IMBISA DOCUMENTATION NO 1

IMBISA DOCUMENTATION

Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa

Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Sao Tome e Principe, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe

 No 1   (English)     –  May 2013

“Theological Reflection for Pastoral Action”

 From the EDITOR

Preparing for Plenary Assembly 2013:

The Church as Family – Family as Domestic Church

FAMILY is the theme of the IMBISA Plenary Assembly 2013. But ONLY ONE DAY is actually available for dealing with it. It was agreed by the Standing Committee that the information needed to prepare a commonly agreed ACTION PLAN must be made available to member bishops so they can study the material and reflect on it quietly BFORE the Assembly.

The Pastoral Department of IMBISA is therefore starting this month IMBISA DOCUMENTATION which will be sent to all member bishops by e-mail (or hardcopy in case some dioceses cannot be reached by e-mail), in English and Portuguese .

The papers distributed are meant as helps in reflection, as “food for thought”. They come from the Pastoral Department, not from any authoritative source. It is for the members of IMBISA to accept or reject the ideas presented to them. It is hoped that this process will enable them to come up with recommendations for an Action Plan.

 OUR THEME: Africa is a family culture, though now under threat. Christianity will only have “arrived” in Africa once it has “leavened through” married life and family life. Culture (and the diversity of cultures) affects married life very deeply. This is where inculturation is most relevant: both as a force of preserving what supports love and fidelity and of transforming what does not.

Christian marriage (sacrament of matrimony) is a matter of faith. It cannot be lived without faith. It needs a spirituality.

It needs openness and dialogue between the spouses perhaps not known in the past, at least not to the degree now needed.

It needs much more thorough preparation and later ongoing pastoral care.

The Sacrament of Marriage needs to be presented as Good News, not as a collection of many hard and poorly understood rules and regulations, cumbersome and discouraging because difficult to keep. It will only work if both wife and husband accept church marriage as Good News. The wife alone cannot bring about the change.

Marriage needs a legal framework to protect it, both in terms of traditional and modern state law and in terms of church (canon) law. The existence of two state laws in many African countries (traditional and modern, polygamous and monogamous) is a hindrance: we can only hope to eliminate this duality if ever the great majority of couples opt for monogamy (the State follows the existing habits and customs).

 LOOKING BACK TO WINDHOEK 1995. The Fourth Plenary Assembly of IMBISA, 29 April – 4 May 1995, Windhoek/Namibia, was also concerned with CHURCH AND FAMILY IN SOUTHERN AFRICA. All the five papers presented (Family in changing society; Family after the first Africa Bishops synod; Marriage and Canon Law; Polygamy), the final message and proposals for action were published in IMBISA OCCASIONAL PAPERS No. 3. The Final Report with its proposals show clearly that the IMBISA bishops at the time put the Family in the context of Society and African Culture (Inculturation had been the theme of the First Africa Synod) and addressed a wide variety of problems. In 2013 the bishops may want to ask how much progress has been made.

An alternative to the approach of Windhoek 1995 would be to stress – in the Year of Faith ! – the spiritual and sacramental aspect of Marriage and Family, without forgetting the enormous social and economic pressures families find themselves under.

APPEAL FROM THE 1995 MESSAGE. It would seem that the following Appeal to Women has lost nothing of its urgency even 18 years later:

The most important persons in the family are you, women, to whom we extend our special greeting and respect for the important role that Almighty God has entrusted to you and because of the suffering that many of you had to undergo as the main targets of hostile activities in society.

God has given you the privilege of not only welcoming life but of keeping it and defending it at its most fragile stage during pregnancy , where it is threatened by the egoism of many. Be cradles, not tombs. Do not let your dignity be trampled on by protagonists seeking monetary gain.”

Working Paper No 1

LOVE OR CONVENIENCE?

Theological Reflection on Marriage

Why do people marry? Because they want children. He wants continuation of the lineage and the family name (dzinza, mutupo in Shona). She wants economic security, comfort and social status. They want sexual enjoyment. Husband wants good worker for his farm, wants a good cook and housekeeper etc. He wants a glamorous wife who enhances his social status as a successful man in his profession (businessman, politician, academic etc).

In all these cases one partner needs the other and uses her/him for a purpose. He/she is a means towards an end. If the purpose or end is achieved the union continues because it is useful (the husband has been given children, she satisfies him sexually, she is a good worker; she has found the economic comfort and social status she was craving for.)

If the end or purpose is not achieved (no children, or no male child, she does not satisfy, he does not give her the security she wants) he takes another wife (after divorce/separation) or marries a second wife, while retaining the first (polygamy) or finds a mistress (“small house ?”). She may leave him to look for richer husband.

Such a union is based on certain conditions. If these are not fulfilled then the union comes to an end.

But most couples claim they marry for love. Love for a person is an end in itself. The person whom I love is so precious to me she/he is more important than any advantages he/she can provide for me. The wife is not just a bearer of children or a worker. All this (children, work, loving care) is received with gratitude but love is more than all this. He / she is loved for his/her own sake.

The personal relationship is more important than anything else (monogamy) . Pleasure, convenience, usefulness, economic benefits are not the first consideration (or else there would be separation, polygamy).

There is a strong pragmatic, utilitarian aspect in African marriage as in many other forms of marriage (western world: sexual satisfaction rates highly, emotional compatibility, freedom to bring union to an end whenever a partner feels like it, no commitment, partner must serve one’s own self-realization, fit in one’s life plan).

Men find it hard to commit themselves for life: she must give him children, he married her only on that condition; if she is no child bearer she will have to be replaced, like a non-functioning machine or appliance. His and his family’s interest is paramount (even and especially his mother says she wants grandchildren, and she is the first to want a ‘muroora’ who does not deliver chased away and replaced.) All this is incompatible with love and a marriage based on unconditional love. Lifelong fidelity does not seem to be in his interest, so he hesitates to pronounce marriage vows which establishes an unbreakable bond.

