Thursday, 8 October 2015

Synod15: no Church without the family

Pope baby davide

Yesterday, Archbishop Charles Chaput spoke at the Synod about the tension between despair and hope:
“When Jesus experienced the pastoral despair of his Apostles, he reminded them that for man a thing may seem impossible, but for God all things are possible. [...] Paragraphs 7-10 of the Instrumentum did a good job of describing the condition of today’s families. But overall, the text engenders a subtle hopelessness. This leads to a spirit of compromise with certain sinful patterns of life and the reduction of Christian truths about marriage and sexuality to a set of beautiful ideals — which then leads to surrendering the redemptive mission of the Church. The work of this synod needs to show much more confidence in the Word of God, the transformative power of grace, and the ability of people to actually live what the Church believes.”
The Chaldean Patriarch Luis Raphaël I Sako gave an extensive interview in which he spoke about the Church’s call to offer encouragement and to be a single family:
“The Church is also a mother. We churn out so much dogma, legislation takes up a lot of space in Church life. What we need today, however, is more sensitivity, more encouragement. We need to raise people’s morale, people’s spirits. Today, people need words of encouragement, a little joy, solidarity, they need to feel the Church’s presence, we must not be detached from them, like a hierarchy. We are one single family and we have been speaking as one family.”
Salt and Light have been recording excellent, short interviews with Synod attendees, including one with a married couple, Jabu and Buyi Nkosi, Members of the Advisory Committee for the National Family Desk of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference. Mrs. Nkosi starts off with drawing a broad picture that leads her to the declaration that without the family there is no Church:
“Every one of us comes from a family so it’s very important to support family, its very important to work with families, especially families in crisis as we have a lot of challenges for the family, like unemployment, socioeconomic conditions, migration, ... all those things have a tendency to attack the family, to disintegrate the family. Therefore the Church should be there for the family to sustain it, to support it. Because, without the family, which is the first Church, there is no Church.”
When asked about the challenges of mixed marriages (i.e., marriages between members of different Christian denominations), Mr. Nkosi gave the following, joyful answer, based on the experiences of their children, all of whom are married to non-Catholics:
“Yeah, we call it two faiths but one love and people who love each other, they are able to compromise, they are able to share and look at what is common between them rather than what makes them different.”
Bishop Peter Kang U-Il of Jeju, Korea, made a clear plea for reaching out to those excluded from the Church today:
“I have a hope that the Church could be more open towards those who are eliminated from the Church communion. So, I think we should show our charism of mercy to those who were alienated from the divine grace for several decades or several years. I hope that we could gather this kind of merciful teaching together.”
In a great interview today, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifican Council for Legislative Texts, spoke about how to prioritize the person before doctrine:
“[T]he Church has a doctrine that must be maintained firmly, but if she looks first at doctrine and then at the person, she may have more trouble understanding the person; if she looks first at the person and in their sufferings, their specific needs, then she finds a light in the doctrine for going towards meeting the person. But looking first at the person, their sufferings, their concrete needs, gives us the stimulus that we lack if we look more abstractly, only and first at doctrine.”
Asked about whether the Synod is a pastoral or doctrinal one, Card. Coccopalmerio spoke about this being a false distinction, pointing to the real distinction being about abstract versus pastoral doctrine:
“I would not place “doctrinal” and “pastoral” in opposition, because doctrine is for the person, for the good of the person and the pastoral is the good of the person. Sometimes, however, doctrine must take into account the circumstances of the person, or rather should be light that gives a response to concrete needs. So, you could say that we put abstract and pastoral doctrine in opposition, but not doctrine and the pastoral. Doctrine must serve, at its deepest core, to enlighten and to resolve concrete problems.”
Finally, in response to a question about whether it is true that there are different warring factions inside the Synod, Card. Coccopalmerio responded:
“There are different opinions and that’s really good, because if everyone thought the same way about realities that evidently are susceptible to different thought, that would be very poor, very negative; instead, these different ways of thinking are an asset. And it is a great treasure to be able to express your views, even if different from that of other brothers, other Synod Fathers, or different even from the majority of the views of other brothers or Synod Fathers. So, I would say that there are two treasures: to have different thoughts and to be able to express your ideas with freedom and joy.”
Vatican Radio also published excerpts from an article by the Synod Father Antonio Spadaro, SJ, entitled “The reform of the Church according to Francis. Ignatian roots.” Fr. Spadaro there points to a fundamental kenotic Christocentrism in Francis’ approach:
“In Francis’ mind, the reformer must be someone who is “emptied”, he mustn’t be centered on himself but on the Lord, he is called to a lowering, a “hollowing out”. Reform for Francis is rooted in an emptying of oneself. If it were not so, if it were only an idea, an ideal project, the fruit of their own desires, even good ones, it would become yet another ideology of change.”
Fr. Spadaro then goes on to spell out what reform means for Pope Francis:
“For Bergoglio, reform means starting open processes open and not cutting heads or conquering spaces of power. It is precisely with this spirit of discernment that Ignatius and his first companions faced the challenge of the Reformation. However, for him the road to be taken is really open, it isn’t a theoretical road map: the path opens while walking. So, his plan is, in fact, a lived spiritual experience that takes shape in stages, that is translated into concrete terms, into action. The Bergoglian pontificate and its willingness to reform are not and will not only be of an administrative nature. Instead they will be a start and an accompanying of processes: some quick and dazzling, other extremely slow.”