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Oct 6 15 5:49 AM
With all due respect and leaving the theological question of divorce completely aside, it is when I hear such statements that I can only shake my head in disbelief. It shows how far removed some of these prelates are from people’s everyday reality. For every case of divorce that has „destroyed“ a person (as Card. Sarah continues) I could name at least twice as many cases where divorce has not only been a huge relief for ALL concerned (and that includes the kids!) but a veritable BLESSING! I wonder what Card. Sarah would say to a woman who gets a divorce after suffering years of physical abuse? Or to another one who was married off to a 60 year-old by her family at the age of 16 in Afghanistan and who can at last start her life over after she has come to Europe as a refugee? Or to the couple who decide to divorce amicably because all that was left between them was constant fighting and shouting which frightened and destabilized the kids? Was divorce „the most brutal“ thing for such people? Did it „destroy“ them? I. think. not.
Oct 6 15 6:53 AM
Vatican: Pope reminded Synod that divorced and remarried not only issueVATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis made short, unplanned remarks Tuesday morning to the Catholic bishops gathered for his global meeting on family issues to emphasize to them that care for the divorced and remarried is not the only issue to be discussed, a Vatican spokesman said.The pontiff also reassured the some 270 prelates, gathered for the second day of the Oct. 4-25 Synod of Bishops, that the church’s doctrine on marriage “was not being put into question,” said the spokesman.Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, detailed the pope’s comments during a press briefing Tuesday, Oct. 6, on the state of the discussions at the synod, which is taking place behind closed doors.Joining the priest to detail the discussions Tuesday were four other spokespeople and two synod participants: Italian Archbishop Claudio Celli and Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher.Despite the pope’s reported exhortation that the participants focus on a number of issues, Celli said discussion of the church’s pastoral practices to Catholics who divorce and remarry remains “open.”Asked during the briefing about Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo’s remarks opening the Synod on Monday -- which seemed to suggest there would no change on the church’s prohibition on receiving the Eucharist for Catholics who have remarried without obtaining annulments -- the Italian said: “The discourse is open.”Celli, who is the president of the Pontifical Council for Communications, said the synod has just begun and at this point the discussions are “totally open.”Durocher, who leads the Canadian archdiocese of Gatineau and is a former head of the country’s bishops’ conference, was asked if church practice towards the divorced and remarried represented a doctrine or a discipline -- and thus, whether it fit under Francis’ reassurance that doctrine was not being questioned."To be quite honest, there might be differences of opinion on that,” the Canadian replied. He said he thought that issue itself might be debated among the synod’s small discussion groups."The pope reminded us that it's one issue among many others that are confronting this session,” Durocher said of the pope’s remarks Tuesday. “We don't want to get bogged down by that issue, but at the same time it's one we will discuss seriously."Lombardi and the other spokespeople on Tuesday gave a general overview of the discussions at the synod so far, which opened Monday with Erdo’s remarks and a short planned address by Francis.The Jesuit said 72 Synod participants had made interventions during discussions in the gathering’s open sessions of Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. The Synod will be breaking into small group sessions on Tuesday afternoon, divided by language groups.Francis decided to speak Tuesday morning, Lombardi said, mainly to address questions some of the synod participants had about the process for the meeting, which has been changed from previous synods in an attempt to allow more time for discussions.The pontiff also stressed that the 2015 synod “is in continuity” with the synod held on the same theme last year, the spokesman said. The pope said there are three official documents from that synod: His own opening and closing remarks for the event, and the final report released on Oct. 18, 2014, summarizing its work.Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, a Canadian who assists the Vatican press office with English-language media, gave an overview of different themes talked about by synod participants Monday and Tuesday. He also presented what appeared to be quotations from interventions given by participants but did not identify them by name.Rosica said some common themes mentioned were: Poverty, unemployment, migration, war, and the continuing refugee crisis. He said one participant also identified a need for a better pastoral approach for couples living together before marriage.One of the synod participants, Rosica said, expressed that “there must be an end to exclusionary language and a strong emphasis of embracing reality as it is.” Another said that "our church can often be a dangerous place” and asked: “How do we make our homes and ecclesial communities welcoming places?”One synod member, Rosica said, spoke of treatment of gay persons in the church, saying: "These are our children. They are family members. They are not outsiders. They are our flesh and blood."Another member, he said, spoke about violence against women but also said that "the emancipation of women cannot exclude their obligation toward the family.""Motherhood cannot be forgotten,” Rosica quoted that member.Durocher said that there is a “great unanimity” among the synod participants that there is a “growing difference between the cultural vision of marriage and family life and what the church proposes and teaches."The archbishop said however that there is sometimes a difference of opinion between the bishops on how to address that divide. He said some prefer to emphasize church teaching, while others want to try to enter into dialogue with the prevailing culture."All the bishops ... agree that the teaching of the church coming from Jesus is a gift for the world, not just for a select few,” said Durocher. The question, he said, is: "How do you hold onto to the teaching ... and at the same time enter into dialogue with that world?"The archbishop called Erdo’s address Monday “one piece” of the Synod "as we try to listen to the voice of the Spirit guiding us forward."Other subjects Rosica said had been raised among the synod participants:That the church’s pastoral practice to divorced and remarried persons could perhaps be determined by national or regional bishops’ conferences, and;That a communal rite for reconciliation could be reintroduced, especially during the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy.Rosica said both ideas were simply raised during the course of the discussions and were not agreed upon or elaborated. Normally, reconciliation in the Catholic church occurs in private with a confessor. There is a rite for communal confession ceremonies, but they are generally not allowed.Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, who is participating in the synod at Francis’ appointment, tweeted Tuesday that the pontiff had asked the assembly members that morning to undergo a “profound discernment … to search to understand how the Lord wants his Church.”The pope, Spadaro said, also asked the participants not to give into a "hermeneutic of conspiracy” that is “sociologically weak and spiritually unhelpful.”Among those included in a Vatican list of the 72 Synod participants who spoke to the assembly Monday and Tuesday:Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga;U.S. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz;U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan;Canadian Cardinal Gerald Lacroix;New Zealand Cardinal John Dew;German Cardinal Reinhard Marx;Australian Cardinal George Pell;U.S. Archbishop Charles Chaput;Ghanaian Cardinal Robert Sarah;British Cardinal Vincent Nichols;Ethiopian Cardinal Berhaneyesus Sourpahiel.The synod continues Tuesday with small group discussions through Thursday. The prelates will meet together again in open session on Friday.
Oct 6 15 7:34 AM
Oct 6 15 11:15 AM
Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, said the synod should reflect on the possibility of allowing for female deacons as it seeks ways to open up more opportunities for women in church life.Where possible, qualified women should be given higher positions and decision-making authority within church structures and new opportunities in ministry, he told Catholic News Service Oct. 6.Discussing a number of proposals he offered the synod fathers to think about, he said, “I think we should really start looking seriously at the possibility of ordaining women deacons because the diaconate in the church’s tradition has been defined as not being ordered toward priesthood but toward ministry.”Currently, the Catholic Church permits only men to be ordained as deacons. Deacons can preach and preside at baptisms, funerals and weddings, but may not celebrate Mass or hear confessions.Speaking to participants at the Synod of Bishops on the family Oct. 6, Archbishop Durocher said he dedicated his three-minute intervention to the role of women in the church — one of the many themes highlighted in the synod’s working document.The working document, which is guiding the first three weeks of the synod’s discussions, proposed giving women greater responsibility in the church, particularly through involving them in “the decision-making process, their participation — not simply in a formal way — in the governing of some institutions; and their involvement in the formation of ordained ministers.”Archbishop Durocher, who recently ended his term as president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNS that much of his brief talk was focused on the lingering problem of violence against women, including domestic violence. He said the World Health Organization estimates that 30 percent of women worldwide experience violence by their partner.He reminded the synod fathers that in the apostolic exhortation “Familiaris Consortio” in 1981, St. John Paul II basically told the church that “we have to make a concerted and clear effort to make sure that there is no more degradation of women in our world, particularly in marriage. And I said, ‘Well, here we are 30 years later and we’re still facing these kinds of numbers.'”He said he recommended one thing they could do to address this problem was, “as a synod, clearly state that you cannot justify the domination of men over women — certainly not violence — through biblical interpretation,” particularly incorrect interpretations of St. Paul’s call for women to be submissive to their husbands.In his presentation the archbishop also noted that Pope Benedict XVI had talked about the question of new ministries for women in the church. “It’s a just question to ask. Shouldn’t we be opening up new venues for ministry of women in the church?” he said.In addition to the possibility of allowing for women deacons, he said he also proposed that women be hired for “decision-making jobs” that could be opened to women in the Roman Curia, diocesan chanceries and large-scale church initiatives and events.Another thing, he said, “would be to look at the possibility of allowing married couples — men and women, who have been properly trained and accompanied — to speak during Sunday homilies so that they can testify, give witness to the relationship between God’s word and their own marriage life and their own life as families.”