Love in its full sense wishes to give more than receive, is concerned about life and health of the beloved more than about one’s own life and health. It is self-giving, not using the partner for one’s own advantage. “I take care of you, you take care of me”.

Christian marriage is based on the completely unselfish, self-giving love of Christ. Without His Spirit Christian Marriage will not be possible, since it is an act of faith in the power of Christ’s love. This makes “mixed marriages” between believer and non-believer difficult (unless the non-believer is a ‘natural Christian’ who understands true love instinctively, the Holy Spirit working in him anonymously).

In practice there will be a mixture of utilitarian thinking and behaviour, on the one hand, and true unselfish, self-giving love, on the other. True love in that sense was not unknown in traditional African marriage, but the utilitarian aspect often put it at risk.

Western thinking combined with the described traditional features puts true love in Christian marriage at great risk. It certainly cannot be taken for granted, and a much greater effort is needed to fill marriage with the Spirit of the Love of Christ.

Marriage is at risk altogether. Women who feel exploited in a traditional as well as in a modern setting opt against marriage altogether, especially if they are economically independent and secure (professional women). They may still have temporary relationships with male friends, even one or two children, but they do not accept a permanent bond. Is this perhaps now sexual exploitation in reverse?

But the material advantages of marriage can also be seen in a more positive light. They are not necessarily the only (utilitarian) motivation for marriage.

If husband and wife genuinely love each other and they persevere in a strong personal relationship they will at all times try and please each other. She will be happy to give her husband the children he longs for, and with joy recognize in her children their father, the husband whom she loves. He will be genuinely grateful for the children she has born him and recognize the beloved wife in them. The children will be the visible sign of their mutual love. The parents will love each other in together loving, and taking care of, their children.

In case of suffering over lack of children, or children being sick or handicapped or dying, they will accept this suffering together and support each other in this time of trial. It will not drive them apart, but bring them more closely together; this may be a test, a crisis, but the outcome of shared suffering will be a strengthened love.

A wife who is loved can do her work for husband and family willingly, and does not feel she is merely used and taken advantage of. A husband who provides for the family out of genuine love will receive greater love from his wife in return. She is not just coldly calculating. Even in times of misfortune, unemployment, poverty she will remain faithful and share the bad as much as the good.

The services which the spouses render each other, and the material advantages which accrue them from there, are integrated into their personal relationship. Their sexual intimacy is an expression of their deep personal love, it is not just physical satisfaction they provide for each other. This will not happen automatically, but will be the fruit of a continuing conscious effort and renewal of their relationshiop which can never be taken for granted.   – oWe , 1 /3/13

 

Working Paper No. 2

EQUAL PARTNERSHIP

Women question their traditional role. The women’s movement has become powerful, a force to be reckoned with. How do men respond to it? Refusing to budge and digging in their heels, e.g. by defending polygamy, won’t do.

Women no longer want to be creatures merely for the convenience of men. They claim their full humanity as partners of men, “equal though different”. Monogamy offers this chance.

Monogamous marriage is threatened both in the West as well as on this continent. Polygamy (simultaneous or successive) still finds strong defenders. The answer does not lie in population statistics (“more women than men”) though they provide some important facts. What is at stake is not just for women to be provided for as (polygamous) wives, or finding sexual satisfaction.

The very humanity and personhood of women is at stake. Which is a challenge to men. Not that they should fight against women’s power. Who wants a power struggle between the sexes? This new relationship women want is not a threat to men: men by accepting women as partners and friends, working together and sharing responsibility, are not losing out, but are to gain a lot.

Marriage is either going to grow and mature into a more personal relationship, or else it will wither and fade away, much to the detriment of all of us.

Polygamy as an institution may have been viable up to a point though women always knew its setbacks. Judaeo-Christian history shows a steady development towards monogamy. Polygamy in old Israel is no yardstick for us today: the faithfulness of Yahwe towards his “bride”, the people of Israel, argued more and more for monogamous unions, one husband being faithful to his one wife. Jesus in the New Testament makes this trend definite. The Christian Church has provided a powerful motive for monogamy and strongly supported this development. Christ loves his ”bride”, the Church (Eph. 5), and is faithful to her until death. Christian marriage could not be otherwise.

Many feminists do not know this, but Christianity is their strong ally. One has to admit that not all who call themselves Christians act accordingly. Showy extravagant church weddings tend to be about social prestige rather than spiritual substance. The bridegroom shows off his beautiful bride whom he has conquered and looks at as his prized possession: does he take her seriously as a person, as a partner with whom he shares responsibility? Is he aware how much he gains if he relates to her on a deeper personal level and sees in her much more than just a plaything or a doll?

Traditionalists claim that only polygamy ensures that all women find husbands. But do all women want husbands? Do all women have to have husbands to be fully human? There is a common assumption that only through relating sexually to a man does a woman become a full person. This should be questioned. .

Marriage is not an absolute necessity. It is based on the free will and commitment of two persons. Nature provides for it, certainly. But for all that it remains a matter of free choice. From its beginning the Church has respected unmarried women and honoured those who do not marry “for the sake of the kingdom of God”. A single woman is a person in her own right. She may find fulfilment and maturity also by serving the community as a nurse, teacher, foster mother to orphaned children or in many other ways.

Equal partnership in marriage and respect for the single woman as a person in her own right are needed in society if women are to play their full part in developing the country as leaders in politics, in various professions and in the community. Society needs to realize the full potential of both women and men. We cannot afford to waste the talents of more than half of our people. We cannot afford to waste the special gifts of women in the development of the nation, especially their gift of being able to relate to persons, to recognize their various needs and to work for the good of the community.

– oWe

 

Working Paper No 3

NEW RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MAN AND WOMAN

Marriage and Family cannot remain untouched by the rapid change that the relationship between Man and Woman is undergoing.

