10/05/2015, 00.00
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Synod: Facing the challenges of today’s world against family as Christians

The reports before proceedings. Card. Erdo: indissolubility and mercy for marriage, mission and witness of Christian spouses, support and truth for couples "with problems", respect for and responsibility towards life". "Need for proper and merciful pastoral care for divorced and civilly remarried which, however, without any room for doubts regarding truth of the indissolubility of marriage as taught by Jesus Christ himself. The mercy of God offers forgiveness to the sinner, but it demands conversion".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Indissolubility indissolubility and mercy for marriage, mission and witness of Christian spouses, support and truth for couples "with problems", respect for and responsibility towards life”: these were the main concepts that the general rapporteur of the synod Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, focused his articulated intervention which outlined the times and issues the XIV General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops has been called to reflect on.  The theme of the meeting is: The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world, which continues until 25 October.

The Cardinal began by analyzing several "challenges" facing the family today. Firstly "environmental challenges". "The effects of climate change and environmental and those of social injustice, violence, war, are pushing millions of people to leave their homeland and try to survive in other parts of the world." "The migratory movement is disintegrating families or Making the formation of families difficult", as well as wages that barely allow for their the survival or the movement of families imposed by employers. Mobility, as well, is "one of the factors that drive people towards individualistic attitudes and tendencies".

In “wealthy” countries there is a dominant attitude that is connected to this, where "the person in search of their freedom, often tries to free of all ties, sometimes even ties to religion, which form a bond with God, from social ties, especially those that relate to the institutional lifestyle". "This phenomenon can push legislators to multiply legal norms, to augment information control, for fear that otherwise people will no longer voluntarily observe laws that can derive only from a moral conviction, from a shared objective knowledge of reality. This picture of alienation remarkable, explains the instinctive flight of many people from the institutional forms. This would, it appears, explain the growth in the number of couples who live together stably, but do not want to contract any type of marriage be it civil or religious".

"Alongside this flight from institutions is a growing institutional instability manifested in the high divorce rate. It is in this context that we see the increasingly later age at which people get married, that is, the fear of young people to take on the responsibility of a permanent commitment, such as marriage and the family. Indeed, if a person’s sole objective is to feel good at a particular moment, then neither the past nor the future seem important. Indeed there seems to be a certain general fear of the future because maybe one will no longer feel good. This is why a permanent decision regarding ones’ professional and family life, appears almost dangerous. Thus it follows that many do not even feel their personal  responsibility towards others be it in the present or in the future”.

In the end, this attitude "ends up affirming the rights of the individual without regard to the fact that every human being is tied to a social context, in which their rights and duties are related to those of others and to the common good of society itself" and instead the an attitude that one’s desires are rights in and of themselves prevails.

Another "challenge" is the "separation" between sexuality and procreation created by scientific advancement. "This is also one of the causes of the falling birth rate. Sometimes it stems from poverty, in other cases from the difficulties in having to take responsibility".

"Mention should be made of the theories according to which personal identity and emotional intimacy must assert itself in a dimension radically disconnected from biological diversity between male and female. At the same time, however, there is the desire to recognize the stability of an established couple regardless of sexual difference as equal to the marital relationship intrinsically linked to the roles of father and mother, defined by the very biology of regeneration. Confusion cedes the special bond between difference, generation, human identity to the individualistic option”.

The discernment of the family vocation

The discernment of the family vocation is the second point which the synod is called to reflect. The report starts from the statement that "the life of the human being and of humanity is part of a major project: that of God the Creator." "If we seek the truth about marriage and the family according to our best natural abilities, and we listen to the teachings of Jesus Christ, we welcome it in all its fullness and all holiness."

"Jesus himself, referring to the original design of the human couple, reaffirms the indissoluble union between man and woman, while saying that" for your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was so "(Mt 19,8). The indissolubility of marriage ("What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder" Mt 19,6), is not to be understood as a 'yoke' imposed on humanity but as a 'gift' that made by people united in marriage. Jesus took on a family, he initiated the signs of the family at the wedding feast at Cana, he proclaimed the meaning of marriage as the fullness of revelation that recovers the God’s original plan (cf. Mt 19,3). But at the same time he put the doctrine that he taught into practice thus demonstrating the true meaning of mercy. " "An attitude of love for the sinful person, leads to repentance and conversion ('go' and sin no more '), which is the condition for forgiveness."

