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Everything listed under: family

  • Pope's document opens door to pastoral flexibility on family issues

    Pope Francis’ document on the family avoids issuing directives or a “final word” on debatable questions. Instead, it argues for pastoral flexibility and recognition of the complex relationship between the human conscience, sin and the state of grace.

    That alone makes this text remarkable. Rather than announcing new practices or decisions from Rome, the pope is opening a discussion that involves bishops, priests, theologians and lay Catholics.

    Titled “Amoris Laetitia, on Love and the Family,” the 260-page document reflects on the results of the Synod of Bishops, convened in two sessions in 2014 and 2015.  Read More...

  • Pope to bishops: Families need our support, not complaints and criticism

    It’s become increasingly clear during his U.S. trip that Pope Francis is trying to get bishops on board in his quest for a church that is more merciful, less judgmental and closer to its people.

    That was the sub-theme at this morning’s encounter with international bishops attending the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

    The topic was the modern family, which usually prompts a litany of problems from church leaders. Pope Francis began his talk by stating that the “foremost pastoral challenge” facing the bishops is to recognize the family as a gift.

    “For all the obstacles we see before us, gratitude and appreciation should prevail over concerns and complaints,” he said.

    The pope did address the challenges facing families, in particular a “consumerism” mentality that has invaded even personal relationships – accumulating friends on social networks, for example. He also appeared to reference gay marriage when he noted “the unprecedented changes taking place in contemporary society, with their social, cultural – and now juridical – effects on family bonds.”

    But as pastors, he said, the response is not to condemn or exclude:

    Should we blame our young people for having grown up in this kind of society? Should we condemn them for living in this kind of a world? Should they hear their pastors saying that “it was all better back then”, “the world is falling apart and if things go on this way, who knows where we will end up?”

    No, I do not think that this is the way. As shepherds following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, we are asked to seek out, to accompany, to lift up, to bind up the wounds of our time. To look at things realistically, with the eyes of one who feels called to action, to pastoral conversion. The world today demands this conversion on our part.

    That “conversion on our part” was a pretty remarkable comment. He went on to explain that it’s a mistake for the church to interpret contemporary culture as merely indifferent to marriage, or engaged in selfishness. And it’s wrong to assume young people are “hopelessly timid, weak or inconsistent.”

    “We must not fall into this trap,” he told the bishops.

    The pope then turned the argument around, saying it’s the church’s responsibility to “rebuild enthusiasm for marriage.”

    “We need to invest our energies not so much in explaining over and over the problems of the world around us and the merits of Christianity, but in extending a sincere invitation to young people to be brave and to opt for marriage and the family,” he said.

    And in a line that reflected the “actions vs. words” theme of his pontificate, he added: “A Christianity which ‘does’ little in practice, while incessantly ‘explaining’ its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced. I would even say that it is stuck in a vicious circle.”

    Shepherding, not talking, is what is required of bishops today, and they may need “infinite patience” in that process, he said.

    He closed his speech with a rather amazing request that bishops “become more and more like fathers and mothers, and less like people who have simply learned to live without a family.”


  • Synod of Bishops hears plain talk from Australian couple

    This morning, Pope Francis called for open and honest discussion at the Synod of Bishops. This evening, the bishops heard it loud and clear from an Australian married couple, who urged the church to learn from the sometimes “messy” lives of modern families.

    Ron and Mavis Pirola of Sydney were the first of several couples to address the synod as “auditors.” They don’t have a vote in the proceedings, but they do have a voice – and they delivered a message that contrasted with the ecclesial-speak of the synod’s official documents.

    Ron Pirola told the synod that his 55-year happy marriage began when he looked across a room and saw a beautiful young woman. Their attraction, he said, was basically sexual and a longing to be intimate with each other. He went on to call marriage a “sexual sacrament with its fullest expression in sexual intercourse.”

    The arrival of their four children filled them with joy but also brought nights when, as parents, they would lie awake wondering what went wrong.

    Although practicing Catholics, Pirola said, the couple only occasionally looked at church documents for guidance, and “they seemed to be from another planet with difficult language and not terribly relevant to our own experiences.”

    He suggested that to have a greater impact, the church should learn from families. For one thing, the church wants to uphold truth while expressing compassion and mercy – something families try to do all the time, he said:

    “Take homosexuality as an example. Friends of ours were planning their Christmas family gathering when their gay son said he wanted to bring his partner home too. They fully believed in the Church’s teachings and they knew their grandchildren would see them welcome the son and his partner into the family. Their response could be summed up in three words, ‘He is our son’.

    What a model of evangelization for parishes as they respond to similar situations in their neighborhood!”

    Pirola cited other parents they know who face deep challenges – a divorced woman who remains faithful to the church, a widow who cares for a disabled son. Like the families depicted in the Bible, modern families have lives that are “chaotic and full of messy dramas,” but they deserve to be listened to and treated as co-responsible for the church’s action by clergy, he said.

    He said the church can also learn a lesson about effective transmission of values from parents who have struggled with their children:

    “A high respect for authority, parental, religious or secular, has long gone. So their parents learn to enter into the lives of their children, to share their values and hopes for them and also to learn from them in turn. This process of entering into the lives of our other persons and learning from them as well as sharing with them is at the heart of evangelization.”