(This change has accelerated since the last Plenary Meeting of IMBISA in 1995. )

The social pressure is enormous to give Woman an equal status to that of Man. Equality of the Sexes (gender equality) is now a new dogma. It is “politically correct” and there is social pressure that it must not be doubted. Anyone questioning this is socially “off side” and gets a “yellow card”. Even a “red” one.

Indeed Man and Woman are of equal human dignity. They have the same origin in God and the same destination in God at the end of time. Our Lord and Creator loves them equally. “So God created humankind [man] in his image,/ in the image of God he created them,/ male and female he created them” (Genesis 1: 27). The first creation account is very clear. There is no ranking ‘ first – second, master and maidservant….’. “Flesh from my flesh, bone from my bone” (second creation account Genesis 2: 7, 18 – 24) means Man and Woman share the same humanity, the same human nature. Man recognizes in Woman the partner, companion and friend whom he misses in the animal world.

BUT equality does not mean ‘sameness’, does not mean that Man and Woman are from now on indistinguishable (certain features of western youth fashion, now arriving also on our continent, seem to suggest this). EQUAL BUT DIFFERENT is still a valid formula (though some of our feminist sisters are suspicious of the term ‘different’ : it might hide men’s uneasiness with equality…) Positively, the formula means ‘complementarity’ : Man and Woman are both incomplete, are missing something which they find only in the other sex, two halves that yearn for completeness.

The French say “Vive la difference”, but it seems as if “political correctness” demands that “la difference” be eliminated. Maybe this is a necessary stage of transition. I remember a girl with the slogan on her T-shirt: “Whatever boys can do, girls can do better”. Girls need to boost their self-confidence. And certain things they certainly can do better.

But there is more to it. While in traditional society Woman was needed as childbearer and derived her social status and her indispensable value from that , motherhood has a very low rating in today’s technological society. Biotechnology gives women (and indirectly men) complete control over fertility. In this new situation Woman’s social status comes from her productivity as a worker, not as a mother.

That Woman is more than a childbearer is true, and is held also by the Church (Why else was, and still is, the Virgin/Consecrated Woman respected in the Church, other than in other religious environments and cultures?)

But the respect Woman is given by the Church (herself feminine and thought of as ‘mother’) is also visible in the Church’s insistence on monogamy. Woman is loved and respected in marriage for her own sake as a person, not just on condition that she bears children. Even the childless one is loved as a person, as a daughter of her Father and Creator. She is more than a means, a useful instrument towards having a family. In most cultures this is hard to accept, especially for men.

The Church is often considered to be anti-Woman, with low esteem for the female sex. Indeed, the Church, in her journey through the centuries, has picked up some cultural baggage which is negative about women, and which she has to get rid of.

The love and honour the Church gives to Mary, Virgin and Mother, mother of Jesus, Mother of God, is another indication that Woman has a place of honour in the Church. Unfortunately this is not always recognized by feminists, including feminist theologians.

But fundamentally the Church teaches the equal dignity of Man and Woman in the sight of our God and Creator. She should be an ally of the women’s movement. She is a great defender of Women’s human dignity (see the writings of Pope John Paul II) . However,she cannot accept that the freedom of women should be defined as complete sexual freedom , including the “right” to abort.

Catholics need not be on the defensive and be embarrassed about the Church’s record concerning women. They should be proud of the Church’s teaching while working towards eliminating discriminatory practices which do not tally with this teaching. Women cannot forever remain the “silent majority” in the Church. They must have a voice and must be heard. While advocating change, the Church must change herself.

There seem to be two trends in the women’s movement which, though contradictory, sometimes get mixed up with one another: one trend seems to say that Woman should compete with Man and try and do all that men are doing, even at the price of becoming very masculine. The other trend says that Woman should come into her own and bring her Femininity to bear on society: Man has messed up the World, let Woman with her distinct gifts and feminine skills save the world from destruction.

The masculinisation of Woman in the western world which is beginning to have an impact even on African society is indeed worrying.

How can WOMAN be EQUAL to man in terms of human dignity and personhood and yet retain her FEMININE IDENTITY? This is the great challenge to Christian , Catholic women. I believe they have the answer to that difficult question.

In this situation MARRIAGE is changing. The old traditional marriage, open to polygamy, where the man was in absolute control and the woman had to serve entirely his interests, is an obsolete model. It holds little attraction for young women. The more educated they are the less likely they are to opt for it, in fact some are opting out of it entirely.

A marriage built on equality and partnership is the only model with a future, but it is also a very difficult, a more demanding model. Often the MAN , despite his apparent modernity, is still psychologically a TRADITIONALIST, while the WOMAN HAS MOVED ON. So tension, even open conflict is preprogrammed.

However, women themselves are often confused and inconsistent in their strategies to achieve equality and respect in society: there is a lack of solidarity among women, “husband snatching”, rivalry, acceptance of tradition as a matter of sheer survival, acceptance of very traditionalist husbands by “modern” girls with the inevitable clash later, resulting in separation and divorce, etc etc.

On the other hand, the apparent strength of the women’s movement and the universal acceptance of feminist thinking does not mean that women have really achieved respect and full recognition of their human dignity and personhood . The IDEOLOGY is one thing, REALITY quite another.

Sexual abuse of young girls by “sugar daddies” , rape on a horrific scale, prostitution (now called “sex work” to give it the appearance of a “normal occupation” and to make it “socially acceptable” which really means “normalizing” a form of slavery) , human trafficking, various forms of polygamy (polygyny, e.g. “small houses”) , divorce, domestic violence, discrimination in education and at the work place , promotion for “sexual favours” – the list is endless.

In this situation it becomes extremely difficult to guide young people towards a Christian marriage.

The path towards a Christian marriage is not clear and obvious, simple and easy.

It needs a very long and thorough preparation, involving not just the young couple, but also the families they come from. The whole Christian community must work at it.

