Pope Francis’ address at the conclusion of the Synod

 Participants_begin_to_enter_the_Vaticans_Synod_Hall_before_the_Friday_session_of_the_Synod_on_the_Family_Oct_10_2014_Credit_Daniel_Ibez_CNA_CNA_10_10_14(Vatican Radio) At the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Pope Francis addressed the assembled Fathers, thanking them for their efforts and encouraging them to continue to journey.

Below, please find Vatican Radio’s provisional translation of Pope Francis’ address to the Synod Fathers: 

Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,

With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.

From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart.

I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!

I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

- One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

- The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

- The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

- The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

- The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro(with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of  their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God’s People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it… that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.

One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].

May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!

[The hymn Te Deum was sung, and Benediction given.]

Thank you, and rest well, eh?

Here’s the speech with Father Z’s comments.

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Closing Remarks Of The Synod

We, Synod Fathers, gathered in Rome together with Pope Francis in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, greet all families of the different continents and in particular all who follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We admire and are grateful for the daily witness which you offer us and the world with your fidelity, faith, hope, and love.

Each of us, pastors of the Church, grew up in a family, and we come from a great variety of backgrounds and experiences. As priests and bishops we have lived alongside families who have spoken to us and shown us the saga of their joys and their difficulties.

The preparation for this synod assembly, beginning with the questionnaire sent to the Churches around the world, has given us the opportunity to listen to the experience of many families. Our dialogue during the Synod has been mutually enriching, helping us to look at the complex situations which face families today.

We offer you the words of Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20). On his journeys along the roads of the Holy Land, Jesus would enter village houses. He continues to pass even today along the streets of our cities. In your homes there are light and shadow. Challenges often present themselves and at times even great trials. The darkness can grow deep to the point of becoming a dense shadow when evil and sin work into the heart of the family.

We recognize the great challenge to remain faithful in conjugal love. Enfeebled faith and indifference to true values, individualism, impoverishment of relationships, and stress that excludes reflection leave their mark on family life. There are often crises in marriage, often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another. Failures give rise to new relationships, new couples, new civil unions, and new marriages, creating family situations which are complex and problematic, where the Christian choice is not obvious.

We think also of the burden imposed by life in the suffering that can arise with a child with special needs, with grave illness, in deterioration of old age, or in the death of a loved one. We admire the fidelity of so many families who endure these trials with courage, faith, and love. They see them not as a burden inflicted on them, but as something in which they themselves give, seeing the suffering Christ in the weakness of the flesh.

We recall the difficulties caused by economic systems, by the “the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose” (Evangelii gaudium 55) which weakens the dignity of people. We remember unemployed parents who are powerless to provide basic needs for their families, and youth who see before them days of empty expectation, who are prey to drugs and crime.

We think of so many poor families, of those who cling to boats in order to reach a shore of survival, of refugees wandering without hope in the desert, of those persecuted because of their faith and the human and spiritual values which they hold. These are stricken by the brutality of war and oppression. We remember the women who suffer violence and exploitation, victims of human trafficking, children abused by those who ought to have protected them and fostered their development, and the members of so many families who have been degraded and burdened with difficulties. “The culture of prosperity deadens us…. all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us” (Evangelii gaudium 54). We call on governments and international organizations to promote the rights of the family for the common good.

Christ wanted his Church to be a house with doors always open to welcome everyone. We warmly thank our pastors, lay faithful, and communities who accompany couples and families and care for their wounds.

***

There is also the evening light behind the windowpanes in the houses of the cities, in modest residences of suburbs and villages, and even in mere shacks, which shines out brightly, warming bodies and souls. This light—the light of a wedding story—shines from the encounter between spouses: it is a gift, a grace expressed, as the Book of Genesis says (2:18), when the two are “face to face” as equal and mutual helpers. The love of man and woman teaches us that each needs the other in order to be truly self. Each remains different from the other that opens self and is revealed in the reciprocal gift. It is this that the bride of the Song of Songs sings in her canticle: “My beloved is mine and I am his… I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 2:16; 6:3).

This authentic encounter begins with courtship, a time of waiting and preparation. It is realized in the sacrament where God sets his seal, his presence, and grace. This path also includes sexual relationship, tenderness, intimacy, and beauty capable of lasting longer than the vigor and freshness of youth. Such love, of its nature, strives to be forever to the point of laying down one’s life for the beloved (cf Jn 15:13). In this light conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.

This love spreads through fertility and generativity, which involves not only the procreation of children but also the gift of divine life in baptism, their catechesis, and their education. It includes the capacity to offer life, affection, and values—an experience possible even for those who have not been able to bear children. Families who live this light-filled adventure become a sign for all, especially for young people.

This journey is sometimes a mountainous trek with hardships and falls. God is always there to accompany us. The family experiences his presence in affection and dialogue between husband and wife, parents and children, sisters and brothers. They embrace him in family prayer and listening to the Word of God—a small, daily oasis of the spirit. They discover him every day as they educate their children in the faith and in the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel, a life of holiness. Grandparents also share in this task with great affection and dedication. The family is thus an authentic domestic Church that expands to become the family of families which is the ecclesial community. Christian spouses are called to become teachers of faith and of love for young couples as well.

Another expression of fraternal communion is charity, giving, nearness to those who are last, marginalized, poor, lonely, sick, strangers, and families in crisis, aware of the Lord’s word, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). It is a gift of goods, of fellowship, of love and mercy, and also a witness to the truth, to light, and to the meaning of life.

The high point which sums up all the threads of communion with God and neighbor is the Sunday Eucharist when the family and the whole Church sits at table with the Lord. He gives himself to all of us, pilgrims through history towards the goal of the final encounter when “Christ is all and in all” (Col 3:11). In the first stage of our Synod itinerary, therefore, we have reflected on how to accompany those who have been divorced and remarried and on their participation in the sacraments.

We Synod Fathers ask you walk with us towards the next Synod. The presence of the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their modest home hovers over you. United to the Family of Nazareth, we raise to the Father of all our petition for the families of the world:

Father, grant to all families the presence of strong and wise spouses who may be the source of a free and united family.

Father, grant that parents may have a home in which to live in peace with their families.

Father, grant that children may be a sign of trust and hope and that young people may have the courage to forge life-long, faithful commitments.

Father, grant to all that they may be able to earn bread with their hands, that they may enjoy serenity of spirit and that they may keep aflame the torch of faith even in periods of darkness.

Father, grant that we may all see flourish a Church that is ever more faithful and credible, a just and humane city, a world that loves truth, justice and mercy.

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Dear God,

Perfect trust in His Father’s will

Dear God,

You know what I want before I do,

You know what I sorely need before the need arises in my own mind.

You know my greatest need is to learn to trust in You, totally.

This need to trust in you springs from realising my personal sinfulness, original sin, and concupiscence. These bad things are both the cause and result of my Faith-less-ness.

I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!

Lord, carry me upon Thy shoulders that I may be Crucified with You, and be Resurrected with You.

We proclaim your Death, O Lord,
and profess your Resurrection
until you come again.

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Does the Church now ‘welcome’ fornicators, adulterers, sodomites?

The simple answer is “no“. It never has and it never will because these evils go in direct contrast to the teaching of Our Blessed Saviour Jesus Christ. His Bride, the Church, where the “gates of Hell will not prevail” cannot change her Divine mandate.  Any Church (like some of the Protestant denominations) that refuses to call sexual acts outside marriage, between one man and one woman, sinful, is no longer part of the One True Church.

But this is where the Catholic Chuch has always welcomed fornicators, adulterers, active homosexuals…. and all sinners who repent of their disordered lifestyles and wish to beg God’s mercy and forgiveness. In this little box, down there….

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“Go, and now sin no more” (John 8:11)

Edit: Those of us who recognise the gravity of sins that have separated us from God and repent of them, are automatically welcomed back lovingly into the ‘Fold’ of the Church. It would be wrong and a hypocrisy to welcome‘ sin and try to justify the unjustifiable.

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Cardinal Burke: “The Pope has done a lot of harm”

From BuzzFeed NEWS: 

Cardinal Raymond Burke leaves meeting during Extraordinary Synod on the Family in Vatican City.Franco Origlia / Getty Images

A top cardinal told BuzzFeed News on Friday that the worldwide meeting of church leaders coming to a close in Rome seemed to have been designed to “weaken the church’s teaching and practice” with the apparent blessing of Pope Francis.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, an American who heads the Vatican’s highest court of canon law, made the remarks in a phone interview from the Vatican, where a two-week Extraordinary Synod on the Family will conclude this weekend. An interim report of the discussions released on Monday, called the Relatio, produced a widespread backlash among conservative bishops who said it suggested a radical change to the church’s teaching on questions like divorce and homosexuality, and Burke has been among the most publicly critical of the bishops picked by Pope Francis to lead the discussion.

