Church needs to drop harsh language on marriage and family, synod is told

Church needs to drop harsh language on marriage and family, synod is told

As the Synod of Bishops entered its second day, more than one participant zeroed in on the negative language the Catholic Church sometimes uses when it discusses marriage and family issues.

In particular, one bishop said, terms like “living in sin,” “intrinsically disordered” or “contraceptive mentality” do nothing to draw people closer to church teaching. It’s a form of labeling that can turn people off, he said.

The point emerged during a briefing for journalists that identified some of the topics discussed during the synod, but without identifying the speakers. In some cases, a few lines of the unnamed participants’ talks were quoted.

According to Father Tom Rosica, one of the briefers at the Vatican press office, a strong argument was made for the church to adopt more positive, hopeful language about marriage and the family.

“Living in sin” is sometimes used to describe cohabitating couples, while “intrinsically disordered” is the used by the Catechism of the Catholic Church to describe homosexual acts. Many Vatican officials have criticized what they call a “contraceptive mentality” in modern culture, a phrase used in Pope Saint John Paul II’s 1981 document on the family, Familiaris Consortio.

Father Rosica, quoting one synod participant, said the church needs to work to find a language that embodies its theology and invites people to embrace it. To many people, the participant said, marriage seems to be “filtered in harsh language through the church.” The challenge is to make that language loving and appealing, he said.

The synod’s discussion touched on a variety of other topics. According to English Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who also addressed reporters, one point that seemed to be developing was the call to respect the “law of graduality” – the idea that a Christian’s moral development takes place gradually, in a “stepping stones” fashion, and not necessarily in an immediate embrace of doctrine.

In this perspective, individuals are encouraged to take one step at a time toward faith and holiness, and toward understanding and accepting the church’s teachings. At the same time, Nichols noted, Pope John Paul II stated in Familiaris Consortio that the “law of graduality” did not imply a “graduality of the law.”

Another point mentioned during the synod’s first sessions was that while the family is still considered the basic unit of society, the church has to be sensitive to non-traditional forms of family, including those that, by choice or not, are without children.

The Vatican press office later released a two-page written summary of synodal talks, listing some of the themes raised by participants:

-- A need to develop a longer program of accompaniment for married couples, and not just a brief marriage preparation course that ends with the ceremony. The preparation for engaged couples needs to be “long, personalized and even severe, without fear of seeing the number of church weddings decrease. Otherwise, there’s the risk of clogging up the tribunals with marriage cases.”

-- Couples who have divorced or are in irregular unions need the “medicine of mercy,” but they want above all to be loved and welcomed, even more than “rapid pastoral solutions.” Regarding the possibility of Communion for Catholics who divorced and remarried without an annulment, the point was made that the Eucharist is “not the sacrament of the perfect, but of those on a pathway.”

-- At least one synod participant took aim at the influence of the mass media, and the widespread presentation of “ideologies contrary to church doctrine on marriage and the family.”

12 comments (Add your own)

1. Susan Long wrote:
Each person must be taught to examine his or her own conscience and decide what is right for them. The church can say what it believes to be true; however, it must be ready to accept everyone even if they do not believe everything the church believes. Yes, *all* are welcome at the banquet of Jesus and that includes LBGT individuals and couples, families using contraceptives, those remarried without an annulment, etc. etc. etc.

The Catholic church is not an exclusive country club of God. We do not attract and retain people by dishing out fear of being ostracized and rejected.

Who am I or any priest or layperson to judge anyone else? We all have logs in our eyes.

Tue, October 7, 2014 @ 9:13 AM

2. Susan Schaeffer wrote:
I could not improve on Susan Long's comment above. Thank you for putting that so well, Susan!!

Tue, October 7, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

3. ann hoenigman wrote:
Our sixth child is a lesbian. The church has rejected her unless she subscribes to forced lifelong celibacy. I feel like the church taught us to be open to new life but only accepts some of our children.

Tue, October 7, 2014 @ 10:25 AM

4. Francis wrote:
As a priest, I am sincerely and honestly tormented in moments by trying to understand how we are to go about being welcoming and hearing the pain in peoples' lives by feeling rejected; and yet, where are we to have any type of call to accountability regarding decisions that we make. I agree with Susan who states that we are not to judge, but the judgments about decisions (I am guilty of this as well) that are not made well in light of the Gospel does not place judgement upon the person. I see two polemics very strong in the United States in the Church. One voice, that does not worry about how many we alienate from the Church that Christ founded, to be a "hospital" for all of us who are sinners and the other voice, that states that if you prophetically call any type of decision into accountability, you are being "rigid," or "judgemental". I say with all sincerity and humility that I do not know where the answers are. I merely try to help one person at a time and listen to the voice of Christ through the example and life of Jesus, the teachings of the Church and our messy human lives. Maybe that is because that is what I try to do. I have come to the conclusion that it is okay to admit that we are on a journey, and we do not have all of the answers.

