IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although the public is given glimpses
of what happens inside the Catholic Church's world Synod of Bishops, the
meetings themselves take place behind closed doors.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Synod of
Bishops has been the object of a continual hunt to balance creating a protected
space where bishops could speak freely -- something that was especially
important a couple of decades ago when some members came from Soviet-bloc
countries -- with letting Catholics at home know that their bishops were
working prayerfully and seriously on issues they, too, would find important.
As a theologian, bishop and then-prefect of the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Benedict XVI had attended 15 of the 20
general, special and regional synod assemblies held between 1965 and his
election as pope in 2005. One of the first things he did as pope was to
institute an hour of "free discussion" at the end of the synod's evening
session each day. Unfortunately, several synod members said, some synod
participants insist on reading a text there, too, basically giving themselves
the chance to make two formal speeches.
Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, synod general secretary, said
this year's synod will see participants spending more time working and
discussing issues in small groups and less time listening to speeches.
Because the number of bishops in the world -- and at the
synods -- continues to grow, the amount of time they are given for speeches to
the assembly has been reduced. Prior to 2005, they each had eight minutes. For
the 2008 synod, it was reduced to five minutes. This year it has been slashed
to three minutes.
The three-minute limit means that the full texts are often
shorter than the speech summaries the Vatican used to hand out. With the
extraordinary synod on the family last year, the Vatican stopped distributing
But this year, Cardinal Baldisseri announced, synod participants
are free to give interviews and to distribute or publish the complete texts of
their speeches. However, it seemed most participants were not aware of the
change and, of the first 72 speeches at the synod, only a dribble of texts
found their way into the public sphere during the synod's first week.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president
of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, released an expanded version of his
synod speech through Catholic News Service.
Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec,
published his text on his French-language blog, "Chant et Marche."
The bishops' conference of Belgium was releasing the texts of Belgian bishops.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia posted his text
on his archdiocese's news site, catholicphilly.com.
The archbishop said that while part of the synod working
document "did a good job" describing the modern family, overall
"the text engenders a subtle hopelessness. This leads to a spirit of
compromise with certain sinful patterns of life and (to) 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."
He urged the synod to affirm church teaching on marriage,
sexuality and the family and demonstrate confidence in "the transformative
power of grace and the ability of people to actually live what the church
"We need to call people to perseverance in grace and to
trust in the greatness God intended for them -- not confirm them in their
errors," Archbishop Chaput told the synod. "Marriage embodies
Christian hope –- hope made flesh and sealed permanently in the love of a man
and a woman. This synod needs to preach that truth more clearly with the
radical passion of the cross and Resurrection."
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York published his text on
his blog, cardinaldolan.org.
The bishops are pastors called to guide the church, he said,
but to do that they must first be disciples, who "listen with gratitude,
humility, and openness to God's Word, particularly His Incarnate Word, Jesus."
"The starting point of the synod," Cardinal Dolan
said, "must be what God has revealed to us about marriage and the family:
that one man and one woman, united in lifelong, life-giving, faithful love,
eager for God's gift of babies, raised with tenderness in the sacred 'communio'
of the family, is the premier relationship of this life, so holy that it
reflects the interior love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the Most Blessed
The goal of the synod, he said, is "to defend, support,
sustain, renew and restore that noble nature of marriage and family as God
intended 'from the beginning.'"
The German bishops' conference posted on its website Oct. 8
the text of Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin.
He spoke of the large number of couples who live together
without marriage because they do not see it as important and of the need to
give special attention to couples in which one spouse is Catholic and the other
On the question of the treatment of divorced Catholics and
particularly the discussion about the possibility of allowing divorced and
civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, Archbishop Koch said most people
he speaks with do not understand the church's teaching; they see it as a matter
of charity and mercy, not as a defense of the indissolubility of marriage.
Archbishop Koch said he hoped the synod and Pope Francis
would find a new way to speak about marriage and family life, one that
highlights what a blessing it is and how it helps people reach fulfillment and
experience God's love. "We must not give the impression," he said,
that the synod spent most of its time quarreling about "the conditions for
admission to the sacraments."- - -Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.- - -Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS)
-- The Synod of Bishops on the family must find ways to give Catholic families a
leading role in evangelizing and supporting other families, the president of
the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told the synod.
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," said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, USCCB president.
Each voting member
of the Synod of Bishops is allowed one formal, three-minute speech to the
assembly and to submit fuller remarks or comments on other topics in writing.
who was one of the first synod members to address the assembly, released an
expanded version of his synod talk Oct. 8.
"As the synod
seeks to offer concrete solutions to the many difficulties families face,"
he said, "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."
The synod, the archbishop
said, cannot focus only on the challenges the family faces or on "wounded"
families; it also must recognize the "incredible vitality and strength"
To prepare a young
man for priesthood, dioceses dedicate years' worth of resources to his
education and they ensure continuing education throughout his years of ministry,
he noted. If Christian families are to fulfill their role as missionaries,
dioceses and parishes must make a commitment to their training as well.