Oct 6 15 4:32 PM
Perhaps the best-known sexual abuse survivor on a panel created by Pope Francis to lead the Church on a path of reform has criticized the pontiff’s comments on an abuse case in Chile, saying she is “discouraged and saddened” by his response.Irish laywoman Marie Collins made the comments via Twitter, in reaction to news of a five-month-old video made public Friday that shows the pontiff brushing off criticism of his appointment of a bishop in Chile accused of covering up allegations against his country’s most notorious abuser priest.“Don’t be led around by the nose by these leftists who are the ones who put this [opposition] together,” the pope is heard saying.It appeared Francis used the term “leftists” to refer to Chilean politicians, mostly members of the country’s main left-wing political party, who have signed a petition opposing the bishop’s nomination.Francis was speaking about protests against his January selection of Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid as bishop of the small Osorno diocese in Chile. Barros is widely seen in Chile as a defender of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a prominent Chilean priest found guilty of abuse by the Vatican in 2011 and sentenced to a life of “prayer and penance.”“Osorno suffers for being stupid because it has not opened its heart to what God says,” Francis also said in the video.The video was captured when a former spokesman for Chile’s Catholic bishops greeted the pope in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The spokesman said the pope made the comments to him, and were captured on an iPad by an Argentine who was standing nearby.Collins was among those who criticized the appointment of Barros, even traveling to Rome along with three other members the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to meet with Boston’s Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley in an effort to have the pope’s nomination of Barros reversed.O’Malley serves as president of the commission, which is intended to advise Francis on anti-abuse policies.On Saturday, Collins sent a tweet citing Pope Francis’ comments in Spanish about “leftists” being behind the anti-Barros campaign, saying she was “disappointed and saddened” to hear of the pontiff’s reaction.Discouraged and saddened by this! Papa Francisco “no se dejen llevar por las acusaciones de los zurdos” https:[email protected]— Marie Collins (@marielco) October 3, 2015On the same day, Collins also described her April meeting with O’Malley as a “waste,” saying it feels that way “when you see the claims of Karadima’s courageous victims categorized in this way.”What a waste that trip to Rome re Barros was, when you see the claims of Karadima's courageous victims categorised in this way— Marie Collins (@marielco) October 3, 2015Back in April, Collins told Crux that her meeting with O’Malley over the Barros case had “gone well,” and that she was “happy with Cardinal Sean’s response.”On Monday, Collins told Crux that she agreed to serve on the papal commission in the hope that lessons had been learned, but that “these events undermine that hope.”“I also feel for the hurt the victims of Father Karadima must be experiencing,” she said.This is not the first instance of late in which Pope Francis’ language on the Church’s sexual abuse scandals has come in for criticism.During his recent trip to the United States, Francis met with five abuse victims and also acknowledged on the papal plane back to Rome that some bishops have “covered up” abuse allegations, calling that “very ugly” and vowing to impose accountability.Francis told the victims he was “deeply sorry” for the times they weren’t believed. He added that “clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.”Yet Francis also used a Sept. 23 speech to US bishops in Washington, DC to praise their “courage” in responding to the abuse scandals, angering some victims and advocacy groups who fault the way in which at least some American bishops have handled the situation.Collins, a longtime advocate for abuse victims, was raped at the age of 13 by a priest in a Catholic hospital in Dublin, Ireland. She’s one of two abuse survivors on the papal commission, along with British layman Peter Saunders.Although the video marked the first time Pope Francis has personally commented on the controversy generated by the Barros appointment, the Vatican in March released a statement saying the Congregation for Bishops had examined his candidacy “and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment.”
Oct 7 15 4:48 AM
Unicorn, in your post you mentioned domestic violence as an understandable reason for divorce which should be permitted by the Church. I agree with this statement however you only mentioned women as victims and men as abusers. This is not the case. Domestic violence is not a gendered issue. Both genders can abuse and both genders can be abused.
Women - Women account for two out of three murder victims killed by an intimate partner. The number of women killed by an intimate partner fell from 43% in 1980 to 38% in 1995, but rose to 45% in 2008.Men - The number of men killed by an intimate partner fell from 10.4% in 1980 to 4.98% in 2008.
Oct 7 15 4:57 AM
Synod and Roman lobbyingA synod is not a political assembly, etymologically it means 'to walk together'The sensational confession in Rome was both useless and out of place.The decision of the prelate Msgr Krzysztof Charamsa, a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to reveal his long concealed homosexuality, no doubt carefully prepared and orchestrated – just before the start of the Synod on the family – was unfortunate.Not so much because it has focused media attention solely on the subject of homosexuality instead of a much broader debate concerning family issues as a whole.But above all because, though his painful life story deserves our respect, the way he has gone about raising the question of the place of homosexuals in the Church is extremely flawed.What is at issue here is not the sexual orientation of a priest, but fidelity to a commitment of celibacy that was freely made. And in all likelihood, the wide media coverage he has attracted will not help the cause of homosexuals in general, who are struggling to find out how they fit into the Church.The provocation was also totally irrelevant: a synod is not a political assembly, nor a party congress to be influenced by lobbying, as certain groups laying siege to Rome in recent weeks seem to believe. A synod is a process that means, etymologically, “to walk together.”Pope Francis has sought to engage all Catholics in a two-year effort to respond more fully to the difficulties of families and modify the Church’s attitude to their diverse situations.As John XXIII said about the Vatican Council, “It is not the Gospel that has changed but we who understand it better.”Debate and the expression of different points of view are precious ingredients to help achieve this end. The Church is not holding a Synod so that nothing will change!But in order to “walk together,” we must take the same road and not get lost on the byways. Nor should we ambush the effort with the unspoken aim of interrupting the entire process.
Oct 7 15 5:07 AM
Synod's purpose to underline protection, importance of marriage and family as an institution, Marx emphasizesInterviewed on German television the evening of the first day of the synod in Rome, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the president of the German bishops' conference and member of the Council of Cardinals, made it clear that the problem of whether or not to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to partake of communion would not be the major topic at the synod."The synod wants to underline that marriage and the family are part of the basic foundation of our coexistence," Marx said. "They are most important and must be protected. What we must make clear, and the pope has already made clear, that we will stand by people if and when their marriages fail."Asked if he personally would allow divorced and remarried people to receive Communion, Marx said there could be no general solution. "The situations are too different. There are those who are to blame and those who have been deserted, etc. The Gospel teaching is very demanding, moreover, it must be remembered," he said. He agreed with Cardinal Walter Kasper that each case would have to be considered separately and that in certain cases it might be possible to allow a remarried couple to receive Communion, but only after the partners had come to terms with their past.When asked if he thought the decision whether or not to allow people who have divorced and remarried to receive the Eucharist would be made a matter for local bishops to decide, Marx recalled that the synod bishops had very different views on the subject."We must try to remain together," he said. "The Church is the only institution in the world that can reach unanimous agreement. Thank God we have the pope. We bishops do not have to decide. Church unity is not in danger. And once the pope has decided, we will abide by his decision." (Something that I think Muller and his cohorts - and all the cons making noises about "schism" - need to be reminded of.)Pope Francis had met with an opponent of same-sex marriage but had also embraced homosexual partners on his U.S. visit, which many Catholics found most confusing, his interviewer remarked. Views on same-sex partnerships and same-sex marriage differed greatly from country to country, Marx said."We must make it clear that we do not only judge people according to their sexual orientation," said Marx. "If a same-sex couple are faithful, care for one another and intend to stay together for life God won't say 'All that doesn't interest me, I'm only interested in your sexual orientation.' That is impossible and it is an issue we must discuss -- but it won't be a main subject at this synod. As I have pointed out, the main subject will be the importance of marriage and the family and how to protect them in today's world."At a press conference in Rome on the evening of the first day of the synod, Monday, Oct. 5, the German synod delegates described their impressions to date. Reports that the synod bishops were divided and that there was a conservative and a progressive camp had been "staged by the media," Marx told German journalists. There were no "camps" but of course opinion differed, he said. The atmosphere on the first day had been open and he was cautiously optimistic. The bishops had first of all scanned each other in order to size up power relations, but this had soon been followed by a broad discussion, he explained.Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, who heads the German bishops' conference's commission for marriage and the family, spoke of a "most exciting" first day. "The tensions between the different viewpoints are very obvious," he said.Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, who is responsible for pastoral work with young people in the German bishops' conference said he was "delighted that the pope had emphasized how important it was for the bishops to work together."And Petra and Alois Buch, the German married couple who are attending the synod, also described their first-day impressions at the press conference. "I was impressed by the pope's encouragement to speak freely and not to be afraid to speak out," Petra Buch said. "The burning issue is how the family can function at all in today's circumstances," her husband Aloys Buch said.
Oct 7 15 5:16 AM
Synod: the debate has only just begunDark clouds hang heavily over RomeIt’s the first Sunday morning of an unseasonably warm month of October.Gloomy weather conditions outside have penetrated the dense marble walls and massive domes inside St Peter’s Basilica.An exclusively male chorus leads an ancient Latin chant.And a long phalanx of stone-faced men dressed in the sacred garments that have cloaked their priestly forefathers for centuries slowly processes into what Catholics believe to be Christianity’s most sacred temple.The men and boys of the Sistine Chapel Choir are imploring dozens of saints to help these high priests as they begin a greatly anticipated, three-week meeting on marriage and the family.The choristers are singing the Laudes Regiae (the Royal Praises), a triumphal hymn to Christ the King and Victor.But on this grey morning it sounds more like a funeral dirge. There are few smiling faces.Pope Francis, himself, wears a somber look. With this liturgy he is officially convening a major gathering of the Synod of Bishops for the second time in twelve months. Officially, the theme of their discussions is, “the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world”.But as the Pope has indicated over and over again – sometimes unequivocally, other times with the cryptic use of parables – one of his greatest desires is that the bishops find more merciful and effective ways of reconciling Catholics with the Church even when they are not living up to its teachings and precepts on marriage, family and human sexuality. Yet Francis knows that among the more than 270 clerics here who are voting delegates at this Synod assembly a number are men who do not share his more merciful aspiration. These celibate men want to protect the Church’s doctrine on marriage, a teaching that has changed very little since it was last elaborated in full more than 550 years go at the Council of Trent. Although the bishops attending this Synod assembly strenuously deny it, even to the point of disbelief, the voting delegates are split roughly into two broad groupings. The first would be the “reform” or “development of doctrine” wing, while the second would be the “no change” (semper idem) or “defense of doctrine” camp. Only the disingenuous among them would deny that the Pope’s sympathies are with the reformers.And so during his Sunday homily, he reminds these unsmiling prelates that the Church must not point a judging finger at people, but must be more inclusive of all. It must be a bridge and not a roadblock.Francis is even more insistent the next day when he opens the assembly’s first working session. Paraphrasing his homily from the opening Mass he says the laws and the Sabbath were made for humans, not the other way around. And he urges the Synod delegates to remain open to the Holy Spirit and God’s surprises, rather than living as if the Church and its teaching were part of a museum that had to be safeguarded.Not long afterwards the Synod assembly’s relator general (or general rapporteur), Cardinal Péter Erdő, rises to give a long address meant to frame the discussions that will take place over the next three weeks. Astonishingly different in tone from the Pope’s message of encouraging openness to change, the Hungarian cardinal explicitly closes doors on proposals found in the Synod’s working document to help Catholics in “irregular” marital situations return to full sacramental life in the Church.The crucial question that divides the men who stand with Erdő from the reform-minded Synod Fathers like Cardinal Walter Kasper is whether the Church’s current teaching on marriage can be further developed (even if the reformers deny this is what they seek).Journalists at a press conference later on Monday put the question to the relator general three or four times in slightly different ways. But each time the Hungarian cardinal rules out any chance for ulterior development of doctrine regarding marriage. Paris’s Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, one of four men that Pope Francis delegated to preside at the daily general sessions, chimes in.“Anyone who has come to Rome expecting to see a spectacular change in Church doctrine will be disappointed,” he says with a wry smile.Meanwhile, a third Synod official listens carefully and at times looks bemused by the two cardinals. He’s Archbishop Bruno Forte, the special secretary for this assembly.The Italian theologian is one of the principal leaders of the reform wing and, because of this, he is not on the same page with the French philosopher serving as a president-delegate or the Hungarian canon lawyer serving as relator general.Nonetheless, Archbishop Forte carefully refrains from publicly debating them. In fact, he finds a way to voice agreement.“Fermo restando…” he says, as he begins to respond to Cardinal Vignt-Trois’ lapidary announcement that the Synod assembly will produce no change in Church teaching. It is a rhetorical way of saying, “Yes, of course, but..."The archbishop then points out that the Pope did not reconvene the Synod for three weeks just to do nothing.Yet he insists, in conciliatory tones, that “there will not be doctrinal modifications”. The words, coming from him, are a great disappointment to the ears of reform-minded Catholics. But they should take heart. Before Monday’s press conference is concluded on this muggy day, Archbishop Forte makes one further point.“This is not a doctrinal synod,” he says. “It is pastoral, like Vatican II.”And this may be the clue to everything that is likely to go on the next three weeks. Despite the archbishop’s words the semper idem crowd will be on guard. They know as well as anyone that no “pastoral council” in history ever changed the language, mentality and customs – and even updated the teachings – of the Catholic Church like the Second Vatican Council.Can a “pastoral synod” do so, as well?That’s the debate now underway in Rome.
