Synod document cites cultural and economic threats to family

from The Catholic Herald

by Francis Rocca

 

The theme of the synod will be the 'pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation' (PA)

The working document for the October 2014 extraordinary Synod of Bishops offers a picture of the Catholic Church today struggling to preach the Gospel and transmit moral teachings amid a “widespread cultural, social and spiritual crisis” of the family.

The 75-page “instrumentum laboris,” published by the Vatican today is supposed to “provide an initial reference point” for discussion at the synod, whose theme will be the “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation.”

The document is based principally on comments solicited in a questionnaire last November from national bishops’ conferences around the world. But it also reflects comments sent directly to the Vatican by individuals and groups responding to the questionnaire, which was widely published on the internet.

Topics in the working document include some of the most contested and controversial areas of Catholic moral teaching on the family, including contraception, divorce and remarriage, same-sex marriage, premarital sex and in vitro fertilisation.

Bishops’ conferences responding to the questionnaire attributed an increasing disregard of such teachings to a variety influences, including “hedonistic culture; relativism; materialism; individualism; (and) the growing secularism.”

Recognising that most Catholic couples do not follow the Church’s teaching against the use of artificial birth control, the document says that “for many Catholics the concept of ‘responsible parenthood’ encompasses the shared responsibility in conscience to choose the most appropriate method of birth control.”

The document says the use of natural family planning, condoned by the Church, encourages responsible decisions about family size while respecting human fertility and “the dignity of the sexual relationship between husband and wife.”

Bishops expressed particular concern with the “ideology called gender theory, according to which the gender of each individual turns out to be simply the product of social conditioning and needs” without “any correspondence to a person’s biological sexuality.”

The bishops see a need for better teaching of “Christian anthropology,” the document states. Noting that contemporary culture dismisses or misunderstands theories of “natural law,” which seek to “found human rights on reason,” bishops increasingly prefer to invoke Scripture in support of Catholic moral teaching.

The document also points to economic factors behind Catholics’ disregard of that teaching: Cohabitation without marriage can be driven by financial need; youth unemployment; and a lack of housing.” A widespread “contraceptive mentality” reflects, in part, a shortage of “child care, flexible working hours (and) parental leave.” Long working hours and commuting times “take a toll on family relationships.”

“The Church is called to offer real support for decent jobs, just wages and a fiscal policy favoring the family as well as programs of assistance to families and children,” the document states.

The document refers briefly to scandals over the sexual abuse of children by priests, which it says “significantly weaken the church’s moral credibility,” as do other forms of “counter-witness in the Church,” including the lavish lifestyles of some clergy and unwelcoming attitudes in some parishes toward separated, divorced or single parents.

The bishops recognise the challenges of ministering to growing numbers of people in such “irregular” situations, including divorced Catholics who have remarried civilly without obtaining an annulment of their first marriage, leaving them ineligible to receive Communion.

Their predicament, which Pope Francis has said exemplifies a special need for mercy in the church today, has been a topic of unusually open debate at the highest levels of the Church over the last year.

Many in such situations feel “frustrated and marginalised,” the document states, noting proposals for rendering the annulment process simpler and quicker — and warnings that such streamlining might obscure church doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage.

The document also notes proposals that the Catholic Church consider adopting Orthodox practice, which allows for second and even third marriages under certain circumstances.

On the other hand, some bishops and others “want to see more attention given to separated and divorced persons who have not remarried but have remained faithful to their nuptial vows,” and who often “have the added suffering of not being given proper care by the church and thus overlooked.”

The document draws a connection between family breakdown and a “crisis of faith,” noting that, with the increase in single-parent households, many children now miss experiencing the “love of a father, thereby making it particularly difficult to experience God’s love and him as Father.”

Regarding unions between partners of the same sex, bishops around the world “are trying to find a balance between the church’s teaching on the family and a respectful, non-judgmental attitude toward people living in such unions.”

“A distinction must be made between those who have made a personal, and often painful, choice and live that choice discreetly so as not to give scandal to others, and those whose behavior promotes and actively — often aggressively — calls attention to it,” the document states.