On a practical
level, he said, it would be important to have "small groups of families who
encourage each other in the ups and downs of family life and strong connections"
between parishes and families.
But to be effective,
Archbishop Kurtz said, church leaders and the families themselves must believe
and trust in God's promises and in the grace that is given through the sacrament
of marriage, he said.
Spirit penetrates the life of the spouses who are consecrated and equipped for
their mission," he said. "We must trust in God's grace as we help
Christian husbands and wives embrace and live the truth of the sacrament they
- - -
Editors: Below is
the complete text of the "expanded intervention" released by
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" (Sept.
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 (Oct. 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, Oct. 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, Oct.
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, Oct. 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.- - -Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
By Carol GlatzVATICAN
CITY (CNS) -- Families need to hear homilies that connect the Gospel to the
troubles and joys they experience, said a synod participant.
Gomes, the Family and Life director at St. Mary's Church in Dubai, and an
observer at the Synod of Bishops on the family, said the typical scenario is
"the priest just talks about the Gospel, 'Peter said this, John said this'
and then it's finished and it's done and over."
Catholics, she said, want their priest "to cover real facts of what's
happening in the family and how important the family is today."
who is one of a number of non-voting lay observers, said urging priests around
the world to connect the Gospel to people's real lives is the focus of her
presentation to the synod.
God's word with a real example or story from someone's life helps people know
"the facts, that there are so many other people also having problems"
and how Christ offers healing, Gomes told Catholic News Service Oct. 7.
the quality of homilies is important, the pastor's personality and the
dedication of the community are also key, she said.
priest they had in Dubai, she said, was very outgoing, always visiting the
schools and talking with families. She said that closeness helped couples who
were in irregular unions decide to get married in the church.
secret is when they come for the children's baptism," she said.
church community and the priest speak with the family and help guide them
through what often can be a long process of discernment and discovering the
importance of the sacrament of matrimony. Other married couples "start
calling them, talking to them, getting to know them a little bit better,
drawing them to the church."
they find out people were not getting married in the church not for a lack of
faith, but because of economic restraints or because they didn't want the
hassle of getting the proper documents from their parish back in their home
country, she said.
Mary's Church in Dubai is "the largest pilgrim parish in the world,"
she said, serving more than 100,000 Catholics who are foreign workers and
non-citizen residents from the Philippines, India and other South Asian
nations. Gomes, with her husband, moved from Bombay, India, 31 years ago and
raised their three children in Dubai.
most parishes serve a community made up of citizens or long-term residents, St.
Mary's reaches out to a largely itinerant congregation where "many of them
use Dubai as a steppingstone for greener pastures."
said many of the church programs and outreach they offer are based on concrete
input and feedback from priests and counselors who work at the parish.
violating people's privacy or breaking the seal of confession, counselors and
priests take the recurring issues they hear and translate them into ideas about
"what people are hungry for," Gomes said.
example, extramarital affairs and conflicts with in-laws are frequent problems
threatening parishioners' marriages, she said.
a response, Gomes runs "Marriage Encounter" weekends and workshops to
help couples better communicate, build more intimate and solid unions and deal
with the many challenges they face.
parish offers workshops and seminars on the sacraments and expatriate workers'
rights; they invite medical professionals to talk about breast cancer awareness
and other health issues; they help widowed spouses with a "Hope and
Life" program; and they offer children a "Holyween" celebration
at the end of October to teach Christian virtues through the life of the
form networks and are deeply involved in parish life, she said, adding that it
is not unusual to still see people still at church at 9 p.m. "There's so
much brotherhood and community," she said. "I feel alive in that
said she wants to set up new programs to help couples facing infertility.
Catholic teaching emphasizing the procreative value of marriage, some couples
feel "the whole purpose of marriage is children," she said. "They
come to church, but there's a deep sadness in them" because they don't
have kids like their peers and "what happens is they start drawing
said she also wants to do something to address the loneliness many migrant
workers face when their spouse has stayed back in their home country.
woman once told her, "'When I go home from work, I prepare a lovely meal,
but I have no one to share it with. I'm sitting there all alone trying to enjoy
it.' And then I realized how lonely that is."
individuals and families St. Mary's serves "have problems, there are
problems, it's not a rosy picture. That's why we need a lot of healing and
that's why we do a lot of workshops and seminars so there is healing as
often go to foreign lands to follow a dream; sometimes that dream materializes
and sometimes it doesn't, she said.
are heartbreaks, there's depression and sadness," she said. But people
must take the good and bad "in stride and make the best of it, keeping God
always present in your life at all times."
message is: Never stray from him, keep him close and you can fight any battle.