Oct 7 15 6:26 AM
Belgian bishop asks Synod for 'space and responsibility' to make decisions for dioceseROME -- Belgium's representative to the worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops on family life has asked that individual prelates be given the "space and responsibility" to respond to the pastoral needs of those in their care.Bishop Johan Bonny, who heads the Antwerp diocese, makes his request in the text of his remarks to meeting, known as a Synod of Bishops.Bonny made his Dutch-language remarks public. Blogger Mark de Vries has posted an English language translation (The text of Mr. De Vries' translation is posted below.)"It is important that the Synod give space and responsibility to the local bishops to formulate suitable answers to the pastoral questions of that part of the people of God which is entrusted to their pastoral care," Bonny states in the text."The individual bishops’ conferences have a special role in this," he continues. "The Synod not only deals with 'the family as Church,' but also with 'the Church as family.' Every family knows what it means to work on unity in diversity, with patience and creativity."Each of the some 270 bishops attending the Synod is allowed one three-minute period to address the entire assembly.
Intervention on Part II, Chapter III (The Family and The Path Leading to its Fullness) of the Instrumentum laboris (IL)1. According to sociological research, marriage and family are highly regarded as values, even in modern western culture. There is an honest desire among both Christians and those who think differently for authentic friendship, lasting relationships, for children and grandchildren, for supportive family structures. For the Church this desire is a positive starting point for the proclamation of the Gospel. At the same time there are doubts in our society about the feasibility and the sustainability of marriage and family (IL 65). It is therefore important that the Church has a convincing word in favour of the choice for marriage and children, and the steps and path of growth towards making that choice. In this context, civil marriage, as institutional form of marriage and family, deserves the necessary appreciation (IL 63, 66, 102). Furthermore, our contemporaries are counting on the Church as a partner in the development of social structures and legal frameworks which benefit marriage and family life. On this point the Synod can send out a strong and, if necessary, countercultural signal.2. Sacramental marriage is, also among faithful, no longer the de facto only model of marriage and family life. The experiences of our contemporaries are very diverse and varied on this point. More than in the past, their life stories follow a personal course. Next to risks and limitations, this development also offers possibilities and opportunities. It is important that the Church highlight the positive or constructive elements in this development (IL 56, 98), value the “seeds of the Words” which are dormant in life stories (IL 56, 99), recognise the graduality in the process of growth that people go through (IL 60), respect and promote the “divine pedagogy of grace” on the path of life that God goes with people (IL 62), and also welcome a “praeparatio evangelica” in the “symphony of differences” (IL 83), and especially to end all exclusions (IL 72, 121). For couples and families the way of the Gospel today is the way of dialogue and mutual respect.3. In their local Churches bishops encounter a great variety of questions and needs, to which they must provide a pastoral answer today. Across the world, faithful and pastors have made use of the Synod and the questionnaire to present their pressing questions to the bishops and the Pope. Those questions clearly differ between countries and continents. There is however a common theme in those questions, namely the desire that the Church will stand in “the great rive of mercy” (IL 68, 106). It is important that the Synod give space and responsibility to the local bishops to formulate suitable answers to the pastoral questions of that part of the people of God which is entrusted to their pastoral care. The individual bishops’ conferences have a special role in this. The Synod not only deals with “the family as Church”, but also with “the Church as family”. Every family knows what it means to work on unity in diversity, with patience and creativity.
Oct 7 15 8:05 AM
There’s an awful lot of hand-wringing going on about the Synod of Bishops on the Family, which is only a few days into its second and final session.We’ve heard warnings that Pope Francis and his “mercy” agenda may be leading the church down the road to schism (over the question of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics), or confusion (over more welcoming language regarding gay people, cohabitating couples and others), or a “first-world vs. third-world” split, or some type of dangerous pastoral shift that was worked out before the bishops even arrived in Rome and which non-Italian speakers might not even understand when it comes time to approve or disapprove.We heard these concerns during last year’s synod session, too, and they have evidently persisted. I think that’s why Pope Francis has taken the floor and tried to reduce some of the hyperventilating that’s going on inside and outside the synod hall.He began by encouraging bishops to be open to the Holy Spirit, and not to view their meeting as some kind of Parliament. That the pope felt he had to say this speaks volumes about the kind of political posturing that’s been going on in recent months. One participant said the pope also asked the bishops not to give in to a “hermeneutic of conspiracy,” apparently responding to the murmured fears about this synod’s new methodology.The pope emphasized that the “deposit of faith” is not a “museum” but a living fountain that must have a connection to people’s lives. He said apostolic courage includes the courage to look critically at the “hardening of hearts” in the church that simply sends people further away from God.While insisting that the synod had never contemplated changing basic doctrine about the permanence of marriage, the pope said bishops need to show “evangelical humility.” That means “not pointing fingers at others in order to judge them, but extending them a hand in order to help them up, without ever feeling superior to them.” I think this plays into the pope’s exploration of how the church can restore full sacramental participation for divorced Catholics, among other things.Meanwhile, predictions that the synod would be muzzled (allegedly part of the “conspiracy” to shove through a prefabricated outcome) are proving untrue. Bishops are free to talk to reporters, and the Vatican is providing a daily “meet the press” with several bishops each day.The fact that these bishops sometimes disagree about important issues has already emerged in the press hall. That has prompted an “oh my God” reaction among some reporters, who apparently believe the church cannot survive an open discussion on these questions.I think that’s the kind of melodrama that Pope Francis is trying to move beyond. The tension between mercy and truth is not something this pope created, as readers of the Gospel will recognize.Francis believes, correctly I think, that unless the church changes its language and pastoral approach, it will continue to alienate many of the people it is trying to save. He knows this involves a difficult debate, among a hierarchy that was largely put in place by two popes who emphasized doctrinal identity.It’s far too early for predictions, but I’ll make some anyway: The synod will not derail, bishops will not pick up their briefcases and march out of the hall, the faithful will not be stunned and disoriented by the outcome. At the end of the month, I think we’ll see a final document that is largely positive about the many contributions given and sacrifices made by families today, recognizing that in the modern age the church needs to also work with “untraditional” families in ways that are more welcoming than judgmental.The pope has wisely structured this synod in a way that avoids up-and-down votes on specific final proposals. I think he probably realizes that reaching a consensus on issues like divorced and remarried Catholics, or replacing the “living in sin” language the church has used to define some relationships, will take more time. I expect some of these questions will be handed to commissions for quiet advancement in the months to come.
