By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK
The Devil attacks families because that is the sacred place for the beginning, protection, and growth of human life. Evil also targets the family because in the supernatural order the family is the place where the faith is handed on.
The holy priests I knew in the seminary and in the spiritual life, such as Fr. John Hardon, SJ, and Fr. Robert Zylla, OSC, often repeated the admonition of Blessed John Paul II that priests must focus on the family in the spiritual care of the parish. The spiritual needs of the family, the problems and challenges of faith faced by the family, must take central place in the pastoral work of the priest.
We can see borne out in the challenges and questions faced by the Church in the present day that this teaching was prescient. From the crime and violation of basic justice in abortion, to the dictatorship of gender taking over many schools, the redefinition of marriage by law in many states, and the debate within the Church over Communion for those divorced and remarried — all of these problems and challenges center around the reality and identity of the family.
When recently interviewed by Corriere della Sera in regard to the redefinition of the family, Pope Francis opened his response with the basic statement that “marriage is between a man and a woman.” All of us must respond in just the same way when challenged about our faith in regard to sexuality and marriage by others to speak for the hope that is in us. Truth always expresses love for everyone.
The basic principle that guides the teaching and pastoral care of the family in the parish is the will of God that every child has a right to be brought into the world by a man and a woman committed to each other within the Sacrament of Marriage. We must take care to hand on this teaching to our children consistently in preaching and catechesis and enable our parents to enunciate this truth and to live it out in their married vocations.
Serene and faith-filled proclamation of the truth gives grace the opportunity for everyone to come to an understanding: “Faith comes through hearing.”
In our pastoral work with and for families, we must always begin as the Lord did, with witness. If the Church does not proclaim the truth with words, then no one will be able to depend with certainty upon ever hearing it. If we who are the Church do not proclaim Christ through the teachings on the identity and role of the family, then “woe” to us, as St. Paul made clear about the prospect of divine judgment upon his own apostolic ministry.
The debate about Communion for divorced persons remarried outside the Church also is part of the campaign against the family and also an attempt to redefine marriage and family. If someone is judged able to receive Communion, then that person is judged to be living in conformity to the will and command of God. A Catholic is to approach the priest for reception of Communion only if, in a rightly formed conscience, he knows himself to be living according to his ability in conformity to the Commandments.
If those divorced and remarried can be said to be living in holy conformity with the will of God then, practically speaking, they are morally no different than couples who are married only once through holy matrimony. If, by giving Holy Communion to individuals in both of these cases, we say that they are prepared naturally for the state of grace, then we say at the same time that they are no different in the eyes of God and we redefine marriage. Redefinition of the teaching on marriage, as we have seen through the ministry of the U.S. bishops, is nonnegotiable.
Cardinals Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, and others have stated publicly that they oppose the position of Walter Cardinal Kasper that if divorced and remarried persons can make a spiritual Communion, then they can be giving sacramental Communion.
As if reading my mind as I was writing, a fellow journalist on Twitter posted the following comment by Cardinal Caffarra in regard to the current marriage and Communion debate, “But what catechesis have we done? But have we announced the Gospel of matrimony? Or have we spoken a bit about psychology?”
All of us must make an examination of conscience as to whether we have proclaimed the truth and beauty of God’s plan for marriage and family life as He has baptized, commissioned, and sent us to teach.
Commentators are now predicting that the cardinals are expected to so disagree among themselves on the question of Communion for the divorced and remarried that Pope Francis will have to make the final decision. I do not foresee that he will knowingly cast a vote which effectively results in capitulation on the question of God’s plan for marriage and family life.
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