By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — In a lead-up to the Vatican’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family, the Diocesan Pastoral Council, meeting April 12, invited Father Corey Close to speak on marriage and family life. The pastoral council also heard from representatives of the diocese’s parishes concerning collaboration efforts as part of the ongoing parish planning process.
Fr. Close, parochial vicar at Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton, recently completed his licentiate in Sacred Theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
The priest observed that the Church thinks in a totally different way than the current culture concerning such issues as same-sex marriage. “A lot of what we did (in studies) was cultural analysis,” Fr. Close explained. “What does it mean to be a human person? Same-sex marriage, for example, is a symptom of a completely different philosophical system. The Church has one vision of what it means to be a human person. The culture has a different vision. If we’re going to defend our vision, we have to understand the radical difference between the two.”
At Prince of Peace, he leads a study called “Theology of the Family,” a marriage enrichment program. Fr. Close also recently served as spiritual director on a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat, which he described as a “tremendously powerful and beautiful retreat to help bring hope and healing to men and women who have been wounded by abortion or miscarriage.”
Pastoral council member Kathryn Davis asked whether Rachel’s Vineyard would be appropriate for individuals wounded by miscarriage. “Yes,” Fr. Close said. But he acknowledged the difference between loss experienced as a result of miscarriage and as a result of abortion.
Another pastoral council member, Ruth Skeens, shared that she had experienced profound grief over a miscarriage. She later participated in a group with two women who had experienced abortions. She described that interaction as healing.
Fr. Close offered a wealth of resources for the pastoral council, such as “One More Soul,” described as “an awesome resource for doctors and nurses training in Natural Family Planning (NFP); and Courage, a program for people with same-sex attraction who want to live chaste lives. He hopes to start Courage in the diocese.
“We have to make these services available to people in addition to the teaching we provide,” he said.
Pastoral council member Sister Laura Goedken, OP, asked, “What are we doing to help same-sex individuals in the Church?”
“That’s a huge question,” Fr. Close said. The Church must convey its love for the individual, while at the same time saying, “We can’t support your behavior.”
He described same-sex attraction as “so contrary to how God made us.” The secular culture, he continued, doesn’t provide very good tools and resources for people struggling with same-sex attraction. But, he noted, the Church doesn’t have all the tools, either. It’s important to convey love and acceptance of individuals, Fr. Close said, but also to say, “We believe your lifestyle is not helpful or healthy.”
Bishop Martin Amos offered a resource on the subject from the U.S. bishops: “Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers.” “Parents want to support their children,” the bishop said.
In a discussion about the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, to be held in October in Rome, Bishop Amos noted that excerpts from the Davenport Diocese’s report on marriage and family have been included in “Origins,” a Catholic News Service documentary service.
Reading reports from Germany and Japan, the bishop said he realized that the Church in many parts of the world is experiencing the same concerns in marriage and family life. He expressed interest in learning more about the experiences in countries such as Vietnam, which has a strong family support system.
Pastoral council member Sheri Benson asked how the Church is helping Catholic families deal with pornography. Fr. Close recommended that parents talk to their children, and place restrictions on Internet access. He offered yet another resource, the website: xxxchurch.com. “It has that title so some people might go to it accidentally” and end up getting help. Another website he mentioned, the Pink Cross Foundation, ministers to those in the pornography industry and strives to help them get out. Bishop Amos noted that the November Clergy Institute will address pornography as it relates to addicted priests and to counseling in the confessional.
Violent video games were yet another source of concern at the pastoral council meeting. Fr. Close said video ratings help parents decide what to allow in the house. He advised parents to set time limits on video game playing.
Following his presentation, the pastoral council heard reports on the ongoing parish planning process. Sr. Goedken noted that a variety of factors impact the process:
• Changing parish demographics (St. Mary Parish in Solon and St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville, for example, are experiencing tremendous growth).
• Pastor transfers
• Attitudes about collaboration
• Financial resources and building needs
• Geographical considerations
Some parish clusters may need to be reconfigured, and some have yet to begin. She cleared up one bit of confusion: St. Ann Parish in Long Grove does belong to the north Davenport cluster.
“We are very fortunate that Bishop Amos has asked us to do this planning process,” said Kay Temple, the pastoral council’s vice president. “It’s really important to continue to work on this plan. People are coming together and realizing we need to work together.”
Bishop Amos asked that parishes “go over the plan that is written out.”
“You have to keep bringing it up again and again,” added Sr. Goedken.