ACI North Wicklow Meeting 8th April 2015

May 1, 2015 | 0 comments

We agreed to use our copies of the Minutes of ACI National 21st March to choose from the already highlighted themes those we considered as most urgently calling us to further elucidation and possible action steps.

Referendum on Same Sex Marriage

One person drew our attention to a recent parish meeting on the Referendum, with some ACI members participating, in which the group discussed the urgent need for local group discussion and how to initiate it.

Reference was also made to an article on the Huffington Post blog worth reading.

Reference was also made to our National Bishops position on Same Sex Marriage as demanding Constitutional change to the nature of marriage.

We listened respectfully to each other as we shared our own personal feelings of unease on homosexuality in general, our deeply absorbed traditional Church teaching, our own need for further study and clarification, reflection, focus on underlying principles and the danger for many of being influenced by forceful, uninformed campaigning.

We expressed appreciation of this opportunity to engage in deep reflection and mutual respectful listening as we sought to surface the moral principles behind the whole issue; our open sharing making it possible to overcome our unease in surfacing the underlying issues about which we might in other circumstances hesitate to speak openly.

Envisaging our Programme for action

  • Parish meeting(s) through Pastoral Workers or clergy facilitated by ACI suggested.
  • Personal story approach to opening discussion.
  • Adopt a supportive rather than frontline leadership role in preferably small group sharing.
  • Two of our members would get together on this and consult with two specified Parish Pastoral Workers.

Strengthening of Church and Parish Life

Some members quoted examples of where signs of Church and parish life renewal are emerging. Contributing factors to this included Celebration with basket of food and musical accompaniment attended by a large congregation of all ages. The attraction was attributed to welcoming ministry, well trained Ministers of the Word, music ministry with Gospel choir with emphasis on Irish traditional music.                                                                                                                                                We talked of Ecclesial Movements such as Focolare, the Rebuilt Programme, Irish Pilgrims Way with Celtic Spirituality link. In general, the Camino Walk as an enjoyable, active experience with inbuilt reflection.

Our next meeting: 8th May at 8.00pm.
After the June meeting, we plan to break until early September.



Summary Feedback from the Workshops

Inequality and the distribution of economic resources:
The role of the banks including the Vatican bank. Main points of the discussion: Ø Trickle down economics does not work. Unless we share our wealth with the poor we are stealing from them. Ø Families do not have enough to eat. Primary schools having to organise breakfast clubs in schools before school starts.  Young people are lost to negative equity due to high mortgage during the Celtic Tiger era. We are all involved and responsible from the lowest to the highest in not paying our due share in tax if we can get away with it. (tax evasion and tax avoidance) Ø There is a Lack of compassion- if we follow Christ we should show compassion.

Recommendations for action:
Ø Church should stop talking about abortion, sex and contraception and concentrate on inequality, love and compassion, and responsible citizenship; Ø Church should appeal more to young people -walks, pilgrimage and physical activity; Ø Basic level of accommodation should be available to everybody and that the government deals with the problems of the rent allowance so that people can top up their rent allowance; Ø Concentration on economic growth rather than distribution – the church should point this out; Ø Do not support goods that are produced by cheap labour and child labour; Ø Education- the church to give the lead with regard to social inequality that exists- all Christian church could unite in this – ecumenical.

But what can we do?


Patriarchy and gender: Oppression of women in the institutional church.
Main points of the discussion:

  • The set up of the synod shows the church to be disconnected from the body of Christ. Our church is made up of 50% women, yet no woman has a vote. Therefore it excludes more than 50% of the church. It shows lack of leadership, true authority and catholicity, – it shows a church removed from the Gospel.  The Cardinals are disconnected from the Body of Christ -not catholicity. Ø A giant ego. Totally irrelevant to the majority within the church. Ø Synod lacks authority as it excludes women. Bishop should be invited as guests at the family synod. Ø Need not to get the message and the messenger mixed up. Ø Our church is not where people are. Ø The hierarchy is afraid of women. Ø Mary was pregnant before marriage.

 Recommendations for action: and  But what can we do?

