Friday, 9 October 2015

Synod15: refugee families are part of us

Pope coffee break

Yesterday, Cardinal Angelo Scola gave a beautiful 1.5 minute interview in which he, to my mind, expressed the heart of what this and last year’s Synods are about:
“After the 50s, and originating in France, many realities were born that have sought to value all elements of family life from the affective, sexual component to communion to the generation of children. However, we have remained too much on the side of treating the family as an object of pastoral care. Instead, in everyday life, the family, as family, made up of dad, mom, granddad, granny, children, nephews and nieces, aunts, friends, acquaintances, must face all circumstances of life, whether favorable or unfavorable, all relationships in the light of the Christian vision. This guarantees Christianity incarnation, which is why Jesus came to be way, truth and life. If we lose this density that Paul VI already defined as the rupture between faith and life that is destined to grow and humanity today no longer see the beauty, goodness and truth of following Jesus so as to be happy and fully human.”
Yesterday also saw the publication of Monday’s address by Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, who spoke about the challenges faced by his community with regard to divorce and re-marriage and access to the Eucharist:
“[D]eeply faithful young Christians also ask me, in light of experiences in their families and circles of friends, the question: “But when we fail in our marriage and later enter into a new marriage, why are we then barred from the table of the Lord? Does God refuse people who have experienced failure?” I then try to explain why we don’t admit divorced and remarried people to Communion, but the arguments of these theological statements do not silence the questions in the hearts of people: Is there no place at the Lord’s table for people who experienced and suffered an irreversible break in their lives? How free from mistakes and holy must one be to be allowed to the supper of the Lord? It becomes clear to me every time that the question of allowing divorced and remarried people to the Eucharist is not in the first place a question about the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage. Many people question the Church and her mercy in this regard. More than a few people concerned leave the Church with their children on the basis of what they see as rejection. Ultimately and most profoundly it is much more about the Christian faith and God and His mercy. For many, the question of admittance to the Eucharist makes God questionable.”
Archbishop Koch also spoke powerfully about refugees as a blessing:
“For one third of the Catholics in the city of Berlin, German is not their mother tongue. Berlin is home to many immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees. From the first day of my service in this city I have also witnessed the drama of refugee families, who have been separated by violence or who have fled together, but are now far from home. We can not leave these families alone, including at this Synod. The Holy Family fled and only had a manger for their child, but this refugee family became a blessing for us all. Does God perhaps also want the refugee families in particular to be a blessing for us today? At this Synod we must also speak about these families and we must speak about ourselves as the new family of Jesus, the family of His Church, which does not erect any walls or barbed wire.The refugee families are part of us and we of them. We are a blessing for each other.”
Not from the Synod, but highly pertinent to it is a reflection by St. Vincent of Lerins that I came across today. St. Vincent, in the 5th century!, had the following thoughts on the development of doctrine:
“Is there to be no development of religion in the Church of Christ? Certainly, there is to be development and on the largest scale. Who can be so grudging to men, so full of hate for God, as to try to prevent it? But it must truly be development of the faith, not alteration of the faith. Development means that each thing expands to be itself, while alteration means that a thing is changed from one thing into another.

The understanding, knowledge and wisdom of one and all, of individuals as well as of the whole Church, ought then to make great and vigorous progress with the passing of the ages and the centuries,but only along its own line of development, that is, with the same doctrine, the same meaning and the same import.

The religion of souls should follow the law of development of bodies. Though bodies develop and unfold their component parts with the passing of the years, they always remain what they were. There is a great difference between the flower of childhood and the maturity of age, but those who become old are the very same people who were once young. Though the condition and appearance of one and the same individual may change, it is one and the same nature, one and the same person. The tiny members of unweaned children and the grown members of young men are still the same members. Men have the same number of limbs as children. Whatever develops at a later age was already present in seminal form; there is nothing new in old age that was not already latent in childhood.”
And, finally, let’s look at the words of Pope Francis from this morning’s homily where he first spoke out against doctrinal rigidity:
“There was another group of people who didn’t like Jesus and who always tried to interpret the words of Jesus and also the attitudes of Jesus, in a different way, against Jesus. Some out of envy, others due to doctrinal rigidity, others because they were afraid that the Romans would come and massacre them; for many reasons they tried to distance the authority of Jesus from the people, also with slander, as in this case. ‘He casts out demons by the power of Beelzebub. He is a man possessed. He performs the magic, he is a sorcerer’. They continually put him to the test, they put traps in his way, to see whether he would fall.”
Francis then calls for vigilance, discernment - to see what comes from God and what comes from evil, and underlines the importance of an examination of conscience and gives examples that have an added edge and sharpness in this context of the Synod, but that are also highly pertinent to any Christian’s life:
“Vigilance. The Church always encourages us to exercise an examination of conscience: What happened today in my heart, today, why? Did this polite demon, with his friends, come to me? Discernment. Where do the comments, words, teachings come from, who says this? Discernment and vigilance, so as not to let enter that which deceives, seduces, fascinates. Let us ask the Lord for this grace, the grace of discernment and the grace of vigilance.”
Next up: the reports of the small working groups on the first part of the Instrumentum Laboris that will be published today. As a great preview, here is a great summary by Fr. Spadaro, published just now on Twitter:
  1. Enough with the pessimistic vision of reality and sexuality.

  2. Use understandable language that favors dialogue with our contemporaries.

  3. Don’t limit ourselves to normative language but use the positive language of the Council.

  4. Learn to read the signs of the times, that is of grace in the contemporary world.

  5. Review one’s own pastoral approach in the light of Pope Francis’ style.

  6. No more speaking about the family