IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The heart of the Synod of Bishops on
the family is the challenge of discerning ways to reach out with God's mercy to
people, who might not be perfect, and to help them move closer to perfection,
said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.
The first step, the cardinal said, is to "recognize
what the human condition is and that we are all caught up in it -- that's what
the fall was all about and that's what Jesus' death on the cross was all about.
We do live in an imperfect world and each one of us is imperfect, but we also
have the salvific grace of God at work in each one of us."
Cardinal Wuerl, speaking to Catholic News Service Oct. 9,
said it was important for the synod members to show people around the world
both that the church still believes firmly that marriage and family are
blessings, but also that church leaders know there are challenges raised by society
and by the individuals themselves.
"I think it's good for people to hear that their
shepherds recognize that they are struggling, that it isn't as easy as it
sounds in the catechism," he said. "At the same time, God's grace is
at work in our lives."
Many at the synod, he said, are echoing Pope Francis' call,
"Go out. Meet people. The church has an obligation to meet people where
they are, encounter them where they are. Not to scold them, but to accompany
them on the faith journey."
Cardinal Wuerl said he is always touched by the pope's
addition of a reminder that "if you accompany them, maybe both of you will
get closer to Jesus."
The key to the pastoral care of families -- both the strong
and the weak -- is Pope Francis' call to go out and to encounter, the cardinal
"Now when you encounter someone, you have to do that
with respect," he said. "Does that mean acceptance of their
lifestyle? Not necessarily. But you have to respect them for who they are. And
then you begin to walk with them, trying to understand where they are while
also inviting them to draw closer to Christ.
"I think that's what this pope asks us to do: respect
people," he said. "You don't have to approve what they're doing, but
if you are going to walk with them, you have to do so with a sense of
Speaking after hearing the reports of all the synod's small
working groups, Cardinal Wuerl said one common thread was that while the church
needs to recognize "all of the problems that marriage is facing today, we
also need to weave into that the witness, the testimony of all those people who
are living successful family life, who are living successful marriages."
But if the synod does not speak openly and honestly about
the challenges, he said, nobody will listen to the rest of what the synod has
While people do not need a "fervorino" -- a pious
pep talk -- "admitting, recognizing and seeing the problems has to be
balanced with encouragement that not everybody is succumbing to the
After listening to the small group reports, synod members --
including Cardinal Wuerl -- began talking about what the church brings to the
reality of the family.
The third section of the synod's work will deal with what
the church's pastoral response should be, the cardinal said, "and that's
where the challenge of this synod will be and that's where this synod will be
different from past synods because we have been asked to take a look at
practical, pastoral responses."
In his speech to the synod, the cardinal said, "One of
the things I touched on was the need to remember a two-fold element: that the
fullness of the teaching and the mercy, God's mercy, as we try to live that
teaching, are both elements of the faith. They are both essential and
intrinsically related elements of the faith."
The church always has presented its teaching and called
people to live it fully, he said. At the same time, the church always has said,
"'When you fail, here's confession. And when you're struggling, here's
absolution. The thing to do is to get up and keep trying.' That's the beauty of
Some people who are living the faith more closely may be
tempted to feel neglected or even annoyed, Cardinal Wuerl admitted. Jesus knew
those people, too.
In the Gospels, he said, "the Good Shepherd goes out
after the one lost sheep. In the parable of the prodigal son, the older son is
encouraged by the father to be loving and forgiving so that the one who has
been away is welcomed back.
"Remember, Jesus also used the parable about a man
going out and hiring people at different hours," but paying them all the
same, Cardinal Wuerl said. When people complained, the landowner said,
"Are you annoyed with me because I'm generous?"
"Yes, there could be a temptation to say, 'Look, I've
struggled in the heat of the sun all day and what reward do I get? Heaven. And
this person comes along at the end of the day and what reward does he or she
get? Heaven,'" the cardinal said. "What we need to say is, 'Isn't it
a blessing that Jesus died on the cross so that all of us could have
heaven?'"- - -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 Wooden and Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The first week of the Synod of Bishops
on the family ended with near unanimous calls to be more positive in describing
family life today and to show more appreciation for Catholic families living
close to the church's ideals. But there were also widespread questions among
synod participants about the work they are expected to produce.
After listening to speeches and working in small groups Oct.
5-8, synod participants listened to the small group reports Oct. 9.
"At times our work has seemed more muddled than
methodical," wrote Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge on behalf of the
synod's English Group C. "Our hope is that focus, if not perfect clarity,
will emerge as the synod unfolds and we become more assured about both task and
During a press briefing Oct. 9, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle
of Manila, Philippines, one of the synod presidents, told reporters that changes in the
synod's method created some confusion, especially for members who have attended
past synods and were accustomed to drawing up a list of propositions to give to the
pope. Instead, they have been asked to amend the synod's working document.
