Marriage and Family Life

Review of the 1st Marriage and Family Life Discussion Group.

The purpose of these meetings is to help us to consider our responses to the Pope’s questionnaire on our experience of the reality of family life and marriage as currently lived.  It is not intended that there should be a discussion of doctrine. Our focus is on the practical realities so that we can help the bishops develop pastoral practices in this area of the Church’s life.  For this reason, participants are encouraged to speak frankly and freely. We will not challenge or correct another person’s statement of experience but rather accept it as a contribution to expanding our understanding of each other and identifying pastoral needs.
The meeting began with a prayer and with the creed based on family life as presented in the questionnaire notes.
In reviewing comments made by participants, it appears that Questions 1, 4 and 5 were touched upon; i.e.           
1.What are your joys and  hopes of marriage and family life today?
 4. How does your marriage enrich you?
5. How does your family life enrich those around you?
Summary of Comments.
·         Joys and hopes:                                
·         Children are a fulfilment and seal love;
·         Sharing of lives;
·         Sharing faith in practice, for instance Mass and Communion together;
·         Being with one who knows you intimately and still loves you;
·         Sexual intimacy;
·         Seeing the Faith passed on to young people;
·         Even where offspring lapse it is a blessing to see them hold on to the Christian values they have received in the family;
·         Being in a community which shares the same values which helps couples to stay together, especially where the traditional nuclear extended family is less common;
·         Couples where both partners are Catholics stated that they mutually supported each other in the Faith;
·         Those with non- Catholic partners praised their partners for making the practice of their Faith a positive experience.
Some areas of concern were raised:
·         The Church’s treatment of those in irregular partnerships or marriages was thought to be harsh and overly legalistic leading to couples and their children being lost to the Church. It was pointed out that the Church’s rules are clear so that embracing an irregular partnership, and its consequences, is a matter of the couple’s free choice.
·         The annulment process is poorly handled in this diocese, unduly long and expensive. 
·         Some feel that priests are too busy for the people to know them or for them to know the people;
·         There is no real programme of marriage preparation that is accessible to most couples in the diocese;
·         The same applies to marriage counselling;
·         How can young married couples be helped?
·         The need for, and benefits of, premarital chastity;
·         The need at diocesan and parish levels of the public celebration of marriage to make obvious the Church’s pastoral valuing of the married state;
·         Can a vocations programme be successful if it only seeks to “recruit” young men for the priesthood without  nurturing families as the cradles of vocations?
If a point you made has been omitted, please let Pat Murphy know.                                      

Review of the 2nd Marriage and Family Life Discussion Group.

No further meetings are scheduled
The purpose of these meetings is to help us to consider our responses to the Pope’s questionnaire on our experience of the reality of family life and marriage as currently lived.  It is not intended that there should be a discussion of doctrine. Our focus is on the practical realities so that we can help the bishops develop pastoral practices in this area of the Church’s life. Participants were encouraged to speak frankly and freely so that pastoral needs could be identified. 
Please note: These notes are not minutes of the meeting but rather a record of opinions held and freely expressed by a group of active and committed Catholics. No consensus was sought in the group as the bishops’ questionnaire will be filled in by individuals.


The meeting began with a prayer and with the creed based on family life as presented in the questionnaire notes.
The Value of Marriage and the Family.
·         Marriage and the Family are rarely celebrated in parish liturgies, not even on the obvious feast of The Holy Family. This means that the number and length of marriages in the parish are little appreciated and do not act as models. Would House Masses be a useful practice?
·         Sermons and homilies relating to marriage tend to be judgemental and condescending.
·         Because policy and teaching on marriage are dominated by celibate men the Church’s treatment of marriage and the family tends to work at an abstract, conceptual and legal level with little empathy for marriage as lived in the concrete reality.
·         There is insufficient consideration given to the worship by the family. The tendency is to gear things to the level of the parents  (eg homilies)with little to accommodate young children and teenagers. If we want to hold on to them we must show we value them and that they are being spoken to. 
·         The Holy Family as a model for the Catholic family is rarely suitably used and so does not provide an effective, practical example for the everyday life of a family. Its presentation tends to be sentimental and speculative. 
·         We need to publicise weddings more loudly and to welcome babies into our parish with public announcements. This would be achieved by the norm having baptisms at parish Masses where all can share the celebration and the welcome.
·         We need to develop strategies and resources for helping young married couples and their children in their struggles.
·         Why do we always have to be pushing for changes and thus creating uncertainty and distress?
Regarding Marriage Preparation:
·         Catechesis for marriage is generally poor and more often than not is dependent on the interest shown by individual clergy. What could be done to address this?
·         The appreciation of the difference between a contract and a marriage covenant is widely misunderstood, even among Catholics.  Might this affect the validity of marriages?
·         In a largely rural diocese, the marriage preparation and counselling is centred in Swansea and this makes it difficult for “far-flung” parishes to have ready access to these services.  Speakers/helpers at parish level are rare.
·         Pre-nuptial contracts are becoming more common. What does this say about the “temporary” nature of marriage in the secular world and how does this affect Catholic views?
·         In mixed marriages, the dignity and value of the non-Catholic partners  and their families must be addressed in the preparation and in the ceremony.
Pastoral Care in Difficult Marriage Situations. 
·         Premarital cohabitation is becoming the norm. We do not approve of it but we need to deal with the issue in a respectful and sensitive way if we are to keep couples in touch with Jesus.
·         The lack of counselling and support resources at local level have already been referred to.
·         Many of those with marriage problems, or irregular marriages, remain faithful to the Church. Many others feel they have been treated disrespectfully and leave – taking the following generations with them. While we cannot change the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage, do these cases have to be treated with a harshness which is not applied to murderers and repressive employers? While not giving public approval can we not be tolerant for the sake of Christian charity? Is condemnation  as our “go-to response” the best way of leading people to Jesus?
·         The annulment process in this diocese is frequently mentioned regarding the slowness of the process and the “rudeness” towards applicants. This surely can be altered without an alteration of doctrine or law.
·         Annulment processes should be sensitive, timely and free/low cost.
·         Could not more of the process be done at local level and a timetable be set for the process to be accomplished? People in this situation should are entitled to be treated sensitively and with respect.
Same-sex Unions.
·         While not approved of, we should treat same sex-unions with respect and tolerance.
·         Same-sex couples cannot commit to a sacramental marriage. We need to educate people what we mean by this as the secular world has no concept of what a sacrament is and thus accuses us of homophobia.
·         The children of same-sex couples must be treated with respect as far as Catholic schools are concerned.