If Pope Francis had selected certain cardinals to steer the meeting to advance his personal views on matters like divorce and the treatment of LGBT people, Burke said, he would not be observing his mandate as the leader of the Catholic Church.

“According to my understanding of the church’s teaching and discipline, no, it wouldn’t be correct,” Burke said, saying the pope had “done a lot of harm” by not stating “openly what his position is.” Burke said the Pope had given the impression that he endorses some of the most controversial parts of the Relatio, especially on questions of divorce, because of a German cardinal who gave an important speech suggesting a path to allowing people who had divorced and remarried to receive communion, Cardinal Walter Kasper, to open the synod’s discussion.

“The pope, more than anyone else as the pastor of the universal church, is bound to serve the truth,” Burke said. “The pope is not free to change the church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage or any other doctrine of the faith.”

Burke has publicly clashed with the pope since Francis took office in 2013, and he has come to represent the sidelining of culture warriors elevated by Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict and as the top doctrinal official under Pope John Paul II. Burke, who caused controversy while bishop of St. Louis by saying Catholics who voted for politicians supportive of abortion rights should not receive communion, went on Catholic television in 2013 to rebut remarks Pope Francis made to an interviewer that the church had become “obsessed” with abortion and sexuality to the exclusion of other issues, saying, “We can never talk enough about that as long as in our society innocent and defenseless human life is being attacked in the most savage way,” Burke said. While Francis famously responded to a question about homosexuality in 2013 by asking, “Who am I to judge?” Burke described homosexual “acts” as “always and everywhere wrong [and] evil” during an interview last week.

In the interview with BuzzFeed News, Burke confirmed publicly for the first time the rumors that he had been told Francis intended to demote him from the church’s chief guardian of canon law to a minor post as patron to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

“I very much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service, so it is a disappointment to leave it,” Burke said, explaining that he hadn’t yet received a formal notice of transfer. “On the other hand, in the church as priests, we always have to be ready to accept whatever assignment we’re given. And so I trust, by accepting this assignment, I trust that God will bless me, and that’s what’s in the end most important.”

When the pope first took office, his pivot away from an emphasis on questions of sexuality were more a matter of personal tone rather than changes in church policy or personnel. There were rumors that he was trying to oust the man chosen by Pope Benedict to head the church’s office responsible for doctrine, Gerhard Müller, but last winter he instead elevated him from archbishop to cardinal. When word that Burke was on his way out began circulating last month, it signaled that Francis would take major steps to reshape the church. It coincided with the selection of a new archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cupich, whom Catholic progressives celebrated for positions like breaking with the American church hierarchy when it withheld its support for President Obama’s health reform law over questions of abortion and contraception.

Internal discontent among conservatives inside church leadership began to simmer over in the weeks leading up to the synod. Just before it began, Burke, Müller, and other senior cardinals published a book in several languages attacking the ideas laid out by Cardinal Walter Kasper on allowing those who had divorced and remarried to receive communion in a speech heartily praised by Pope Francis. It broke into open revolt at the midpoint of the synod, following publication of a document presented as a summary of discussions but that conservatives said misrepresented the debate by including passages on “welcoming homosexual persons” and discussing some of Kasper’s proposal on divorce. The backlash appeared to have been especially strong from the English-speaking world, which includes a large number of African and American bishops; in an apparent attempt to mollify anglophone conservatives, the Vatican released a new translation of the report that changed the phrase “welcoming homosexual persons” to “providing for homosexual persons” and made other small changes, while leaving the versions in all other languages unchanged.

The report is now being revised with feedback from small-group discussions held this week, and a final version is scheduled to be voted on on Saturday. Burke said he hoped that the committee writing the new report will produce a “worthy document,” but said his “trust is a little bit shaken” by the language in the interim draft he said lacks “a good foundation either in the sacred scriptures or in the church’s perennial teachings.”

But there seems to be little middle ground between Pope Francis’ worldview and Burke’s. Francis was president of the Argentinian bishops conference when that country passed a marriage equality bill in 2010 and reportedly tried to convince his colleagues to support a civil union proposal instead. He lost the internal battle and gave voice to the hard-line consensus that the law was “sent by the devil.” The fight over the bill left the church appearing out of step with the beliefs of many in Argentina, a country where 76% identify as Catholic but only 38.2% went to church in 2005, per the most recent data available from the Association of Religious Data Archives. While Francis has shown no sign he supports overhauling the church’s teachings that homosexuality is sinful, he seems to have taken from this experience a desire to downplay conflicts over sexuality in order to broaden the church’s message.

But, Burke said, the church must always call a “person who’s involved in sinful acts … to conversion in a loving way, but obviously, like a father or mother in a family, in a firm way for the person’s own good.” There cannot be “a difference between doctrine and practice” on questions like homosexuality or anything else, Burke said.

“The church doesn’t exclude anyone who’s of goodwill even if the person is suffering from same-sex attraction or even acting on that attraction,” said Burke. “If people don’t accept the church’s teaching on these matters then they’re not thinking with the church and they need to examine themselves on that and correct their thinking or leave the church if they absolutely can’t accept. They’re certainly not free to change the teaching of the church to suit their own ideas.”

Click and scroll down for a transcript of the interview section in which Cardinal Burke talks about his demotion.

 

 

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Why Do Marriages Fail? Here’s one often-overlooked Root

MatrimonyThe news from the Synod this day is improved. Thanks be to God, many, yes many, of the bishops and synod participants have articulated how deficient and misleading the “rough draft” Relatio was. Keep praying! The struggles to lay hold and articulate with clarity God’s stunning teaching on Holy Matrimony and family in a doubtful world will continue.

But frankly even at the moment Jesus uttered his unequivocal insistence that Marriage was one man and woman in an indissoluble bond, many were stunned and scoffed: If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better never to marry! (Matt 19:10) Jesus of course did not back down and went on to reiterate his teaching, while also affirming that celibacy (never to marry) had a positive not a negative role (Matt 19:11ff).

Our struggle today to recapture and reaffirm without compromise what Jesus taught is surely challenging in a climate when so many Marriages fail. I was listening to an interview yesterday in which the question of how to stem the tide of failed marriages was pondered.   All the usual remedies were discussed: better catechesis, better marriage prep, more sermons on Matrimony etc. But both in the interview concluded that, in a culture as troubled as ours, the “education/catechesis” model was only going to have limited effects. Both agreed that deeper changes and healing in the culture would be required for marriage and many other things to recover substantially and statistically.

Let me ponder with you a deep but often unexplored root of the trouble with marriage today. It is interesting because it actually emerges from something good today, but something which is good in a detached and therefore unmoored sense: and that is, our high idealism about marriage. Let me explain.

We live in times that have become quite cynical about anything being good or noble or pure. But many today still have an extremely high ideal for marriage; that marriage should be wonderful, romantic, joyful, loving and happy. Yes, this is quite an ideal, rather rooted in the dreamy wishes of romantic longing, but still an ideal none the less. Amor omnia vicit! (Love conquers all!). Surely we will live happily ever after, like every story says!

But here’s the problem: Many want their marriage to be ideal, and if there is any ordeal, they want a new deal! Yes many are wander about in a U2 song: I still haven’t found what I’m looking for!

Yes, the problem is there is no ideal marriage, just real marriage. Two sinners have married. A man and a woman with fallen natures, living in a fallen world, governed by a fallen angel, have entered the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. But like any Sacrament, the graces of Holy Matrimony are necessary not because things are wonderful, but because they are difficult and often-times hard. Marriage is meant to sanctify but, like baptism, its offered graces gradually unfold and to the degree and speed that the couple cooperate with God’s work.

Real Marriage is going to take a lifetime of joy and challenges, tenderness and tension, difficulties and growth for a man and woman to summon each other to the holiness that God gives. And some of God’s gifts come in strange packages wherein struggles and irritations are often opportunities for growth and to learn what forgiveness, patience and long-suffering are really all about. But these are precious things to learn or and grown in. Frankly, if we don’t learn to forgive, we are going to go to Hell (e.g. Mt 6:14-15). Even the best marriages have tensions. But, no tension, no change.

This may not be the “ideal, happily ever-after” marriage, but it is the real one, full of joy, love, hope and tenderness, but also sorrow, anger, disappointment and stresses.

