Monday, October 13, 2014

Family Synod

As I mentioned earlier, the Catholic Church is holding an Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on Marriage and the Family. Week 1 (of 2) was made up of dozens of speeches, from people all over the world. Today, they released a summary document of Week 1, written by nine of the Synod members.

Sadly, the unofficial English translation is a little chunky. I'm going to try to summarize/explain it anyway.

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Part 1. There are many social and cultural problems that people face today, such as selfishness, violence and crushing economic situations. People need to improve their emotional lives and grow as human beings. This means they must leave behind immature / emotionally-fragile mindsets, such as "refusing to change" or "ignoring the needs of others". The Church must help people in their search for growth, no matter what situation they are in.

Part 2-1. In Matthew 9, Jesus talks about the fact that marriage lasts forever. However, he acknowledges the fact that Moses allowed for divorce. This is how God works. God has an ideal standard that he directs people towards, but he meets people where they are, not where they should be.

Part 2-2. Holiness and truth can be found outside of the Catholic Church. In the same way, holiness and truth can be found in marriages which do not have sacramental fullness. That is, holiness and truth can be found in civil marriages, cohabitation, and with divorced and remarried people. It would be awful if the Church dismissed these people out of hand, because they do not fit the Church's ideal of marriage.

Part 3-1. Catholics must do a better job of reaching out to other people. This involves self-improvement, and it should not take the form of setting up rules and regulations. Rather, Catholics should be putting forward values, responding to the needs of others. After all, Christian marriage is not a cultural tradition or social obligation; it is a vocation that is accepted only after mature discernment.

Part 3-2. To help with marriages, there must be better marriage preparation and more community involvement. It would be helpful for older married couples to help and work with younger married couples. It would also be helpful if there was better training for priests and people who work in churches.

Part 3-3. Cohabitation, also known as "living together before marriage", should not be automatically condemned. Sometimes, this is done for economic reasons, or as a preparation for marriage. (Sometimes, this is done in order to avoid marriage, which is bad.) People in these situations can achieve authentic family values, and they must be welcomed with patience and delicacy.

Part 3-4. As for divorced or separated people, the Church must not automatically condemn them; more often than not, these situations are "endured", not chosen. It's difficult to talk about these situations in a way that covers every one, because each situation is unique. Rather than set up general rules, it'd be better for local churches to examine them on a case-by-case basis. Again, condemning them is not the answer; rather, the first step is to listen to them with love, with a view of relieving their suffering.

People made various proposals for improving marriage preparation and for improving the annulment process. Everyone agrees divorced people should be allowed to receive the Eucharist, but there was disagreement on whether divorced and remarried people can receive the Eucharist.

Part 3-5. Catholics must welcome homosexuals, who have good qualities and gifts to offer. Homosexual unions are not the same as marriages, and they may present moral problems, but the partners can provide precious support to each other.

Part 3-6. Oftentimes, having children is reduced to a variable in a couple's plans. For example, there are couples who want children, but don't have children, because they can't afford them. What the Church needs is realistic language, to address this problem. Being open to life is an essential part of marriage; we want to foster living in a harmonious and aware way, with communication between spouses, in all its dimensions.

Part 3-7. Education is important, and the community at large must help more with education.

Part 4. This is just a summary of what was said in Week One. Please do not mistake this for an official proclamation or decision on the part of the Catholic Church.

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