Oct 8 15 6:13 AM
Slow and steady wins the family synod on sexuality issuesMINNEAPOLIS -- The Synod of Bishops on the Family is expected to result in some changes in church teaching on the touchy topic of sexuality, says Massimo Faggioli, associate professor of theology and director of the Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.Faggioli predicts the synod may move the dial on allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to participate in Communion and on welcoming gay people and their families into the church more fully without going so far as to bless same-sex marriage. While he says not to expect any changes to the official teaching on contraception soon, Faggioli says that Francis has already reinterpreted Humanae Vitae, so that the teaching is not a big problem for the pontificate.That may in part be the result of unprecedented lay input into the synod process."Until Francis, the synod was basically a boring show. With Francis it’s not a show, he is really listening. He has a real agenda," said Faggioli, an Italian who spends part of each summer at the Vatican doing research.About 125 people, mostly in their 60s, 70s and 80s, paid $25 each to sip wine and share appetizers at a St. Paul, Minn., country club listening to Faggioli and human rights lawyer Barbara Frey address the question, "Can Francis change the church’s approach to sexuality?"They spoke at the invitation of the Council of the Baptized, a 21-member panel of local Catholics who meet regularly to discuss concerns of conscience. The council is affiliated with the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform.The short answer to the question of the evening is yes, but not alone. And not on a dime.Since the start of his papacy, Francis' overarching agenda has been pretty clear: to be a church of mercy and compassion. To give people the benefit of the doubt. To be attractive to people by focusing more on the mundane than the arcane.Not that he's throwing out the book, but he may simply be more pragmatic than his predecessors about how the world works and what Catholics actually do.Yet between the pope and his people are his bishops, who tend to avoid the near occasion of change.That's especially true regarding matters of sex and family life, such as the use of birth control, welcoming gays into the church more wholeheartedly, and allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to take Communion even without having received an annulment."The idea of the pontificate of mercy is also about the healing of wounds," Faggioli said. "The most dangerous wound in the body of the church in this country is that mentality that there is no common ground between different cultures in the church especially on below–the-belt issues."How did the American hierarchy get so far apart from the people?American bishops seem to reflect a more conservative political ideology than the actual practices of their Catholic flock. (Which makes me wonder if they are so caught up in their ideology that they have forgotten, or don't care, to actually listen to their flock.)A new Pew Research survey of 5,122 US adults including 1,016 self-identified Catholics found that 76 percent approve of artificial birth control, 46 percent say gay marriage should be recognized, 66 percent say it’s acceptable for gay couples to raise children, about a quarter have been divorced, and 44 percent have lived with a romantic partner outside of marriage."I have never seen a church as divided as the U.S. church, which has become part of the cultural wars between the two political parties. Catholic church teaching is captive of that war," Faggioli said.Mary Ellen Jordan, an organizer of the St. Paul event, believes the stonewall on changing church teaching could be a combination of institutional hubris along with fear on the part of the average priest to disagree."I think the church is afraid to change, to say they were wrong, number one," said Jordan, "I think most priests are afraid of speaking out. Privately they will tell you one thing, but they will not speak out."She and other members of the Council of the Baptized wrote a position paper, "Toward a Healthy Christian Theology of Sexuality," and sent it to all synod participants and the local acting Archbishop Bernard Hebda who has agreed to meet with the group.Outsize influence of American bishops It's important to remember that the American church is only a small percentage of the global church but can have outsized influence on the natural discourse.One example of undue American influence, says Faggioli, is mistranslation of portions of last year's interim synod report from Italian into English, such as where the original Italian verb said that the church should "welcome" but was changed into English as "provide for" gays."It’s not clear if you are in or out," says Faggioli. "What surprised me is they thought they could get away with it. That was ridiculous."What’s disturbing to Frey is that the Holy See — the church’s state department — has essentially strong-armed its agenda in some ways that actually contradict Francis’ emphasis on mercy and justice and his human rights focus.Frey directs the Human Rights Program at the University of Minnesota and has a long history of leadership, advocacy and research on international human rights.The Holy See has "become the standard bearer of the natural family movement on behalf of non-Christian countries," including those that foster an extremely misogynist society, such as Iran and Libya, she said."That is a very troublesome development," Frey said. "While I fully respect any religion or individual to hold strong moral positions, the problem is even as you are condemning sexual violence against women and girls, and only giving [the] option of natural family planning, it is not relevant to lived experience of women and girls around the globe."When it comes to birth control, Frey pulled no punches. In 2012, contraceptive use prevented 218 million unintended pregnancies in developing countries, and, in turn, averted 55 million unplanned births, 138 million abortions (of which 40 million are unsafe), 25 million miscarriages, and 118,000 maternal deaths.Then there is the life-saving benefit of barrier methods such as condoms, which prevent or lessen exposure to HIV/AIDS — the leading cause of death for women worldwide between ages 15 and 44."When we talk about contraception, we are talking about life and death matters," Frey told the group.Frey said she feels somewhat hopeful that the pope's encouragement of lay Catholics' being including women in the synod process may prompt changes.Slow and steady wins the raceIn the end, there is no guarantee the synod voters will allow lay perspectives to shift their attitudes. In the end, the bishops will still carry the most weight in the final output of the synod.And it's key for Americans to remember that the U.S. church is only 6 or 7 percent of the global church, Faggioli said. "In one sense, in the conservative sense, there is risk of Americanizing an event of the universal church. The difficulty of the synod is finding a consensus that all people can live with — churches that are culturally very different."[Francis] can’t change policies by himself overnight. If he does, it is the end of the Catholic church," he said. "There is a fiction of absolute papal power. He does not have legal tools to force 5,000 bishops to do as he says."Faggioli believes there is potential for a major institutional rift if the U.S. bishops and other hard-liners feel backed into a corner.Instead, what's likely in coming years is the church’s longstanding way of changing doctrine will take effect: that is, to simply allow untenable topics to fade from view, Faggioli said."I think we can expect slow and marginal changes in the language and official teachings of the church on issues that for decades we were not allowed to talk about."No pope wants a schism his watch."
Oct 8 15 6:42 AM
Letter from Rome: Holy Spirit vs. 'Undue Media Pressure'Never has a gathering of the Synod of Bishops in Rome created such interest around the world. And not just among Catholics.Whether or not it was his intention, Pope Francis has involved the entire Christian community — and, in a sense, the whole human race — in an ongoing reflection, debate and conversation surrounding the “crisis” of marriage and the changing nature of the nuclear family.Speaking at his weekly general audience on Wednesday, the third day of the Synod’s three-week assembly, the pope asked the tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to “pray intensely” that the Holy Spirit might work through the bishops to bring about “a church that leaves behind its old nets and begins fishing anew by trusting in the word of its Lord.”This same desire, it would seem, is also shared by many Catholic communities, families (of various types), and individuals. And in unprecedented numbers they have expressed their concerns and offered their experiences to their bishops and the Synod’s secretariat.The Paulist Fathers are among these Catholics. This missionary society of apostolic life, which was founded in New York in 1858, has issued a twelve-page “reflection on the family” that it recently delivered to all the North American bishops and delegates attending the current Synod assembly.The Catholic Church’s moral tradition is one of the “great strengths” that “continues to provide a much-needed compass for our lives,” says Paulist President, Fr. Eric Andrews, in a preface to the document.“It has also been the tradition of the Church to hold in balance the guidelines of our moral understandings with lived realities,” he says, noting that Pope Francis has encouraged everyone in the Church to “dialogue on these critical issues so we may discern where the Holy Spirit is leading us in this day and age”.The Paulists say they “feel called to speak on these issues from pastoral experience.” And here are just a few of the suggestions they ask the Synod to consider adopting: a more inclusive notion of “family”; a more gentle approach to separated and divorced Catholics (“We urge the Synod to consider St. John XXIII’s admonition that the ‘medicine of mercy,’ the Eucharist, is to be freely dispensed [to the divorced and remarried]”); and a greater openness towards “the personal needs, sexual experience, and covenant commitment of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers with the utmost pastoral care and sensitivity.”***Some of the reform-minded members of the Synod, those who would agree with much found in the Paulists’ reflections, were not exactly thrilled with the way a veteran Vatican official burst “out of the closet” last Saturday and announced he had a male partner.The general concern was that the “clamorous” revelation by Msgr. Krzysztof Charamsa, a Polish priest and theologian who has worked at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) since 2003, would only stiffen the resolve of those bishops who are vehemently opposed to even the slightest acceptance of homosexual couples or unions.Naturally, the Vatican reacted swiftly to the “coming out” of Msgr. Charamsa who called the CDF the “heart of paranoid homophobia in the Church”.Papal spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ said: “The decision to make such a pointed statement on the eve of the opening of the Synod appears very serious and irresponsible, since it aims to subject the Synod assembly to undue media pressure.”The spokesman stressed that his denunciation had nothing to do with the “respect” and “reflections” that the issue of homosexuality and gay people merit. Obviously, his point was that priests make a public promise to live a life of celibacy; when they break the promise their sexual orientation is immaterial.And so Fr. Lombardi, whose statement was later published in L’Osservatore Romano, said Msgr. Charamsa would be sacked from his job at the CDF and his several teaching appointments at pontifical universities in Rome, as well has his position as adjunct secretary of the International Theological Commission. (This was no minor Vatican paper pusher!)And yet some organizations and individuals that identify as Catholics, and should know better, reacted bitterly to the firing, something Msgr. Charamsa never contested. Others criticized the priest for waiting so long to finally come clean and stop the hypocrisy, which — in fairness — he readily acknowledged. In fact, he apologized for participating in what he sees as the Church’s persecution of GLBT persons.But it seems the Polish theologian is not done speaking. He has a book that will soon be out and it will likely have a much more disrupting impact on the Church, potentially at the highest levels of the hierarchy.Apparently, the now former Vatican official will provide documented evidence of high-ranking Church officials — including current CDF prefect, Cardinal Gerhard Müller — who are working actively to thwart some of Pope Francis’s reforms.Evidently he will also offer proof of other unsavory activity by the doctrinal office during his thirteen years there.Don’t forget that Msgr. Charamsa worked under three CDF prefects and their respective administrations. If he tells all he knows, his book could be extremely explosive.
Oct 8 15 10:11 AM
Some years ago, I attended a presentation by the late Rev. Raymond Brown, a Sulpician priest and one of America’s great Catholic Biblical scholars, in which he commented on the obvious differences between the Acts of the Apostles and St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians in their accounts of the Council of Jerusalem.Brown joked that every now and then, he had the good luck to miss a faculty meeting at the Union Theological Seminary where he taught. When he would ask colleagues afterwards what happened, he said, he was always struck by the contrasts in their recollections.“One would tell me, you should have been there because I really told so-and-so off,” Brown said. “When I asked someone else about it, they’d say, ‘Oh, did that person speak? I don’t really remember’.”His point was that without any intent to deceive, the priorities and interests people bring to an experience inevitably color the way they recall it, which helps explain the otherwise puzzling contrasts between two Biblical versions of the same event.That exegetical insight comes to mind amid coverage of the 2015 Synod of Bishops in Rome, because it captures the most frustrating aspect for journalists trying to cover it.The dirty little secret is that we’re not really covering the synod at all. For the most part, we’re covering people telling us about the synod, which is an entirely different enterprise.To actually cover the synod would mean being inside the hall during the discussions, being able to develop our own impressions of what’s being said, to gauge the reaction, to watch body language and intonation and atmosphere, and to get an overall sense of emerging themes for ourselves.That’s how one would cover a session of Congress, for instance, or a UN summit, or any other important gathering, but that’s decidedly not how things work at a Synod of Bishops.Instead, on Day One the introductory speeches are carried live on a video feed and the full texts are provided — albeit only in Italian, which is a challenge for people who don’t cover the Vatican all the time. From that point forward, the video feed is shut down and all outside observers, reporters very much included, are expelled from the synod hall.(Journalists have the opportunity to go inside to watch the morning’s prayer each day, but are shooed away before the working sessions begin.)In the past, the Vatican would provide written summaries of the talks each bishop gave during the synod’s general assemblies. Although these often weren’t the complete version of what the bishops said, they at least allowed individual prelates to be quoted by name in terms of the points contained in the brief version.That practice was discontinued for the 2014 synod and not revived this time, on the grounds that bishops were being encouraged to be more spontaneous and not shackled to a prepared text.To plug the informational vacuum, there are media briefers in each of the main languages who sit in a special gallery during the synod meetings and who come to the Vatican Press Hall afterwards to provide an overview of what they’ve heard, without attributing individual points to specific speakers.(As a footnote, that custom gives rise to one of the great parlor games of the synod period. Whenever these briefings break up, reporters get together and try to noodle out who inside the synod is most likely to have uttered the disembodied quotes we were just given.)There are several problems with this way of doing things, beginning with the fact that the briefings generally occur at 1 p.m. Rome time and go on for at least an hour, putting a serious crimp in one of the most glorious aspects of life in the Eternal City: Lunch.Far more important is the fact that there’s way too much material floated in these general discussions to capture it all, which means the briefers have to pick and choose, and that opens the door to the problem Brown described of viewer bias.The same point applies, by the way, when reporters conduct interviews with individual bishops along the way. We’re still getting one person’s take on the dynamics, rather than witnessing them for ourselves.When the bishops break up into small groups, we don’t get anything, not even anonymous accounts of their discussions, although the Vatican has vowed to release their written reports along the way.In some quarters, the fact that we’re getting information second-hand has led to accusations of explicit manipulation. The suspicion is that we’re being presented a selective view of the discussion intended to promote certain outcomes and to minimize dissent.In reality, such conspiracy theories generally give the Vatican too much credit. Rather than some Machiavellian plot, the more typical explanation is that people are simply muddling through, making the best of an imperfect situation.Let’s grant two points. The Vatican media team makes a heroic effort.