The real problem comes not from our ideals about marriage, which are good to strive for, but from the fact that we conceive of these ideals in a hedonistic and instant-gratification culture.

Hedonism is the “doctrine” that the sole and chief goal of life in this world is happiness and pleasure. (The Greek word hedone means “pleasure” ). But in the hedonist view any diminishment of pleasure and happiness is the worst thing imaginable, a complete disaster. On account of this “doctrine” of pleasure many insist on a kind of God-given right to be happy and pleased. Even many devout Christians fall prey to a very exaggerated notions of hedonism and excuse some pretty selfish and sinful behaviors by say, “Well, God wants me to be happy, doesn’t he?” And thus, when the Church or an individual suggests that perhaps some one should do what is hard or difficult, the hedonist culture does not just react with puzzlement but downright indignation, as if to say: “How dare you get between anyone and what makes them happy?!”

So our notion of an ideal (happy, fulfilling blissful) marriage is seen through the lens of hedonistic extremism. And thus if the ideal is not found, many sense the need, and a perfect right to end the less than ideal marriage in search of the greener valley.

And this is then added to our instant gratification culture of “overnight shipping,” “buy it with one click” and “download now!” If the ideal marriage is not evident very soon, the disappointments and resentments come quickly.

Yes, resentments. There is an old saying: “Unrealistic resentments are premeditated resentments.” How quickly our unrealistic notions of an instantly ideal and almost picture-perfect marriage are dashed on the shoals of reality. And thus we return to the premise: Many want their marriage to be ideal, and if there is any ordeal, they want a new deal.

Somewhere, not only in the Church’s marriage prep program, but also in our work of assisting personal formation we need to teach and become aware of the ultimately destructive notion of unrealistic expectations. Our ideals are not the problem per se, but we must become more sober of our conception of our ideals through the lens of hedonism and instant gratification. Growth takes time. Life moves through stages. Marriage is hard, but so is life. Cutting and running from the imperfect marriage as too many do rather quickly today is no ultimate solution. Sure enough one imperfect marriage yields another, and perhaps yet another.

Rest assured I do not sit in judge met over everyone who has ever divorced. I speak here to a culture trend (perfectionism jaded by hedonism and instant gratification) that contributes to the perceived need and “right” of many to “move on” if happiness is not quickly and stably attained. In the (even recent) past we tended more to stick things out, to work through some of our differences and to live with some of our differences. Life was more seen as hard, a kind of exile to endure on our way to our true homeland and to true happiness. Surely we looked to some joys here but we had more of a sense of the passing quality of all worldly things, good or bad. We do well to regain something of the more sober appreciation that life here is a mixed bag and is going to have its challenges. Marriage is no exception. And though we may idealize it, we should be aware that we are often setting ourselves up for resentments and disappointments if we do not balance it with the understanding that marriage is hard because life is hard.

Clearly there are many other problems that contribute to high divorce rates today. But here is one often overlooked root: Many want an ideal marriage. If there is any ordeal, they want a new deal. (We do well to remember that in a world with adults behaving like this, it is the children who get the raw deal). This is a deep cultural root of our divorce problem, a deep wound that we should become more aware of.

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Full Text of Cardinal Burke’s Major Interview to Il Foglio on the Synod

From Rorate Caeli:

Faith is not decided by vote

Cardinal Burke against the media manipulation on the Synod. And very clear on everything else.

by Alessandro Gnocchi

Il Foglio

October 13, 2014

The world likes Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke very little or not at all.  And , if it is possible, the Church likes him even less than does the world.  On the other hand, this 66-year-old American from Richland Center, Wisconsin, has done everything as a Catholic to successfully carry out his intent to set a fire under the consciences of Christians who are all too inclined to tepidity.

He participates in the Marches for Life, he says that Communion is not to be given to those politicians who support abortion laws, he denounces the rapid progression of the homosexual agenda, he makes Pope Francis know that the defense of the non-negotiable principles is not something that depends on the moods of Popes, he supports the Mass in the Traditional Rite.  Recently he authored one of the essays in the recently published book,  Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church. This book was written in open opposition to the attempt on the part of Cardinal Kasper, using his own concept of mercy, to define a new understanding of the family and giving Holy Communion to those divorced and remarried. It is not strange, therefore, that part of the curial shuffling decided upon by Bergoglio will have the result that Burke will go from being the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, to  a position of exile as the Cardinal Protector of the Sovereign Knights of Malta.  But meanwhile at the Synod on the Family this very fine canonist, a son of rural America has taken on the role of the leader of the opposition, or perhaps better to say thekatechon, against the change in direction that has been laid at the door, without denial, of the mens papale itself.  It is as if the old “Polyglot Bible” were sitting on the reading desk in his study, opened to the passage from Ecclesiastes where we read:  “For everything there is a season…a time to be silent and a time to speak”.

***

Q:  What do we see happening at the Synod on the other side of the “media curtain”?

A:  We see a worrisome skewing of the discussions, because there are some who support the possibility of adopting a practice that departs from the truth of the faith.  Even if it should be evident that one cannot go down that path, many still encourage, for example, a dangerous openness to change with respect to the question of giving Holy Communion to those divorced and remarried.  I do not see how it is possible to reconcile the irreformable understanding of the indissolubility of marriage with the possibility of admitting to Communion those who are living in an irregular situation. To do this is to act as if our Lord’s words were up for discussion when he taught that whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery.

Q:  According to the “reformers” this teaching has become too harsh.

A:  They forget that the Lord assures us of the help of his grace to those who are called to live in marriage.  This does not mean that there will not be difficulties and suffering, but that there will always be divine assistance to face them and to be faithful to the end.

Q:  It seems that you represent a minority position.

A:  A few days ago I saw a statement broadcast in which Cardinal Kasper said that things were moving in the correct direction towards openings (to the change of practice).  In a few words, the 5,700,000 Italians who followed that broadcast statement were led to believe the idea that the whole Synod is marching on this path, that the Church is on the point of changing her doctrine on marriage.  But this is simply not possible.  Many bishops have said in their speeches that changes in the doctrine of marriage are not possible.

Q:  But what you say is not coming out of the daily briefing from the Vatican Press Office.  Cardinal Müller has also complained about this.

A:  I do not know how this “briefing” works, but it seems to me that something is not working well if the information is manipulated in a way so as to stress only one position instead of reporting faithfully the various positions that were expressed.  This worries me very much, because a consistent number of bishops do not accept the idea of a break with traditional Church teaching, but few know this.  They speak only of the necessity for the Church to open herself up to the clamorous urging of the world as Cardinal Kasper propounded in February.  In reality, his thesis on the theme of the family and on a new form of discipline with respect to the divorced and remarried is not new.  It was already discussed thirty years ago.  Then from this February on it took on a new life,  and it has been allowed to grow in a not innocent way.   But this must stop, because it is provoking the possibility of great damage to the faith.  Bishops and priests say to me that now that so many divorced and remarried men and women are asking to be admitted to Holy Communion because this is what Pope Francis wants.  In reality, I take note that, to the contrary, he has not expressed himself on this subject.

Q:  But it seems evident that Cardinal Kasper and those who speak in agreement with him claim that they have the support of the Pope.

A:  This is true.  The Pope named Cardinal Kasper to the Synod and has let the debate go along this track.  But, as another Cardinal has said, the Pope has not given his pronouncement on all of this as yet.  I am awaiting his pronouncement, which is able to be only in continuity with the teaching given by the Church through her whole history, a teaching that has never changed because it cannot change.

Q:  Some prelates who support the traditional doctrine say that if the Pope should makes changes (in that doctrine) they would support those changes.  Is this not a contradiction?

A:  Yes, it is a contradiction, because the Pontiff is the Vicar of Christ on earth and therefore the chief servant of the truth of the faith.  Knowing the teaching of Christ, I do not see how it is possible to deviate from that teaching with a doctrinal declaration or with a pastoral practice that ignores truth.

Q:  The emphasis placed by the Pope on mercy as the most important, if not the only, idea that should guide the Church: does this not contribute to sustaining the illusion that one can advocate pastoral practice that is set loose from doctrine?