  • Cut off money to church.
  • Support ACI and other reform groups.
  • Call for a meeting of the universal church (Vatican 3) made up of : 80% laypeople (50% men, 50% women) 10% religious (50% men, 50% women) 10% clergy/hierarchy.


Make up of Synod: Democracy in the church, votes for women and married couples.
Main points of the discussion:
Ø Synod lacks authority without woman having any vote and therefore it cannot be taken seriously.

Recommendations for Action.

  • Please appoint women and married couples with votes A.S.A.P Pope Francis!
  • Also have married priests, both male and female who bring experience of marriage to their ministry;
  • Invite back into ministry priests who have been forced to leave because of marriage;
  • Women and married persons should train priests for ministry of marriage and the family;  Women and married persons should develop the courses for training priests for ministry regarding marriage and the family; Ø Marriage is like ‘in the desert experience’. If you haven’t gone through it you won’t know what you’re talking about. How can you write about it – married love/ sexual love – if you haven’t experienced it; Ø
  • The need for ongoing education post ordination is highlighted; Ø Where is the ‘love’ in the document?

What can we do?


Preparation for mature and responsible sexual development.
Main points of the discussion Ø Ethic of responsibility should underpin teaching. Ø Sex should be taken out of religion, it is too prescriptive, it would be better placed within health and education programmes Ø Young people would laugh at the idea of church teaching on sexuality because of ‘feet of clay’ and fear of ‘losing the seed’ Ø Lack of education in sex leads to pornography where exploitation is mistaken for love Ø A group discussion in class encouraged a gay person to come out.

Recommendations for action: 

  • Start within the family, which can be difficult. Some schools have good courses. Reflect before you act, actions affect others. As a society we want/demand and we get, without responsibility for one’s actions. There is a lack of respect and loss of the sacred in instant relationships Ø Authority instruction without lived experience Ø We need communities of experience to guide people not leading with rules, there is no dialogue, it is not reaching out to people Ø Less rules, let people know the boundaries

What can we do?


SEXUAL MORALITY – WHERE LIES THE SIN? (Reflection by an ACI member from the Diocese of Down & Connor).

  • A new spirit of pastoral inclusion may be hindered by a fear of blurring the boundaries between sexual morality and immorality. This need not be the case. Surely the boundary marker for sex becoming sinful is when people, either themselves or others get hurt, either physically or emotionally. In other words when it involves: Promiscuity (sex should be fun but not causal, i.e. between multiple partners or strangers); – Unfaithfulness (adultery, dishonesty) – Exploitation (misuse of positions of power, the sex trade and pornography); – Abuse (domestic abuse, rape, pedophilia).

Recommendations for Action The Church can do society a great service by highlighting and tackling these wrongs. But it does it a disservice when it assumes these wrongs to be intrinsic to, or primarily concerned with relationships other than those validated by the Catholic church, i.e. couples that are gay; divorced and remarried; cohabiting; or mixed, etc. So my message to the Synod of bishops would be – some refocusing is required if you are to engage credibly with the complexity of family l life as it is, rather than as you expect it to be.

What can we do?


Humanae Vitae and family planning Main points of the discussion
Ø Shocked that institutional church is still promoting Humanae Vitae; Ø The large majority of the church in Ireland has rejected the teachings in Humanae Vitae on artificial birth control; Ø This teaching has hugely.damaged the church and strongly contributed to the huge exodus of young people out of the church;

Recommendations for Action

  • We call on the synod to remove the section on artificial birth control from Humane Vitae; Ø
  • Teach responsible parenthood; Ø
  • Accept that the Billings method does not work for the majority of women. Ø Catholics who have read the history of the Pontifical Commission established in 1963 to study the issues of ‘Population, Family and Births’ are fully aware that ‘political’ interference by a few senior church figures ‘at the death’ resulted in the minority view over-turning the majority view. This further undermines the credibility of a Humanae Vitae, a policy document that has fundamentally damaged the Roman Catholic Church over the past 50 years.

