Vatican City (AsiaNews), October 6, 2014
The “beauty of the Christian message” on marriage and family needs to be proposed to the world anew, in order to give “concrete answers that are full of charity” inspired by mercy in a world in which “many perceive their life not as a project, but as a series of moments in which the greatest value is to feel good, the feel good factor. In such a vision, all forms of commitment seem daunting, the future a threat, because it may happen that we could feel worse in the future”.
In the opening report to the Synod’s first working session, Card. Erdo said that in a world marked by individualism, the Church must not give in to “catastrophism or abdication,” because there is "a broad and shared heritage of faith". "The doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage is not being called into question" and the Synod is not about “doctrinal issues, but practical issues”, “of a purely pastoral nature”. Pope Francis: Speak frankly, say everything, listen humbly.
The "beauty of the Christian message" on marriage and family needs to be proposed to the world anew, in order to give "concrete answers that are full of charity" inspired by mercy in a world in which "many perceive their life not as a project, but as a series of moments in which the greatest value is to feel good, the feel good factor. In such a vision, all forms of commitment seem daunting, the future a threat, because it may happen that we could feel worse in the future".
This is the goal of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme: "The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization" illustrated this morning by the general relator Cardinal Peter Erdo, in his Relatio ante disceptationem, the report before the discussion.
Ahead of the Cardinal's opening remarks Pope Francis in a short speech, stressed that the synod fathers represent "the voice of the particular Churches." He added that this a great responsibility: to bring the realities and problems of Churches, to help them walk on that street which is the Gospel of the family. One general and basic condition is this: speak out. Nobody should say: 'I can't say this or they will think this of me...'we must all say what you feel with parresia (unabashedly)"and you have to "listen humbly". These are "the keys of collegiality."
For his part, Cardinal. Erdo said that in a world marked by individualism and by "a culture of media image, feelings, emotional experiences, symbols," the Church must not give in to "catastrophism or abdication", as it is custodian of "a broad and shared heritage of faith." For example, ideological forms such as gender theory or equality for same-sex unions are not supported by the vast majority of Catholics. Moreover, he adds that the fact that marriage and family are values originating in human culture and a heritage that must be guarded, promoted and, when necessary, defended find a wider consensus in a variety of socio-cultural contexts then appears at first glance". "The teaching on the indissolubility of marriage as such is not questioned. Indeed, it is unchallenged and for the most part observed also in the pastoral practice of the Church with persons who have failed in their marriage and seek a new beginning. Therefore, what is being discussed at this synod of an intense pastoral nature are not doctrinal issues, but the practical ones - nevertheless inseparable from the truths of the faith".
The need to foster a greater acceptance of the doctrinal principles and the dissociation from it that he sees in practice, highlight the need for better formation, especially for engaged couples, so that they are clearly aware of both the sacramental dignity of marriage, based on "its uniqueness, fidelity and fruitfulness" and its being "an institution of society." Although threatened by "disruptive factors", such as divorce, abortion, violence, poverty, abuse, "the nightmare" of insecurity, the imbalance caused by migration, the family is always a "school of humanity": "On the other hand, the family is fast becoming the last welcoming human reality in a world determined almost exclusively by finance and technology. A new culture of the family can be the starting point for a renewed human civilization".
And " It should be pointed out that the Gospel of the Family is first of all the good news of a grace given by the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Marriage, a renewed opportunity, offered to a person in his fragility, to welcome and celebrate, with joy and gratitude, at both the personal and communal levels. The obligations arising from marriage must not be forgotten, but seen as the demands of the gift which the gift itself makes possible".
As for the difficult marital situations, the Church is a "house of the Father " for them. There is need for a "renewed and adapted action of family ministry", especially to make them feel loved by God and by the ecclesial community, in a perspective that is not merciful, but which "does not do away with truth nor relativize it". " Indeed, God never tires of forgiving the sinner who repents and he does not tire of giving him this possibility again and again. This mercy is not a justification to sin but rather the sinner's justification, to the extent that he converts and aims to sin no more".
Consequently, mercy does not take away the commitments which arise from the demands of the marriage bond. They will continue to exist even when human love is weakened or has ceased. This means that, in the case of a (consummated) sacramental marriage, after a divorce, a second marriage recognized by the Church is impossible, while the first spouse is still alive".
However, given the diversity of situations - divorce, civil marriage, cohabitation - on the one hand "clear guidelines" are needed so that the pastors of the local communities can actually help couples in trouble, "avoiding the improvisations of a pastoral 'DIY' "on the other as regards the divorced and civilly remarried "it would be misleading to focus only on the question of the reception of the sacraments" instead of looking at a broader context, marriage preparation and support - not bureaucratic, but pastoral - for the spouses, to help them understand the reasons for the failure of the first marriage, and identify any elements of invalidity: "As regards the divorced who are civilly married, many have said that the distinction needs to be made between the one who is guilty for the break-up of the marriage and the innocent party. The Church's pastoral care should extend to each of them in a particular way. Divorced and civilly remarried persons belong to the Church".
It should also be noted that given the lack of awareness that you have now the Sacrament of Marriage and the widespread divorce mentality, "it does not seem hazardous", to believe that many marriages celebrated in the Church may be invalid. Hence the suggestion to review the obligation for two appeals of confirmation while avoiding any type of mechanics or impression of granting a divorce or solutions which are unjust and scandalous." In this context it is necessary to conduct a study on the practice of some Orthodox Churches that provide the possibility of second and third marriage.
The last part of the Report is devoted to the Gospel of life. Openness to life from conception to natural death, is "an essential part, an intrinsic requirement" of conjugal love, while today, especially in the West, those who choose not to have children or who want them at any cost, is reduced to one's ability of self-determination: "It is also true, however, that welcoming life, assuming responsibility in procreating life and the care required are possible only if the family is not conceived as an isolated unit but an active part in a network of relationships".
It is important, therefore, that " the meaning of a widespread and concrete solidarity," exceed the "privatization of love" that empties the family of meaning and relies on the choice of the individual; there is a need to create, at an institutional level, conditions that facilitate openness to children and care for the elderly, so as "to protect and promote social good." For its part, the Church must devote special care to education and sexuality, explaining their value and avoiding "trivializing and superficialities." (FP)