The Christian community must generally develop a new culture of how men and women relate to each other. It needs a culture of dialogue, of being able to communicate with each other. Men and women need to be able to associate with each other and act together. The complete separation of the sexes as of old is not conducive towards this new culture. Which, I think, is not going to be unisex! Women retain the right to associate just with one another, and so do men – but to what extent? More social mixing, more working together as equals is not to be imposed from above (by clerics?). People have to work that out among themselves, in the light of their culture (looked at critically) and the Gospel, guided by the Spirit of Christ alive in the Church. All these efforts must lead towards a new atmosphere, new patterns of behavior and of relating towards each other.

Christian marriages can only flourish in a culture where there is mutual respect between men and women.

What I am trying to say is this: Christian marriage cannot succeed in complete isolation from the surrounding culture (traditionalist, neo-African, western etc…).

The Christian community must provide an environment in which Christian marriage and family life can live and breathe.   – oWe

 

The Pastoral Department IMBISA has a new head since 1 February 2013. It may be useful to introduce him to the Bishops of IMBISA to whom this DOCUMENTATION is addressed.

Fr Oskar Wermter SJ , born1942 in Germany, has been working in Zimbabwe since 1972. He is a pastoral priest and writer/communicator. He has done parish work, full-time, or, when engaged in communication, part-time. From 1987 – 2001 he was communication secretary of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference. He used to edit CROSSROADS,             a newssheet of ZCBC and pastoral magazine. During that time he was already occasionally involved in IMBISA activities: he attended the Maputo (1992) and Windhoek (1995) plenary assemblies as communication officer and the First Africa Bishops’ Synod in Rome 1994 as a staff member of the AMECEA/IMBISA press office. From 2002 to 2013 he was based in St Peter’s Mbare/Harare and part-time director of Jesuit Communications, editing MUKAI , a magazine for theological reflection.

 

…AND SOMETHING ELSE TO THINK ABOUT:

 WHAT IS THE PLACE OF BISHOPS’ CONFERENCES IN THE CHURCH ?

 Introduction: From the beginning the Bishop of Rome , as successor of Peter, had to preserve the unity of the Church. But not all administrative issues could be referred to him. There were patriarchs and archbishops heading church provinces. Now that the Church is truly a worldwide Church the question arises if this tradition of the Church is not telling us something about the direction we might have to move. What will be the future of Bishops’ Conferences and Bishops’ Synods in the Church?

 STANFORD, Calif. — Emeritus Archbishop of San Francisco John R. Quinn called for major church governance reforms.

“Media reports, dealing with reform, tend to focus on clerical celibacy and on the ordination of women and on the reform of the [Roman] Curia. … These are important topics, but it would be a mistake to stop there,” Quinn said.

“Today, if we want to deal seriously with the legacy of Vatican II and issues of reform we must have the courage to consider the deeper questions..”

Quinn called for major decentralization . He said this could be achieved through the creation of regional bishops’ conferences and synods of bishops with decision-making authority.

Key reforms intended by the bishops at Vatican II (1962-1965), Quinn told a packed audience here, have not taken place

He said shared bishops’ decision-making with the pope is urgently needed. It is rooted in the ordination of the bishop and the doctrine that he is a successor to the apostles of Jesus, Quinn explained.

He said shared episcopal decision-making was “the legacy of Vatican II.”

He then went on to say “that a very large number of bishops are of the opinion that there is not any real or meaningful collegiality in the church today.”

Years after Quinn served as archbishop of San Francisco from 1977 to 1995, and president of the U.S. bishops’ conference from 1977 to 1980, he remains an important intellectual figure among the U.S. bishops.

In 1991, in response to Pope John Paul II’s request for suggestions on how to reform the papacy he wrote a book on the subject, drawing acclaim at the time.

Speaking on the Stanford campus, Quinn offered examples of the ways over centralized church decision-making has hurt the church, running contrary to ideas of collegiality proposed at the council.

Fifty years after the council Quinn said local bishops “have no perceptible influence” in the appointment of bishops.

As another example of overly centralized church authority cited by Quinn involve changes in the words Catholics use during the mass. He said the intentions of local bishops “who best understand local language and customs” was disregarded by the Vatican when it decreed new liturgical language norms two years ago.

“The observations of the bishops’ conferences had little influence and at the end of the consultation with conferences a very large number of changes were made in the final text which the bishops had never seen,” Quinn said.

He suggested two governance changes to rebalance church decision-making and decentralize church authority. Both, he said, come out of church history and tradition: regional bishops’ conferences and deliberative episcopal synods.

These moves, he said, would involve separating two aspects of the function of the papacy: “the unity of faith and communion” and administration. The pope would have “the burden of fostering unity, collaboration and charity, but church administration would become more regional.

In such a reconfiguration the appointment of bishops, the creation of dioceses, questions of liturgy and other matters of Catholic practices would be up the regional bishops’ conferences, Quinn said.
“There is no doctrine of faith nor any provision of canon law, which would prevent the creation of new patriarchal structures in the church, he said.

In the case of Asia and Africa these would enable local churches to develop their liturgy, spirituality and practice in accord with their own cultures, he said, adding there has been a long standing complaint from both Africa and Asia “they feel impoverished and constrained in not being able to integrate elements of their culture into church life.”

Quinn went on to say that at the end of Vatican II Pope Paul VI called for the establishment of decision-making synods of bishops.

“To date,” he lamented, “fifty years after the council, no deliberative synod has ever been held.” Instead they have all been advisory.

Quinn concluded that deliberative synods could be made up of the presidents of episcopal conferences and of the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

He is author of the soon to be published book (Paulist Press), Ever Ancient, Ever New: Structures of Communion in the Church, dealing with church structural reform.

From : National Catholic Reporter, shortened

The above text is for information only. It does not reflect the official position of IMBISA or any of its members.