Redeemed by Christ, "restored to the image of the Holy Trinity," marriage and family " are a gift and a special commitment for the baptized ", which results in the call "to testify the gospel in one’s life according to the Gospel itself and through missionary proclamation. "

Card. Erdo, recalled that "Christ's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage was very demanding, and even caused some confusion among his own disciples (cf. Mt 19, 10). The Gospels and Saint Paul also confirm that a man’s repudiation of his wife, first practiced among the people of Israel, cannot make a new marriage possible for either party. This statement is so unusual and so demanding continuous down through the centuries in the disciplinary tradition of the Church, constituting an element still to the point that among the peoples who reconverted to Christianity, that of monogamy and indissolubility of marriage was almost always among disciplinary matters (cf. Mt 19: 1-10; Mk 10: 1-12; Lk 16, 18; 1 Cor 7: 10-16). This teaching of Christ on marriage is a true Gospel and is a source of joy as it is a full realization of the human person and of our vocation to gratuitous personal relationships,  the donating of oneself in order to be fully accepted (cf IL 55) ".

The mission of the family today

Third point of the report is "The mission of the family today." "Among the practical consequences and tasks of mission – and its very origin - some require the Church's commitment toward  families, some are proper to families themselves and some demand the shared and constructive commitment of both ".

Thus, "preparation for marriage, which often engages the attention of those to be married on an exterior ad emotional level, to be enriched by placing proper emphasis on the spiritual and ecclesial dimension". This also means deepening the essential properties of marriage at natural and supernatural level and "extremely useful joyful participation of the Christian community that welcomes the new family which must be a living member of the ecclesial family."

"Besides the joyful proclamation of the Gospel, and in its context also the announcement of the Good News about the family, we must also help those who live in difficult situations with regards to discerning their living conditions in the light of the Gospel. This discernment must not settle for subjective criteria, such as the criteria of justification, but must connect mercy with justice. God's plan for marriage and the family is a path of happiness for the human being. In proclaiming this, the pastors of the Church, especially in environments where other worldviews and religions are present, should know how to conceive and implement marriage and family to illuminate them with the light of the Gospel. "

At the same time, the family "must rediscover its vocation in support of social life in all its aspects. It is essential that families, through their coming together, find ways to interact with the political, economic and cultural spheres", also to assert the actual instances of the family in those countries and in those institutions in which the official concept of family "is not the same as the Christian vision or with its natural meaning".

"With regard to separated and the divorced who have not remarried, the community of the Church can help people who live in these situations on a path of forgiveness and if possible reconciliation, it can help children who are victims of these situations to be heard and may encourage spouses left alone after such a failure, to persevere in faith and Christian life and also "... to find in the Eucharist the food to support them in their state" (IL 118). "

"With regard to divorced and civilly remarried a proper merciful pastoral care is required which, however, leaves no doubt about the truth of the indissolubility of marriage as taught by Jesus Christ himself. The mercy of God offers forgiveness to the sinner, but requires conversion. The possible sin in this case is not above all the behavior that may have caused the divorce in the first marriage. With regard to that fact it is possible that both parties were equally responsible in the failure, although very often both are to some extent responsible. It is therefore not the sinking of the first marriage, but living in the second relationship that prevents access to the Eucharist. "This requires that all attention and accompaniment towards civilly divorced and remarried be  oriented towards increasing their integration into the life of the Christian community, taking into account the diversity of initial situations" (IL 121). What it prevents some aspects of full inclusion does not consist in an arbitrary ban, but is an intrinsic demand in various situations and relationships in the context of the Church's witness. All this requires, however, a profound reflection ".

"As regards the so-called penitential path, this expression is used in different ways (cf IL 122-123). These ways need to be explored and clarified. This can be understood in the sense of Familiaris Consortio (FC =) of St. John Paul II (cf. n. 84) and refer to those who are divorced and remarried, to the needs of their children or do not interrupt the common life, but you can practice in force grace of continence living their relationship of mutual help and friendship. These believers will also have access to the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist but avoid causing scandal (cf IL 119). This possibility is far from being physicist and does not reduce marriage to the exercise of sexuality, but recognizing its nature and purpose, applied consistently in the life of the human person. "For further consideration of the objective situation of sin and the moral culpability, we would recommend an in depth study of the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried faithful of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (14 September 1994) and the Declaration on the admissibility of the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (24 June 2000) "(IL 123), as well as the post-synodal exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis by Benedict XVI" .

