The Pope’s recent guidelines should be well understood and not mistaken for changing the laws of the Catholic Church.
Philippe Rukamba, the Bishop of Butare Diocese and the president of the Catholic’s Bishop Conference in Rwanda, made the remarks while reacting to Pope Francis’ guidelines about love, marriage and family life issued recently.
The Pope released a 256-page document titled “The Joy of Love”, containing the new guidelines on the Church’s approach to family life after two years of consultations with the world’s bishops.
Pope Francis says there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.
“He further says it is “unacceptable” that “international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex.”
However, the pope offered sympathy to families with gay relatives, describing it as “a situation not easy for parents or for children,” and said the Church must avoid “every sign of unjust discrimination” towards homosexuals.
The pope said couples who live together outside of marriage “need to be welcomed and guided, patiently and discreetly,” and the choice to cohabit may be based on external factors such as financial difficulties or cultural situations.
About remarried divorced people, the pope said, “They are not excommunicated and should not be treated as such,” and should be made to feel part of the Church “while avoiding any occasion of scandal.” The pope says the Christian community caring for such people “is not to be considered a weakening of its faith” but a sign of “its charity.”
The pope also said that churches should avoid self-criticism.
“We need a healthy dose of self-criticism,” says the pope, admitting that until now the Church has “proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage” and struggles to present marriage as more than “a lifelong burden.”
What the bishop says
Bishop Rukamba, says the guidelines are good.
He said he also supports the pope’s statements about avoiding giving harsh treatment to divorced people, remarried people and homosexuals.
He however, says that such people should be told the truth politely so that they may change.
“What the pope wanted to mean is that churches should treat well that category of people. That we should talk with them peacefully. Through that, may be they will change their bad ways,” he told Saturday Times.
He adds that though church laws prohibit homosexuality marriages, it should not be a ground for mistreating. He says the pope was right too about the upbringing of children.
“Children should be given the good acceptable morals as in the Christian setting,” he said.
Asked if the guidelines were enough since some issues like abortion were not addressed, Rukamba said that such things are laid out clearly in the Catholic laws and as a matter of fact someone can find the answers in the law.
Under church law, Catholics who get divorced are not allowed to take communion unless they remarry, in which case they have to have their first marriage annulled.
The church does not recognise same-sex marriages. Those are the rules of church doctrine, and nothing in the pope’s message changes that, he said.
Among other things, the pope commented on how children should be brought up; “Offsprings should be taught to say “Please,” “Thank you” and “Sorry,” they should be punished for misbehavior, cured of the vice of “wanting it all now” and prevented from watching television programmes which undercut family values.
Clarisse Mukampayana, a lay catholic from Muhanga District says the pope is right especially about preventing children from watching certain television programmes since they corrupt their moral values.
“I support that children should not watch evil TV programmes, for example action movies that involve killing. They should watch something that teaches them to be kind and helpful,” Mukampayana said, adding that the pope got it right too when he declined from recognising gay marriages.
“About gay marriages, I don’t believe they should be recognised. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of such. God created man and woman to suit each other.”
Karitas Mukamana, a catholic from Ruhengeri Diocese supports the pope as regards self-criticism among the churches. She says the churches should hold no grudge but just correct each other in case of any issue.