Tue, October 7, 2014 @ 10:54 AM

5. Simon wrote:
Funny how the Synod is supposed to be in camera and yet these pro-Kasperite interventions keep leaking out. It's almost as if... whisper it... PR is involved!

Tue, October 7, 2014 @ 11:06 AM

6. Stever wrote:
Maybe the Church should stop saying "Repent and believe the gospel" too.

Tue, October 7, 2014 @ 3:18 PM

7. Greg wrote:
I am far from perfect, but if I'm in a state of mortal sin (which is quite often), I refrain from receiving communion as it's sinful in itself to do otherwise; I wait until after I go receive the sacrament of reconcilliation. Yes, none of us are perfect, but by looking at a sin, and then dishonestly saying it isn't a sin doesn't help the sinner, and neither does it help the Church. There is always room for greater understanding and mercy, but that doesn't mean losing the Gospel, without will become nothing but a country club.

Tue, October 7, 2014 @ 7:22 PM

8. Michael G. Albano, OFS wrote:
Fr. Francis, I for one thank you for trying to make sense of this crazy world! Your job (vocation) has to be very deficult. My problem is how do we become inclusive if the individual excludes himself/herself from both truth of Church (Christ) teachings and sometimes even dogma. Is the Church suppose to change because society becomes more immoral and secular? Are we to abandon the fact that we are to be in the state of Grace to receive the Sacrements even when the individual has an informed conscience? When I go for Reconsilation I want to be totally penitent and will search my conscience for all sins that I committed. I want to receive Jesus with a clean slate. I desire to come as close as possible to the Savior. Does all of this go away because fewer and fewer people want to take responsibility for their actions? Saying all that I've said, is going to cause people to say I hate! I don't hate and I will treat all with respect and dignity, but I am not going to compromise my principals, truth, or my beliefs. I have two cousins (once removed) who are homosexual I love them dearly and pray for them everyday. I want them to go to heaven and I want to go with them. I know that when they commit homosexual acts they are wrong and may be in the state of sin. But, far be it for me, to say that they are going to be condemned. I'm not God and can't nor would I ever make that judgement. Many Bishops and priest make statements which seem to be confusing the faithful including this sinner!

Tue, October 7, 2014 @ 7:58 PM

9. Itaguyod Ang Buhay wrote:
We are seemingly facing a dilemma here. The truth of Christ's teachings, we discover through the experiences of people influenced now by the culture of individualism and relativism, has been revealed to be so wide that there is much that cannot be grasped by the human mind. However, while recognizing all these realities and finding proper means to deal with them, we must remember one thing: we cannot compromise the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ to accommodate what is totally against His teachings and against the Father's will. Totally against the design of the Father. We embrace everyone, the Church embraces everyone regardless of people's belief and we know that. We acknowledge that everyone of us is on a journey, but we have to understand that we on a journey under the guidance of the Church given to us by Jesus Christ, leading us in accordance to the prompting and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. And for this we cannot leave a space for stance against the Father, against Christ, against the Holy Spirit, against the Church. This is not rigidity, this is not being judgemental; this is simply standing by the ground of Christ's teachings and the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Let ourselves be led by the same.

Wed, October 8, 2014 @ 12:51 AM

10. Sarah Pickhardt wrote:
The Church calls us to walk in the path of Jesus Christ. Jesus accepted the Gentile, the leper, and the prostitute, much to the dismay of the Church and society of his day. I believe that if Jesus were to return in human form today, he would have the same effect on modern church and society, challenging them to be more open and accepting to all who seek God. While simpler and less eloquent than the above comments, my local church community strives to "See Christ in all, Be Christ to all."

Wed, October 8, 2014 @ 7:23 AM

11. Todd wrote:
Graduality sounds exactly like the notion of: Christian perfection, the interior life, asceticism. Spiritual theology is a beautiful part of our faith, and one whose teaching has largely been silent since Vatican II. I'm eager to see a return to the teachings on the one thing necessary.

Wed, October 8, 2014 @ 10:00 AM

12. Stella Trevino wrote:
"Graduality" sounds to me a lot like "the slippery slope". The teachings of Christ on marriage, family and sexuality are clear and concise. Let the Church remain faithful to those teaching. Compassion is necessary but so also is sacrifice and fidelity to the Gospel. Sometimes that means abstaining from things, situations and persons. May the Holy Spirit protect, guide and give Light to these discussions and may Jesus be the one who teaches and enlightens all participants.

Wed, October 8, 2014 @ 12:07 PM

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