On Monday, #chillpope kicked off a big two-week Vatican summit about the Catholic family. Popping by to speak to the gathering were Ron and Mavis Pirola, an Australian couple with 55 years of marriage under their belts, who informed the assembled celibates that, yeah, sex matters. A lot.
That's according to the AP. Seems they were very clear it's not just about going forth and being fruitful. Sometimes it's just about cozying up to your spouse:
"The little things we did for each other, the telephone calls and love notes, the way we planned our day around each other and the things we shared were outward expressions of our longing to be intimate with each other," the couple said in a joint statement to the closed meeting late Monday.
"Gradually we came to see that the only feature that distinguishes our sacramental relationship from that of any other good Christ-centered relationship is sexual intimacy, and that marriage is a sexual sacrament with its fullest expression in sexual intercourse."
That's blunt! Can you say "sexual intercourse" at the Vatican? But the Pirolas in their 80s at least, and at that point you've really earned the right to tell the pope himself exactly what's on your mind. (They also spoke about devout friends who happily welcomed their gay son's partner into the family.) However, it does sound like the room felt as awkward as a middle-school sex ed class:
"That's not what we bishops talk about mostly, quite honestly," a sheepish British Cardinal Vincent Nichols told reporters Tuesday. "But to hear that as the opening contribution did, I think, open an area ... and it was a recognition that that is central to the well-being of marriage often."
The Blushing Bishop would be a great name for a pub, incidentally.
The gathering is part of a big rethink planned for the next couple of years. Like SXSW for bishops:
The synod — the first of two international meetings on the family, set one year apart — aims to spur debate about the pastoral challenges faced by priests in the modern world, where the notion of family has transcended the traditional nuclear model to include single parents, de facto unions and gay couples, while finding solid grounding in the theology and traditions of a 2,000-year-old institution.
That doesn't necessarily mean big theological changes, though. One concern seems to be that the Church's teachings on matters like remarriage and birth control are often expressed in a way that's downright opaque to the average Catholic. Pope Francis opened the meeting by urging everyone to please speak up, yes, you there in the back with the scowl: "Do not say: I cannot say this, if I do they will think badly of me. Speak freely of everything you believe."
Photo via AP Images.