A:  The idea is bandied about that there can be a Church which is merciful and that at the same time does not respect the truth.  But I am offended by the abysmal idea that, until today, bishops and priests could not have been merciful.  I was raised in a rural area of the United States, and I remember that, when I was a child, there was in our parish a couple from a farm near ours who came to Mass in our church but never received Communion.  As I grew up, I asked my father why they did this.  He answered my question without any affectation and in a simple way. He explained that they were living in an irregular situation and they accepted that they could not receive Communion.  The parish priest was very gentle with them, showed them great mercy, and he applied that mercy in working toward the point where the couple would be living their lives in accord with the Catholic faith.  Without truth true mercy cannot exist.  My parents always taught me that if we love sinners, we must hate sin, and that we must do everything we can to tear away the sinners from the harmful situation in which they are living.

Q:  In your study there is a statue of the Sacred Heart.  In your chapel, above the altar, there is another image of the Heart of Jesus.  Your episcopal motto is “Secundum Cor Tuum”. So a bishops is able to hold together both mercy and doctrine…

A:  Yes, it is by staying close to the inexhaustible and never ceasing font of truth and love, that is,  from the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus, that the priest finds the wisdom and the strength to guide his flock according to truth and with love.  The Curé d’Ars defined the priest as the love coming from the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  The priest who is united to the Sacred Heart will not succumb to the temptation to say to his flock words that are other than those of Christ which have been handed down in an indefectible way by the Church.  He will not fall into the temptation to substitute for the words of a doctrine that heals a language that is confused and easily leads to error.

Q: But the reformers maintain that love, for the Church, consists in walking along with the world.

A:  This is the hinge of the reasoning of those who want to change doctrine or discipline.  I worry about this very much. They say that times have changed, that we can no longer talk about natural law, or of the indissolubility of marriage…But man has not changed. He continues to be as God has wanted him to be.  It is true that the world has become secularized, but this is a reason to all the more speak the truth in a clear and forceful way.  It is our duty, but to do this, as St. John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae, we have to call things by their own name. We cannot use language that is more or less ambiguous to please the world.

Q:  Clarity does not seem to be a priority of the reformers, if, for example, they do not think that they are contradicting themselves, when they maintain that the divorced and remarried are able to receive Communion and at the same time recognize the indissolubility of marriage.

A:  If someone sincerely reaffirms the indissolubility of marriage, he can take steps to rectify the irregular state in which he finds himself or abstain from Communion. There is no half-way.

Q:  Not even the so called “Orthodox divorce”?

A:  Orthodox practice based on economia involving a second or third marriage, which are understood as penitential, is historically and in fact very complex.  In any case, the Catholic Church, which has been aware of this practice for centuries, has never adopted it, in virtue of the words of the Lord as recorded in the Gospel according to St. Matthew (19:9).

Q: Don’t you think that if this opening to change is conceded many more will follow?

A:  Certainly.  They are now saying that this will be granted only in some cases.  But whoever understands men knows that if a concession is granted in one case,  concessions are make in the rest as well.  If the union between the divorced and remarried is conceded to be licit, this will open the doors to all those unions that are not according to the law of God, because that bulwark will have been eliminated that preserves good doctrine and the good pastoral practice that comes from it.

Q:  The reformers often talk about a Jesus who is disposed to tolerate sin to be able to go out and meet his people.  But was this the case?

  1. This picture of Jesus is an invention that has no confirmation in the Gospels.All one has to do is to think about the clash with the world in the Gospel of St. John.  Jesus was the greatest opponent to the times in which he lived, and he remains so for our own time.  I think especially of how he spoke to the woman caught in adultery:  “Nor do I condemn you; go and sin no longer”. (John 8:11)

Q:  To admit those divorced and remarried to Communion threatens the Sacrament of Marriage, but also that of the Eucharist.  Does this not seem to you to involve a drifting movement that touches the very heart of the Church?

A:  In the First Letter to the Corinithians, in chapter 11, Saint Paul teaches that whoever receives the Eucharist in a state of sin eats it to his own condemnation.  To approach the Eucharist means that one is in communion with Christ, is conformed to him.  Many respond to oppose this by saying that the Eucharist is not the sacrament of the perfect, but this is a false argument.  No one is perfect, and the Eucharist is the sacrament of the those who are struggling to be perfect, in the way Jesus asks us to be perfect:  to be perfect as our Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:48).  Even those who are struggling to be perfect do sin, and if they are in a state of mortal sin, they are not able to receive Communion.  To be able to receive they must confess their sin with a sense of remorse and with the intention of not committing the sin again.  This is binding on everyone, including the divorced and remarried.

Q:  Today participation in the Eucharist  is almost no longer understood as a sacramental act but rather as a social act.  It no longer is communion with God, but rather as acceptance on the part of a community.  Is not the root of the problem here?

A:  It is true.  This Protestant idea is being diffused more and more.  And this not only in the context of the divorced and remarried.  One often hears the sentiment expressed that, on special occasions like First Holy Communion and Confirmation of one’s children, or at a wedding, even non-Catholics are able to be admitted to Holy Communion.  But this, one more time, is contrary to the faith and contrary to the truth of the Eucharist itself.

Q:  Instead of debating these themes, what should the Synod be doing?

A:  The Synod is not a democratic assembly where the bishops are assembled to change Catholic doctrine by a vote of the majority.  I would like it to become the occasion whereby the pastors give support to all families who want to live their faith and their vocation in a better way.  Also to give support to those men and women who, even in situations fraught with many difficulties, do not want to cut themselves off from what the Gospel teaches.  This should be a Synod on the family, instead of losing itself in discussions that are not useful about matters that cannot be discussed in an attempt to change truths that cannot be changed.  In my view, it would have been better to take these matters off the table because they are not open to discussion.  We should be talking rather about how to help the faithful live the truth of marriage.  We should be talking about the formation of children and young people who come to marriage without knowing the fundamental elements of our faith and then are brought down by the first difficulty they encounter in the marriage.

Q:  Don’t the reformers think about those Catholics who have held their families together even in very difficult situations, and in these situations who have refused to make a new life for themselves?

A:  So many people who have gone through this laborious life effort ask me now if they were totally wrong in their decision.  They ask if they have thrown their lives away in making sacrifices that in the end are of no use.  This is not acceptable. It is an act of betrayal.

Q:  Do you not think that the crisis in morals is deeply involved with the crisis in liturgy?

A:  Certainly.  In the post-conciliar period a collapse of the life of faith and of ecclesiastical discipline has taken place, seen especially in the liturgical crisis.  The liturgy has become an anthropocentric activity. It has ended up by being a reflection of the idea of man instead of the right of God to be adored as He himself asks.  From here, in the moral sphere attention is focused almost exclusively on the needs and wants of men, instead of on what the Creator has written in the hearts of his creatures.  The lex orandi is always bound to the lex credendi.  If someone does not pray well, then he does not believe well and therefore he does not behave well.  When I go to celebrate the Traditional Mass, for example, I see so many beautiful young families with so many children.  I do not believe that these families do not have problems, but it is evident that they have more strength to confront them.  This has to say something.  The liturgy is the most perfect and most complete expression of our life in Christ, and when all of this is lessened or is betrayed every aspect of the life of the faithful is harmed.

Q:  What can a pastor say to a Catholic who feels bewildered by these winds of change?

A:  The faithful should take courage, because the Lord will never abandon his Church.  We should think about how the Lord calmed the sea in the storm and his words to his disciples:  “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” (Mt. 8:26).  If this time of confusion seems to put their faith at risk, they have to only work even harder to live a life that is truly Catholic.  But I am aware that to live in these times is a source of great suffering.

Q:  It is becoming difficult not to think of this as a time of chastisement.

A:  I think about this first of all concerning myself.  If I am suffering at this time because of the situation in the Church, I think that the Lord is telling me that I have need of purification.  And I also think that, if the suffering is so widespread, this means that the whole Church is in need of purification.  But this is not because of a God who is waiting only to punish us.  This is because of our own sins.  If in some way we have betrayed doctrine, moral teaching or the liturgy, it follows inevitably that we will undergo a suffering that purifies us to put us back again on the narrow way.

[Translation by Fr. Richard G. Cipolla]

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Cardinal Pell: Pause, pray, catch your breath

From Catholic News Service:

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¡Hagan lío! Synod Bishops revolt against leadership and get their way

Breaking news from Father Z:

Apparently the bishops at the Synod are tired of being manipulated.

They created a little lío of their own.

In full view of the Pope, they rose up pretty much as a body and rebelled against the way Card. Baldisseri, who seems to be the chief architect of what may have been a pre-determined agenda, has been handling them.

Read on here.