Synod 2015: The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.

M and F

Today Bishop Tom issued a pastoral letter to whole diocese. At the same time the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales launched a document called ‘The Call, The Journey and The Mission’. The latter was printed and made available, after Mass, for every household.

The theme of these documents is to respond to an invitation from Pope Francis to reflect upon our experiences of marriage and family life. All of us were born into a family; all of us have a mother and father. Therefore, whether we are married or single, have children or not, we all have some experience of family life. Some of these experiences are positive, some are not.

In reflecting upon our experiences of, we have been asked to answer six questions. There is no need to answer them all at once. In fact, we are being asked to take time to think about our reply to each question. As such, there will only be one question given every two weeks. Responses to each question may then be placed in a box provided at the back of the Church. The responses will then be collected by the diocese, before being sent to the Bishops’ Office in London where Vincent Cardinal Nicholls will take the replies to Rome. Alternatively, responses may be made on-line by filling in the form here.

The questions are:

Question 1: For Sunday 01 February 2015. What are your joys and hopes of marriage and family life today?

Question 2: For Sunday 15 February 2015. What are your struggles and fears of marriage and family life today?

Question 3: For Sunday 01 March 2015. How can we better understand marriage as a vocation?

Question 4: For Sunday 15 March 2015. How does marriage enrich you?

Question 5: For Sunday 29 March 2015. How does your family life enrich you?

Question 6: For Sunday 05 April 2015. In what way, through the abiding presence of God, is your family “Salt of the earth and light to the world,” and a place of and for handing on the faith?


Pastoral Letter January 25th 2015

Bishop's Arms

My dear people

 We are now in the period between the Synods when the Holy Father has asked us to reflect with true spiritual discernment on the themes emerging from the October 2014 Extraordinary Synod in Rome.

This period of discernment is above all intended to help people celebrate marriage and family life, whilst recognising the difficulties that families often encounter. The strong affirmation of marriage and the teaching of the Church is at the heart of what we are celebrating. There are just SIX questions this time that are being made available to all our parishes and communities. Your responses to these key questions will influence what happens at the Synod in October 2015. The questions appear in a hand-out that is available for each family as you leave Mass today. They will also be published in your parish bulletin, taking one question at a time every two weeks from next Sunday 01 February. Then on the Sunday after Easter (12 April 2015) you are invited to place an envelope containing your written responses in a basket or box here in the church.

Your responses will be collated by the Diocese. A report will then be sent to the Bishops’ Conference, which will collate responses from all the Dioceses. Feedback is to be with the Bishops’ Secretariat before Trinity Sunday (31 May 2015), so that these considerations can inform Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Bishop Peter Doyle in good time before they go to the Ordinary Synod in Rome in October 2015.

In Menevia, I ask you to make preparations for the Ordinary Synod in accordance with the document that you will receive on leaving Mass today. It is entitled:

  • The Call, Journey and Mission of Marriage and Family Life for clergy and people.

This reflection document is launched today (Sunday 25 January 2015), and I commend it to you for further study. Please be sure to collect a copy after Mass. Your views are being sought and they will all be taken into account. What you said made an impact last time, when the questionnaire was much more complex and difficult. In the light of this second invitation from Pope Francis that we should offer further comments to shorter and clearer questions this time, I ask each and every one of you to make a personal contribution that is equally short and clear. Please leave aside gripes and groans. Think positively. Think realistically. Think pastorally and compassionately.

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of having your views. They do count. Thank you in advance for your time and participation.

+Thomas Matthew  Bishop of Menevia

01 January 2015 – The Feast of Mary, Mother of God

to be read at all Masses on the weekend of Sunday 25 January 2015 (The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time)