The annulment process:
Proposed options for widening and simplifying the process. Main points of the discussion Ø Difficulty with the term “annulment” – is it possible to say that a marriage didn’t exist? Getting an annulment shouldn’t necessarily mean saying the marriage never existed. The situation is that a marriage has ended not that it never existed; Ø “Dissolution”/”instead? “Termination of the marriage contract”; Ø Would better marriage preparation work to reduce the number of annulments? Ø Is it the role of the priest to recognise the symptoms that might bring about an annulment? Ø

Recommendations for Action.

  • Transparency is required in the process;
  • A neutral meditation service should be offered to help people through the process.

Co habitation Main points of the discussion
Co habitation is a normal part of modern relationship development;  the language in the Lineamenta suggests otherwise;

Recommendation for Action
The institutional church needs to recognise and support couples in loving relationships.

 Various forms of the family.
Possible pastoral responses to the identified problems and issues impacting on the various forms of ‘family’.

Main points of the discussion Ø 1st lists of types of families;

  • Single parent families (language should not be used it is derogatory); Ø Widows/ widowers; Ø
  • Divorced and remarried-stepchildren and adopted. Interfaith (Hindu, Buddhist, Christian) co habitating. Gay couples and families, inter-church families, mixed marriages (faith and no faith) Ø Building community, more events; Ø
  • No exclusion from sacraments – open table; Ø
  • Promote experimental inclusive services e.g. Ø
  • We suspect that our options will not be listened to and we need reassurance that they are i.e. recent listening project report no mention of role of women. Views were filtered out.

Recommendations for action:

  • More caring attitude to be encouraged towards all family groups; Ø
  • Joint pastoral care for inter church marriages; Ø New Irish catechism is not reflective of complexity of modern families; Ø If not full open-table dispensations for certain groups- gay people, divorced, protestant partners in Inter-church families and their children, then
  • development of alternative worship services; Ø
  • Children in Integrated/state schools should receive pastoral support. Ø
  • Communion should not be used as punishment or reward; Ø
  • General Pastoral Strategy rather than “Behave, Believe, belong” change to “Belong, believe, behave”; Ø
  • Attitude of church should be based on example of Jesus in the scriptures. He was open, welcoming and loving to all;

What can we do?

 Same sex relationships:
The sacraments and pastoral support.                                                                                                                                               Main points of the discussion: Ø

How can we support gay people and their families?

Recommendations for action


  • Christianity should be exercised as Christ would; Ø No pastoral care for LGBT people; Ø
  • Institutional church needs to listen; Ø
  • Support parents of gay people; Ø No support for gay people who want to participate in church-we heard stories of gay people being asked to leave their church choir; Ø Language used about gay people is objectionable; Ø
  • Provide facilities for masses/liturgies for LGBT people; Ø At mass ‘all are welcome here’ Group called ‘All are welcome here’ organise a monthly Mass for LGBT people; Ø Discrimination against gay people in school employment if against the ethos of the school; Ø Comparison with how left handed children had their hand tied behind their back 50 years ago and how we look back now in amazement; Ø Families are withdrawing from the sacraments because their children are being discriminated against by the church: Ø
  • Support stable loving committed relationships without discrimination; Ø Provide proper education for people about Christian values; Ø Obligation to speak with LGBT people and people in same sex relationships to inform and provide a basis for pastoral care; Ø There is no LGBT input in the last synod, it should be included in the next one; Ø The church has gotten it wrong before, Galileo, Limbo, etc. so it can alter its views. How long before it revises its views on homosexuality? Ø
  • Legitimacy of personhood of people must be respected; Ø Church seems to regard the single celibate life as the ideal.

