African bishops pledge to uphold Church teaching on marriage

African bishops pledge to uphold Church teaching on marriage

AD2000 Report

In mid-June, the presidents of Africa’s episcopal conferences met in Accra, capital of Ghana, and unanimously endorsed a statement for the forthcoming Synod of Bishops which rejects “the strategy of the Enemy of the human race” on divorce and homosexual unions, and upholds the Church’s constant teaching on marriage.

Also present were five Cardinals, including Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship in Rome.

At the commencement of the meeting, Cardinal Sarah told the 50 assembled bishops, archbishops and cardinals “not to be afraid of reiterating the teaching of Christ on marriage”, “to speak at the synod with clarity and with just one voice, in filial love of the Church”, and “to protect the family from all the ideologies that want to destroy it, and therefore also from the national and international policies that impede the promotion of positive values.”

In addition to Cardinal Sarah, the other African cardinals present were Christian Tumi of Cameroon, John Njue of Kenya, Polycarp Pengo of Tanzania, and Berhaneyesus D. Souraphiel of Ethiopia, recently appointed by Pope Francis.

Organized by the symposium of episcopal conferences of Africa and Madagascar, the meeting discussed “The family in Africa. What experiences and what contributions for the 14th ordinary assembly of the synod of bishops?"

To respond to the question, on the first day the participants held a discussion on the basis of four thematic introductions, splitting up afterward into working groups, and on the following day on the basis of five more outlines of discussion.

One of these, “The expectations of the synod,” was read to those present by the theologian and anthropologist Edouard Ade, secretary general of the Catholic University of Western Africa, with campuses in Cotonou, Benin and Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Professor Ade's talk focused on what he called “the strategy of the Enemy of the human race.”

Given that the maximum objectives of the blessing of second marriages and of homosexual couples appear to be out of reach, this “strategy” would consist of opening loopholes that could be expanded later, naturally while affirming in words that there is no intention to change anything about doctrine.

These loopholes would be, for example, the “particular cases” of divorced and remarried Catholics, knowing very well that they would by no means remain isolated cases.

Another clever stratagem would be that of presenting the changes as a solution “of balance” between the impatience, on one side, of those who would like divorce and homosexual marriage right away, and on the other the rigorism devoid of mercy of the discipline of the Catholic Church on marriage.

Yet another loophole would be that, already in use in many places, of giving communion to the divorced and remarried and to all couples outside of marriage, without even waiting for any decision on this matter on the part of the synod and the pope.

Professor Ade also warned against the “Trojan horses” advocated by some clerics, like that of always attributing a positive value to all relationships of life in common outside of marriage, or that of considering indissolubility as an “ideal” that cannot always be attained by everyone, or yet again of the use of new language that ends up changing the reality.

Ade’s talk was highly appreciated by the bishops and cardinals present. So much so that there are traces of it in the final statement, where it says that “we must begin from the faith, reaffirm it and live it for the sake of evangelising cultures in depth,” taking care not to adopt or legitimise “the language of the movements that are fighting for the destruction of the family.”

Well-placed Roman commentator, Sandro Magister, observed, “The meeting in Accra is proof that the coalition of African bishops will be a real player at the synod. As never before.”

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