The speeches in the synod hall the first week and the
discussions in the small groups focused on the first chapter of the working
document; all the small group reports offered suggestions for improving the
text while some criticized it harshly, saying much of the text was
"flawed," "inadequate, especially in its theology," and too
But the working document is meant to be analyzed and ripped
apart, Cardinal Tagle told reporters.
"In fact it is
called a martyred document," the cardinal said. "It must be ready to
be martyred, to be shot. Otherwise there is no point in calling 300 people (to
Rome) just to say, 'Yes, this is it.'"
The working document
includes input from so many different people that the main aim in drafting it
was to get everyone's opinion in and not to produce "a synthetic, cohesive
treatise on the vocation and mission of the family," said Cardinal Tagle,
who helped draft the text.
therefore, was expected and is "very much welcome," he added.
Almost all the groups insisted whatever document the synod
produced at the end would need to be clear, simple and realistic.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told reporters
at the briefing that his small group called for a text using understandable words that "inspired and
"If marriage is a vocation, which we believe it is, we
can't promote vocations by talking first about its problems," said the
report of English Group D, chaired by Cardinal Thomas C. Collins of Toronto
with Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia serving as secretary.
Several groups also insisted the document should include
more quotations from Scripture, a clearer reaffirmation of church teaching and,
according to one Italian group, ample citations from early church theologians.
Cardinal Tagle said even
though the text would be rooted in the Bible, the language used should be
"more edifying or encouraging," and less verbose. There was a
recognition that a final document would have to avoid so-called
"church-speak," especially if it was going to speak to young people
whose formation might not be so sophisticated, he said. But because it is a work in progress, "We will see what will
Another Italian group, Group A, said its members want a
document using "formulas that from the beginning leave no doubt that the
only model of family that corresponds to church doctrine is that founded on the
marriage of one man and one woman."
Like the other groups, French Group C insisted the synod
find the right language and tone to speak of the family. "There is a
danger in talking about 'family' in the abstract, as a reality that is external
to us," the members said. But, in fact, the families the bishops are
talking about include the families formed by the bishops' own parents, their brothers
and sisters, cousins and nieces and nephews.
The bishops, the French group wrote, also are people of
faith and pastors; faith in Jesus and concern for people in their family lives
must be clear in what the synod produces.
French Group A said the synod's text "must adopt a tone
that promotes dialogue with our contemporaries."
At the same time, the group reported, "we are aware
that these next two weeks will not be enough" to complete thoroughly the
work the synod has been asked to do.
English Group C agreed. "To address the many issues
that we have discussed will take more than the first week or even the three
weeks of the synod. A longer journey stretches before us, just as an earlier
journey has led us to this point -- not just from late 2013 when Pope Francis
announced the journey of the two synods but from the Second Vatican Council and
all that led to it."
Several groups also urged the synod to discuss "gender
theory," which argues that male and female characteristics are not
biologically determined but are malleable social constructs.
Italian Group A said the synod must point out "the
risks of gender ideology as well as its negative impact on educational programs
in many countries."
French Group C explained that sociologists and philosophers
developed gender theories in an attempt "to analyze certain human and
social phenomena to enrich our understanding of the world. But when these
theories become absolute, they tend to produce a single thought system that tries
to sweep away everything in its path. In seeking to impose a point of view that
denies the relationship between gender and the sexual being that we are in our
bodies," it denies what is "most noble and humanizing" in the family
, parenting and human love.- - -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 Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Gathered with a worldwide
representation of bishops, including patriarchs and other bishops from the
Middle East, Pope Francis dedicated the morning prayer of the Synod of
Bishops on the family to pleas for peace in the Middle East.
Opening the synod's session Oct. 9, Pope Francis asked the more
than 300 synod participants to devote their day's prayer to "the intention
of reconciliation and peace in the Middle East."
"We are painfully struck and follow with deep concern
what is happening in Syria, in Iraq, in Jerusalem and the West Bank, where we
see an escalation of violence that involves innocent civilians and continues to
fuel a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions," Pope Francis told the
In September and again in October, Jerusalem and the West
Bank were rocked by violent outbursts involving both Palestinians and Israelis
with shootings, stabbings, riots and arson attacks.
Speaking just a few hours before the Nobel Committee awarded
the peace prize to Tunisians working for peace and democracy, Pope Francis told
synod participants, "War brings destruction and multiplies the sufferings
of peoples. Hope and progress come only from choices for peace."
The synod's prayers for peace, he said, are intended as
"an expression of solidarity" with the Middle East patriarchs and
bishops, "as well as with their priests and faithful and everyone who
Speaking in the name of the synod, the pope also made "a
heartfelt appeal to the international community, that the nations of the world
might find a way to effectively help the parties concerned to broaden their horizons beyond their
immediate interests and to use the instruments of international law and
diplomacy to resolve the conflicts underway."
Before entrusting his prayer to "Mary, queen of
peace," the pope also prayed for areas in Africa that are experiencing conflict.- - -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) -- 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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.