While opposing adoption of children by same-sex couples, almost all bishops said they would greet requests to baptise children living with such couples “with the same care, tenderness and concern which is given to other children.”

The document states that children of parents in “irregular” situations should also feel welcome in Catholic schools, where “words and expressions need to be used which create a sense of belonging and not exclusion … fully aware that ‘irregular’ is a word applied to situations, not persons.”

“Children or young people are not to blame for the choices and living situations of their parents,” the document states. It adds that excessive rigidity in such matters runs the risk of “making an unjust distinction between different morally unacceptable situations,” for instance, by punishing children of an invalid marriage but not those whose parents “live a life of crime and exploitation.”

About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Synod document cites cultural and economic threats to family

  1. mkenny114 says:

    This summary of the document’s findings seems on the whole to show a good balance between recognising the genuine difficulties that contemporary culture presents to the Church (both in terms of the laity who have to live within it, and of the Magisterium’s task of responding to its challenges with both compassion and fidelity to Catholic truth), and ensuring that this does not obscure the need to remain firm in her teachings. There isn’t a huge amount that discusses what to do about these problems, but then, that is what the Synod is for I guess!

    The only thing that really concerns me is that the following:

    ‘The document also notes proposals that the Catholic Church consider adopting Orthodox practice, which allows for second and even third marriages under certain circumstances.’

    is even on the table. This is not something that should be being even considered – it is just not an option. Willingness to baptise children adopted by same-sex couples will probably cause some controversy, but as the document says, it is not the kids’ fault, and in doing so they will receive more graces to cope with the situation they find themselves in later in life than they otherwise would. Considering second and third marriages though, would completely undermine Catholic teaching on matrimony – it should not be up for discussion.

    Like

  2. mkenny114 says:

    P.S. Just to clarify, I’m not suggesting that baptism of children adopted by homosexuals is a good thing – for one it begs the question of whether it implicitly condones their lifestyle (and there are other objections that could be raised too) – only using it as an example of something that, as a pastoral issue, could legitimately be discussed, versus something that would flatly contradict Catholic doctrine. Re-reading what I’d written, I thought that clarification needed making 🙂

    Like

  3. Toad says:

    “Children or young people are not to blame for the choices and living situations of their parents,”

    …It says here. Well, that lets everyone off the hook, doesn’t it? What about Original Sin? Aren’t we all guilty of that?

    Like

  4. Toad says:

    Sorry, I didn’t explain that very well.
    Are we not, as children of Adam and Eve, all guilty of everything nasty have has ever happened since The Fall of Man?
    Including leprosy, earthquakes, contraception, Facebook and Mel Gibson movies?
    Surely I’ve got this wrong though, as it is clearly an absurd concept.
    …Please someone, put Toad right.

    Like

  5. johnhenrycn says:

    This working document is an impressive one on the whole. I’m nervous about what will transpire at the Autumn Synod, but this is a calm and fair exposition of the issues.

    Michael’s observations supra are intelligent ones, but I invite him to expand on his comment at 16:10.

    Toad, you’re mixing up the dogma of original sin, which even babies are encumbered by, with personal or actual sin, with which they are not; but carry on with your contributions, because every knife needs a sharpening, even when only a dry stone is at hand.

    Like

  6. Toad says:

    You are very kind and considerate, JH.
    As always.

    “Children or young people are not to blame for the choices and living situations of their parents,”
    ..But where did the parents in question get their “choices and living situations” from?
    Their own parents, almost always, I suppose.
    And so on, back to Adam and Eve, originally.
    Nice to know that we are all in the same boat. Best to choose one’s parents with great care.

    The idea of new-born babies being “encumbered” by sin is a stimulating one.
    Serves them right, though, no doubt.

    Like

  7. Toad says:

    “I’m not suggesting that baptism of children adopted by homosexuals is a good thing –”

    Presumably, Michael, you are referring to Catholic homosexuals here?
    I doubt if atheist homosexuals would want their nippers baptised at all.
    But who knows, these days?
    What then, should happen to children adopted by homosexuals who want them baptised?