They often work almost around the clock for a full month. They’re trying hard to be sensitive to the media’s needs; for instance, inviting at least a couple of bishops to speak to the press every day.(If anything, they’re being a little too accommodating, allowing all manner of activist groups and advocates to register as journalists and get into the press hall, with the risk being that news conferences can be hijacked by parties with an agenda.) There’s good reason for the closed doors.
Aside from the possibility that participants in the synod’s deliberations occasionally may have sensitive information to divulge, no one wants them preening for the TV cameras rather than honestly speaking their minds.That said, it’s steadily more common for bishops on their own to release the texts of what they said on the floor, either via their own press office or through social media. Given that, it seems increasingly pointless to impose a blackout.Perhaps going forward, a better system would be to make the general sessions public, with a live video feed and a pool of reporters inside the hall. Working groups would still be closed, with the caveat that full reports are released.If that happened, there would be no need for briefings in which quotes and themes are presented without names attached, and thus a reduced risk of bias or selectivity on the part of Vatican personnel. (It would still be there in the press corps, naturally, but that’s another conversation.)That might not be a perfect solution, but arguably it would at least bring media coverage of the synod and the reality of what’s going on into slightly closer alignment, and that’s in everyone’s interest.
Oct 9 15 5:24 AM
In the first major reveal of what’s on the minds of the majority of bishops taking part in the Oct. 4-25 Synod of Bishops on the family, the Vatican on Friday released summaries of the first week of conversations in 13 small working groups organized by language that met on Wednesday and Thursday.Several themes emerged from those reports:Many bishops seem to feel that the diagnosis of the contemporary situation facing the family offered in the working document of the synod, technically called the Instrumentum Laboris, is excessively negative. They’re calling for a clearer recognition that living the traditional Christian vision of the family isn’t just difficult or rare, but actually happens in a fairly widespread fashion.There’s a sense that the way the conversation has been framed at the synod is excessively based on a European or North American perspective, and doesn’t adequately bring into focus the challenges facing the rest of the world.Many bishops seem to want to include the Church in the list of problems facing the family, acknowledging the “inadequacy of pastoral support” and failures in “Christian formation.”Several groups also want the synod to take on some specific challenges they see on the horizon, including “gender theory,” meaning the idea that one’s gender is changeable, and the tendency of some international organizations to tie development assistance for poor nations to liberalizing policies on sexual ethics.The desire for a more positive tone, one that treats the realization of Catholic teaching on marriage and the family as something within the reach of ordinary people, ran through several of the reports.The synod’s final report “should begin with hope rather than failures, because a great many people already do successfully live the Gospel’s good news about marriage,” said the English-language group headed by Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, warning against breeding a sense of “pastoral despair.”“If marriage is a vocation, which we believe it is, we can’t promote vocations by talking first about its problems,” the group said.“Practically all the groups said, ‘Let us celebrate the goodness of the family, the efforts of so many people to preserve the family,” said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in the Philippines during a Vatican briefing.“There’s a positive, hopeful, celebratory tone,” he said.An Italian group led by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, president of the powerful Italian bishops’ conference CEI, flagged the concern with an overly Western perspective.The working document, the group said, is “strongly conditioned by a Western (European and North American) perspective,” it said, “above all in its description of the challenges opened by secularization and individualism that characterize consumer societies.”The Spanish group led by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, the coordinator of Pope Francis’ council of cardinal advisors, underlined the need for the Church to acknowledge its own role in family struggles.“It’s true that external factors affect us and are strong, but how have we answered as a Church?” the group asked.“We’ve failed in ‘Christian formation’ and in the education in the faith, so [people] arrive to marriage with many loopholes,” the group said.One of the groups that raised the question of international pressure on developing nations to abandon traditional family values was an Italian one led by Cardinal Edoardo Menichelli of Ancona, who was named a cardinal by Pope Francis.“We hope for a change in the practice of international organizations that link their assistance for the development of the poorest nations to demographic policies,” it said.The 2015 synod heard the small group reports on Friday and will hold another general session on Saturday. In the end, the 270 bishops gathered in Rome will present their recommendations to Pope Francis, who will ultimately decide what changes, if any, to make.
Oct 9 15 9:10 AM
German archbishop: Church’s stance on divorce makes people ‘doubt God’VATICAN CITY -- One of Germany’s representatives at the worldwide meeting of Catholic prelates on family has pointedly told the gathering that church teaching preventing divorced and remarried persons from receiving the Eucharist makes people “doubt God.”Berlin Archbishop Heiner Koch has used his 3-minute address during the deliberations to directly address one of the issues known to be creating the most disagreement among the prelates, saying he is often asked why remarried couples are barred from the Eucharistic table.The church’s theological arguments “do not silence the questions in the hearts of people,” Koch told the assembly. (And he is correct.)“Is there no place at the Lord’s table for people who experienced and suffered an irreversible break in their lives?” he asked. “How perfect and holy must one be to be allowed to the supper of the Lord?”“It becomes clear to me every time that the question of allowing divorced and remarried people to the Eucharist is not in the first place a question about the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage,” said the archbishop.“Many people question the Church and her mercy in this regard,” he said. “More than a few people concerned leave the Church with their children on the basis of what they see as rejection.”“Ultimately and most profoundly it is much more about the Christian faith and God and His mercy,” he continued. “For many, the question of admittance to the Eucharist makes them doubt God.”Each of the some 270 bishops participating in the Oct. 4-25 Synod is being given three minutes to address the entire assembly. While the meetings are not open, and the press is therefore not witnessing each of the statements, some of the bishops are making their remarks public....The German archbishop’s text is notable for the way it directly confronts an issue known to be causing disagreement in the Synod. (For which I heartily applaud Archbishop Koch.)While some bishops have expressed an openness to a proposal for some sort of “penitential path” to allow some divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion, others have expressed concerns that such a proposal would put in doubt the church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.Divorced and remarried Catholics are currently prohibited from taking Communion unless they have received annulments of their first marriages.In a sign of the disagreement on the issue, of the Synod’s organizers opened the event Monday by saying there could be no “graduality” on the matter.“In the search for pastoral solutions for the difficulties of certain civilly divorced and remarried persons, it is presently held that the fidelity to the indissolubility of marriage cannot be joined to the practical recognizing of the goodness of concrete situations that stand opposed and are therefore incompatible,” said Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdő, who is serving as the Synod’s general relator.“Indeed, between true and false, between good and evil, there is not a graduality,” he continued. “Even if some forms of living together bring in themselves certain positive aspects, this does not mean that they can be presented as good things.”Koch, who was appointed as the leader of the Berlin archdiocese by Francis in June, also focused his comments at the Synod on a range of other issues. He spoke in particular about the needs of interfaith marriages, struggles of single parents, of families with many children, of refugees, and a desire to protect the elderly and unborn children“It is so important that the Holy Father, with us, sends out from this Synod the Gospel of the mystery of marriage, with a new hermeneutic, in a new language, a language of fullness, of blessing, of the richness of life, provocative and inviting for the people,” said the German archbishop.“What grace is offered to the people, what participation in God’s order of creation and salvation, what depths of mutual love between God and people: Marriage is for us about a life in fullness and in the love of God, even in our brokenness,” said Koch.“This must be our message in Church and society,” he said. “The Synod cannot give the impression that we mainly fought over divorce and conditions for admittance to the sacraments.”
