I have just had an invitation to an event organised by ACTA for Catholics to discuss the "opposing traditionalist and progressive positions on marriage that have been expressed recently..." It will take place in the Friends meeting house in Exeter. Dr Stewart, from Exeter University, will address the meeting.
The letter and poster give the impression that the Church's teaching on marriage is to be somehow renewed by reconciling differing opinions held within the Church. But that is not how we come to the truth in the Catholic Church - rather we have faith in the Truth that is revealed to us. So we are about revealed truth, not opinions. We all have opinions but at the end of the day they count for nothing, because opinion will never be the Good News, and will never save us.
For Catholics, the Truth is revealed to us not through opinion but through the Magisterium of the Church (Teaching authority), which we believe is Christ teaching us. Just as the faithful disciples of Christ listened to His teaching and were transformed by it, so all of His disciples today are called to do the same thing. We have to listen to the magisterial teaching of the Church and allow it to transform us, not discuss whether or not we accept it! There are not two positions on marriage in the Church! Christ teaches us the truth about marriage and there is only one truth. So in the Church there are those who accept the teaching of the Church, and there are those who reject the teaching of the Church. These latter are dissenters from the Church's teaching and their position is not a legitimate Catholic one.
So it is not up for debate. The truth is not found by contrasting opinions so "common ground" can be found. Christ teaches us by the Holy Spirit in Scripture and Tradition. The magisterial teaching of the Church is teaching with Christ's authority. It seems to me that if you do not accept that then you are essentially taking a Protestant position. It seems to me that those who dissent from the magisterial teaching of the Church should be open and honest about it and not claim to be Catholic but rather admit they have become Protestant.
What also really annoys me about ACTA publicity is the way that they keep repeating that ACTA in the southwest "seeks to develop openness and dialogue in the Catholic Church in a climate of trust and respect for all". What they clearly imply is that outside of ACTA there is no openness and dialogue within the Church. What utter bunkum!
It seems to me that the real reason Catholics harbour so many dissenting views against Catholic teaching and especially Catholic Moral teaching is because they have not been properly catechised and formed. They think the church's moral teaching are simply "rules", indeed "rules" that have been created by men and so can be changed. But this is simply not the truth. The Church's moral teaching is Good News and very beautiful, and it is entirely united and embedded within the whole Gospel: the Faith professed, the Mystery celebrated, Christian living and Christian prayer. No part of it can be just changed because everything is connected to everything else. The Catechism's cross-references demonstrate and symbolize this. The Church's teaching is a systematic whole because it comes from Christ (and has not been botched together by men!).
So it seems to me that the Catholic Faithful should steer a wide berth from ACTA for they are basically advocating that Catholics should be protestant. They say they are "in the spirit of Vat ii" but really what they are doing is setting their own opinions higher than Christ's teaching (the magisterial teaching of the Church).
Christ never said that His teaching would be easy to accept or easy to follow, so when we find the teaching of the Church difficult we should not assume that therefore it is wrong! As in John chapter 6 (which we have been listening to in the Gospel reading at Mass on Sundays recently) followers of Christ will find His teaching seemingly too difficult to bear, but that does not mean He has made an error! Christ imparts His grace as well as His truth, in order that we can bear what otherwise seems unbearable.
So of course I will not be attending this meeting, nor will I recommend it to anyone, indeed I will do the very opposite! Catholics who want to be faithful to Christ should not attend such groups because they are not about "openness and dialogue" but rather dissent from Christ's teaching!
Fr Ian Hellyer
Pastor of the Buckfast Ordinariate Mission