Church teachings on marriage and family are poorly understood, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told a group priests and members of parish councils at Clonliffe college yesterday.
He was commenting on the results of a survey of lay people in the diocese, conducted ahead of a Synod on the family that will take place in Rome in October at the initiative of Pope Francis.
According to the Catholic Ireland website, Dr Martin said the answers did not come as a surprise. “What should surprise us is the fact that we have not been developing a strong pastoral response to these questions over the years.”
He added, “We should not have had to wait for a questionnaire from Pope Francis to address these questions.”
Many replies to the survey were concerned with the Church’s pastoral care of marriage and the family and what should be done in parishes.
“Many of the replies noted that there is little attempt at explaining the teaching. One person responded: ‘I’ve been a Mass-goer all my life, I am now 51 years, I have never heard a sermon on family’.”
It was generally thought that there is very little, if any, formation on Church teaching. Education was described as ‘inadequate’, taking place mainly at Mass (if at all).
There was a lot of praise for marriage preparation courses, but also references to the need for ongoing formation after marriage which “practically does not exist.”
People spoke of giving more prominence to marriage and the family at Sunday liturgy, especially at family Masses. The tone should be that of affirmation and encouragement for families.
On same-sex unions, Archbishop Martin said that many respondents saw the Church’s position as purely ‘negative and judgmental’, felt that there should be some way of civilly recognising stable same-sex unions. But, he said, “there was a clear hesitancy, uneasiness and opposition with regard to marriage for same sex unions”.
The Archbishop said that he was focusing on marriage and the family in his address because “the family is vital for the future of the Church and of society” and that “married lay men and women can play a vital role in this area.”
“Marriage is not just a personal blessing for a man and his wife. Marriage is a sacrament – like all sacraments – given for the building up of the Church,” he said.