 

IMBISA DOCUMENTATION

Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa

Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Sao Tome e Principe, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe

 No 1   (English)     –  May 2013

“Theological Reflection for Pastoral Action”

 From the EDITOR

Preparing for Plenary Assembly 2013:

The Church as Family – Family as Domestic Church

FAMILY is the theme of the IMBISA Plenary Assembly 2013. But ONLY ONE DAY is actually available for dealing with it. It was agreed by the Standing Committee that the information needed to prepare a commonly agreed ACTION PLAN must be made available to member bishops so they can study the material and reflect on it quietly BFORE the Assembly.

The Pastoral Department of IMBISA is therefore starting this month IMBISA DOCUMENTATION which will be sent to all member bishops by e-mail (or hardcopy in case some dioceses cannot be reached by e-mail), in English and Portuguese .

The papers distributed are meant as helps in reflection, as “food for thought”. They come from the Pastoral Department, not from any authoritative source. It is for the members of IMBISA to accept or reject the ideas presented to them. It is hoped that this process will enable them to come up with recommendations for an Action Plan.

 OUR THEME: Africa is a family culture, though now under threat. Christianity will only have “arrived” in Africa once it has “leavened through” married life and family life. Culture (and the diversity of cultures) affects married life very deeply. This is where inculturation is most relevant: both as a force of preserving what supports love and fidelity and of transforming what does not.

Christian marriage (sacrament of matrimony) is a matter of faith. It cannot be lived without faith. It needs a spirituality.

It needs openness and dialogue between the spouses perhaps not known in the past, at least not to the degree now needed.

It needs much more thorough preparation and later ongoing pastoral care.

The Sacrament of Marriage needs to be presented as Good News, not as a collection of many hard and poorly understood rules and regulations, cumbersome and discouraging because difficult to keep. It will only work if both wife and husband accept church marriage as Good News. The wife alone cannot bring about the change.

Marriage needs a legal framework to protect it, both in terms of traditional and modern state law and in terms of church (canon) law. The existence of two state laws in many African countries (traditional and modern, polygamous and monogamous) is a hindrance: we can only hope to eliminate this duality if ever the great majority of couples opt for monogamy (the State follows the existing habits and customs).

 LOOKING BACK TO WINDHOEK 1995. The Fourth Plenary Assembly of IMBISA, 29 April – 4 May 1995, Windhoek/Namibia, was also concerned with CHURCH AND FAMILY IN SOUTHERN AFRICA. All the five papers presented (Family in changing society; Family after the first Africa Bishops synod; Marriage and Canon Law; Polygamy), the final message and proposals for action were published in IMBISA OCCASIONAL PAPERS No. 3. The Final Report with its proposals show clearly that the IMBISA bishops at the time put the Family in the context of Society and African Culture (Inculturation had been the theme of the First Africa Synod) and addressed a wide variety of problems. In 2013 the bishops may want to ask how much progress has been made.

An alternative to the approach of Windhoek 1995 would be to stress – in the Year of Faith ! – the spiritual and sacramental aspect of Marriage and Family, without forgetting the enormous social and economic pressures families find themselves under.

APPEAL FROM THE 1995 MESSAGE. It would seem that the following Appeal to Women has lost nothing of its urgency even 18 years later:

The most important persons in the family are you, women, to whom we extend our special greeting and respect for the important role that Almighty God has entrusted to you and because of the suffering that many of you had to undergo as the main targets of hostile activities in society.

God has given you the privilege of not only welcoming life but of keeping it and defending it at its most fragile stage during pregnancy , where it is threatened by the egoism of many. Be cradles, not tombs. Do not let your dignity be trampled on by protagonists seeking monetary gain.”

Working Paper No 1

LOVE OR CONVENIENCE?

Theological Reflection on Marriage

Why do people marry? Because they want children. He wants continuation of the lineage and the family name (dzinza, mutupo in Shona). She wants economic security, comfort and social status. They want sexual enjoyment. Husband wants good worker for his farm, wants a good cook and housekeeper etc. He wants a glamorous wife who enhances his social status as a successful man in his profession (businessman, politician, academic etc).

In all these cases one partner needs the other and uses her/him for a purpose. He/she is a means towards an end. If the purpose or end is achieved the union continues because it is useful (the husband has been given children, she satisfies him sexually, she is a good worker; she has found the economic comfort and social status she was craving for.)

If the end or purpose is not achieved (no children, or no male child, she does not satisfy, he does not give her the security she wants) he takes another wife (after divorce/separation) or marries a second wife, while retaining the first (polygamy) or finds a mistress (“small house ?”). She may leave him to look for richer husband.

Such a union is based on certain conditions. If these are not fulfilled then the union comes to an end.

But most couples claim they marry for love. Love for a person is an end in itself. The person whom I love is so precious to me she/he is more important than any advantages he/she can provide for me. The wife is not just a bearer of children or a worker. All this (children, work, loving care) is received with gratitude but love is more than all this. He / she is loved for his/her own sake.

The personal relationship is more important than anything else (monogamy) . Pleasure, convenience, usefulness, economic benefits are not the first consideration (or else there would be separation, polygamy).

There is a strong pragmatic, utilitarian aspect in African marriage as in many other forms of marriage (western world: sexual satisfaction rates highly, emotional compatibility, freedom to bring union to an end whenever a partner feels like it, no commitment, partner must serve one’s own self-realization, fit in one’s life plan).

Men find it hard to commit themselves for life: she must give him children, he married her only on that condition; if she is no child bearer she will have to be replaced, like a non-functioning machine or appliance. His and his family’s interest is paramount (even and especially his mother says she wants grandchildren, and she is the first to want a ‘muroora’ who does not deliver chased away and replaced.) All this is incompatible with love and a marriage based on unconditional love. Lifelong fidelity does not seem to be in his interest, so he hesitates to pronounce marriage vows which establishes an unbreakable bond.

Love in its full sense wishes to give more than receive, is concerned about life and health of the beloved more than about one’s own life and health. It is self-giving, not using the partner for one’s own advantage. “I take care of you, you take care of me”.