I call him my bodyguard," she said with a smile.- - -Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Sarah Webb, CatholicPhilly.comBy Lou BaldwinPHILADELPHIA
(CNS) -- Helen Alvare is a law professor at George Mason University, a
consultant to the Vatican and the U.S. bishops about marriage and life issues,
and has been a recognized defender of Catholic teaching on marriage and the
family for many years. She also is a wife and mother.
being an expert on such issues wasn't always the case for her.
remembers at age 10 or so -- in a conversation with her own mother, who in
college had been first in her class and an accomplished musician -- exclaiming,
"Wow! You could have been something," not yet appreciating her mother
really was something -- she was a loving wife and parent.
was rooted in the gospel of me," Alvare recalled.
made the comments in an address on "Creating the Future: the Fertility of
Christian Love" at the recent World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
her own college years, she thought, "Why would I spend all this time
getting an education and then forking it over to children? Where was the decade
of fun I had coming to me?"
was only later that she had a reconversion to the beauty of Jesus Christ, she
said, in keeping with the words from Chapter 6, Verse 68, in the Gospel of
John: "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
new eyes, she witnessed her parents taking care of her disabled sister, taking
care of their own elderly parents, her brothers and sisters caring for their
children and the examples she saw in her parish.
has witnessed that "gospel of me" taking deeper hold in recent
decades. As a Catholic feminist herself, she has regretted seeing the issues of
contraception and abortion becoming a sine qua non of women's rights.
equate women's freedoms with freedom from children has tragic outcomes,"
Alvare said. "Sex is just a tennis game and the casualties are legion. Sex
has become the place for a relationship with the opposite sex, nothing special
family, she said, "is of God and connected to his divine plan, and it is
surely indicated by Jesus and his life on earth, coming to us by pregnancy and
birth, raised in a family home of a mother and father. It is a forceful
of course we aren't the Holy Family, and Alvare said, '"when you live
elbow to elbow with each other and other people in your life there are good
times and bad, and endless opportunities to learn to love and respect one
Pope Francis, she said, "Sometimes the plates start flying. It takes
sacrificial love to be a parent and if you don't practice it in your own
family, good luck in practicing it with a stranger."
common example of the joy of marital sacrificial love comes at the beginning of
remember when my husband and I brought our first child home from the hospital,"
she said. "There she was, limp and beautiful, like a pile of roses."
writes for CatholicPhilly.com, the news site of the Archdiocese of
Philadelphia.- - -Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Carol GlatzVATICAN
CITY (CNS) -- Greater emphasis on small-group discussions and incorporating
that work into the synod's final draft document is helping alleviate any
suspicion of the synod being manipulated, said one of the four synod
Wilfrid F. Napier of Durban, South Africa, told Catholic News Service Oct. 7,
"I think this time we are aware of and I think the secretary of the synod
(Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri) is aware that there are these suspicions and,
therefore, I think there's going to be a much more perhaps open-handed approach
to the synod."
a member of the synod's ordinary council, the cardinal was part of the group
that planned this year's general Synod of Bishops on the family as well as last
year's extraordinary synod.
year, Cardinal Napier had openly criticized the publication of a midterm report
during the synod and the decision not to release summaries of the speeches
participants gave in the synod hall. He and several other synod fathers at the
time suggested that the midterm report did not accurately reflect the
assembly's views and that the press had no way of assessing the report's
to CNS on the sidelines of this year's synod, Cardinal Napier said he had found
it "strange" last year that the media had been given a detailed
midterm report before the issues facing the synod had been fully discussed.
meant the media "were given a certain direction that could only have come
from inside and, therefore, raised the suspicion -- which I think is not quite
as strongly present now as it was" in the year between the synods
"that there was some manipulation going on," he said.
summaries of speakers' presentations still are not distributed by the Vatican,
Cardinal Baldisseri insisted bishops were free to give their texts to whomever
addition, Pope Francis created a 10-person committee to oversee the drafting of
the final synod document and ensure it incorporates the general discussions,
small groups' reports and written comments from synod participants.
Napier said he has been pleased with the increased emphasis on and time given
to the small group discussions, saying the bishops "have been given what
we have always said is the best part" of a synod.
just two days of meeting in the language-based groups, the cardinal said the
discussions "have actually fulfilled my expectations. Really free and open
exchanges, a real getting a good measure of what's happening in the church in
the various parts of the world," and how the church and families help and
support each other.
said he thought that the input coming from the small groups was "already
giving the draft document a direction which is rather difficult, I think, to
work into a particular position."
than being focused on one particular view or approach, he said, the small
groups are discussing "what we believe is the direction in which the
church in general wants to go."
a final document is drawn up at the synod's end, he said, "certainly the
result I am looking forward to is a document that we can put into people's
hands," which will give them very clear direction as to the mission and
vocation of today's families.
focus of discussion and the final report, he said, has been on:
"What can the synod do to make families really know where they fit in the
church, how the church depends on them and in that way to really get themselves
rejuvenated and renewed so they take on this role of evangelization."
Napier told reporters later that he believed families were hoping the synod
would "be clear and very forceful in restating" the importance of the
family for the church and society.
the family is weak, the church is going to be weak; it's not the other way
around," the cardinal said. "The strength of the church comes from
the families, so let's give the families every support we can."- - -Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.