Second Relationships: The status of different ‘second relationships’ and access to the sacraments for those in ‘second relationships’.
Main points of the discussion Background: Ø Second relationships/marriage breakdown is not a premeditated choice; Ø All in the family are victims, the couple, the children and the extended family; Ø Poverty –can cause deprivation of relationship. Pastoral approach: Ø

Be glad that people want to be part of the church in the current climate; Ø Importance of language: breakdown, failure; Ø Death is the end of marriages – historically; Ø Consequences- live alone for rest of life when marriage fails; Ø “Silent divorce” (a living hell). Options: Ø Options are limited if not in a second relationship to: 1. Living alone for life, 2. Annulment- can be a dishonest process and not a solution 3. Live with the poverty of loneliness and or desertion. Ø Greek Orthodox Church offers a second chance. Ø There can be emotional maturity when entering a second relationship. Ø

Full membership of church is required for people in second relationships. Ø Don’t forget the ‘deserted partner’ Ø Children are innocent victims Ø

Relationship-the importance of education in relationship, given by experienced practitioners not celibates.

Recommendations for action

  • Take a pastoral approach Ø Emphasis on a committed relationship; Ø
  • Full membership of the church for those in second relationships; Ø
  • Follow a process of dialogue where ‘good faith’ and commitment are established; Ø Leave it to the couple’s conscience: what does the couple want? Reflection Is church an obstacle to the relationship between the couple and God?
  • What would Jesus say? How would he respond to the couple’s needs?


Written submissions. Delegates at the conference were encouraged to send in written submissions to the Association of Catholics in Ireland following the consultation. The following submissions were received:

Pastoral Attention towards Persons with Homosexual Tendencies (Lineamenta Q 40) 5.1.An aspect missing from Sections 54 and 55 of the Lineamenta is any reference to LGBT couples.

Recommendations for action

  • Pastoral care of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) persons, those who are single and those in relationships, with/without children, and their families of origin, especially their parents and grandparents, begins with dialogue and sacred listening to all those involved; listening to their lived experiences, their understanding of God and grace in their lives. This dialogue and sacred listening will point the way towards developing forms of pastoral care that are appropriate and helpful towards LGBT persons and those nearest and dearest to them. Without such engagement in dialogue any pastoral care will fall by the wayside. Phrases such as ‘objectively disordered’, ‘intrinsic evil’ and refusal of Communion to those known to be in an LGBT relationship are a block to such persons either receiving or offering ministry within our Church.
  • Understandings, perceptions and language need to change to enable these persons to know themselves as equal, welcomed and valued members of God’s family. Gay Catholic Voice Ireland (www, has regularly offered to the hierarchy their availability for such dialogue.

 Child Clerical Sexual Abuse                                                                                                                                  As we are preparing for the second session of the Synod on the Family, I have grave misgivings about the whole process. I speak as a committed catholic woman married for 35 years who is also a mother, a theologian and a spiritual director. Faced with the revelations of child clerical sexual abuse and accused of covering up, many bishops here, in Rome and throughout the world excused their actions and inactions by stating that they were on a learning curve: How could they be expected to know about the extent of the impact of sexual abuse and rape on children? We repeatedly heard talk of a more humble church, a listening church (“church” really meaning church authorities). Now, how is it that on other matters of sexuality the same bishops (exclusively male and officially celibate) appear to believe that they are the authorities, the experts, on the subject? They are the only ones with a vote at the Synod on the Family. We are also repeatedly told that “church teaching” on sexual matters cannot ever be changed. But the historical records show plainly that church teachings on all kinds of issues have changed. For example, slavery and torture are no longer seen as compatible with Christianity. At the heart of the child clerical sexual abuse scandal is the issue of power, its use and its abuse by church authorities. Regretfully, power, abusive power, is also at the heart of how this Synod on the Family is being conducted. At the last synod session, where were those whose sexuality and lives are being discussed, about whom decisions are being made, and who are not present, have no voice and certainly no vote? Where were the couples that are using contraception to plan their families? Where were the couples who have divorced and remarried and are now excluded from many sacraments?

Where were the lesbian and gay Catholics, living on their own or in committed long term loving relationships? Where were the cohabiting couples? The list of the excluded goes on and on.