Christian marriage is based on the completely unselfish, self-giving love of Christ. Without His Spirit Christian Marriage will not be possible, since it is an act of faith in the power of Christ’s love. This makes “mixed marriages” between believer and non-believer difficult (unless the non-believer is a ‘natural Christian’ who understands true love instinctively, the Holy Spirit working in him anonymously).

In practice there will be a mixture of utilitarian thinking and behaviour, on the one hand, and true unselfish, self-giving love, on the other. True love in that sense was not unknown in traditional African marriage, but the utilitarian aspect often put it at risk.

Western thinking combined with the described traditional features puts true love in Christian marriage at great risk. It certainly cannot be taken for granted, and a much greater effort is needed to fill marriage with the Spirit of the Love of Christ.

Marriage is at risk altogether. Women who feel exploited in a traditional as well as in a modern setting opt against marriage altogether, especially if they are economically independent and secure (professional women). They may still have temporary relationships with male friends, even one or two children, but they do not accept a permanent bond. Is this perhaps now sexual exploitation in reverse?

But the material advantages of marriage can also be seen in a more positive light. They are not necessarily the only (utilitarian) motivation for marriage.

If husband and wife genuinely love each other and they persevere in a strong personal relationship they will at all times try and please each other. She will be happy to give her husband the children he longs for, and with joy recognize in her children their father, the husband whom she loves. He will be genuinely grateful for the children she has born him and recognize the beloved wife in them. The children will be the visible sign of their mutual love. The parents will love each other in together loving, and taking care of, their children.

In case of suffering over lack of children, or children being sick or handicapped or dying, they will accept this suffering together and support each other in this time of trial. It will not drive them apart, but bring them more closely together; this may be a test, a crisis, but the outcome of shared suffering will be a strengthened love.

A wife who is loved can do her work for husband and family willingly, and does not feel she is merely used and taken advantage of. A husband who provides for the family out of genuine love will receive greater love from his wife in return. She is not just coldly calculating. Even in times of misfortune, unemployment, poverty she will remain faithful and share the bad as much as the good.

The services which the spouses render each other, and the material advantages which accrue them from there, are integrated into their personal relationship. Their sexual intimacy is an expression of their deep personal love, it is not just physical satisfaction they provide for each other. This will not happen automatically, but will be the fruit of a continuing conscious effort and renewal of their relationshiop which can never be taken for granted.   – oWe , 1 /3/13

 Working Paper No. 2

EQUAL PARTNERSHIP

Women question their traditional role. The women’s movement has become powerful, a force to be reckoned with. How do men respond to it? Refusing to budge and digging in their heels, e.g. by defending polygamy, won’t do.

Women no longer want to be creatures merely for the convenience of men. They claim their full humanity as partners of men, “equal though different”. Monogamy offers this chance.

Monogamous marriage is threatened both in the West as well as on this continent. Polygamy (simultaneous or successive) still finds strong defenders. The answer does not lie in population statistics (“more women than men”) though they provide some important facts. What is at stake is not just for women to be provided for as (polygamous) wives, or finding sexual satisfaction.

The very humanity and personhood of women is at stake. Which is a challenge to men. Not that they should fight against women’s power. Who wants a power struggle between the sexes? This new relationship women want is not a threat to men: men by accepting women as partners and friends, working together and sharing responsibility, are not losing out, but are to gain a lot.

Marriage is either going to grow and mature into a more personal relationship, or else it will wither and fade away, much to the detriment of all of us.

Polygamy as an institution may have been viable up to a point though women always knew its setbacks. Judaeo-Christian history shows a steady development towards monogamy. Polygamy in old Israel is no yardstick for us today: the faithfulness of Yahwe towards his “bride”, the people of Israel, argued more and more for monogamous unions, one husband being faithful to his one wife. Jesus in the New Testament makes this trend definite. The Christian Church has provided a powerful motive for monogamy and strongly supported this development. Christ loves his ”bride”, the Church (Eph. 5), and is faithful to her until death. Christian marriage could not be otherwise.

Many feminists do not know this, but Christianity is their strong ally. One has to admit that not all who call themselves Christians act accordingly. Showy extravagant church weddings tend to be about social prestige rather than spiritual substance. The bridegroom shows off his beautiful bride whom he has conquered and looks at as his prized possession: does he take her seriously as a person, as a partner with whom he shares responsibility? Is he aware how much he gains if he relates to her on a deeper personal level and sees in her much more than just a plaything or a doll?

Traditionalists claim that only polygamy ensures that all women find husbands. But do all women want husbands? Do all women have to have husbands to be fully human? There is a common assumption that only through relating sexually to a man does a woman become a full person. This should be questioned. .

Marriage is not an absolute necessity. It is based on the free will and commitment of two persons. Nature provides for it, certainly. But for all that it remains a matter of free choice. From its beginning the Church has respected unmarried women and honoured those who do not marry “for the sake of the kingdom of God”. A single woman is a person in her own right. She may find fulfilment and maturity also by serving the community as a nurse, teacher, foster mother to orphaned children or in many other ways.

Equal partnership in marriage and respect for the single woman as a person in her own right are needed in society if women are to play their full part in developing the country as leaders in politics, in various professions and in the community. Society needs to realize the full potential of both women and men. We cannot afford to waste the talents of more than half of our people. We cannot afford to waste the special gifts of women in the development of the nation, especially their gift of being able to relate to persons, to recognize their various needs and to work for the good of the community.

– oWe

 

Working Paper No 3

NEW RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MAN AND WOMAN

Marriage and Family cannot remain untouched by the rapid change that the relationship between Man and Woman is undergoing.

(This change has accelerated since the last Plenary Meeting of IMBISA in 1995. )

The social pressure is enormous to give Woman an equal status to that of Man. Equality of the Sexes (gender equality) is now a new dogma. It is “politically correct” and there is social pressure that it must not be doubted. Anyone questioning this is socially “off side” and gets a “yellow card”. Even a “red” one.

