Bishops admit: We don’t know much about sex, need married advisers

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Pope Francis leads the synod on the family in the Synod hall at the Vatican, on October 5, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Max Rossi  
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-SYNOD-DISCUSSION, originally transmitted on Oct. 6, 2015.

Pope Francis leads the synod on the family in the Synod hall at the Vatican, on October 5, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Max Rossi *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-SYNOD-DISCUSSION, originally transmitted on Oct. 6, 2015.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Bishops participating in the Vatican’s synod on the family have admitted that they don’t know much about sex — and that they need the help of laypeople to fully understand marital intimacy.

Laypeople play an important part in the discussions at their synod on the family, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, English-language assistant to the Vatican press office, said on Friday (Oct. 16). 

“At the heart of the synod is human sexuality. And oftentimes it’s muted and we don’t know how to talk about it, because most of us in the room are male celibates,” he said, citing comments of unnamed bishops.

Fourteen married couples and other laypeople have been brought in to fill in the gaps in the churchmen’s knowledge, advising the 270 bishops as they discuss family issues.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, cited bishops who said it is essential to grasp “the importance of sexuality in spouses’ lives.”

But the Rev. Manuel Dorantes, assisting the Vatican press office in Spanish, said bishops also discussed the need for families to change the way they talk about sex.

“Many fathers don’t talk about the beauty of sexuality with their children. The church itself is not entering into this role; they should present the good news of human sexuality as a pathway of love, not sin,” he said.

Quoting an unnamed synod bishop, Rosica noted the sacramental nature of both the Eucharist and marriage. “‘This is my body, given for you.’ We need to root that in human sexuality and in love. It helps to appreciate even better the sacrament of the Eucharist,” he said.

The bishops have some way to go if they are to convince Catholics they understand their lives, according to Sharron Cole, president of Parents Centres New Zealand, who has been participating in the discussions.

Until now the Catholic Church has responded to married couples’ use of artificial contraception, for example, by either ignoring it or calling for greater religious instruction, Cole told bishops. “This ‘paralyzed status quo’ cannot continue. The matter must be discussed afresh, but laypeople will not be content to leave it to clergy alone.”

Cole said clergy’s response to the sexual abuse scandal demonstrated a lack of “expertise in sexuality and psychology to make good decisions,” leading to further harm and a loss of credibility.

“The time is now for this synod to propose that the church re-examine its teaching on marriage and sexuality, and its understanding of responsible parenthood, in a dialogue of laity and bishops together,” she said.

LM/MG END SCAMMELL 

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  • Deacon John M Bresnahan

    There are many thousands of married ordained clergy in the Catholic Church- mostly ignored by the media. My wife and I raised 4 children and have 8 grandchildren and have talked over many family issues with the pastors I have worked with. We deacons can provide many insights into what it means to raise a family that takes religion very seriously but also are steeped in the secular world .

  • Bernardo

    Don’t know much about sex? Well there is an easy solution. And it really is not that complicated. Wikipedia’s review of human sexuality takes about 30 minutes to digest.

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  • Betty Clermont

    “Laypeople play an important part” but are excluded from discussions and voting. “Fourteen married couples have been brought in” e.g members of the
    Neocatechumenal Way, another couple “are currently executive secretaries of the Mexican Episcopal Conference’s commission for the family.” (vaticaninsider.lastampa.it). No independent, reform-minded laity allowed who might speak to the press.

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  • Larry

    So why shouldn’t you be full fledged clergy?

    Why would you have to defer to the authority of those who have foregone families and “adult relations” when it comes to Canon law and dogma on such subjects?

    This was one of many sticking points for the Protestant Reformation. 🙂

  • Deacon John M Bresnahan

    Larry–deacons are full fledged clergy by virtue of their ordination. How they make a living and support their families is a separate issue—some deacons work full time for the Church, some part-time, some on a voluntary basis– compensation (if any) is also a separate issue — in general worked out parish by parish or diocese by diocese.

  • Larry

    You are not a priest. You will always be considered no more than an auxiliary to the priests and Church hierarchy in general. You do not take the vows of chastity they require for such authority.

    So instead you subordinate yourself on such subjects to people who deliberately avoid personal knowledge about such things.

    It was issues like this which were brought up centuries ago and remains a point of division between Catholics and Protestants.

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