THE Catholic Church is viewed as bigoted, misogynistic, controlling, judgmental, outdated and hypocritical — by many of its own supporters and devotees.
That's according to a report drawn up by the bishops of England and Wales and newly published by Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
Commissioned in December of last year, The Call, the Mission and the Journey invited parishes to reflect on the theme of the Church and the family.
The report has now been published ahead of next month’s special Synod of Bishops called by Pope Francis to discuss the family, alongside issues such as divorce and homosexuality.
The findings of the report are drawn from some 2,000 respondents across 16 dioceses in England and Wales.
While much of the opinion from the dioceses was constructive, there were severe criticisms too.
One recurrent bugbear was the denial of communion to divorced and remarried Catholics. "I believe it is important for our bishops to know that marriage is not always a ‘gift’ and that Church teaching on marriage has led to untold misery for many couples and has had lifelong, detrimental impact on the mental, physical and spiritual health of their children,” one respondent wrote.
Another voice said: “People who do not fit in the ‘ideal’ family unit should still be made to feel valued and worthwhile members of the church.”
When respondents were asked if they might pass their faith onto their children, one wrote: “We are ashamed of our faith – so misogynistic, controlling, self-opinionated."
One person echoed what many in the Catholic community feel: “The Church’s treatment of women has alienated my wife from church attendance," while another said: “How can it be right for people living with HIV/Aids not to use condoms? .... How can it be right for divorced and remarried people to be refused Communion? How can the Catholic Church's view on the evil of homosexual, cohabitation be right?
“Thank God for the secular world which has blown in to the murky corridors of the Vatican.”
The cardinal’s report also touches on the problem of hypocrisy within what is one of the oldest — and richest — organisations in the world.
The public’s perception was often of a Church hiding internal corruption — while at the same time displaying huge riches in the face of international poverty.
Cardinal Nichols said of the report: “Consultations like this are not PR exercises – it’s not about wanting to put in front of you something that says how good we all are – this is a church of sinners, we make a mess of things, it is messy.”