Letter to The Editor
Much mention has been made of the recent guidelines from the Roman Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, for implementing Amoris Laetitia (For the Joy of Love) in social media of late.
In those guidelines for Philadelphia Roman Catholics, persons in such "irregular" relationships, such as remarriage after divorce, cohabitation outside marriage, and same sex marriages "no matter how sincere," can not hold positions of responsibility and would "offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community," Further, persons in these such relationships may not receive communion unless they refrain from sexual activity.
While it is in the authority for the Roman Archbishop to set these guidelines for members of his church, it is important to note that there are other expressions of the Catholic faith that are not in communion with Rome or subservient to their moral code regarding the loving expression between two people committed to each other in ways that bind their own conscience. There are many reasons persons disagree with the Roman practice of annulment, but who in good conscience recognize that a marriage has failed and want a second chance. Orthodox Christianity has had a more open and pastoral understanding of this concept for centuries. Further, there may be valid economic or social reasons persons in true love for many years can not legally be wed. Finally, regarding same sex marriage, it is now legal in our country and many churches have led the way in that struggle and have given more than ample moral explanation for its sacramental legitimacy.
Roman Catholics who have, or are feeling left out, excluded, or minimized by Archbishop Chaput's guidelines, are welcome to explore the other ways of being catholic, fully sacramental and orthodox in faith. We are known by different names, generally speaking, as Independent Catholics, because of our independence from Roman authority and control. Two of these parish church communities, part of the Communion of Synodal Catholic Churches, are in Havertown PA, St. Augustine Synodal Catholic Church, and Reading, PA, St. Rita Synodal Catholic Mission. There are others from other Catholic Independent Churches, as well.
It is important and a needed hopeful message for these Roman Catholics feeling excluded or minimized to know that there are catholic communities that have a different interpretation of sexual morality and seek to honor and give validity to individual conscience in certain matters that are very personal in their relationship to God and another. It is important they do not give up on their faith or the useful tool of religious community and worship., but take the responsibility and freedom of their baptism to chart a new and hopeful course.
Sincerely in hope,
+Joseph Augustine Menna, AIHM
Ther Most Reverend Joseph Augustine Menna, AIHM
Bishop and Prior General
Order of Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Synodal Catholic Church
Diocese of St. Thomas of Villanova