    Like

  8. johnhenrycn says:

    Some thoughts:

    1. “The document says the use of natural family planning, condoned by the Church, encourages responsible decisions about family size while respecting human fertility and the dignity of the sexual relationship between husband and wife.”

    This is an area where I hope the Bishops will tread most carefully. Canadians remember only too well the Winnipeg Statement of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in Soixante-Huitard, which still forms part of their official, unrevoked record 46 years later. I think I’m correct in saying that NFP is not “condoned by the Church” if its primary purpose is contraception.The respected blogger, OTSOTA taught me that.

    2. “The document also points to economic factors behind Catholics’ disregard of… teaching: Cohabitation without marriage…driven by financial need, youth unemployment…lack of housing…shortage of child care, flexible working hours (and) parental leave…long working hours and commuting times…The Church is called to offer real support for decent jobs, just wages and a fiscal policy favoring the family as well as programs of assistance to families and children.”

    I hope this important Synod on the family does not morph into a Synod on social justice, also an important concern, but one best left for another day, because combining the two risks subordinating the former to the latter.

    3. “[S]ome bishops and others want to see more attention given to separated and divorced persons who have not remarried but have remained faithful to their nuptial vows, and who often have the added suffering of not being given proper care by the church and thus overlooked.”

    This strikes me as important. Our parish Knights of Columbus chapter, for example, has many social events geared to married couples (and why not?), but there’s not much parish outreach to separated adults, who are often (albeit innocently) ignored. I don’t think the latter are necessarily interested in forming new romantic relationships, but would welcome opportunities to form connections with and to learn from other Catholics healthy and productive ways of living alone.

    Like

  9. johnhenrycn says:

    Can I say one other thing before leaving tonight? It concerns me that we – meaning faithful Catholics – sometimes express opinions that need to be taken to task by other faithful Catholics, but which aren’t – out of politeness or uncertainty – and looking over my contributions this month, while believing them, I do not think they are without weaknesses or without need of informed correction. In other words, although we’re on the same page, we shouldn’t feel constrained in respectfully making marginal notes on that page. I mean, what are pen pals for?

    Like

  10. Toad says:

    “….the use of natural family planning, condoned by the Church, encourages responsible decisions about family size…”

    Bit weaselly, I think. Kathleen’s notion of “responsible family size” may not be the same as, say, JH’s, or GC’s – or mine. But then, it just might be. Is it “responsible” to have sixteen children? …More responsible than to have one and a half children?

    “I’m nervous about what will transpire at the Autumn Synod,” ..frets my pen pal, JH. Personally, I think it will ban Voris for four months – for biting. Quite right, too.

    Like

  11. mkenny114 says:

    John Henry,

    What is it that you’d like me to expand upon in my comment earlier? All I was trying to do was clarify something that I thought (on second reading) looked a bit ambiguous in my earlier comment – namely the issue of whether it is a good thing or not to baptise the adopted children of homosexual couples (and yes Toad I mean Catholic homosexuals!) I’d be happy to expand, I just don’t know which bit you mean 🙂 Is this one of the ‘marginal notes’ you were referring to btw?

    Like

  12. mkenny114 says:

    Toad,

    Yes, I’m referring to Catholic homosexuals. As to what should happen to any children adopted by such couples, I don’t know. There are cases to be made for baptism (because it would be charitable, and would provide the child with graces it would not otherwise have), and against (it might implicitly condone the lifestyle of the couple, as well as their adoption of the child, and give the impression to the child in later life that both of these practices are compatible with Catholic teaching).

    Personally I would question why a same-sex couple would want their child baptised, when the Church is explicitly opposed to adoption of children by same-sex couples, and sees homosexual acts as sinful. But, clearly some do want this, and it is a question for the Synod to decide, not me 🙂

    Like

  13. Gertrude says:

    I have to say that this is really only a synopsis of the matters that will be up for discussion at the Synod. In no way does it imply any particular change about any of the aforementioned and we will have to wait for the pronouncement by the Fathers as to what might/will/will not come to pass.

    Whilst I am not a particular admirer of the Holy Father, I have a feeling that whilst concerns over ‘modern’ practices might be discussed, in the final phase nothing much will change. I certainly don’t think that the idea of adopting the Orthodox custom of recognising second and third marriages will ‘grow legs’.