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Document-gate

The latest Synod update from Michael Voris in Rome:

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On the chaos surrounding the Synod in Rome (by Deacon Nick Donnelly)

Published with permission of the Editor:  http://www.catholicvoice.ie

(Catholic Voice is  fast growing Catholic newspaper, published every two weeks in Ireland and the U.K. Their mission is simple, ” we exist only to serve the Church in complete fidelity to the Holy See through our writing and publishing.”)

Deacon Nick Donnelly

Cardinal-Vincent-Nichols-speaks-at-a-Holy-See-press-conference-in-Rome

Looking at the censorship of the bishops’ interventions during the Synod the bulletins issued by the Holy See’s Press Office which favour dissenting novelty, and, the travesty of Faith contained in the interim Relatio post disceptationem searching questions have to be asked. Has the Extraordinary Synod ‘by fitting means’ striven diligently to ‘inquire properly into that revelation and ‘given apt expression to its contents?

If it is confirmed that officials have manipulated the Extraordinary Synod then it’s integrity and authority are in grave doubt. 

Over the past week I have alternated between anger and anguish as I have witnessed the chaos unleashed at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. Never in my life have I witnessed such confusion and disorientation about the Faith at the heart of the Church, the Holy See of Rome. During the past 35 years I have looked to Rome for certainty and consolation while the storms of dissent and disobedience ravaged the local churches. However, in this week my faith in the competence, even willingness, of Rome to uphold the Faith has been badly shaken.
I know that I’m not alone in weeping for the Church and for the Faith and join my prayer to Our Lord’s prayer for Peter during His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane:
‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ (Luke 22: 31-32).
The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church sets out that the Pope has a special care to ensure that Revelation is ‘transmitted in its entirety’ and ‘under the guiding light of the Spirit of truth is religiously preserved and faithfully expounded in the Church’. (Lumen Gentium, 25). The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council also spelt out the fundamental responsibility shared in common by pope and bishops, that they:
‘by fitting means diligently strive to inquire properly into that revelation and to give apt expression to its contents’ (LG 25).
And that ‘ a new public revelation they do not accept as pertaining to the divine deposit of faith.’ (LG 25).
Looking at the censorship of the bishops’ interventions during the Synod the bulletins issued by the Holy See’s Press Office which favour dissenting novelty, and, the travesty of Faith contained in the interim Relatio post disceptationem searching questions have to be asked. Has the Extraordinary Synod ‘by fitting means’ striven diligently to ‘inquire properly into that revelation and ‘given apt expression to its contents?
As faithful Catholics our love for, and loyalty to, the Holy Father, as the successor of St Peter, are strong and central to our identity as sons and daughters of the Church. It is heart breaking to ask these hard questions. But as Pope St John Paul II has formally stipulated in his Motu proprio Ad tuendam fidem [To Protect the Faith], as faithful Catholics we have a solemn obligation not to accept or obey anything that is set against that which is ‘required for the holy keeping and faithful exposition of the deposit of faith’. This obligation to the obedience of faith has the force of the Church’s law (Canon 750§ 2). We must not be frightened off or cast aside by wild accusations of Phariseeism.
Has the Extraordinary Synod been conducted in a fitting manner?
When I was in Rome for the first week of Pope Benedict XVI’s Synod on the New Evangelisation each evening we rushed to a local internet café on the Viale Giuolo Cesrae to read the verbatim English translations of that day’s interventions by named cardinals and bishops. This freedom of expression and access to the bishops’ deliberations is absent from Pope Francis’ Extraordinary Synod on the Family. If Pope St John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI had imposed such rigid censorship of the Bishops’ interventions as we are experiencing in this synod they would have been accused of authoritarianism and a lack of collegiality.
Instead of the usual synodal custom of publishing the bishops’ interventions the General Secretariat of the Synod has issued daily bulletins containing brief summaries of unattributed points raised the previous day. These bulletins have proven deficient on two counts: the editors of the bulletins have favoured dissent and novelty rather than the exposition and defence of the Church’s doctrine, and the bulletins have intentionally left those outside the synod in the dark about who said what.
A number of senior cardinals have publicly criticised the conduct of the General Secretariat of the Synod. Cardinal Müller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told the press that, “These interventions should be published as before. All Christians have the right to be informed about the intervention of their bishops.” Cardinal Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of The Apostolic Signatura – the Church’s highest legal authority – went so far as to accuse the General Secretariat of the Synod of ‘manipulating’ the presentation of Synod’s work. He told Catholic World Report:
“The interventions of the individual Synod Fathers are not made available to the public, as has been the case in the past. All of the information regarding the Synod is controlled by the General Secretariat of the Synod which clearly has favored (sic) from the beginning the [objectionable] positions expressed in the Relatio post disceptationem [Mid-term report of the Synod]”.
“While the individual interventions of the Synod Fathers are not published, yesterday’s Relatio, which is merely a discussion document, was published immediately and, I am told, even broadcast live. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to see the approach at work, which is certainly not of the Church.”
If it is confirmed that officials have manipulated the Extraordinary Synod then its integrity and authority are in grave doubt.
Has the Extraordinary Synod inquired properly into revelation?
It has become commonplace for cardinals and bishops who propose undoing the Church’s doctrine on marriage and sexual ethics to camouflage their real intentions with the ‘doublethink’ phrase ‘Of course Doctrine will remain unchanged, what I am proposing is pastoral’. As George Orwell expressed it ‘doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.’
One of Pope Benedict’s gifts was his ability to cut through such ecclesial doublethink with the double edged sword of God’s Word (Rev 19:15). In 1998, Cardinal Ratzinger challenged Cardinal Kasper’s proposals to admit the divorced and re-married to Holy Communion. Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:
‘If at times in the past, love shone forth too little in the explanation of the truth, so today the danger is great that in the name of love, truth is either to be silenced or compromised. Assuredly, the word of truth can be painful and uncomfortable. But it is the way to holiness, to peace, and to inner freedom. A pastoral approach which truly wants to help the people concerned must always be grounded in the truth. In the end, only the truth can be pastoral. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”’ (John 8:32).
Unfortunately, with the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI the doublethink that seeks to hold together two contradictory beliefs about doctrine and pastoral care is wrecking havoc at the Synod. Of the many examples in the Relatio post disceptationem I will give just one about the pastoral care of the divorced and re-married. Paragraph 47 states:
‘For some, partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path – under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop –, and with a clear undertaking in favor (sic) of the children. This would not be a general possibility, but the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances’.
Simply put, this paragraph is proposing that divorced and re-married Catholics may be re-admitted to Holy Communion after undertaking some form of penitential self-examination. This proposal totally contradicts the doctrine, originating in Christ’s explicit teaching, that divorced and re-married Catholics are committing adultery because of the indissolubility of the original marriage. If the couple in the civil union don’t live together as brother and sister, the sacramental discipline derived from doctrine is that they cannot receive Holy Communion because they are in an objective state of sin (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1650).
Clearly, the doublethink expressed in the Synod’s Relatio post disceptationem is seeking to undo the indissolubility of marriage. The Relatio also attacks other fundamental doctrines, including those on homosexuality, and the reservation of sexual intercourse to marriage.
Has the Extraordinary Synod given apt expression to revelation?
The confusion and disorientation caused in just one week by the Synod on the Family shows convincingly that something has gone badly wrong in Rome. The chaos has been publicly acknowledged and challenged by senior members of the Synod.
Archbishop Gądecki, President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, told Vatican Radio that the Relatio summary of the Synod was not acceptable to the Synod Fathers because, among other things, its presentation of doctrine contained ‘sins of omission’.
While Cardinal Burke also challenged the doctrinal deficiencies of the Relatio and Bulletins:
‘While the document in question (Relatio post disceptationem) purports to report only the discussion which took place among the Synod Fathers, it, in fact, advances positions which many Synod Fathers do not accept and, I would say, as faithful shepherds of the flock cannot accept… The document lacks a solid foundation in the Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium. In a matter on which the Church has a very rich and clear teaching, it gives the impression of inventing a totally new, what one Synod Father called “revolutionary”, teaching on marriage and the family.’
Cardinal Burke concluded his devastating critique of the Synod by calling on Pope Francis to intervene and publicly challenge the doctrinal chaos:
‘The faithful and their good shepherds are looking to the Vicar of Christ for the confirmation of the Catholic faith and practice regarding marriage which is the first cell of the life of the Church.’
With Cardinal Burke, and the other faithful bishops, we wait for Pope Francis to break his silence and confirm his brethren in the doctrines and discipline of the Catholic Faith, to challenge all who would seek to impose a new public revelation on the divine deposit of faith, to turn and strengthen his brothers in the faith of Christ which does not fail.

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Synodalia: Have you noticed what’s missing?

