The rights and obligations of the Christian Faithful are dealt with in the Code of Canon Law.
Can. 211 - All the Christian faithful have the duty and right to work so that the divine message of salvation more and more reaches all people in every age and in every land.This clearly acknowledges the right of the faithful to use the modern means of mass communications, such as blogs, to propagate the Gospel.
But more significantly for the current matter:
Can. 212#1. - Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.When the Bishops declare on a matter as teachers of the faith, we must give our assent and obey. However:
Can. 212 #2. - The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.Sometimes the faithful will approach their pastors as needy children and plead for what they consider to be their needs and desires. If these needs and desires are something they have a right to then there is a complementary obligation on the part of the pastors not only to listen to the faithful but to ensure that those needs and desires are satisfied. I think the petition in question is a fine example of filial pleading with our Fathers in God. There is no insubordination in the wording of the petition, but rather a request for succour and assistance. It might be argued that the faithful who sign the petition should approach the pastors individually. But Can. 212 #2 does not stipulate how the faithful are to make their needs know to the pastors. The use of modern communications is by no means excluded. It is also possible that many people feel that they have got nowhere in the past and so they have chosen to take recourse to this more public form of manifestation. This web-based petition also enables many more people to more easily exercise the right referred to in Can. 212 #2.
#3. - According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.It is clear that in the petition there is nothing which threatens the integrity of faith or morals. The Church's teaching is clear on homosexuality, contraception and abortion, which are the matters referred to in the petition. Furthermore, those who have proposed the petition and many of those signing it will be:
- parents who are experts and experienced in the education and bringing up of their children in the ways of God;
- teachers who are faced with the dilemma of introducing this objectionable material into the classroom;
- priests who are experts in morals and who, on a daily basis, engage pastorally with their parishioners - parents, children, young, old - and who often deal with the hurt caused by lost innocence, the abuse of sex through the use of contraception, the healing needed by the post-abortion victim;
- lay faithful who pray outside abortion clinics and witness the ever-increasing destruction of human life and the coarsening of consciences of those involved in abortion or who are victims of it
The petition pays ample respect to the pastors and is therefore 'attentive to ... the dignity of persons'. It refers to the Bishops as 'our Shepherds in Christ'. It would appear that the 'common advantage' is obvious: that to repulse this Government legislation will be for the good of souls, whereas to acquiesce in it and, worse, to actually support it, would cause great harm to souls and to society. The 'advantage' of our Catholic schools is also at stake.
Here is one comment which has been left on the petition which should make us all think:
Sacred Heart High School in Hammersmith taught the girls in my daughters' PSHE class to put a condom on a life-size model of a penis. How is this compatible with Catholic doctrine? (Signature no. 395)If nothing else would convince you to sign, I think this comment should.
So, read it again and, if convinced, sign.
We, the undersigned, call upon the Bishops of England and Wales and the Catholic Education Service to fulfil their duty as guardians of our Catholic Faith and unequivocally reject recent Government measures forcing Catholic schools to teach what is explicitly condemned by the Church, viz: presenting active homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, and providing information on the nature - and provision - of contraception and abortion services. Compliance on the part of the Bishops and the CES in such measures would effectively render our schools no longer Catholic in any meaningful sense, and would place the faith and moral life of our children in jeopardy. As Catholic parents, teachers and pastors, we earnestly beg of you, our Shepherds in Christ, that you do not allow this to happen.