Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Synod14: Truly love families in difficulty

Francis at synod

Continuing with my coverage of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family (see the other posts here), today I'd like to pick out some passages from the Vatican's official notes on the discussions of yesterday afternoon's 2nd session of the Synod, where important points were made, first on the need to engage with the world as it is today, also adapting our language in response to it - and, I'd argue, also our understanding, since a simple rephrasing is not going to be sufficient, or even possible, since true dialogue alters all parties involved in it:
“[T]here has emerged the need to adapt the language of the Church, so that doctrine on the family, life and sexuality is understood correctly: it is necessary to enter into dialogue with the world, looking to the example offered by the Vatican Council, or rather with a critical but sincere openness. If the Church does not listen to the world, the world will not listen to the Church. And dialogue may be based on important themes, such as the equal dignity of men and women and the rejection of violence.”
The importance of sharing lived experiences of putting the Gospel into practice, instead of dry and dead theory, was emphasised next:
“The Gospel must not be explained, but rather shown – it was said in the Assembly – and above all, the lay faithful must be involved in the proclamation of the Good News, demonstrating the missionary charism. Evangelisation must not be a depersonalised theory, but must instead ensure that families themselves give concrete witness to the beauty and truth of the Gospel. [...] The Church, instead, must be “magnetic”; it must work by attraction, with an attitude of friendship towards the world.”
Next, a point from the opening document was underlined, by returning to the importance of recognising the good there is in every situation, and making reference to the law of gradualness that Cardinal Kasper spoke about in his now-famous speech during the last consistory, that St. John Paul II also put forward in his Familiaris Consortio, and whose basic idea is to recognise the need to gradually approach a desired end state, as if following stepping stones from wherever a person or family is in the present:
“[E]ven imperfect situations must be considered with respect: for instance, de facto unions in which couples live together with fidelity and love present elements of sanctification and truth. It is therefore essential to look first and foremost at the positive elements, so that the Synod may infuse with courage and hope even imperfect forms of family, so that their value may be recognised, according to the principle of graduality. It is necessary to truly love families in difficulty.”
Worth noting is also the variant on the above that Fr. Rosica reported during the press conference, where he quoted a Synod Father as saying: “There are different expressions of what is family today and we have to be sensitive to that.”

Finally, the notes also addressed the need to present the good of sexuality: “[T]he essential value of sexuality within marriage was also considered: sexuality outside marriage is discussed so critically that married sexuality can appear almost as a concession to imperfection.”

The discussions from this morning's session are then summed up in a separate note, where the fist point raised was a call for emphasising the positive and the vocational nature of marriage:
“The suggestion was to look not only towards remedies for failure of the conjugal union, but also to focus on the conditions that render it valid and fruitful. It is necessary to transmit a vision of marriage that does not regard it as a destination, but rather as a path to a higher end, a road towards the growth of the person and of the couple, a source of strength and energy. The decision to marry is a true vocation and as such requires fidelity and coherence in order to become a true locus for the growth and the protection of the human being.”
Next, the need for extensive preparation and accompaniment was stated, also with the consequences of failure bluntly put on the table:
“[M]arried couples must be accompanied throughout their path in life, by means of intense and vigorous family pastoral care. The path of preparation for the marriage sacrament, must therefore be long, personalised and also severe, without the fear of eventually leading to a reduction in the number of weddings celebrated in Church. Otherwise, there is the risk of filling the Tribunals with marriage cases.”
The importance of appropriate language and of dialogue surfaced again this morning:
“[T]he debate focused on the need to renew the language of the proclamation of the Gospel and the transmission of doctrine: the Church must be more open to dialogue, and must listen more frequently (and not only in exceptional cases) to the experiences of married couples, because their struggles and their failures cannot be ignored; on the other hand, they can be the basis of a real and true theology.”
To flesh out some of the above points, the press conference that followed at 1 pm Roman time included specific examples of what such a renewal of language needs to address. Fr. Rosica, the English language Vatican spokesperson, noted that terms like “Living in sin,” “intrinsically disordered,” and “contraceptive mentality” were singled out by the Synod Fathers as examples of “harsh language” where there was a need for change that would demonstrate the Church's openness and love. Cardinal Nichols, who was also present at the press conference, characterized the atmosphere at the Synod as one where bishops are “speaking as priests, members of families, and not as academics,” adding that “It's very lovely.” :) On the same note, the Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro - also a participant of the Synod - noted that “the attempts to paint a picture of fighting among cardinals melt like snow in the sun. At the Synod what is lived is an experience of Church ...”