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Synod Interventions . . . Concerns About Threats To The Families, Hopes For True Renewal

October 21, 2015 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

(Editor’s Note: Below are four interventions from the ongoing Synod on the Family, which express fears over attacks on marriage and the family and hopes for the renewal of authentic family life in Christ. Texts are from various sources; all rights reserved.)

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Robert Cardinal Sarah
Prefect Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
October 7, 2015

Your Holiness, Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, participants of the Synod,
I propose these three thoughts:
1) More transparency and respect among us
I feel a strong need to invoke the Spirit of Truth and Love, the source of parrhesia in speaking and humility in listening, who alone is capable of creating true harmony in plurality.
I say frankly that in the previous Synod, on various issues one sensed the temptation to yield to the mentality of the secularized world and individualistic West. Recognizing the so-called “realities of life” as a locus theologicus means giving up hope in the transforming power of faith and the Gospel. The Gospel that once transformed cultures is now in danger of being transformed by them.
Furthermore, some of the procedures used did not seem aimed at enriching discussion and communion as much as they did to promote a way of seeing typical of certain fringe groups of the wealthiest churches. This is contrary to a poor Church, a joyously evangelical and prophetic sign of contradiction to worldliness.
Nor does one understand why some statements that are not shared by the qualified majority of the last Synod still ended up in the Relatio and then in the Lineamenta and the Instrumentum laboris when other pressing and very current issues (such as gender ideology) are instead ignored.
The first hope is therefore that, in our work, there by more freedom, transparency, and objectivity. For this, it would be beneficial to publish the summaries of the interventions, to facilitate discussion and avoid any prejudice or discrimination in accepting the pronouncements of the synod Fathers.
2) Discernment of history and of spirits
A second hope: that the Synod honor its historic mission and not limit itself to speaking only about certain pastoral issues (such as the possible Communion for divorced and remarried) but help the Holy Father to enunciate clearly certain truths and useful guidance on a global level.
For there are new challenges with respect to the synod celebrated in 1980. A theological discernment enables us to see in our time two unexpected threats (almost like two “apocalyptic beasts”) located on opposite poles: on the one hand, the idolatry of Western freedom; on the other, Islamic fundamentalism: atheistic secularism versus religious fanaticism. To use a slogan, we find ourselves between “gender ideology and ISIS.”
Islamic massacres and libertarian demands regularly contend for the front page of the newspapers. (Let us remember what happened last June 26!) From these two radicalizations arise the two major threats to the family: its subjectivist disintegration in the secularized West through quick and easy divorce, abortion, homosexual unions, euthanasia, etc. (cf. Gender theory, the ‘Femen,’ the LGBT lobby, IPPFT . . .).
On the other hand, the pseudo-family of ideologized Islam which legitimizes polygamy, female subservience, sexual slavery, child marriage, etc. (cf. al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram . . .)
Several clues enable us to intuit the same demonic origin of these two movements. Unlike the Spirit of Truth that promotes communion in the distinction (perichoresis), these encourage confusion (homo-gamy) or subordination (poly-gamy). Furthermore, they demand a universal and totalitarian rule, are violently intolerant, destroyers of families, society, and the Church, and are openly Christianophobic.
“We are not contending against creatures of flesh and blood. . . .” We need to be inclusive and welcoming to all that is human; but what comes from the Enemy cannot and must not be assimilated. You cannot join Christ and Belial! What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion Ideologies and Islamic Fanaticism are today.
3) Proclaim and serve the beauty of Monogamy and the Family
Faced with these two deadly and unprecedented challenges (“homo-gamy” and “poly-gamy”) the Church must promote a true “epiphany of the Family.” To this both the Pope (as spokesman of the Church) may contribute, and individual Bishops and Pastors of the Christian flock: that is, “the Church of God, which he has obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
We must proclaim the truth without fear, i.e., the Plan of God, which is monogamy in conjugal love open to life. Bearing in mind the historical situation just recalled, it is urgent that the Church, at its summit, definitively declare the will of the Creator for marriage. How many people of goodwill and common sense would join in this luminous act of courage carried out by the Church!
Together with a strong and clear Word of the Supreme Magisterium, Pastors have the mission of helping our contemporaries to discover the beauty of the Christian family. To do this, it must first promote all that represents a true Christian Initiation of adults, for the marriage crisis is essentially a crisis of God, but also a crisis of faith, and this is an infantile Christian initiation. Then we must discern those realities that the Holy Spirit is already raising up to reveal the Truth of the Family as an intimate communion in diversity (man and woman) that is generous in the gift of life.
We bishops have the urgent duty to recognize and promote the charisms, movements, and ecclesial realities in which the Family is truly revealed, this prodigy of harmony, love of life and hope in Eternity, this cradle of faith and school of charity. And there are so many realities offered by Providence, together with the Second Vatican Council, in which this miracle is offered.

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Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia
October 7, 2015

Brothers,
The Instrumentum seemed to present us with two conflicting views: pastoral despair or a decision to 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.
In mastering nature for the purpose of human development, we human beings have wounded our oceans and the air we breathe. We’ve poisoned the human body with contraceptives. And we’ve scrambled the understanding of our own sexuality.
In the name of individual fulfillment, we’ve busied ourselves with creating a new Babel of tyranny that feeds our desires but starves the soul.
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. And it should honor the heroism of abandoned spouses who remain faithful to their vows and the teaching of the Church.

