyclicals Familiaris Consortio and Casti Cannubi, beautifully affirmed the 2000 year teaching of the Church. That is, God’s gift of our wonderful sexual powers was intended by Him only for a man and woman joined in marriage, and then only within the marital embrace of natural sexual intercourse which is always unitive and open to life.

The path to healing from this revelation of abuse and seduction by the lie, will be multifaceted, but MUST include reforms founded in a renewed commitment to the beautiful, timeless, teachings on the gift of sexuality.

We believe—the healing and path forward must include a re-commitment to live chastely, by clergy, bishops, and lay Catholics alike.

We believe—that people have the right to expect that all programs and teachings that come from the Catholic Church will faithfully and clearly proclaim these teachings, and that ambiguity… or silence… or outright contradiction of them… is to abandon our people to the pain of the lie that happiness can be found outside of these truths.

As an organization of people committed to these truths, we express our gratitude to the heroic laity and clergy (priests, deacons, and bishops) who have persevered in proclaiming these teachings, with clarity, charity, and love, and who have been a shining beacon of truth, hope, and authentic compassion.

We call upon all those who carry the responsibility of leadership and formation—laity and clergy (priests, deacons, and bishops)—to seek to grow in their understanding and commitment to the age old and universal teachings of the Catholic Church on chastity and sexual morality, embrace these teachings in their own lives, and integrate them into their pastoral care of others with renewed vigor. We commit our resources to support and assist those on this journey, one we humbly walk as well. We would invite those who find themselves unable to align their personal lives and beliefs with the call to chastity and the teachings of the Catholic Church, to relinquish their leadership roles, as those they serve deserve the full richness of the Catholic faith presented to them, without reservation.

We re-dedicate ourselves to the service of these truths.

Specific Recommendations
Our experiences of 25 years of service on these topics inspire us to propose some basic and concrete commitments, as essential components of the healing journey we all are embarking on, and we find these vital to righting this course:

~ Engaged couples preparing for marriage in the Catholic Church have the right to receive the fullness of the Catholic teachings on married love, from leaders who themselves are educated, and profess belief, in these teachings.

~ Every ministry of the Catholic Church should reflect the true teachings of the Church, and clergy and laity in paid or volunteer positions in these ministries should themselves be provided an education in the teachings of the Church, the opportunity to profess their belief in these teachings, and strive to witness to them in the way they live their personal lives (RCIA, Youth Ministry, Engaged Encounter, Marriage Encounter, Catholic Education. Catholic Hospitals, Catholic Charities, etc.)

~ Those preparing for ordination, as permanent deacons or priests, have a right to expect to be taught with clarity and conviction the true teachings of the Catholic Church, by teachers who themselves profess belief in them, and strive to live them in their personal lives.

~ Catholic educators and catechists who attend educational congresses sponsored by the Catholic Church should have the reasonable expectation that every presenter clearly represents the teachings of the Catholic Church, and they profess to believe it personally.

CANFP’s Commitment
We pledge our support of these policies, and offer our experience in providing the following services to assist in this reform:

~ Providing clergy convocation and priest study day programs on marriage and sexuality

~ Providing seminars of 1-5 days to supplement the education of seminarians and deacons in formation

~ Consulting services to assist dioceses in training and services in the area of sexual morality, NFP, etc.

~ Speakers for parish and diocesan events and programs, clergy gatherings, schools, etc.

~ Consulting with Catholic hospitals in developing programs to provide NFP services and restorative reproductive healthcare services

~ Speakers for grand rounds at Catholic hospitals

~ Developing resources to assist parishes in sharing these truths with their parish community

~ Continuing to consult with and serve the respect life and family life directors of the California dioceses

~ Providing support and continuing education for professionals (NFP teachers, clergy, physicians, etc.), providing services to women and couples that provide the tools for living these principles, and for the women and couples themselves, through social media, conferences, publications, etc.

~ Providing referral to services within California, and consult with those seeking information and services

marriage-imageThe Cost
Over the years, the objection to any proposal that all those who teach, counsel, and speak on behalf of the Catholic Church themselves profess belief in those teachings, and strive to live them, have been twofold:

1) Anticipation of rebellion and rejection of the expectation that these moral standards would be required, and

2) Concern that imposing this expectation would result in not having enough people to fill those positions, and as a result, being unable to provide important services and programs.

We have seen evidence of the first when representatives of the Catholic Church have been asked to agree to statements that articulate the Catholic teaching on sexual morality. The second is a real possibility, though it is theoretical, as to our knowledge, this has never been implemented in any diocese in California. There certainly may be less programs available, and obstacles to overcome.

What we do know, is that not expecting that these Catholic teachings be taught consistently, and with clarity and compassion, by people who profess to believe them, has

1) resulted in two generations of poorly formed Catholics, and

2) fostered an environment within the Catholic Church that is sometimes hostile to those who do profess these beliefs and offer their services in ministry, by those who occupy positions of authority who reject these teachings, and

3) contributed significantly to the current crisis in the Catholic Church.

In Conclusion
Lastly, but importantly, we encourage all those who do profess belief in the teachings of the Catholic Church on faith and morals, and who strive to live these teachings in their own lives, to generously offer themselves in service to the Church, in parish and diocesan ministry, as well as Catholic schools and hospitals and social services.

The juxtaposition of the revelation of glaring abandonment of chastity on the part of some clergy and bishops, with the image of 750 people joyously embracing the opportunity to be better equipped to live and share the call to chastity, points us in the direction of the solution—a solution that begins with each one of us.

In service,
The Executive Board of the California Association of Natural Family Planning

The Executive Board of the California Association of Natural Family Planning