Concerning Point 28 of the Instrumentum laboris:Until recently I was the bishop of the Diocese of Dresden-Meißen and now I come to the Synod as archbishop of Berlin. In eastern Germany more than 80 per cent of the people are not baptised and have often not had any contact with the Christian faith and the Church for many generations. We Catholics are sometimes no more than 3 or 4 percent of the population. But in the cities, for example in Dresden and Leipzig, we are a young Church: the majority of Catholics is between 20 and 30 years of age. That is the age at which young people marry and start a family. Many of them, however, do not want to get married and live together unmarried. For many, that has nothing to do with a lack of commitment or a failing morality. The institution and the tradition of marriage is not considered to be of vital importance.Concerning Point 35 of the Instrumentum laboris:But when two young people marry before the Church – often one of the couples belongs to another faith or confession, and not seldomly he or she is not baptised – then this is in our society a profound and often thought-provoking witness of faith: “Why do they marry before the Church? What does that mean?” unbaptised friends wonder when they experience such a Church wedding. The wedding leads them to the question of God and the faith. I am grateful to the witness of young people who are preparing for marriage. Forty percent of the marriages of Catholics in my archdiocese are marriages in which one of the partners belongs to another confession. Such marriages are ecumanically speaking a special challenge and opportunity. These families expect from us an encouraging word. In section 28 of the Instrumentum laboris they are taken into account much too weakly.It is so important that the Holy Father, with us, sends out from this Synod the Gospel of the mystery of marriage, with a new hermeneutic, in a new language, a language of fullness, of blessing, of the richness of life, provocative and inviting for the people. What grace is offered to the people, what participation in God’s order of creation and salvation, what depths of mutual love between God and people: Marriage is for us about a life in fullness and in the love of God, even in our brokenness. This must be our message in Church and society. The Synod can not give the impression that we mainly fought over divorce and conditions for admittance to the sacraments.However, deeply faithful young Christians also ask me, in light of experiences in their families and circles of friends, the question: “But when we divorce and later enter into a new marriage, why are we then barred from the table of the Lord? Does God refuse the people who have gone through a divorce?” I then try to explain why divorced and remarried people can not receive Communion, but the arguments of these theological statements do not silence the questions in the hearts of people: Is there no place at the Lord’s table for people who experienced and suffered an irreversible break in their lives? How perfect and holy must one be to be allowed to the supper of the Lord? It becomes clear to me every time that the question of allowing divorced and remarried people to the Eucharist is not in the first place a question about the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage. Many people question the Church and her mercy in this regard. More than a few people concerned leave the Church with their children on the basis of what they see as rejection. Ultimately and most profoundly it is much more about the Christian faith and God and His mercy. For many, the question of admittance to the Eucharist makes them doubt God. (And for the conservatives to continue to brush aside this truth - uncomfortable though it may be - is both incredibly short-sighted and, quite frankly, unrealistic and sorely lacking in compassion.)Concerning Point 29 of the Instrumentum laboris:In Berlin alone there are more than 100,000 single parents with all their challenges and stress in their personal lives, raising their children and their work. In all that we think about: They too are families.Concerning Points 24 to 27 of the Instrumentum laboris:Families with many children, who are a blessing for us, deserve special care. In Germany their number has dropped more drastically than in other parts of the world; a true reason for our demographic concerns. Their financial security, insufficient recognition of the pedagogical benefit of the parents in our society and the difficulty of later reintegration into the work force represent great scandals. To them in particular we should express a word of recognition and our esteem.Concerning Point 29 of the Instrumentum laboris:For one third of the Catholics in the city of Berlin, German is not their mother tongue. Berlin is home to many immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees. From the first day of my service in this city I have also witnessed the drama of refugee families, separated by violence or fled together, but now far from home. We can not leave these families alone, not even at this Synod. The Holy Family fled and only had a manger for their child, but this refugee family became a blessing for us all. Does God perhaps today also want the refugee families in particular to be a blessing for us? At this Synod we must also speak about these families and we must speak about ourselves as the new family of Jesus, the family of His Church, which does not erect any walls or barbed wire. The refugee families are part of us and we of them. We are a blessing for each other.Concerning Points 17 and 20 of the Instrumentum laboris:We should be grateful to the married couples who have faithfully lived and sometimes also persevered in the life of their families in good and bad times, for their witness of faith made with their marriage, and also express this as a Synod. Family is more than young parents with their young children. Perhaps family life becomes hardest in old age and death, about which ever more pressing questions are being asked in our society. The current discussion in Europe about so-called assisted dying is even more dramatic as many elderly people find no home in their families and no place for them in their small houses and in the face of many occupational stresses. Aging, being ill and dying are topics of the family, about which we can not remain silent in this Synod, when we talk about the beauty of the family. Protecting unborn life from conception and protecting life during and at the end of life belong inseparably together.Rome, 5 October 2015Heiner KochArchbishop of Berlin
Oct 9 15 9:21 AM
The Zoghby Affair: Seeing the Synod Through a Vatican II DisputeWill divorced and civilly remarried Catholics ever be re-admitted to the Communion line? That was the question—first raised by Cardinal Walter Kasper in a February 2014 speech to the College of Cardinals—that shaped much of the media coverage of last October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family. And it’s already driving reporting on this month’s synod, when hundreds of the world’s bishops will again take up pastoral issues related to family life. Many church-watchers have noted how remarkable it was that bishops were considering a change in church practice—and that many of them have been disagreeing about it in public. But most news coverage of the debate failed to mention one of its most remarkable features: It has happened before—fifty years ago, at Vatican II.On September 29, 1965, the Melkite Archbishop Elias Zoghby, patriarchal vicar for Egypt and the Sudan, rose to address the Council fathers. They had been discussing the part of Gaudium et spes that treated marriage and the family. While contraception was the most hotly debated issue, Zoghby announced that he would discuss a problem “more crucial than birth control”— namely, how the church could assist an innocent spouse whose husband or wife had abandoned their marriage to form an illegitimate union with another person. Zoghby argued that it was wrong for pastors to tell an abandoned spouse that she or he had no other choice than perpetual continence. He acknowledged that marriage was taught to be indissoluble “by the positive law of Christ,” while noting Christ’s words “except on the ground of unchastity” (Mt 5:32; 9:6-9). A proper response would be to allow the innocent spouse to contract a second marriage. Indeed, that practice had been “preserved in the East, and was never reproved during the ten centuries of union [with Rome].” He remarked that the Council of Trent had even taken the traditional Eastern procedure into account. In conclusion, Zoghby urged that during such a period of ecumenism, dialogue, and recovery of Patristic tradition, the whole church should consider adopting this practice.That night, Pope Paul VI’s secretary asked the Swiss Cardinal Charles Journet to respond to Zoghby. The cardinal worked until 1 a.m. to prepare his speech. The next morning, on orders of the pope, Journet displaced the scheduled first speaker. In his brief but forceful intervention, Journet stated that the Catholic Church preserved Jesus’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, and had no power to change matters of divine right (ius divinum, referring to Mk 10:2ff and I Cor 7:10-11). The seeming exception in Matthew, “except on grounds of unchastity,” means that separation is allowed in the case of adultery, but does not mean that a second marriage is licit. Journet continued:It is true that some churches in the East have admitted divorce in the case of adultery, and have also allowed innocent spouses to contract a new marriage. But this happened, given the existing relationships between state and church at the time, under the influence of civil law.... When these [Eastern] churches admitted other grounds for divorce beyond the one introduced above, it appears that they followed...a procedure (modus agendi) more human than evangelical.Paul VI’s choice of Journet was significant, because the Swiss theologian was eligible to speak as a Council father only because the pope had made him a cardinal in February 1965. For years, he had been one of Paul VI’s favorite theologians. The pope would later ask Journet to help him write his apostolic constitution on indulgences, Indulgentiarum doctrina.The newspapers described Zoghby’s proposal as a “bomb” dropped in the council chambers, suggesting that he had advocated for divorce (not unlike some of the news coverage following last month’s news that Pope Francis had streamlined the annulment process). As Zoghby left the aula after Journet gave his response, reporters rushed to question him. In his My Journal of the Council, Yves Congar took note of the controversy: “Discussion on marriage. Journet responds in an unyielding (raide) fashion to Zoghby who had, yesterday, brought up the Greek fathers on the indissolubility of marriage. He does not see any solution for broken and destroyed marriages other than heroism. I don’t take notes of the discussions, it’s in the newspapers.”In the Acta of the Council, the only hint of support for Zoghby’s proposal is found in a comment by Archbishop Giuseppe Descuffi of Smyrna, an Italian Vincentian. His position was very similar to Zoghby’s, with the aim of promoting union with the Eastern churches. He argued that nullity could be declared because of deliberate and ongoing adultery, which would indicate a lack of the kind of consent needed to form an indissoluble bond.Zoghby’s superior, Patriarch Maximos, was asked by the newspaper La Croix about his vicar general’s proposal. The patriarch replied that he did not know beforehand that Zoghby was going to raise the topic, and distanced himself from Zoghby’s position:The church must hold fast to the indissolubility of marriage, for, even though in certain cases the innocent spouse is sorely tried because of this law, the whole of family life would be shaken and ruined without this law. Moreover, if divorce in the strict sense were to be allowed on the grounds of adultery, nothing would be easier for less conscientious spouses than to create this cause. The contrary practice of the Eastern Orthodox churches can be supported by a few texts by certain fathers. But these texts are contradicted by others and do not...constitute a sufficiently constant and universal tradition to induce the Catholic Church to change its discipline on this point.That didn’t silence Zoghby. (Thank heavens.) He spoke again on October 4, 1965, reminding the Council fathers that his proposal was limited to the innocent abandoned spouse who was “condemned to live...in forced continence” through another’s fault. He had deliberately avoided using the word “divorce” so as not to call into question the “immutable principle of the indissolubility of marriage.” He was not asking the church to recognize divorce, but rather to offer a pastoral dispensation. Such a dispensation would not undermine the indissolubility of marriage any more than the “Petrine Privilege,” which allows a pope to dissolve a valid natural union in order to allow someone to enter a sacramental union. Zoghby had only meant to suggest that the Catholic Church consider adding adultery or definitive abandonment to its list of grounds to declare a marriage null. He left it to the church to judge whether it was opportune to accept his proposal. With that, discussion of the matter during official Council proceedings came to an end.Yet the conversation continued. A year later, Time ran an article covering new Catholic thinking about divorce. Zoghby’s “jarring” intervention featured prominently:The church’s willingness to grant annulments while refusing to permit divorce troubles many Catholics. At the Vatican Council’s concluding session, Melchite [sic] Archbishop Elias Zoghbi [sic] denounced the “subtle casuistry” of the church: “It happens that after ten or twenty years of marriage, they suddenly discover an impediment that permits everything to be resolved as though by magic...” He suggested that the Catholic Church allow divorce on certain grounds, such as abandonment, as the Orthodox churches do.Time noted that while Journet, “presumably on Pope Paul’s orders, hastened to spike further debate by reasserting the church’s traditional teaching,” Zoghby had nevertheless, according to theologian Edward Schillebeeckx, “placed the problem on the table, and that in itself is most important.”There are some striking parallels between the Zoghby and Kasper proposals. Both came to the attention of the media when speaking to a meeting of bishops in Rome. Both presented their proposals as pastoral responses to a pressing problem. In both cases, a pope called on a theologian to make a public intervention. Cardinal Journet was favored by Paul VI. Pope Francis invited Kasper to speak to the College of Cardinals last year, and has recommended his book Mercy. But there are also significant differences between Zoghby and Kasper.Zoghby carefully avoided speaking of divorce. He addressed only one kind of marriage breakup: the separation resulting from the abandonment of an innocent spouse by an unfaithful one. In that case alone, the church could allow the dissolution of the existing bond in favor of the innocent victim, he argued, allowing her or him to remarry and receive other sacraments. Zoghby found support for this option in tradition and patristic teaching. Kasper’s proposal is both more novel and more far-reaching, if I understand it correctly. In determining whether a divorced-and-remarried person could return to the sacraments, the reason for the failure of the first marriage would be of less weight than one’s “sincere interest” in receiving the sacraments in the present.In the Zoghby affair, one bishop on his own initiative made a revolutionary proposal that was quickly slapped down by a cardinal hand-picked by the pope. This effectively silenced further discussion. At the 2014 consistory, a cardinal hand-picked by the pope presented a radical proposal—as Kasper himself has called it, meaning “getting down to the root (radix)”—leaving it to other bishops to decide. The paragraph of last year’s final synod report mentioning the Kasper proposal failed to win the customary two-thirds vote required for publication, yet the pope put it in the final text anyway, setting the stage for this month’s synod. Paul VI shut down the debate. Francis enlarged it. The similarities between the two events are striking, but it’s their differences that may be more significant. For when Pope Francis opened the synod process last year, he urged the assembled bishops to “speak freely.” In the end, that may be the difference that matters most.