"The integration of the divorced and remarried in the life of the ecclesial community can be realized in various forms, different from their admission to the Eucharist, as suggested already in FC 84. In the traditional practice of the Latin Church the path of penance could mean for those who were not yet ready to change their condition of life, but still feel the desire for conversion, the confessors could hear their confession, giving them sound advice and offering exercises of penance, to direct them to conversion, but without giving them absolution which is possible only for those who actually set out to change their life (cf RI 5 in VI; Febeus FA, SI, De regulisiuris canonical Liber unicus, Venetiis 1735, pp. 91-92). "

"In searching for pastoral solutions to the difficulties of certain people who are divorced and civilly remarried, we should bear in mind that fidelity to the indissolubility of marriage can not be married to the practical recognition of the goodness of concrete situations that are opposite to this and therefore irreconcilable. Between truth and falsehood, between good and evil, in fact, there is no graduation, although some forms of cohabitation carry some positive aspects, this does not imply that they can be presented as good. The objective truth is to be distinguished from moral good and the subjective responsibility of individuals. There may be difference between the disorder, that is objective sin, and a concrete sin that is realized in a particular conduct that implies, but not only, the subjective element. " Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors." (CCC 1735). This means that graduality  (gradualness of the law) cannot be applied to the objective truth of good and evil, while at a subjective level the law of graduality can be applied and therefore the education of conscience and the same sense of responsibility. The human act, in fact, is good when it is so in every respect (ex integrates cause)".

The mission of the family today

Third point of the report is "The mission of the family today." "Among the practical consequences and tasks of mission – and its very origin - some require the Church's commitment toward  families, some are proper to families themselves and some demand the shared and constructive commitment of both ".

Thus, "preparation for marriage, which often engages the attention of those to be married on an exterior ad emotional level, to be enriched by placing proper emphasis on the spiritual and ecclesial dimension". This also means deepening the essential properties of marriage at natural and supernatural level and "extremely useful joyful participation of the Christian community that welcomes the new family which must be a living member of the ecclesial family."

"Besides the joyful proclamation of the Gospel, and in its context also the announcement of the Good News about the family, we must also help those who live in difficult situations with regards to discerning their living conditions in the light of the Gospel. This discernment must not settle for subjective criteria, such as the criteria of justification, but must connect mercy with justice. God's plan for marriage and the family is a path of happiness for the human being. In proclaiming this, the pastors of the Church, especially in environments where other worldviews and religions are present, should know how to conceive and implement marriage and family to illuminate them with the light of the Gospel. "

At the same time, the family "must rediscover its vocation in support of social life in all its aspects. It is essential that families, through their coming together, find ways to interact with the political, economic and cultural spheres", also to assert the actual instances of the family in those countries and in those institutions in which the official concept of family "is not the same as the Christian vision or with its natural meaning".

"With regard to separated and the divorced who have not remarried, the community of the Church can help people who live in these situations on a path of forgiveness and if possible reconciliation, it can help children who are victims of these situations to be heard and may encourage spouses left alone after such a failure, to persevere in faith and Christian life and also "... to find in the Eucharist the food to support them in their state" (IL 118). "

"With regard to divorced and civilly remarried a proper merciful pastoral care is required which, however, leaves no doubt about the truth of the indissolubility of marriage as taught by Jesus Christ himself. The mercy of God offers forgiveness to the sinner, but requires conversion. The possible sin in this case is not above all the behavior that may have caused the divorce in the first marriage. With regard to that fact it is possible that both parties were equally responsible in the failure, although very often both are to some extent responsible. It is therefore not the sinking of the first marriage, but living in the second relationship that prevents access to the Eucharist. "This requires that all attention and accompaniment towards civilly divorced and remarried be  oriented towards increasing their integration into the life of the Christian community, taking into account the diversity of initial situations" (IL 121). What it prevents some aspects of full inclusion does not consist in an arbitrary ban, but is an intrinsic demand in various situations and relationships in the context of the Church's witness. All this requires, however, a profound reflection ".