Indeed Man and Woman are of equal human dignity. They have the same origin in God and the same destination in God at the end of time. Our Lord and Creator loves them equally. “So God created humankind [man] in his image,/ in the image of God he created them,/ male and female he created them” (Genesis 1: 27). The first creation account is very clear. There is no ranking ‘ first – second, master and maidservant….’. “Flesh from my flesh, bone from my bone” (second creation account Genesis 2: 7, 18 – 24) means Man and Woman share the same humanity, the same human nature. Man recognizes in Woman the partner, companion and friend whom he misses in the animal world.

BUT equality does not mean ‘sameness’, does not mean that Man and Woman are from now on indistinguishable (certain features of western youth fashion, now arriving also on our continent, seem to suggest this). EQUAL BUT DIFFERENT is still a valid formula (though some of our feminist sisters are suspicious of the term ‘different’ : it might hide men’s uneasiness with equality…) Positively, the formula means ‘complementarity’ : Man and Woman are both incomplete, are missing something which they find only in the other sex, two halves that yearn for completeness.

The French say “Vive la difference”, but it seems as if “political correctness” demands that “la difference” be eliminated. Maybe this is a necessary stage of transition. I remember a girl with the slogan on her T-shirt: “Whatever boys can do, girls can do better”. Girls need to boost their self-confidence. And certain things they certainly can do better.

But there is more to it. While in traditional society Woman was needed as childbearer and derived her social status and her indispensable value from that , motherhood has a very low rating in today’s technological society. Biotechnology gives women (and indirectly men) complete control over fertility. In this new situation Woman’s social status comes from her productivity as a worker, not as a mother.

That Woman is more than a childbearer is true, and is held also by the Church (Why else was, and still is, the Virgin/Consecrated Woman respected in the Church, other than in other religious environments and cultures?)

But the respect Woman is given by the Church (herself feminine and thought of as ‘mother’) is also visible in the Church’s insistence on monogamy. Woman is loved and respected in marriage for her own sake as a person, not just on condition that she bears children. Even the childless one is loved as a person, as a daughter of her Father and Creator. She is more than a means, a useful instrument towards having a family. In most cultures this is hard to accept, especially for men.

The Church is often considered to be anti-Woman, with low esteem for the female sex. Indeed, the Church, in her journey through the centuries, has picked up some cultural baggage which is negative about women, and which she has to get rid of.

The love and honour the Church gives to Mary, Virgin and Mother, mother of Jesus, Mother of God, is another indication that Woman has a place of honour in the Church. Unfortunately this is not always recognized by feminists, including feminist theologians.

But fundamentally the Church teaches the equal dignity of Man and Woman in the sight of our God and Creator. She should be an ally of the women’s movement. She is a great defender of Women’s human dignity (see the writings of Pope John Paul II) . However,she cannot accept that the freedom of women should be defined as complete sexual freedom , including the “right” to abort.

Catholics need not be on the defensive and be embarrassed about the Church’s record concerning women. They should be proud of the Church’s teaching while working towards eliminating discriminatory practices which do not tally with this teaching. Women cannot forever remain the “silent majority” in the Church. They must have a voice and must be heard. While advocating change, the Church must change herself.

There seem to be two trends in the women’s movement which, though contradictory, sometimes get mixed up with one another: one trend seems to say that Woman should compete with Man and try and do all that men are doing, even at the price of becoming very masculine. The other trend says that Woman should come into her own and bring her Femininity to bear on society: Man has messed up the World, let Woman with her distinct gifts and feminine skills save the world from destruction.

The masculinisation of Woman in the western world which is beginning to have an impact even on African society is indeed worrying.

How can WOMAN be EQUAL to man in terms of human dignity and personhood and yet retain her FEMININE IDENTITY? This is the great challenge to Christian , Catholic women. I believe they have the answer to that difficult question.

In this situation MARRIAGE is changing. The old traditional marriage, open to polygamy, where the man was in absolute control and the woman had to serve entirely his interests, is an obsolete model. It holds little attraction for young women. The more educated they are the less likely they are to opt for it, in fact some are opting out of it entirely.

A marriage built on equality and partnership is the only model with a future, but it is also a very difficult, a more demanding model. Often the MAN , despite his apparent modernity, is still psychologically a TRADITIONALIST, while the WOMAN HAS MOVED ON. So tension, even open conflict is preprogrammed.

However, women themselves are often confused and inconsistent in their strategies to achieve equality and respect in society: there is a lack of solidarity among women, “husband snatching”, rivalry, acceptance of tradition as a matter of sheer survival, acceptance of very traditionalist husbands by “modern” girls with the inevitable clash later, resulting in separation and divorce, etc etc.

On the other hand, the apparent strength of the women’s movement and the universal acceptance of feminist thinking does not mean that women have really achieved respect and full recognition of their human dignity and personhood . The IDEOLOGY is one thing, REALITY quite another.

Sexual abuse of young girls by “sugar daddies” , rape on a horrific scale, prostitution (now called “sex work” to give it the appearance of a “normal occupation” and to make it “socially acceptable” which really means “normalizing” a form of slavery) , human trafficking, various forms of polygamy (polygyny, e.g. “small houses”) , divorce, domestic violence, discrimination in education and at the work place , promotion for “sexual favours” – the list is endless.

In this situation it becomes extremely difficult to guide young people towards a Christian marriage.

The path towards a Christian marriage is not clear and obvious, simple and easy.

It needs a very long and thorough preparation, involving not just the young couple, but also the families they come from. The whole Christian community must work at it.

The Christian community must generally develop a new culture of how men and women relate to each other. It needs a culture of dialogue, of being able to communicate with each other. Men and women need to be able to associate with each other and act together. The complete separation of the sexes as of old is not conducive towards this new culture. Which, I think, is not going to be unisex! Women retain the right to associate just with one another, and so do men – but to what extent? More social mixing, more working together as equals is not to be imposed from above (by clerics?). People have to work that out among themselves, in the light of their culture (looked at critically) and the Gospel, guided by the Spirit of Christ alive in the Church. All these efforts must lead towards a new atmosphere, new patterns of behavior and of relating towards each other.

