Courage, creativity urged as cardinals begin talks on family issues

Courage, creativity urged as cardinals begin talks on family issues


                 Cardinal Walter Kasper

Pope Francis this morning opened a two-day discussion of cardinals on the family, saying the church’s pastoral response to modern problems must be marked by intelligence, courage and love.

Here’s the key quote from the pope’s talk to about 150 cardinals gathered at the Vatican:

Our reflections must keep before us the beauty of the family and marriage, the greatness of this human reality which is so simple and yet so rich, consisting of joys and hopes, of struggles and sufferings, as is the whole of life. We will seek to deepen the theology of the family and discern the pastoral practices which our present situation requires.

May we do so thoughtfully and without falling into “casuistry”, because this would inevitably diminish the quality of our work. Today, the family is looked down upon and mistreated. We are called to acknowledge how beautiful, true and good it is to start a family, to be a family today; and how indispensable the family is for the life of the world and for the future of humanity. We are called to make known God’s magnificent plan for the family and to help spouses joyfully experience this plan in their lives, as we accompany them amidst so many difficulties, including with a pastoral approach that is intelligent, courageous and full of love.

That last phrase about a courageous and compassionate pastoral policy was added extemporaneously by the pope.

Briefing reporters afterward, the Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said that in referring to “casuistry,” the pope meant that the cardinals should not “fragment” their discussion by focusing on particular situations over a more general vision.

Lombardi also summarized some key points made by German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who delivered a two-hour-long address to introduce the themes of the discussion. Kasper spoke about the need to connect God’s design for the family in the order of creation to the reality of the family today. On one hand, the church has to be able to transmit the joy and the positive values of the family to society, and in this sense the family should be a privileged means of evangelizing, he said.

But the cardinal said the church also needs to look closely at the tensions faced by modern families, including alienation between men and women, and problems faced by women and mothers.

Cardinal Kasper said a key concept in their reflections on the family should be the “law of graduality,” which recognizes that people come to accept the church’s teachings in a process of spiritual growth and maturation. He noted that this does not mean “graduality of the law,” but it requires time and patient accompaniment.

The cardinal said the church’s pastoral task today was not simply to repeat: “The doctrine of the church is this,” but to return to the roots of the doctrine, which is the Gospel, and find creative pastoral approaches that respond to new problems.

Father Lombardi said Cardinal Kasper spoke about the situation of divorced and remarried Catholics, citing the need to find a solution that took into account both pastoral compassion and church law. The cardinal indicated that a penitential period with the sacrament of Reconciliation was a possible path toward a solution for such difficult situations.

The cardinals’ discussion comes eight months ahead of a Synod of Bishops on the Family. Their meeting was closed-door, and there were no plans to publish Cardinal Kasper’s text, Lombardi said.

6 comments (Add your own)

1. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh wrote:
"But the cardinal said the church also needs to look closely at the tensions faced by modern families, including alienation between men and women, and problems faced by women and mothers."

It is pathetic how out of touch these childless, celibate men are. Everything is theory with them. They have no real-lived, intimate, life experience of having a family of their own, and yet they have the arrogance to make pronouncements on family issues.

Thu, February 20, 2014 @ 8:23 AM

2. Jane Jordan wrote:
These celibate men came from families of their own They have mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews. They did not drop down out of the sky as an adult. They are spiritual fathers who are guided by natural law. Priests, bishops, and cardinals are approached by hundreds of men and women who seek spiritual guidance from them in whom they confide their deepest spiritual and emotional needs. When these "childless men" advise they use spiritual guidelines and wisdom to enlighten these men and women who often are broken and wounded from a secular lifestyle They hear countless confessions and testimonies of both tragic and daily trials experienced by families.

What Dr. McHugh is also saying is: psychiatrists and psychologists who have not experienced mental illness should not serve people with mental health issues.

Thu, February 20, 2014 @ 9:54 AM

3. Theodore Roberts wrote:
Can Jesus speak on married life? Can a single person speak on married life? Can a celibate priest speak on married life. All answers are yes, an emphatic YES! Jesus, the greatest known and read celibate expressed VERY insightful words to the married, to the Sacrament of Marriage. Jesus gave us the LIVING message of this great Sacrament by HIS example of marriage of Himself with His Church. Hate is east, to understand is to become human. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Stop the Hate.

Thu, February 20, 2014 @ 9:59 AM

4. TomS wrote:
Dr. McHugh, please explain to me how your harsh criticism of the pope and cardinals add to the discussion about marriage. Is what you've written your only or most important contribution? What a poor example you set for people - children and adults - trying to grapple with the modern family. A personal attack of your opponents is uncalled for - it only the attacker.

Thu, February 20, 2014 @ 1:06 PM

5. Peter wrote:
No one questions the existence of many, many "difficult situations," but what does "remarried" mean in the absence of a valid (and reasonably expeditious!) declaration of nullity for the earlier "marriage(s)"?

Glad I'm not a cardinal with all this on my plate. Still, it seems that steadfastness should count more than multiplication of words (and typically unread papers), and from a distance at least, a two-hour introduction by Cardinal Kasper seems a bit much. Again, the borderline false dichotomy between "the doctrine of the Church" and "creative pastoral approaches". The responsibility is to compromise neither. The "law of graduality?" What becomes of restored evangelization and conversion, and encouragement and clarity to loyal spouses and to those approaching "marriage"?

Thu, February 20, 2014 @ 1:17 PM

6. Danura Pawłowska wrote:
Familiaris Consortio - John Paul II
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_19811122_familiaris-consortio_en.html
,,However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage''

Sun, March 23, 2014 @ 11:30 AM

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