"As regards the so-called penitential path, this expression is used in different ways (cf IL 122-123). These ways need to be explored and clarified. This can be understood in the sense of Familiaris Consortio (FC =) of St. John Paul II (cf. n. 84) and refer to those who are divorced and remarried, to the needs of their children or do not interrupt the common life, but you can practice in force grace of continence living their relationship of mutual help and friendship. These believers will also have access to the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist but avoid causing scandal (cf IL 119). This possibility is far from being physicist and does not reduce marriage to the exercise of sexuality, but recognizing its nature and purpose, applied consistently in the life of the human person. "For further consideration of the objective situation of sin and the moral culpability, we would recommend an in depth study of the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried faithful of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (14 September 1994) and the Declaration on the admissibility of the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (24 June 2000) "(IL 123), as well as the post-synodal exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis by Benedict XVI" .

"The integration of the divorced and remarried in the life of the ecclesial community can be realized in various forms, different from their admission to the Eucharist, as suggested already in FC 84. In the traditional practice of the Latin Church the path of penance could mean for those who were not yet ready to change their condition of life, but still feel the desire for conversion, the confessors could hear their confession, giving them sound advice and offering exercises of penance, to direct them to conversion, but without giving them absolution which is possible only for those who actually set out to change their life (cf RI 5 in VI; Febeus FA, SI, De regulisiuris canonical Liber unicus, Venetiis 1735, pp. 91-92). "

"In searching for pastoral solutions to the difficulties of certain people who are divorced and civilly remarried, we should bear in mind that fidelity to the indissolubility of marriage can not be married to the practical recognition of the goodness of concrete situations that are opposite to this and therefore irreconcilable. Between truth and falsehood, between good and evil, in fact, there is no graduation, although some forms of cohabitation carry some positive aspects, this does not imply that they can be presented as good. The objective truth is to be distinguished from moral good and the subjective responsibility of individuals. There may be difference between the disorder, that is objective sin, and a concrete sin that is realized in a particular conduct that implies, but not only, the subjective element. " Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors." (CCC 1735). This means that graduality  (gradualness of the law) cannot be applied to the objective truth of good and evil, while at a subjective level the law of graduality can be applied and therefore the education of conscience and the same sense of responsibility. The human act, in fact, is good when it is so in every respect (ex integrates cause). "

Next, with regards people with homosexual tendency, "in any case, the Church teaches that: '' There is no basis whatsoever to assimilate or establish even remotely analogous between homosexual unions and God's plan for marriage and the family '. Nevertheless, men and women with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. 'In their regard any sign of unjust discrimination must be avoided' (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 4) "(IL 130)." Then it was reiterated that "each person must be respected in their dignity regardless of their sexual orientation", the Special Rapporteur stated that "it is totally unacceptable that the Pastors of the Church suffer pressure in this matter and that international bodies condition financial aid to poor countries with the introduction of laws that establish the 'marriage' between persons of the same sex. "

Finally, "it is the task of the family, supported by the whole society, to accept the unborn life and take care of life in its final stages". "With regard to the tragedy of abortion, the Church reaffirms the inviolability of human life" and "reaffirms the right to a natural death, while avoiding both the aggressive treatment and euthanasia".

"To face the challenge of the family today - is the conclusion - the Church must then convert and become more alive, more personal, more communitarian both in its actions at parish level and in small communities. Such an Community awakening seems to be already underway in many parts. We ask the light of the Holy Spirit to show us the concrete steps needed to make this more profound and widespread. Thus the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world, the theme of this Synod, appears in a serene and concrete light that makes us grow in hope and trust in God's mercy.

The "synodal methodology"

In his report Card. Baldisseri instead traced the path that has led to the present synodal assembly, from the extraordinary consistory on 20 and 21 February 2014, which met to start a common reflection on the family, to the extraordinary synod, in October last year, the conclusions of which were collected in the Relatio Synodi voted Saturday, 18 October 2014.