    To quote my amphibious friend – what do I know? After all, this is only the instrumentum laboris, or working document.

    Like

  14. Toad says:

    True, Gertrude – but then, what do any of us know?
    Only what we have been told, nearly always.
    (We are talking metaphysically here, of course)
    And it may be true.
    And then, it may not. We must look at it all, and decide for ourselves.
    And deciding, “I don’t really know, one way or the other, so I will not commit myself right now…” is not such a terrible thing.
    (Or so I suspect.)

    Like

  15. johnhenrycn says:

    Michael, it’s just that when you wrote at 16:10 yesterday:

    “I’m not suggesting that baptism of children adopted by homosexuals is a good thing – for one it begs the question of whether it implicitly condones their lifestyle (and there are other objections that could be raised too)…”

    I wondered what some other objections might be. This is not a test, but my initial reaction is to ask whether there should be any impediments or reluctance to baptise any child under any circumstances. Hence, I’m interested in the other objections that could be raised. I do understand your first one about condonation.

    Like

  16. mkenny114 says:

    Ah yes, I see what you mean JH.

    I take your point about not impeding the baptism of a child in any circumstances, and I agree that this should be the imperative which drives the decision making (i.e.; there should be very good reasons not to offer baptism to the infants in question). However, I do have concerns about the message it might give, which are mostly along the same lines as what I already said elsewhere – the implicit condoning of the homosexual lifestyle and adoption of children by same-sex couples, which the Church wisely counsels against.

    Part of the justification for infant baptism is that it is the faith of the parents (and god-parents) which helps to nurture that grace given in baptism by teaching the child about the Catholic Faith. If the parents in question believe that they can be faithful Catholics whilst going against some of its teaching (by entering into a same-sex union and adopting a child) then I would have to question whether that faith would be given the right environment in which to flourish – instead, it could even be the case that the child is given skewed ideas about what it is possible to believe as a Catholic, thus perpetuating the problems we already see regarding authority in the Church.

    But, having said all this, there is still your (very good) point about the need to have good reasons to not baptise, and as I said before, a child receiving the graces given in baptism will be better off in that respect than a child in the same predicament without those graces. It is a tough question to be sure, and I don’t really have an answer I’m afraid. I would suggest perhaps though that baptism could be offered in these cases only on the proviso that it is made absolutely clear to the adopting couple what the teachings of the Church are here, and what their responsibilities are re teaching the fullness of Catholic doctrine (even the bits they disagree with). That would have to be a minimum criterion I think. What do you think?

    Like

  17. johnhenrycn says:

    Toad at 05:28 – I take it the Voris “biting” thing is an allusion to the Uruguayan soccer player? Can’t say that Voris is my cuppa either. It’s got nothing to do with his views – just his style. Too revival tent-ish intense for my taste, which leans toward the great Catholic evangelist, Fulton Sheen,

    Sorry to see you getting so many “thumbs down” (none from me) since your return from Limbo. Not that they are undeserved, but if this was the old Hornblower TV series, your blood would be flowing through the scuppers. I feel your pain.

    Like

  18. johnhenrycn says:

    “I would have to question whether that faith would be given the right environment in which to flourish – instead, it could even be the case that the child is given skewed ideas about what it is possible to believe as a Catholic, thus perpetuating the problems we already see regarding authority in the Church.”

    Excellent answer, Michael, and I say “excellent” as a fellow thinking Catholic, not as some sort of Doctor of Theology. If I was a priest, I would bring that point up if ever asked by a same-sex couple to baptise their, er, offspring,except if the child was in extremis.

    Like

  19. Toad says:

    Well I always give myself the “thumbs down,” JH.
    Cuts out the middle man.

    And encourages my inner Nero.

    Like

  20. rtkwxypp says:

    Synod document cites cultural and economic threats to family | Catholicism Pure & Simple
    rtkwxypp http://www.gy18h460k8124l39qls1xfi5tfnv720ls.org/
    artkwxypp
    [url=http://www.gy18h460k8124l39qls1xfi5tfnv720ls.org/]urtkwxypp[/url]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s