Christian marriages can only flourish in a culture where there is mutual respect between men and women.

What I am trying to say is this: Christian marriage cannot succeed in complete isolation from the surrounding culture (traditionalist, neo-African, western etc…).

The Christian community must provide an environment in which Christian marriage and family life can live and breathe.   – oWe

 

The Pastoral Department IMBISA has a new head since 1 February 2013. It may be useful to introduce him to the Bishops of IMBISA to whom this DOCUMENTATION is addressed.

Fr Oskar Wermter SJ , born1942 in Germany, has been working in Zimbabwe since 1972. He is a pastoral priest and writer/communicator. He has done parish work, full-time, or, when engaged in communication, part-time. From 1987 – 2001 he was communication secretary of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference. He used to edit CROSSROADS,             a newssheet of ZCBC and pastoral magazine. During that time he was already occasionally involved in IMBISA activities: he attended the Maputo (1992) and Windhoek (1995) plenary assemblies as communication officer and the First Africa Bishops’ Synod in Rome 1994 as a staff member of the AMECEA/IMBISA press office. From 2002 to 2013 he was based in St Peter’s Mbare/Harare and part-time director of Jesuit Communications, editing MUKAI , a magazine for theological reflection.

 …AND SOMETHING ELSE TO THINK ABOUT:

 WHAT IS THE PLACE OF BISHOPS’ CONFERENCES IN THE CHURCH ?

 Introduction: From the beginning the Bishop of Rome , as successor of Peter, had to preserve the unity of the Church. But not all administrative issues could be referred to him. There were patriarchs and archbishops heading church provinces. Now that the Church is truly a worldwide Church the question arises if this tradition of the Church is not telling us something about the direction we might have to move. What will be the future of Bishops’ Conferences and Bishops’ Synods in the Church?

 STANFORD, Calif. — Emeritus Archbishop of San Francisco John R. Quinn called for major church governance reforms.

“Media reports, dealing with reform, tend to focus on clerical celibacy and on the ordination of women and on the reform of the [Roman] Curia. … These are important topics, but it would be a mistake to stop there,” Quinn said.

“Today, if we want to deal seriously with the legacy of Vatican II and issues of reform we must have the courage to consider the deeper questions..”

Quinn called for major decentralization . He said this could be achieved through the creation of regional bishops’ conferences and synods of bishops with decision-making authority.

Key reforms intended by the bishops at Vatican II (1962-1965), Quinn told a packed audience here, have not taken place

He said shared bishops’ decision-making with the pope is urgently needed. It is rooted in the ordination of the bishop and the doctrine that he is a successor to the apostles of Jesus, Quinn explained.

He said shared episcopal decision-making was “the legacy of Vatican II.”

He then went on to say “that a very large number of bishops are of the opinion that there is not any real or meaningful collegiality in the church today.”

Years after Quinn served as archbishop of San Francisco from 1977 to 1995, and president of the U.S. bishops’ conference from 1977 to 1980, he remains an important intellectual figure among the U.S. bishops.

In 1991, in response to Pope John Paul II’s request for suggestions on how to reform the papacy he wrote a book on the subject, drawing acclaim at the time.

Speaking on the Stanford campus, Quinn offered examples of the ways over centralized church decision-making has hurt the church, running contrary to ideas of collegiality proposed at the council.

Fifty years after the council Quinn said local bishops “have no perceptible influence” in the appointment of bishops.

As another example of overly centralized church authority cited by Quinn involve changes in the words Catholics use during the mass. He said the intentions of local bishops “who best understand local language and customs” was disregarded by the Vatican when it decreed new liturgical language norms two years ago.

“The observations of the bishops’ conferences had little influence and at the end of the consultation with conferences a very large number of changes were made in the final text which the bishops had never seen,” Quinn said.

He suggested two governance changes to rebalance church decision-making and decentralize church authority. Both, he said, come out of church history and tradition: regional bishops’ conferences and deliberative episcopal synods.

These moves, he said, would involve separating two aspects of the function of the papacy: “the unity of faith and communion” and administration. The pope would have “the burden of fostering unity, collaboration and charity, but church administration would become more regional.

In such a reconfiguration the appointment of bishops, the creation of dioceses, questions of liturgy and other matters of Catholic practices would be up the regional bishops’ conferences, Quinn said.
“There is no doctrine of faith nor any provision of canon law, which would prevent the creation of new patriarchal structures in the church, he said.

In the case of Asia and Africa these would enable local churches to develop their liturgy, spirituality and practice in accord with their own cultures, he said, adding there has been a long standing complaint from both Africa and Asia “they feel impoverished and constrained in not being able to integrate elements of their culture into church life.”

Quinn went on to say that at the end of Vatican II Pope Paul VI called for the establishment of decision-making synods of bishops.

“To date,” he lamented, “fifty years after the council, no deliberative synod has ever been held.” Instead they have all been advisory.

Quinn concluded that deliberative synods could be made up of the presidents of episcopal conferences and of the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

He is author of the soon to be published book (Paulist Press), Ever Ancient, Ever New: Structures of Communion in the Church, dealing with church structural reform.

From : National Catholic Reporter, shortened

The above text is for information only. It does not reflect the official position of IMBISA or any of its members.

 IMBISA Centre – Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa, Pastoral Department – Social Department, 88 Broadlands Avenue, Avondale , Harare, Box EH 99 Emerald Hill, Harare, Zimbabwe. Tel. 336 775 / 336 908. E-mail: owermter@ymail.com, oskarwermter@imbisa.co.zw (pastoral), creis@imbisa.co.zw (social). rmenatsi@gmail.com (director).

IMBISA assists only in matters that individual dioceses or national bishops’ conferences cannot do by themselves (Principle of Subsidiarity).

 

 

 

 

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