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Archbishop Eamon Martin
Primate of All Ireland
October 10, 2015

Holy Father, brothers and sisters,
I can only imagine what it must be like for a mother and father to hold their newborn baby in their arms for the first time. My 87-year-old mother, who had 12 children, tells me, “Eamon, unless you experience it, you can’t explain it!”
The unique tender love that unites husband, wife, and their newborn child is a reflection of the tenderness of God. It makes a connection and leaves an imprint which remains even in the face of the awful realities that can feature in family life today — like violence, rejection, division, scandal, and hurt — realities which we pray about in our “Prayer for the Synod.”
The Holy Father called on us recently to be “revolutionaries of tenderness,” but how difficult it must be for some families to keep tenderness alive.
In our deliberations as a Synod of Bishops, let us not forget families which have experienced the trauma of abuse and domestic violence, those for whom the proclamation of what we call the “Good News” of the Family may mean little or nothing.
The Church is sometimes described as a family of families. We know only too well the horrific impact of sins and crimes of abuse in the Church family: the betrayal of trust, the violation of dignity, the shame — both public and private, the anger and alienation, the wound that never seems to heal.
Perhaps our catechesis about “tenderness” in paragraph 70 of the Instrumentum Laboris needs to reflect more openly these awful realities that afflict too many families today — families who ask: Where is God in all this? What of justice? Where do we find forgiveness? How does mercy and tenderness fit in?
Our “Prayer for the Synod” asks for the assistance of the Holy Family of Nazareth, conscious that it is only in the mystery of the Incarnation and in the healing power of Christ’s redemptive suffering on the Cross that the power of sin and evil is overcome, and light can shine into the darkest and most hopeless of family situations.
That light shines forth from the loving kindness of the heart of God “who visits us like the dawn from on high.” God’s loving kindness is so beautifully portrayed in the image of the Father running out to embrace His Prodigal Son, an image which St. John Paul said “sums up all the best characteristics of fatherhood and motherhood” (Pope John Paul II). What better icon for the “revolutionary tenderness” of God, whose mercy knows no bounds.

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Archbishop Joseph Kurtz
President
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
October 9, 2015

In one of Pope Francis’ weekly reflections on marriage and the family leading up to the Synod on the Family, he spoke of the need “to give back a leading role to the family that listens to the word of God and puts it into practice” (September 2, 2015).
This theme — of giving leadership to the family — is also raised in the working document for the synod, which described the family as “an essential agent in the work of evangelization” and as having a “missionary identity” (Instrumentum Laboris, 2, 5). I believe that a priority of the Church, both at the synod and beyond, must be to call forth the indispensable witness of Christian families, and to form families to live their missionary vocation.
In other words, the family should not only receive the Church’s pastoral care (though it is essential that proper care be offered), but should also actively participate in the Church’s mission. To that end, I propose two considerations.
First, we must trust in and announce anew the powerful, redemptive grace of Jesus Christ. Our way forward must always look to Him with confidence. In the sacrament of marriage, Jesus Himself abides with Christian spouses. The Holy Spirit penetrates the life of the spouses who are consecrated and equipped for their mission. We must trust in God’s grace as we help Christian husbands and wives embrace and live the truth of the sacrament they have received.
Second, as the synod seeks to offer concrete solutions to the many difficulties families face, we must enlist the help of the family itself in a very deliberate way and provide families with the formation they need to be active agents of evangelization.
We need families who can witness — even through their own wounds and difficulties — to the beauty of marriage and family life. The need for such families was made clear by Pope Francis in his homily at the opening Mass of the synod (October 4, 2015). He pointed out a paradox: People today often ridicule the plan of God for marriage and family, but at the same time they “continue to be attracted and fascinated by every authentic love, by every steadfast love, by every fruitful love, by every faithful and enduring love.”
Families who by the grace of God model tenderness, forgiveness and the joy of family life make marriage credible and show that the Gospel of the family is truly good news.
Evangelizing as a family is done in the very midst of family life, “a place where evangelical holiness is lived out in the most ordinary conditions” (Pope Francis, address at prayer vigil for the synod, October 3, 2015).
Missionary families reach out to others. They can participate in the Church’s mission as a field hospital, described beautifully by Pope Francis as: “doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support . . . to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer” (homily, October 4, 2015).
How do we promote this compelling vision of missionary families? Solid formation and support for families are essential. Just as the local Church invests years of effort into future priests’ education and preparation for ministry, so, too, must we offer intentional and ongoing formation so that the family can truly live its missionary identity.
Important here would be small groups of families who encourage each other in the ups and downs of family life and strong connections between the church in the parish and the church in the home (the domestic Church).
Moving forward, I also believe the way we speak is important. We must not speak only “about” the family, but also “to and with” the family. We must “learn from the family, readily acknowledging its dignity, its strength and its value, despite all its problems and difficulties” (Pope Francis, address at prayer vigil, October 3, 2015). Families face challenges and are wounded, yes, but they also possess incredible vitality and strength.
In sum, my hope is that the synod takes up and furthers the vision of families as active agents of evangelization and missionaries, especially to other families. Even more, I hope that one fruit of the synod is increased attention to calling forth, forming and supporting families in their missionary vocation.
Let us give back a leading role to the Christian family. In Christ is our confidence.

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