Papal adviser: At stake in synod is relationship between church and world

Papal adviser: At stake in synod is relationship between church and world

         Father Antonio Spadaro addresses the Synod of Bishops

The Synod of Bishops on the Family marks a dramatic and delicate moment, in which “the relationship between the church and the world is at stake.”

So says a close papal adviser, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, in an interview today with Vatican Radio. Father Spadaro is director of the Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica and was a papal appointee to the synod.

Spadaro described the synod’s three-week session as a lively and effective debate over problems, language and ways of approaching family issues that vary in different parts of the world. Because the synod really does represent global diversity, sometimes there are tensions and conflicts, he said.

“Therefore this is a very delicate moment, in which one understands that the relationship between the church and the world is at stake. This truly is at stake in this synod: to see how the church should live in relation with the reality of today, which has great challenges and great changes, but which, I repeat, is very different in the diverse places of the earth,” he said.

Spadaro returned to a theme raised by Pope Francis the previous day, that the church and the synod must begin by listening to its people.

“One cannot enlighten reality without first having heard it,” Spadaro said. “The human being is not an element extraneous to the Gospel. The Gospel is not an abstract doctrine that strikes people from the outside like a stone. It must be incarnated in lived lives, in experiences. Sometimes (this process) can be adversarial and sometimes peaceful.”

Spadaro said the theme of mercy that Pope Francis has emphasized throughout his pontificate and the synod will continue in a follow-up phase during the Holy Year of Mercy that begins Dec. 8.

“And it won't end there. It needs to be understood that we are experiencing an ecclesial process of great dimensions. For this reason, it shouldn't surprise people that there are moments of fatigue, impasse, difficulties and tensions. But there is also the joy of constructing history together,” he said.

Father Spadaro was reminded that some synod bishops are uneasy with the emphasis on mercy, and say people also need to rediscover a sense of sin.

“The Gospel proclamation, that the Lord has died for us, has died for me, is not the proclamation of sin,” Spadaro said. “The proclamation of the Gospel is that of mercy: in the light of the mercy of the Lord’s forgiveness, I understand my sin, I comprehend my sin.”

“If there is no perception of a merciful God, the sense of sin is merely a sense of guilt, which is often useless,” he said.

Spadaro said truth and mercy are never in contradiction in the Gospel, and so any attempt to place doctrine and pastoral practices at odds makes no sense.

“The doctrine of the Gospel is mercy. That is to say, the teaching of the Lord is the teaching of mercy. Everything else follows from this,” he said.

2 comments (Add your own)

1. Rose wrote:
If the emphasis of the Church is on SIN, then She is showing a God who is vengeful or punishing. Jesus took the punishment for our sins, thus showing us a MERCIFUL and LOVING GOD. Such a God is very encouraging to "go home to". A God who understands and is compassionate does not scare a sinner, but makes the sinner love God.
If you truly love, then you avoid doing things that offend or hurt your Beloved. So, sinners though we are, when we know that God loves us, we develop a conscience that we know we are sinning and offending God but we try to be better to please our Beloved.
On the contrary, if SIN is the focus, we'd be afraid to come home to God because we face punishment when we are not ready to receive it.
When a penitent goes to confession and the priest gets angry for the sins the penitent confessed, that will discourage the person from going back to the confessional when he sins again because he/she was shamed by the priest in the confessional. Priests should not portray God to be punitive.

Mon, October 19, 2015 @ 10:20 AM

2. Michael Malak wrote:
To require repentance, before readmission to the Eucharist, of someone whose marriage has failed, and they have taken another spouse for companionship, economics, protection, the sake of children, or to alleviate unendurable loneliness, proves how out of touch, maybe even stupid, the Church hierarchy has become. Allowing the troubled to approach Christ in communion does nothing to demean the indissoluble nature of marriage. Rather, it strengthens it by showing that God is merciful, especially to those who are most needy in family situations. As usual, those who are the most voiceless are hurt disproportionately, that is, children, who are already torn between multiple parents and, now, must witness what is perceived, surely, as God’s punishment up close and personal.

If the assembled bishops, or whatever of their number, however well intentioned, believe that someone who was cheated on, beaten, deceived, stolen from, and whose children were physically and/or mentally hurt, some times grievously, needs to beg a bishop to review a life situation, favorably, after remarriage, so they can approach the Lord fully, reveals a dangerous immaturity by the Church’s leadership. It cheapens Christ, rewards those who desire to feel better about themselves at the expense of others, and, basically, trivializes God, His mercy and kindness.

Liberal and traditionalist Synod fathers, alike, might want to make an examination of consciences to discern that a church whose adherents ignore its teachings due to harshness, and the recent reprehensible conduct by its ministers, will lose its moral authority long before it has to close more more of its doors for want of customers. Look at New York. That archdiocese is closing parishes and schools, to save money, it freely admits, while its chancery has grown to resemble a late-night talk show.

If the way and the truth cannot be found in the Church, people seeking God will find Him elsewhere, even as they proclaim tepid adherence to doctrines they do not follow. Despite conciliatory leaders such as Cardinal Donald Wurl of Washington, the synod is perilously close to the tipping point of "Who cares?" A number of men at this, allegedly, earth-shattering meeting have destroyed an opportunity for grace to preserve their own lifestyles and powers. The view of old men who live in palaces, have never changed a diaper or bandaged a child cannot help but be shortsighted and, therefore, they advocate more study, better teaching, and all urge the typical evasions when faced with real world problems, probably because they are ignorant, themselves.

If the Synod wanted a real ground level view, its fathers would be parish priests, not the best dressed, highest placed clerics on the planet. Nor would there be handpicked couples who get to mingle with the bishops for a couple of weeks for sharing their atypical stories. Go instead to Alcoholics Anonymous, homeless shelters, to the women who work on the streets, and to the prisons and ask those people what happened in their families. Their answers would humble all and put a sharp edge on the intervention of any bishop. These people, many lost at the earliest of ages, can show the Church where its greatest frontier lies because their stories, and needs, as described in the Gospels, are more than two thousand years. How far we have strayed.

Mon, October 19, 2015 @ 3:26 PM

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