Brother Burrito:

Thanks to Johnhenry for bringing this to our attention.

Originally posted on Dominus mihi adjutor:

One thing sadly, disastrously, absent from the Synod from the scanty information we have been permitted to receive, is eternity. We look to the woefully deficient Relatio, or working document, that was so unwisely released (perhaps as a belated gesture of transparency and consultation). In its opening paragraphs it seeks to set the synodal discussions in a context, and that context is purely this-worldly. It is as if it is only this life, this world, that truly matters. The focus is entirely socio-anthropological. The closest it comes to moving our eyes away from our navels is the exhortation to have our “gaze on Christ” (#4, et infra). Yet this phrase is never adequately unpacked, except that we look to Christ for teaching on marriage.

eternity

As Archbishop Sheen was so fond of reminding us, Christ came to die. That was his mission: that by the self-sacrificial death on the Cross of…

View original 474 more words

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Nada te turbe

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

– St. Teresa of Avila

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Revolution on the way?

Pray, fast and pray some more…

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Synod14: Full Text of Relatio Post Disceptationem

“The reflections put forward, the fruit of the Synodal dialog that took place in great freedom and a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured.”

VATICAN CITY, October 13, 2014 (Zenit.org) – Here below is the full text of the “Relatio post disceptationem” delivered in the synod hall this morning by the General Rapporteur, Cardinal Péter Erdő.

***

Introduction

Part I

Listening: the context and challenges to the family

The socio-cultural context

The relevance of emotional life

Pastoral challenges

Part II

The gaze on Christ: the Gospel of the Family

The gaze on Jesus and gradualness in the history of salvation

The family in Gods salvific plan

The discernment of values present in wounded families and irregular situations

Truth and beauty of the family and mercy

Part III

Discussion: pastoral perspectives

Proclaiming the Gospel of the family today, in various contexts

Guiding couples on the path in preparation for marriage

Accompanying the first years of married life

Positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation

Caring for wounded families (separated couples, the divorced who have not remarried, the divorced and remarried)

Welcoming homosexual persons

The transmission of life and the challenge of declining birthrate

The challenge of education and the role of the family in evangelization

Conclusion

 * * * 

Introduction

1.          During the prayer vigil held in St Peter’s Square on 4 October 2014 in preparation for the Synod on the family, Pope Francis evoked the centrality of the experience of family in all lives, in a simple and concrete manner: “Evening falls on our assembly. It is the hour at which one willingly returns home to meet at the same table, in the depth of affection, of the good that has been done and received, of the encounters which warm the heart and make it grow, good wine which hastens the unending feast in the days of man. It is also the weightiest hour for one who finds himself face to face with his own loneliness, in the bitter twilight of shattered dreams and broken plans; how many people trudge through the day in the blind alley of resignation, of abandonment, even resentment: in how many homes the wine of joy has been less plentiful, and therefore, also the zest — the very wisdom — for life […]. Let us make our prayer heard for one another this evening, a prayer for all”.

2.        The source of joys and trials, of deep affections and relations – at times wounded – the family is truly a “school of humanity” (“Familia schola quaedam uberioris humanitatis est”, Vatican Council II, Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 52), of which we are in great need. Despite the many signs of crisis in the institution of the family in various contexts of the “global village”, the desire for family remains alive, especially among the young, and is at the root of the Church’s need to proclaim tirelessly and with profound conviction the “Gospel of the family” entrusted to her with the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ.

3.        The Bishop of Rome called upon the Synod of Bishops to reflect upon the situation of the family, decisive and valuable, in its Extraordinary General Assembly of October 2014, a reflection which will then be pursued in greater depth in the Ordinary General Assembly scheduled to take place in October 2015, as well as during the full intervening year between the two synodal events. “The convenire in unum around the Bishop of Rome is already an event of grace, in which episcopal collegiality is made manifest in a path of spiritual and pastoral discernment”: thus Pope Francis described the synodal experience, indicating its tasks in the dual process of listening to the signs of God and the history of mankind and in the resulting dual and unique fidelity.

4.        In the light of the same discourse we have gathered together the results of our reflections and our dialogues in the following three parts: listening, to look at the situation of the family today, in the complexity of its light and shade; looking, our gazefixed on Christ, to re-evaluate with renewed freshness and enthusiasm what the revelation transmitted in the faith of the Church tells us about the beauty and dignity of the family; and discussion in the light of the Lord Jesus to discern the ways in which the Church and society can renew their commitment to the family.

first part

Listening: the context and challenges to the family

The socio-culturalcontext

        5.        Anthropological and cultural change today influences all aspects of life and requires an analytic and diversified approach, able to discern the positive forms of individual freedom. It is necessary to be aware of the growing danger represented by an exasperated individualism that distorts family bonds and ends up considering each component of the family as an isolated unit, leading in some cases to the prevalence of an idea of the subject formed according to his or her own wishes, which are assumed as absolute.

        6.        The most difficult test for families in our time is often solitude, which destroys and gives rise to a general sensation of impotence in relation to the socio-economic situation that often ends up crushing them. This is due to growing precariousness in the workplace that is often experienced as a nightmare, or due to heavy taxation that certainly does not encourage young people to marriage.

        7.        Some cultural and religious contexts pose particular challenges. In African societies the practice of polygamy remains, along with, in some traditional contexts, the custom of “marriage in stages”. In other contexts the practice of “arranged marriages” persists. In countries in which Catholicism is a minority religion, there are many mixed marriages with all the difficulties that these may lead to in terms of legal form, the education of children and mutual respect from the point of view of religious freedom, but also with the great potential that derives from the encounter between the differences in faith that these stories of family life present. In many contexts, and not only in the West, the practice of cohabitation before marriage, or indeed cohabitation not orientated towards assuming the form of an institutional bond, is increasingly widespread.

        8.        Many children are born outside marriage, especially in certain countries, and there are many who subsequently grow up with just one of their parents or in an enlarged or reconstituted family context. The number of divorces is growing and it is not rare to encounter cases in which decisions are taken solely on the basis of economic factors. The condition of women still needs to be defended and promoted, as situations of violence within the family are not rare. Children are frequently the object of contention between parents, and are the true victims of family breakdown. Societies riven by violence due to war, terrorism or the presence of organized crime experience deteriorating family situations. Furthermore, migration is another sign of the times, to be faced and understood in terms of the burden of consequences for family life.

The relevance of emotional life

        9.        Faced with the social framework outlined above, a greater need is encountered among individuals to take care of themselves, to know their inner being, and to live in greater harmony with their emotions and sentiments, seeking a relational quality in emotional life. In the same way, it is possible to encounter a widespread desire for family accompanied by the search for oneself. But how can this attention to the care for oneself be cultivated and maintained, alongside this desire for family? This is a great challenge for the Church too. The danger of individualism and the risk of living selfishly are significant.

     10.        Today’s world appears to promote limitless affectivity, seeking to explore all its aspects, including the most complex. Indeed, the question of emotional fragility is very current: a narcissistic, unstable or changeable affectivity do not always help greater maturity to be reached. In this context, couples are often uncertain and hesitant, struggling to find ways to grow. Many tend to remain in the early stages of emotional and sexual life. The crisis in the couple destabilizes the family and may lead, through separations and divorce, to serious consequences for adults, children and society as a whole, weakening the individual and social bonds. The decline in population not only creates a situation in which the alternation of generations is no longer assured, but over time also risks leading to economic impoverishment and a loss of hope in the future.

Pastoralchallenges

     11.        In this context the Church is aware of the need to offer a meaningful word of hope. It is necessary to set out from the conviction that man comes from God and that, therefore, a reflection able to reframe the great questions on the meaning of human existence, may find fertile ground in humanity’s most profound expectations. The great values of marriage and the Christian family correspond to the search that distinguishes human existence even in a time marked by individualism and hedonism. It is necessary to accept people in their concrete being, to know how to support their search, to encourage the wish for God and the will to feel fully part of the Church, also on the part of those who have experienced failure or find themselves in the most diverse situations. This requires that the doctrine of the faith, the basic content of which should be made increasingly better known, be proposed alongside with mercy.

PART II

The gaze upon Christ: the Gospel of the Family

The gaze upon Jesus and gradualness in the history of salvation

     12.        In order to “walk among contemporary challenges, the decisive condition is to maintain a fixed gaze on Jesus Christ, to pause in contemplation and in adoration of His Face. … Indeed, every time we return to the source of the Christian experience, new paths and undreamed of possibilities open up” (Pope Francis, Address of 4 October 2014). Jesus looked upon the women and the men he met with love and tenderness, accompanying their steps with patience and mercy, in proclaiming the demands of the Kingdom of God.

