Monday, 19 October 2015

Synod15: Gospel is mercy, guilt is useless

Synod lay

In his intervention during a General Congregation last week, Cardinal Reinhard Marx spoke about two topics. First, the need for a renewed marriage preparation and the subsequent accompanying of married couples:
“The Church’s marriage preparation and accompanying must not be driven by moral perfectionism. Neither can pastoral care be one of the “all or nothing”. It is much more about a differentiated perception of the various life and love experiences of people. Our eyes should be directed less at what (still) does not succeed in life, or perhaps fails thoroughly, and more what already succeeds. It is usually not the raised finger, but the outstretched hand, that motivates people to pursue the path of sanctification. We need a ministry that values ​​the experience of people in loving relationships and that is able to awaken spiritual yearning. The sacrament of marriage is to be announced above all as a gift that enriches and strengthens marriage and family life, and less as an ideal that is to be achieved by human power. As essential as lifelong fidelity is to the unfolding of love, so the sacramental nature of marriage should not be reduced to its indissolubility. It is a comprehensive relationship that unfolds.”
Cardinal Marx then proceeds to argue for an admission of some divorced and civilly-remarried to the Eucharist, where the core of his argument is the following:
“From a perspective of sacramental theology, two things are to be borne in mind. Can we, in good conscience, exclude all divorced and civilly remarried faithful from the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Can we deny them a reconciliation with God and the sacramental experience of God’s mercy, even when they sincerely repent for the breakup of their marriage? Regarding the question of admission to sacramental communion, it must be remembered that the Eucharist not only represents the union of Christ and his Church, but that it also renews that union repeatedly and strengthens the faithful on their path of sanctification. Both these principles of admission to the Eucharist, namely the witness of the unity of the Church and a participation in the means of grace, can sometimes be in tension. The Council says in the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio (no. 8): “Witness to the unity of the Church very generally forbids common worship to Christians, but the grace to be had from it sometimes commends this practice.” Beyond Ecumenism, this statement is also of fundamental pastoral importance. In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the Holy Father added, with reference to the teaching of the Church Fathers: “The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness.” (no. 47)”
To bring this topic closer to lived experiences, Bishop Alonso Gerardo Garza spoke to the Synod about a boy from his diocese, who shared the Eucharist he received with his divorced and re-married parents:
“During catechism classes, what remained imprinted in his heart and in his mind were a few things: the first is that Jesus is really present in every part of the Eucharist, no matter how small, the second is the importance of not keeping Jesus only to ourselves, but to take him to our friends and families. Finally when communion was spoken about during catechism, there was also an emphasis on parents and godparents approach the sacrament of confession and the Eucharist.

In this boy, these concepts were very clear and they led him to giving a piece of the host that he received to his parents, because he saw that they are good, they accompanied him to catechism, they all went to church together and he did not understand why a priest could not give the host to them while he could receive it himself.”
When asked in an interview what he expects to see in terms of the divorced and re-married, Cardinal Donald Wuerl responded:
“I do not know what the result will be. But we have already got one, a really positive step: it is clear that Pope Francis wants a Church in which everyone’s concerns are heard. I do not know what will happen at the end of this week. It seems to me that the outcome of the synod is to tell the whole world that in the Catholic Church we can have arguments and that the principle of God’s love is the norm. We have to understand how to bring people to God.”
Surprisingly, even Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller is reported by the German language Vatican Radio to have said that, in extreme cases, some divorced and civilly-remarried could be admitted to receiving the Eucharist (pointing to paragraph 84 of St. John Paul II’s Familiaris consortio, where such an option is proposed where repentance and abstinence from sexual intercourse are the conditions). Cardinal Müller added that “it would be possible to think more in this direction.”

In an interview yesterday, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ spoke very clearly about a key challenge that underlies the topics discussed at the Synod, which is that of how the Church and world are to relate:
“You can not illuminate reality without having listened to it first. Man is not an alien element to the preaching of the Gospel: the Gospel is not an abstract doctrine that sets out to hit men from the outside, like a stone. It is to be incarnated in the lived lives, in experiences; sometimes also conflicting, sometimes instead serene ... So, this dimension of the relationship with reality, with actual experience, is fundamental. The Gospel must enlighten lives in their concreteness.”
When asked about whether there is a need for a rediscovery of sin, Fr. Spadaro argued:
“The proclamation of the Gospel, i.e., that the Lord died for us, died for me, is not a proclamation of sin. So, it is important to understand the reality of the Gospel well. The proclamation of the Gospel is a proclamation of mercy: in the light of the mercy of the Lord’s forgiveness, I understand my sin, I comprehend my sin, because the risk is to fall into a kind of great sense of guilt. Then, if the perception of the merciful God is lacking, the sense of sin is only a sense of guilt, that is often useless.”