There were 102 responses to this document from eligible organizations, more than 400 comments, sent freely from dioceses, parishes, movements and individual believers and contributions from programs offered by universities and specialists which all fed into the preparation of the Instrumentum laboris, "reliably reflecting the perception and expectations of the Church on the decisive theme of the family". "Essentially, it was then the contribution made by the Holy Father himself, who in the General Audiences held on Wednesdays and on numerous other occasions has authoritatively accompanied the common path this year."

The instrumentum "is divided into three parts, which already in their succession demonstrate the continuity between the two stages of the Synod: if the first part (Listening to the challenges on the family) draws more directly from the Assembly in 2014, the second part ( The discernment of the vocation family) and the third part (The mission of the family today) intend primarily to introduce the theme of this meeting, with the aim of offering the Church and the contemporary world pastoral stimuli for a renewed evangelization ".

The cardinal also pointed to the "synodal methodology" that "has been partly overhauled, and is taking into account the experience gained in the Assembly of 2014, and taking into account the suggestions made by the members of that Assembly."

Card. Baldisserri finally recalled that "since the beginning of the Synod path, Pope Francis has urged the whole Church to trusting and constant prayer. In this regard, he has composed a prayer, published on December 29, 2013, in order to entrust the work of the Synod to the Holy Family of Nazareth, in the belief that the shining example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph "commits us to rediscover the vocation and the mission of the family '. " (FP)


Next, with regards people with homosexual tendency, "in any case, the Church teaches that: '' There is no basis whatsoever to assimilate or establish even remotely analogous between homosexual unions and God's plan for marriage and the family '. Nevertheless, men and women with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. 'In their regard any sign of unjust discrimination must be avoided' (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 4) "(IL 130)." Then it was reiterated that "each person must be respected in their dignity regardless of their sexual orientation", the Special Rapporteur stated that "it is totally unacceptable that the Pastors of the Church suffer pressure in this matter and that international bodies condition financial aid to poor countries with the introduction of laws that establish the 'marriage' between persons of the same sex. "

Finally, "it is the task of the family, supported by the whole society, to accept the unborn life and take care of life in its final stages". "With regard to the tragedy of abortion, the Church reaffirms the inviolability of human life" and "reaffirms the right to a natural death, while avoiding both the aggressive treatment and euthanasia".

"To face the challenge of the family today - is the conclusion - the Church must then convert and become more alive, more personal, more communitarian both in its actions at parish level and in small communities. Such an Community awakening seems to be already underway in many parts. We ask the light of the Holy Spirit to show us the concrete steps needed to make this more profound and widespread. Thus the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world, the theme of this Synod, appears in a serene and concrete light that makes us grow in hope and trust in God's mercy.

The "synodal methodology"

In his report Card. Baldisseri instead traced the path that has led to the present synodal assembly, from the extraordinary consistory on 20 and 21 February 2014, which met to start a common reflection on the family, to the extraordinary synod, in October last year, the conclusions of which were collected in the Relatio Synodi voted Saturday, 18 October 2014.

There were 102 responses to this document from eligible organizations, more than 400 comments, sent freely from dioceses, parishes, movements and individual believers and contributions from programs offered by universities and specialists which all fed into the preparation of the Instrumentum laboris, "reliably reflecting the perception and expectations of the Church on the decisive theme of the family". "Essentially, it was then the contribution made by the Holy Father himself, who in the General Audiences held on Wednesdays and on numerous other occasions has authoritatively accompanied the common path this year."

The instrumentum "is divided into three parts, which already in their succession demonstrate the continuity between the two stages of the Synod: if the first part (Listening to the challenges on the family) draws more directly from the Assembly in 2014, the second part ( The discernment of the vocation family) and the third part (The mission of the family today) intend primarily to introduce the theme of this meeting, with the aim of offering the Church and the contemporary world pastoral stimuli for a renewed evangelization ".

The cardinal also pointed to the "synodal methodology" that "has been partly overhauled, and is taking into account the experience gained in the Assembly of 2014, and taking into account the suggestions made by the members of that Assembly."

Card. Baldisserri finally recalled that "since the beginning of the Synod path, Pope Francis has urged the whole Church to trusting and constant prayer. In this regard, he has composed a prayer, published on December 29, 2013, in order to entrust the work of the Synod to the Holy Family of Nazareth, in the belief that the shining example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph "commits us to rediscover the vocation and the mission of the family '. " (FP)

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