     13.        From the moment that the order of creation is determined by orientation towards Christ, it becomes necessary to distinguish without separating the various levels through which God communicates the grace of the covenant to humanity. Through the law of gradualness (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 34), typical of divine pedagogy, this means interpreting the nuptial covenant in terms of continuity and novelty, in the order of creation and in that of redemption.

     14.        Jesus Himself, referring to the primordial plan for the human couple, reaffirms the indissoluble union between man and woman, while understanding that “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Mt 19,8). In this way, He shows how divine condescension always accompanies the path of humanity, directing it towards its new beginning, not without passing through the cross.

The family in Gods salvific plan

     15.        Since, by their commitment to mutual acceptance and with the grace of Christ couples promise fidelity to one another and openness to life, they acknowledge as constitutive elements of marriage the gifts God offers them, taking their mutual responsability seriously, in His name and before the Church. Now, in faith it is possible to assume the goods of marriage as commitments best maintained with the help of the grace of the sacrament. God consecrates love between spouses and confirms its indissolubility, offering them help in living in fidelity and openness to life. Therefore, the gaze of the Church turns not only to the couple, but to the family.

     16.        We are able to distinguish three fundamental phases in the divine plan for the family: the family of origins, when God the creator instituted the primordial marriage between Adam and Eve, as a solid foundation for the family: he created them male and female (cg. Gn 1,24-31; 2,4b); the historic family, wounded by sin (cf. Gn 3) and the family redeemed by Christ (cf. Eph 5,21-32), in the image of the Holy Trinity, the mystery from which every true love springs. The sponsal covenant, inaugurated in creation and revealed in the history of God and Israel, reaches its fullest expression with Christ in the Church.

The discernment of values present in wounded families and in irregular situations

     17.        In considering the principle of gradualness in the divine salvific plan, one asks what possibilities are given to married couples who experience the failure of their marriage, or rather how it is possible to offer them Christ’s help through the ministry of the Church. In this respect, a significant hermeneutic key comes from the teaching of Vatican Council II, which, while it affirms that “although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure … these elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward Catholic unity” (Lumen Gentium, 8).

     18.        In this light, the value and consistency of natural marriage must first be emphasized. Some ask whether the sacramental fullness of marriage does not exclude the possibility of recognizing positive elements even the imperfect forms that may be found outside this nuptial situation, which are in any case ordered in relation to it. The doctrine of levels of communion, formulated by Vatican Council II, confirms the vision of a structured way of participating in the Mysterium Ecclesiae by baptized persons.

     19.        In the same, perspective, that we may consider inclusive, the Council opens up the horizon for appreciating the positive elements present in other religions (cf. Nostra Aetate, 2) and cultures, despite their limits and their insufficiencies (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 55). Indeed, looking at the human wisdom present in these, the Church learns how the family is universally considered as the necessary and fruitful form of human cohabitation. In this sense, the order of creation, in which the Christian vision of the family is rooted, unfolds historically, in different cultural and geographical expressions.

     20.        Realizing the need, therefore, for spiritual discernment with regard to cohabitation, civil marriages and divorced and remarried persons, it is the task of the Church to recognize those seeds of the Word that have spread beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries. Following the expansive gaze of Christ, whose light illuminates every man (cf. Jn 1,9; cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22), the Church turns respectfully to those who participate in her life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcomings.

Truth and beauty of the family and mercy

     21.        The Gospel of the family, while it shines in the witness of many families who live coherently their fidelity to the sacrament, with their mature fruits of authentic daily sanctity must also nurture those seeds that are yet to mature, and must care for those trees that have dried up and wish not to be neglected.

     22.        In this respect, a new dimension of today’s family pastoral consists of accepting the reality of civil marriage and also cohabitation, taking into account the due differences. Indeed, when a union reaches a notable level of stability through a public bond, is characterized by deep affection, responsibility with regard to offspring, and capacity to withstand tests, it may be seen as a germ to be accompanied in development towards the sacrament of marriage. Very often, however, cohabitation is established not with a view to a possible future marriage, but rather without any intention of establishing an institutionally-recognized relationship.

            23.        Imitating Jesus’ merciful gaze, the Church must accompany her most fragile sons and daughters, marked by wounded and lost love, with attention and care, restoring trust and hope to them like the light of a beacon in a port, or a torch carried among the people to light the way for those who are lost or find themselves in the midst of the storm. 

Part III

The discussion: pastoral perspectives

Proclaiming the Gospel of the family today, in various contexts

     24.        The Synod dialog has allowed an agreement on some of the more urgent pastoral needs to be entrusted to being made concrete in the individual local Churches, in communion cum Petro et sub Petro.

     25.        The announcement of the Gospel of the family is an urgent issue for the new evangelization. The Church has to carry this out with the tenderness of a mother and the clarity of a teacher (cf. Eph 4,15), in fidelity to the merciful kenosi of Christ. The truth is incarnated in human fragility not to condemn it, but to cure it.

     26.        Evangelizing is the shared responsibility of all God’s people, each according to his or her own ministry and charism. Without the joyous testimony of spouses and families, the announcement, even if correct, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words that is a characteristic of our society (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte, 50). On various occasions the Synodal Fathers underlined that Catholic families are called upon themselves to be the active subjects of all the pastoral of the family.

     27.        It will be decisive to highlight the primacy of grace, and therefore of the possibilities that the Spirit gives in the sacrament. This is about letting it be known that the Gospel of the family is a joy that «fills the hearts and lives», because in Christ we are «set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness» (Evangelii Gaudium, 1). In the light of the parable of the sower (cf. Mt 13,3), our task is to cooperate in the sowing: the rest is God’s work. We must not forget that the Church that preaches about the family is a sign of contradiction.

     28.        For this reason, what is required is a missionary conversion: it is necessary not to stop at an announcement that is merely theoretical and has nothing to do with people’s real problems. It must not be forgotten that the crisis of faith has led to a crisis in matrimony and the family and, as a result, the transmission of faith from parents to children has often been interrupted. Confronted by a strong faith, the imposition of certain cultural perspectives that weaken the family is of no importance.

     29.        Conversion has, above all, to be that of language so that this might prove to be effectively meaningful. The announcement is about letting it be experienced that the Gospel of the family is the response to the deepest expectations of a person: to his or her dignity and its full realization in reciprocity and communion. This is not merely about presenting a set of regulations but about putting forward values, responding to the need of those who find themselves today even in the most secularized countries.

     30.        The indispensable biblical-theological study is to be accompanied by dialog, at all levels. Many insisted on a more positive approach to the riches contained in diverse religious experiences, while not being blind to the difficulties. In the diverse cultural realities the possibilities should first be grasped and in the light of them the limits and radicalizations should be rejected.

     31.        Christian marriage cannot only be considered as a cultural tradition or social obligation, but has to be a vocational decision taken with the proper preparation in an itinerary of faith, with mature discernment. This is not about creating difficulties and complicating the cycles of formation, but of going deeply into the issue and not being content with theoretical meetings or general orientations.

     32.        The need was jointly referred to for a conversion of all pastoral practices from the perspective of the family, overcoming the individualistic points of view that still characterize it. This is why there was a repeated insistence on renewing in this light the training of presbyters and other pastoral operators, through a greater involvement of the families themselves.

     33.        In the same way, the necessity was underlined for an evangelization that denounces clearly the cultural, social and economic factors, for example, the excessive room given to market logic, that prevents an authentic family life, leading to discrimination, poverty, exclusion, and violence. For this reason a dialog and cooperation has to be developed with the social structures, and lay people who are involved in cultural and socio-political fields should be encouraged.

Guiding couples on the path in preparation for marriage

     34.        The complex social reality and the changes that the family is called on today to deal with require a greater undertaking from the whole Christian community for the preparation of those who are about to be married. As regards this necessity the Synodal Fathers agreed to underline the need for a greater involvement of the entire community privileging the testimony of the families themselves, as well as a rooting of the preparation for marriage in the path of Christian initiation, underlining the connection between marriage and the other sacraments. In the same way, the necessity was highlighted for specific programs for preparation for marriage that are a true experience of participation in the ecclesial life and that study closely the diverse aspects of family life.