It is true that some churches in the East have admitted divorce in the case of adultery, and have also allowed innocent spouses to contract a new marriage. But this happened, given the existing relationships between state and church at the time, under the influence of civil law.... When these [Eastern] churches admitted other grounds for divorce beyond the one introduced above, it appears that they followed...a procedure (modus agendi) more human than evangelical.
The church must hold fast to the indissolubility of marriage, for, even though in certain cases the innocent spouse is sorely tried because of this law, the whole of family life would be shaken and ruined without this law. Moreover, if divorce in the strict sense were to be allowed on the grounds of adultery, nothing would be easier for less conscientious spouses than to create this cause. The contrary practice of the Eastern Orthodox churches can be supported by a few texts by certain fathers. But these texts are contradicted by others and do not...constitute a sufficiently constant and universal tradition to induce the Catholic Church to change its discipline on this point.
The church’s willingness to grant annulments while refusing to permit divorce troubles many Catholics. At the Vatican Council’s concluding session, Melchite [sic] Archbishop Elias Zoghbi [sic] denounced the “subtle casuistry” of the church: “It happens that after ten or twenty years of marriage, they suddenly discover an impediment that permits everything to be resolved as though by magic...” He suggested that the Catholic Church allow divorce on certain grounds, such as abandonment, as the Orthodox churches do.
Oct 9 15 9:47 AM
Synod bishops express confusion in group reports, cardinal calls it healthyVATICAN CITY -- Catholic prelates attending the worldwide meeting of bishops on family have expressed confusion over what is expected from them in their deliberations, writing in their first public reports from the gathering that they do not understand how their discussions will be used by Catholics around the globe.They also seem to have fairly stark differences of opinion regarding how the church should approach families, particularly over whether Catholic leaders should adopt a stance of criticism towards modern lifestyles or of praise for their positive aspects and even commonalities with certain church teachings.Participants of the ongoing Synod of Bishops made their observations Friday with a release of reports from 13 different small discussion groups that have been meeting Tuesday through Thursday. The groups are organized by language preference and are split into circles of French, English, Italian, Spanish and German.The four English language groups -- led respectively by Australian Cardinal George Pell, British Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Irish Archbishop Eamon Martin, and Canadian Cardinal Thomas Collins -- take different tacks towards the work of the prelates.Where Martin’s group, for example, speaks of a need to “read the signs of the times” in the church’s outreach to families, Collins’ group obliquely says there is a need to point out sinful behavior of current attitudes and lifestyles.But each of the groups also expresses particular confusion about not knowing exactly what their work will be used for, and whether they are meant to create a document for public distribution or just to give advice to Pope Francis, who will then write his own document based on their counsel.“Are we writing to the Holy Father, to families of the Church, or to the world?” asked Collins’ group, in one example.Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle defended the process of the work and the role of confusion shortly after the release of groups’ reports at a press briefing Friday. Tagle said a new method of discussion was being tried at this Synod, and that “definitely it has caused … a bit of confusion.”“But it's good to be confused once in a while,” said the cardinal, laughing. “If things are always clear, then we might not be in real life anymore.” (And this is why Cardinal Tagle is so deeply loved by the Filipinos - the man understands life and its challenges.)The Philippine cardinal also said that it is unknown whether the Synod will create its own final document, or simply provide some sort of advice to Francis. In each of the Synods held since 1974, the bishops at the gathering have only provided advice to the pontiff of the time, who then wrote an official letter known as an apostolic exhortation.Tagle said that might not be the case this time, and the 2015 Synod may take the direction of the Synod held in 1971, which wrote the landmark document Justice in the World."We just want to remind everyone based on history that the first synods called by Pope Paul VI did not end with a papal … apostolic exhortation," said the cardinal."I guess it is not mandatory," he said, adding that the practice of a Synod writing its own document "has been tried already in the past -- well, it could happen again."In that light, the 13 reports released Friday from the Synod's various small groups may indicate what direction such a final document could take. As part of their task, the small groups were reflecting on an initial working document for the Synod, known as an Instrumentum Laboris.The groups, however, were only focusing Friday's reports on the first of three parts of the working document. They will focus on the second and third parts in the Synod's second and third weeks, releasing separate reports on those.Among the English circles, the most negative take on the working document came from Collins' group. U.S. Archbishop Charles Chaput serves as that group's relator, or secretary. (Why am I not surprised that this particular working document should be the most negative? I wonder, sometimes, if Chaput even really wants to be at the Synod, or if he's even interested in listening to other prelates' perspectives.)That group said that in the working document they "found much of the text to be flawed or inadequate, especially in its theology, clarity, trust in the power of grace, its use of Scripture and its tendency to see the world through overwhelmingly Western eyes." (For heaven's sake - why doesn't Chaput simply take the Instrumentum laboris, feed it through a shredder, and throw it in to the stove at the Sistine Chapel? All that criticism is a slap in the face to the authors of the IL, and to the Pope himself, who approved its publication.)The group also wrote that the Synod might consider adopting a certain style of St. Paul, whom they said "would often write a prologue of praise to people whose sins he would then critique.""This was a common style in his epistles, and effective," they state.Making their point clearer, the group states: "Overall, members felt that Pope Francis and the people of the Church deserve a better text, one in which ideas are not lost in the confusion." (It seems to me that Chaput's the only person who's really confused about the IL. And he's certainly doing his level best to whine about it. Maybe he should just come out and say that he should have been the one to write it, since he's so disparaging about the whole document.)Martin's group also took something of a negative tone towards the working document, but focused its critique more on the fact that the document uses too much so-called "churchspeak." Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge serves as that group's relator."We also considered certain phrases which have become commonplace in Church documents, among them 'the Gospel of the family' and 'the domestic Church,' " wrote that group. "These were vivid and illuminating formulations when they first appeared, but in the meantime they have become clichés, which are less clear in their meaning than they are usually assumed to be.""We felt that it may be a good thing if they were given a rest and if we chose instead to use a language which was more accessible to those unfamiliar with our particular speak," they wrote. (Now, this is criticism that is valid - and understandable. In order to reach as many persons as possible, it would be better for Church documents to be written in a more accessible, if not a more down-to-earth style, so that more of the laity can read, understand and appreciate them."Like Vatican II, this Synod needs to be a language-event, which is more than cosmetic," they stated. "We need to speak of marriage and the family in new ways, which has implications on both the macro and micro level, as it does on both the local and universal level."Martin's group also called for "a less negative reading of history, culture and the situation of the family at this time.""To see and speak positively of things is not to indulge in a kind of denial," they state. "It is rather to see with the eye of God, the God who still looks on all that he has created and still finds it good."That group also says they were conscious of a "danger of lapsing into an idealized, removed and disembodied sense of family, which may have its own beauty and internal coherence but which can end up inhabiting a somewhat bloodless world rather that the real world of families in all their variety and complexity.""The Church does not inhabit a world out of time, as the Second Vatican Council, 'the Council of history,' recognized," they write. "Nor does the Church inhabit a world outside human cultures; the Church shapes cultures and cultures shape the Church.""In considering marriage and the family here and now, we were conscious of the need to address the facts of history and the realities of cultures -- with both the eyes of faith and the heart of God," they state. "That is what it has meant for us to read the signs of the times."Nichols' group -- where Irish Archbishop Diarmuid Martin serves as relator -- also wrote of the need for "a more simple language, accessible to families" in the Synod's final document.That group also said that the church "should ... openly recognize the inadequacy of the pastoral support that families receive from the Church on their itinerary of faith."Pell's group -- where U.S. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz serves as relator -- states that it sought to speak less of "crisis" in family life today and more of "lights and shadows." It called on the Synod to "hold up the strengths and seeds of renewal already present so families might be active agents of the Good News of Jesus."The Synod continues meeting Friday afternoon and Saturday in open session, where prelates are given three minutes to address the entire gathering. The group will take Sunday off before reconvening in their small circles on Monday and Tuesday.Kurtz, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, also spoke at the briefing Friday. He said he believed the small group discussions were part of a "healthy process" to allow the bishops to listen to various voices.Tagle said that one idea he had heard presented in the small groups was that because there might be certain issues the whole Synod cannot agree on, those issues might be handled by local bishops' conferences.“While there is the unity of the church -- one faith, one doctrine -- the situations differ," said the Philippine cardinal. "And so there was a serious proposal to see what space could be given to the episcopal conferences to address issues, concerns that are somehow peculiar to them, but always in the light of the common faith."“How that will be worked out at this stage has not been proposed yet," he said.