Recommendations for action

  • Doesn’t the church need to hear their witness, their experience? Doesn’t the Holy Spirit speak through them? A defining feature of the child clerical sexual abuse scandal has been the marginalisation and silencing of the victims by church authorities. The institution and its perceived preservation, certainly that of its leaders, came first, the child victims and their families last. They were sacrificed. Today, to preserve the institution and its “unchangeable sexual teachings”, how many Catholics are being sacrificed, made to carry unbearable burdens, denied the “Good News”? We are told that bishops should speak openly and frankly at the synod, without fear. What about all of us, Catholics, outside the synod? What about the theologians, the priests, religious, lay ministers who have been and are silenced, censored, threatened with excommunication, forbidden to teach, exercise their ministry?

Synod on the Family – a few reflections

To respond to the preliminary reflection in the Lineamenta requires a grasp of the content of the Relatio Synodi, a lengthy document in a language that is foreign to most lay people. All the reflections in the Lineamenta require reading of lengthy paragraphs. A simpler document would be more user friendly and might elicit more responses.  Many questions are based on an ‘ideal’ concept of marriage and family life, divorced from the realities of everyday life – pressures of work, making ends meet, etc., etc. – in the social context of the 21st century. Younger adults are more concerned with issues of social justice and equality than with the Church’s teaching on issues of personal morality.

Recommendations for action

  • Hence the urgent need to include married couples, couples from broken marriages, cohabiting couples and young adults at the synod.
  • They must be listened to and be involved in all the discussions of the synod, otherwise we will get a document based on the understanding of celibate men with no experience of marriage and its living out in everyday life.
  • Jesus replaced the love of law by the law of love and I would like this to be the guiding principle in all discussions at the synod.
  • Co-habitation has become acceptable in society and has become the practice for many people. I would like to see a pastoral care programme developed which would help co-habiting couples to move towards a permanent commitment and eventually a church blessing.
  • Use of contraceptive methods is here to stay. The Natural Family Planning methods are the ideal but are found to be difficult for many couples. I suggest that young adults and couples preparing for marriage have access to a programme which gives them an awareness of all aspects of contraceptives: how they work, side effects, use of methods that are abortive, etc , as well as the NFP methods, to enable them to take a responsible decision around the use of contraceptives.


One Response to “ACI Submission to Vatican Synod on the Family Consultation”

  1. Aidan Comment on the Report

4th April 2015 at 6:53 pm

I was unable to attend this very important conference and enjoyed your extensive and informative report on this ACI website. My thanks to all who helped organise the event and produce the report. It is a shame how little seems to have been done in preparation for the forthcoming Synod on The Family in so many parishes and dioceses throughout Ireland. Thank God for ACI.

I was particularly impressed with the ‘Lived Experience’ Presentations. The courage and honesty of the speakers in sharing their experiences were impressive. They have done a great service to the Church which they obviously love so dearly. They helped bring into ‘graced light’ what is often relegated to the silent shadows at the periphery of parish life. By sharing their ‘transformed present’ within the Church they give hope to those in despair who have left the Church and to all of us who want a rejuvenated Church of inclusiveness and mercy, a Church giving a more compassionate response to the complexity and fallibility of human relationships, and to human weakness that is the burden of all humanity, including clerics.

Their testimony gave powerful witness that coercive obedience to Catholic Church laws formulated by a celibate hierarchy in a radically different era and deemed by the Catholic Church as eternally immutable and universal (although laicised nuns and priests are dispenses from their lifelong vows of virginity and celibacy), often destroys happiness and faith, while remarriage and celebration of gay partnerships can give new life and renewed hope and happiness for the future to so many faithful Catholics. The Catholic Church must release itself from its fictive immutability. It must be open to the creative and more compassionate possibilities in the Spirit-filled evolution of the whole of creation, including the evolution of the Catholic Church, human consciousness, sexuality and marriage. As Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel): “The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.” The Catholic Church has still to evolve into that reality.

If the forthcoming Synod on the Family in Rome were to adopt the ACI model, with lay men and women from around the world present in large numbers as full members and giving short Lived-Experience Presentations, the clerical attendees would be better informed of the lived-reality of ordinary Catholics’ married lives and partnerships (whether gay or heterosexual) in the 21st century. It would also give the results of the Synod more credibility among the lay faithful, who make up the vast majority



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

nine + 12 =

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This