For the record, I’m not a religious person. It’s not that I don’t believe in God, I just don’t believe in organized religion per se. But it won’t ever stop me, from keeping a weather eye on the latest developments so to speak. Especially, if someone, somewhere manages to upset the apple cart of established thinking.
For example, the apple cart was upset at the Catholic Church, Vatican Synod on the family earlier this week. Six couples were chosen to address 200 bishops from around the world. One of the couples happened to be Australian. Their names were Ron and Mavis Pirola, who are both lifelong Catholics. The Pirola’s are also former members of the Pontifical Council for the Family and Directors of the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council.
Clearly, they are well qualified to talk on the issue of marriage and the family but if the synod had known in advance what they were going to say they might have withdrawn the invitation.
Ron and Mavis Pirola devoted almost their entire address to the topic of sex. As the parents of four children,you could say it was a topic they were suitably qualified to talk about. But sharing it with a wider audience, especially a wider audience comprising 200 Catholic bishops was a tad indiscreet. Talking about the joys of sex to this audience is a bit like serving up roast pork at a bar mitzvah.
The Pirolas’ talked about how married couples needed to view sex as an essential foundation for their relationship and how spirituality and sexual attraction had brought the two of them together and sustained their marriage for more than half a century.
But wait there’s more. The attraction that they first felt for each other and the force that continued to bind them both together was basically sexual. The little things they did for each other, the telephone calls, the love notes, they way they planned the day around each other and things they shared were outward expressions of their longing to be intimate with each other.
I can hear you clamoring to yell what is wrong with saying all of that? Surely it is a no brainer and perfectly reasonable in a loving relationship between a man and a woman? Not a problem from my perspective. In fact I agree with all of it. But I was not one of 200 Catholic Bishops, who took a vow of celibacy who are sitting there listening to this. They did have a problem.
Now at this point you might think the Pirolas’ would be thinking maybe we should sit down and shut up. But if you did you’d be wrong. There was no way they were done talking. The next issue to be tackled in their presentation was homosexuality. The couple told the synod that the inclusion of homosexuals into the church would be a “ model of evangelization” for parishes all over the world.
The Pirolas spoke of how some friends were planning their Christmas family gathering when their gay son said he wanted to bring his partner home as well. This couple fully believed in the teachings of the Catholic church. They knew their grandchildren would see them welcome their son and his gay partner into the family. But their response could be summed up in four words: He is our son.
Of course I wasn’t sitting in the audience listening to this, but in my mind’s eye I can see some Bishops moving very uncomfortably in their seats as the voices of the Pirola’s are ringing in their ears.
And seemingly without drawing breath, Ron and Mavis Pirola had one final parting shot to deliver. They called on church documents to be updated for modern-day Catholics and for future generations. The church needed new ways and relatable language to touch people’s hearts. Compared to what they had already said this was a mere bagatelle.
Then the Pirolas’ sat down, to stunned silence. According to observers, the audience was left completely speechless. But, in a later moment of candor, one of the synod members, a British Cardinal remarked drily, that Catholic Bishops don’t talk about these topics.
I’m sure they don’t. I’m sure they should. I just wished I’d been there to hear Ron and Mavis Pirola.