Oct 9 15 11:38 PM
After the first week of Synod meetings, today the 13 language-based discussion groups (circluli minores) concluded their analysis of the first section of the working document of the Synod’s Ordinary Assembly (the Instrumentum laboris) highlighting the need: for the family to be cast in a more positive light instead of focusing too much on its crisis; for the “gender theory” to be criticised more openly and for the risks of secularisation to be underlined; for a less Eurocentric and western-focused approach and the need to give more attention to subjects such as care for the disabled. Each language group published a report (four in English, three in French and Italian, two in Spanish and one in German). The same procedure will be repeated once the remaining two sections of the document have been discussed at the end of the two upcoming weeks. The reports, which were anything but univocal, contained a number of objections and proposals. The Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Louis Antonio Tagle, said it is normal for there to be a bit of “confusion” due to the new method that this Synod is following, which is more participatory. It is only right that the Instrumentum laboris, a “martyr text” , should be improved through the collegial contributions of bishops from across the world. The analysis of the document prepared by the Synod Secretariat reveals that the Synod focuses too much on “negative aspects” and on “problems that are very European, too European in fact, which risks things being seen through a sort of prism”. These statements are present in the report issued by the second French-speaking group led by Cardinal Robert Sarah. The first French-speaking group moderated by Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, is a bit vaguer. According to this group, even though they may speak the same language, “the coming together of different cultures” is still “a unique expression of Catholicism which is never definitively grasped” and requires “reciprocal explaining”. While the vast majority of groups concurred that the tone of the Synod was “too negative”, the criticisms regarding Eurocentrism were stronger in some groups, for example, in the group led by Cardinal George Pell (“a discussion that is too Eurocentric and western-western focused”) and the fourth group led by Cardinal Thomas Christopher Collins (the text seems to “focus too much on European, western or North American issues”). These were absent in the report issued by the second English-speaking group headed by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, while the third group, headed by Mgr. Eamon Martin, stressed that “the interplay between unity and diversity is fascinating”. This group recalled that the final document will need to move in “a different, fresher direction” compared to the Instrumentum laboris. The Italian-speaking groups also made this point: the group led by Cardinal Francesco Montenegro underlined that “understandably there were some difficulties at the start but these have been progressively overcome”. Regarding the working document, he said that “there were some initial objections, showing the different and legitimate sensitivities of the Fathers”; The group headed by Cardinal Edoardo Menichelli simply suggested the text needed “a bit of cutting down”. The third group, moderated by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, wrote that “the content of the text was seen by many as expressing a western (European and North American) perspective, particularly in the description it gives of the various aspects of secularisation and individualism in today’s consumerist society and the challenges they pose”. The two reports issued by the Spanish group gave more general comments on the working document. The German group was more positive, emphasising a significant congruity with the Instrumentum laboris. A number of different points were highlighted by the 13 circuli minores, but there were a number of points that cropped up again and again in the various groups. The groups that are more critical of the working document insist on the need to speak more at length about the gender theories (for example, Cardinal Bagnasco’s group underlined the need to highlight their ideological nature more, helping families to get back their original right to educate their children about responsible dialogue with other educators”), the challenge of disability in families and migration. In the first French group some stressed the need for “dialogue with out contemporaries”. The second English-speaking group highlights social problems such as “housing shortages, unemployment, migration, drugs and the cost of educating children”. The group moderated by Menichelli spoke out against “the limits of a feminism that only seeks equality” and against “child labour , child soldiers and women’s bodies,” calling for a “positive approach to sexuality”. He also recalled the “bioethical challenge”. The group co-ordinated by Cardinal Collins (with Mgr. Charles Chaput acting as rapporteur) underlined that “many Christian families offer a counter-testimony to negative tendencies” in society. The first Spanish-speaking group called for more of a focus on “the beauty of human love that is open to life”, contesting the fact that the Church’s way of thinking is “medieval”. The German-speaking group moderated by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn emphasised that marriage “is not just an issue in the Catholic faith”. Regarding methodology, the second Francophone group proposed a “review of the magisterium” in order to ensure greater theological and canonical clarity. The second English-speaking group said “every local Church must try to identify specific instances of family marginalisation in their societies”. The German-speaking group said it was important that the concluding document respects the “unique aspects” and cultural “differences” within the Church because wat is needed is “a differentiated analysis and judgement”. Different groups stressed that there the Synod only lasts three weeks and does not offer adequate time to address all questions raised. Joseph Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville and President of the US Bishops’ Conference, echoed concerns about “the concluding document being over-preoccupied, seeing things from too much of a Western or even Eurocentric angle instead of testifying the richness of the real experience of the family,” stating that “it is better to talk about highlights and weak points that about a crisis” in the family. “In my mind, this work resembles a school of fine arts – also in terms of the great method being used. We are striving to achieve the best painting, looking for the best painting brushes so that we can show the show the real face of the original structure of life which is the family,” the Archbishop of Madrid, Carlos Osoro Sierra said. He also focused on migration and unemployment. Regarding the new method being followed by the Synod on the Family, it “may have” “caused a bit of confusion” but “it is good to be confused now and again. If things were always straightforward, it wouldn’t be real life,” said Cardinal Louis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, at the daily press briefing: if the working document was definitive, then “what would have been the point of convening 300 bishops?” “In the past,” the Filipino cardinal stressed, “the circuli minores put forward proposals for the Holy Father who then wrote a post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation but Paul VI’s first Synods did not end with a papal exhortation: Paul VI granted the Synod the power to publish its own document which served as a final document, but I suppose it is not obligatory; it happened in the past so why should it not happen now? We are waiting for the Pope’s decision.” The cardinal added: “the Pope has already said that the Synod cannot change the Chruch’s doctrine, we are confirming and re-evaluating its teaching. The focus is on pastoral care, how we accompany families that are divided by war and migration, how to turn doctrine into practice in certain situations. There is one faith but many different situations, serious proposals have been emerging with regard to how more power can be given to episcopal conferences to deal with its own questions, with faith always at the centre.”Opening today’s press conference, the Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, referred to what the Secretary General of the Synod said, recalling that every Synod Father is free to make the content of his own speeches public. This was an implicit reference to the Polish episcopal conference’s decision to publish speeches on its website. He clarified, however, that Synod Fathers are not to publish the contents or summaries of other participants’ speeches.
Oct 9 15 11:59 PM
Last Monday night, I began writing my rebuttal to a post at First Things which, among other things, alleged that the synod was essentially rigged, a charge also made by Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register. The next morning, lo and behold, the Holy Father made a rare intervention in the synod, denouncing a “hermeneutic of conspiracy,” and I posted my finished blog rebutting the conspiracy theorists. To be clear: Pope Francis and I are not in cahoots! But, it is very disturbing to see so many people resisting the pope’s efforts to invite the Church to consider a simple question: What does it mean to be a Church faithful to God’s mercy? And, more specifically, what does that mean in the context of the family? With the pope taking on the conspiracy theorists, one could anticipate a change in tactics by the resistersLast night, I tuned in to EWTN’s “The World Over with Raymond Arroyo.” (Borrowing a recently uttered phrase by the statesman Donald Trump, I assure the readers “I am not a masochist!” but I have to see what is being said.) Robert Royal made the correct observation that the situations of families, and especially many of their problems, in the wealthy West are not the same as those in the Global South. I wish the Church would warm to the idea that pastoral practice can differ, does differ, and must differ, from one culture to the next, especially in an institution as culturally embedded as marriage and family life, and that the authorities in Rome should give wider latitude to local bishops and episcopal conferences in determining pastoral practice.The rest of the program, however, was an exercise in resistance, not to the pope really, but to the Lord Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep, in which the Master asks, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” Mr. Royal made clear that the synod should not focus so much on “secondary issues” like the divorced and remarried or gays and lesbians, but should focus on supporting Catholic families. He was echoing Archbishop Charles’ Chaput’s intervention, in which he emphasized the need for “perseverance” and did not once mention the word “mercy.” I do not entirely disagree that a proper focus of the synod, perhaps even the major focus, should be on supporting families. But, the bishops are there because they are shepherds and the parable of the lost sheep is clear: It is the shepherd’s job to leave the ninety-nine and go off in search of the one who is lost. Of course, in the context of the Church’s teaching about marriage, today the shepherd must leave the 50 sheep and go off in search of the other fifty, for fully half of Catholic marriages in the West end in divorce. That alone should question the viability of the Royal-+Chaput approach: It is not working!But, the parable of the lost sheep is not about pastoral strategy really, is it? It is about how God views each and every person as so inestimably precious, and wants, wants desperately, to bring them into His fold. What have the moralists and the culture warriors done recently to really make the divorced and remarried or the gay and lesbian Catholics feel that they are precious? When push comes to shove, and the choice is to embrace them even at the risk of the “clarity” of our moral teaching, or to ramp up that clarity, draw distinctions rather than build bridges, we know where they come down. They seem terrified that if they let their guard down against “secularism,” they will lose what they have. They are timid, and afraid, like the man who buried his treasure in the parable of the talents. In his magisterial biography of Edmund Burke, Conor Cruise O’Brien notes that when young Burke went to Trinity College, he started a debating club and a newspaper. “Both were moralistic, preoccupied with improvement in taste and knowledge, earnest, determined, talented, a bit priggish, with the air of a rising middle class about them,” he writes. Listening to EWTN last night, and reading +Chaput’s intervention, and his comments at the press briefing, this passage of O’Brien’s biography came to mind.The parable of the lost sheep in the Gospel of Luke is situated between two other parables, the lost coin and the lost son, better known as the Prodigal. In each of these, with ever great emphasis, Jesus is trying to teach His disciples about God’s mercy. It has been noted before, by me and by others, that +Chaput and others who seem to resist the implications of God’s mercy for the Church’s pastoral practice sound like no one so much as the older son in that parable. They have been loyal and faithful, and wonder how anyone could even think of treating the wayward one as their equal, nay, with even greater celebration than the stalwart like themselves. Yet, for all their talk about the explicit words of Jesus regarding divorce and remarriage (“it was not so in the beginning”), they tend to overlook these other explicit words of Jesus regarding mercy.I would submit that the Parable of the Prodigal is not only in the Gospel, it is the heart of the Gospel. It is about God’s love overflowing His justice, issuing in mercy, all because God the Father, somewhat improbably, just loves us human beings more than we can imagine. It is up to the synod fathers to determine how to reconcile Jesus’ explicit words on marriage with His explicit words on mercy. (I will point out: If the Church is to re-orient its moral teaching to a pre-lapsarian “it was not so in the beginning” vision, the +Chaput and EWTN and Weigel et al. can kiss good-bye to the right to private property, which is a right conferred only in consequence of the Fall!) This is, as the Holy Father suggested, no effort to find compromise so much as it is an exercise in recognizing that our understanding of God’s truth is always inadequate, always needs refreshment, always needs to find new and better ways to connect the many truths contained in Revelation. Whether or not the Catholic Church should take such-and-such stance regarding the divorced and remarried or gays and lesbians, or any other issue to come before them, I hope the synod fathers, the shepherds, will find ways to give the Catholic people the same sense of wonder and awe and gratitude that we experience when we hear those four words: A man had two sons.
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