Accompanying the early years of married life

     35.        The early years of marriage are a vital and delicate period during which couples grow in the awareness of the challenges and meaning of matrimony. Thus the need for a pastoral accompaniment that goes beyond the celebration of the sacrament. Of great importance in this pastoral is the presence of experienced couples. The parish is considered the ideal place for expert couples to place themselves at the disposal of younger ones. Couples need to be encouraged towards a fundamental welcome of the great gift of children. The importance of family spirituality and prayer needs to be underlined, encouraging couples to meet regularly to promote the growth of the spiritual life and solidarity in the concrete demands of life. Meaningful liturgies, devotional practices and the Eucharist celebrated for families, were mentioned as vital in favoring evangelization through the family.

Positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation

     36.        A new sensitivity in today’s pastoral consists in grasping the positive reality of civil weddings and, having pointed out our differences, of cohabitation. It is necessary that in the ecclesial proposal, while clearly presenting the ideal, we also indicate the constructive elements in those situations that do not yet or no longer correspond to that ideal.

     37.        It was also noted that in many countries an “an increasing number live together ad experimentum, in unions which have not been religiously or civilly recognized” (Instrumentum Laboris, 81). In Africa this occurs especially in traditional marriages, agreed between families and often celebrated in different stages. Faced by these situations, the Church is called on to be “the house of the Father, with doors always wide open […] where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems” (Evangelii Gaudium, 47) and to move towards those who feel the need to take up again their path of faith, even if it is not possible to celebrate a religious marriage.

     38.        In the West as well there is an increasingly large number of those who, having lived together for a long period of time, ask to be married in the Church. Simple cohabitation is often a choice inspired by a general attitude, which is opposed to institutions and definitive undertakings, but also while waiting for a secure existence (a steady job and income). In other countries common-law marriages are very numerous, not because of a rejection of Christian values as regards the family and matrimony, but, above all, because getting married is a luxury, so that material poverty encourages people to live in common-law marriages. Furthermore in such unions it is possible to grasp authentic family values or at least the wish for them. Pastoral accompaniment should always start from these positive aspects.

     39.        All these situations have to be dealt with in a constructive manner, seeking to transform them into opportunities to walk towards the fullness of marriage and the family in the light of the Gospel. They need to be welcomed and accompanied with patience and delicacy. With a view to this, the attractive testimony of authentic Christian families is important, as subjects for the evangelization of the family.

Caring for wounded families (the separated, the divorced who have not remarried, the divorced who have remarried)

     40.        What rang out clearly in the Synod was the necessity for courageous pastoral choices. Reconfirming forcefully the fidelity to the Gospel of the family, the Synodal Fathers, felt the urgent need for new pastoral paths, that begin with the effective reality of familial fragilities, recognizing that they, more often than not, are more “endured” than freely chosen. These are situations that are diverse because of personal as well as cultural and socio-economic factors. It is not wise to think of unique solutions or those inspired by a logic of “all or nothing”. The dialog and meeting that took place in the Synod will have to continue in the local Churches, involving their various components, in such a way that the perspectives that have been drawn up might find their full maturation in the work of the next Ordinary General Assembly. The guidance of the Spirit, constantly invoked, will allow all God’s people to live the fidelity to the Gospel of the family as a merciful caring for all situations of fragility.

     41.        Each damaged family first of all should be listened to with respect and love, becoming companions on the journey as Christ did with the disciples of the road to Emmaus. In a particular way the words of Pope Francis apply in these situations: «The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this “art of accompaniment”, which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Es 3,5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our  compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life» (Evangelii Gaudium, 169).

     42.        Such discernment is indispensable for the separated and divorced. What needs to be respected above all is the suffering of those who have endured separation and divorce unjustly. The forgiveness for the injustice endured is not easy, but it is a journey that grace makes possible. In the same way it needs to be always underlined that it is indispensable to assume in a faithful and constructive way the consequences of separation or divorce on the children: they must not become an “object” to be fought over and the most suitable means need to be sought so that they can get over the trauma of the family break-up and grow up in the most serene way possible.

     43.        Various Fathers underlined the necessity to make the recognition of cases of nullity more accessible and flexible. Among the propositions were the abandonment of the need for the double conforming sentence; the possibility of establishing an administrative means under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop; a summary process to be used in cases of clear nullity. According to authoritative propositions, the possibility should then be considered of giving weight to the faith of those about to be married in terms of the validity of the sacrament of marriage. It needs to emphasized that in all these cases it is about the ascertaining of the truth over the validity of the obstacle.

     44.        As regards matrimonial suits, the speeding-up of the procedure, requested by many, as well as the preparation of a sufficient number of operators, clerics and lay people, dedicating themselves to this, requires an increase in the responsibilities of the diocesan bishop, who in his diocese might charge a specially trained priest who would be able to offer the parties advice on the validity of their marriage.

     45.        Divorced people who have not remarried should be invited to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their state. The local community and pastors have to accompany these people with solicitude, particularly when there are children involved or they find themselves in a serious situation of poverty.

     46.        In the same way the situation of the divorced who have remarried demands a careful discernment and an accompaniment full of respect, avoiding any language or behavior that might make them feel discriminated against. For the Christian community looking after them is not a weakening of its faith and its testimony to the indissolubility of marriage, but rather it expresses precisely its charity in its caring.

     47.        As regards the possibility of partaking of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, some argued in favor of the present regulations because of their theological foundation, others were in favor of a greater opening on very precise conditions when dealing with situations that cannot be resolved without creating new injustices and suffering. For some, partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path – under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop –, and with a clear undertaking in favor of the children. This would not be a general possibility, but the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances.

     48.        Suggesting limiting themselves to only “spiritual communion” was questioned by more than a few Synodal Fathers: if spiritual communion is possible, why not allow them to partake in the sacrament? As a result a greater theological study was requested starting with the links between the sacrament of marriage and the Eucharist in relation to the Church-sacrament. In the same way, the moral dimension of the problem requires further consideration, listening to and illuminating the consciences of spouses.

     49.        The problems relative to mixed marriages were frequently raised in the interventions of the Synodal Fathers. The differences in the matrimonial regulations of the Orthodox Churches creates serious problems in certain contexts to which have to be found suitable responses in communion with the Pope. The same applies to inter-religious marriages.

Welcoming homosexual persons

     50.        Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

     51.        The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.

     52.        Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.

The transmission of life and the challenge of the declining birthrate

     53.        It is not difficult to notice the spread of a mentality that reduces the generation of life to a variable of an individual’s or a couple’s plans. Economic factors sometimes have enough weight to contribute to the sharp drop in the birthrate which weakens the social fabric, compromising the relationship between generations and rendering the view of the future less certain. Being open to life is an intrinsic requirement of married love.

     54.        Probably here as well what is required is a realistic language that is able to start from listening to people and acknowledging the beauty and truth of an unconditional opening to life as that which human life requires to be lived to its fullest. It is on this base that we can rest an appropriate teaching regarding natural methods, which allow the living in a harmonious and aware way of the communication between spouses, in all its dimensions, along with generative responsibility. In this light, we should go back to the message of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae of Paul VI, which underlines the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control.

     55.        So help is required to live affectivity, in marriage as well, as a path of maturation, in the evermore profound welcoming of the other and in an ever-fuller giving. It has to be emphasized in this sense the need to offer formative paths that nourish married life and the importance of a laity that provides an accompaniment consisting of living testimony. It is undoubtedly of great help the example of a faithful and profound love made up of tenderness, of respect, capable of growing in time and which in its concrete opening to the generation of life allows us to experience a mystery that transcends us.

The challenge of education and the role of the family in evangelization

     56.        The fundamental challenge facing families today is undoubtedly that of education, rendered more difficult and complex by today’s cultural reality. What have to be considered are the needs and expectations of families capable of testifying in daily life, places of growth, of concrete and essential transmission of the virtues that provide form for existence.

     57.        In this Church can carry out a precious role in supporting families, starting from Christian initiation, through welcoming communities. What is asked of these, today even more than yesterday, in complex as well as mundane situations, is to support parents in their educative undertaking, accompanying children and young people in their growth through personalized paths capable of introducing them to the full meaning of life and encouraging choices and responsibilities, lived in the light of the Gospel.

Conclusion

     58.        The reflections put forward, the fruit of the Synodal dialog that took place in great freedom and a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer by the reflection of the local Churches in the year that separates us from the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of bishops planned for October 2015. These are not decisions that have been made nor simply points of view. All the same the collegial path of the bishops and the involvement of all God’s people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit will lead us to find roads of truth and mercy for all. This is the wish that from the beginning of our work Pope Francis has extended to us, inviting us to the courage of the faith and the humble and honest welcome of the truth in charity.

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