Conclusion of the synod of bishops for seeing the family in the light of the Gospel and church tradition

For Pope Francis I the Synod of bishops which came to an end last Saturday, was not about settling all the issues having to do with the family, but rather attempting to see them in the light of the Gospel and the Church’s tradition and two-thousand-year history. If it could bring the joy of hope, like the Pope wanted, without falling into a facile repetition of what is obvious or has already been said we may doubt.

On the Flemish television some of the bishops expressed a little-bit disappointment, that the church fathers did not dare to take a much more progressive stand but had a majority who stayed in a 2 000 year old doctrine instead of taking not more into account the changes of our society.

Surely it was not about finding exhaustive solutions for all the difficulties and uncertainties which challenge and threaten the family, but rather about seeing these difficulties and uncertainties in the light of the Faith, carefully studying them and confronting them fearlessly, without burying our heads in the sand.

says the Pope, but somehow we must say those Roman Catholic ‘church father’ do not seem to either have listened enough to their ‘kids’ or are way far away form the reality of today, though normally it also was the intention to listen to and to making heard the voices of the families and the Church’s pastors, who came to Rome bearing on their shoulders the burdens and the hopes, the riches and the challenges of families throughout the world.

The coming together of the Roman Catholic church fathers was about urging everyone to appreciate the importance of the institution of the family and of marriage between a man and a woman, based on unity and indissolubility, and valuing it as the fundamental basis of society and human life. It was also the intention to show the vitality of the Catholic Church, which according to the present Pope, is not afraid to stir dulled consciences or to soil her hands with lively and frank discussions about the family.

When we hear not only the voices of the Belgian bishops and cardinals it are not only perhaps the more progressive bishops who do not recognise the effort to be taken to view and interpret realities, today’s realities, through God’s eyes, so as to kindle the flame of faith and enlighten people’s hearts in times marked by discouragement, social, economic and moral crisis, and growing pessimism.

Most voices of those present are happy that the meeting was about bearing witness to everyone that, for the Church, the Gospel continues to be a vital source of eternal newness, against all those who would “indoctrinate” it in dead stones to be hurled at others. For them the church still seems not dying yet and having beautiful opportunities to continue to grow even when so many are more interested in the material goods of this world.

Pope Francis said also

It was also about laying closed hearts, which bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families.

Since he was appointed to be the Church leader we saw a remarkable good shift in trying to bring the church closer to the people and to have an eye for the less fortunate. This gathering therefore was also about

making clear that the Church is a Church of the poor in spirit and of sinners seeking forgiveness, not simply of the righteous and the holy, but rather of those who are righteous and holy precisely when they feel themselves poor sinners.

If the Pope managed to try to open up broader horizons,

rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints, so as to defend and spread the freedom of the children of God, and to transmit the beauty of Christian Newness, at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible

we shall have to see in the coming months.

In the course of this Synod, the different opinions which were freely expressed – and at times, unfortunately, not in entirely well-meaning ways – certainly led to a rich and lively dialogue; they offered a vivid image of a Church which does not simply “rubberstamp”, but draws from the sources of her faith living waters to refresh parched hearts. {Cf. Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina on the Centenary of its Faculty of Theology, 3 March 2015.}

When the Synod experience should have made those present better realize that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit, this could give that in each country the cardinals may perhaps give some more freedom to interpret certain sayings at the synod in an open way, putting the people and their needs on the first line. Perhaps to give more attention to not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness. The Pope warns

This is in no way to detract from the importance of formulae – they are necessary – or from the importance of laws and divine commandments, but rather to exalt the greatness of the true God, who does not treat us according to our merits or even according to our works but solely according to the boundless generosity of his Mercy (cf. Rom 3:21-30; Ps 129; Lk 11:47-54). It does have to do with overcoming the recurring temptations of the elder brother (cf. Lk 15:25-32) and the jealous labourers (cf. Mt 20:1-16). Indeed, it means upholding all the more the laws and commandments which were made for man and not vice versa (cf. Mk 2:27).

In this sense, the necessary human repentance, works and efforts take on a deeper meaning, the Pope thinks,

not as the price of that salvation freely won for us by Christ on the cross, but as a response to the One who loved us first and saved us at the cost of his innocent blood, while we were still sinners (cf. Rom 5:6).

The Roman Catholic Church knows that the Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy, to call to conversion, and to lead all men and women to salvation in the Lord (cf. Jn 12:44-50).

Paul VI expressed this eloquently:

“”We can imagine, then, that each of our sins, our attempts to turn our back on God, kindles in him a more intense flame of love, a desire to bring us back to himself and to his saving plan… God, in Christ, shows himself to be infinitely good… God is good. Not only in himself; God is – let us say it with tears – good for us. He loves us, he seeks us out, he thinks of us, he knows us, he touches our hearts us and he waits for us. He will be – so to say – delighted on the day when we return and say: ‘Lord, in your goodness, forgive me. Thus our repentance becomes God’s joy”. {Homily, 23 June 1968: Insegnamenti VI (1968), 1177-1178.}

John Paul II also stated that:

“the Church lives an authentic life when she professes and proclaims mercy… and when she brings people close to the sources of the Saviour’s mercy, of which she is the trustee and dispenser”. {Dives in Misericordia, 13. He also said: “In the paschal mystery… God appears to us as he is: a tender-hearted Father, who does not give up in the face of his childrens’ ingratitude and is always ready to forgive (John Paul II, Regina Coeli, 23 April 1995: Insegnamenti XVIII, 1 [1995], 1035). So too he described resistance to mercy: “The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy. The word and the concept of ‘mercy’ seem to cause uneasiness…” (Dives in Misericordia [30 November 1980] 2).}

Benedict XVI, too, said:

“Mercy is indeed the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God… May all that the Church says and does manifest the mercy God feels for mankind. When the Church has to recall an unrecognized truth, or a betrayed good, she always does so impelled by merciful love, so that men may have life and have it abundantly (cf. Jn 10:10)”. {Regina Coeli, 30 March 2008: Insegnamenti IV, 1 (2008), 489-490. Speaking of the power of mercy, he stated: “it is mercy that sets a limit to evil. In it is expressed God’s special nature – his holiness, the power of truth and of love” (Homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, 15 April 2007: Insegnamenti III, 1 [2007], 667).}

The present Pope said:

In light of all this, and thanks to this time of grace which the Church has experienced in discussing the family, we feel mutually enriched. Many of us have felt the working of the Holy Spirit who is the real protagonist and guide of the Synod. For all of us, the word “family” does have the same sound as it did before the Synod, so much so that the word itself already contains the richness of the family’s vocation and the significance of the labours of the Synod.

and in the letter to the community wrote

An acrostic look at the word “family” [Italian: “famiglia”] can help us summarize the Church’s mission as the task of: Forming new generations to experience love seriously, not as an individualistic search for a pleasure then to be discarded, and to believe once again in true, fruitful and lasting love as the sole way of emerging from ourselves and being open to others, leaving loneliness behind, living according to God’s will, finding fulfilment, realizing that marriage is “an experience which reveals God’s love, defending the sacredness of life, every life, defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously” (Homily for the Opening Mass of the Synod, 4 October 2015: L’Osservatore Romano, 5-6 October 2015, p. 7) and, furthermore, enhancing marriage preparation as a means of providing a deeper understanding of the Christian meaning of the sacrament of Matrimony; Approaching others, since a Church closed in on herself is a dead Church, while a Church which does leave her own precincts behind in order to seek, embrace and lead others to Christ is a Church which betrays her very mission and calling; Manifesting and bringing God’s mercy to families in need; to the abandoned, to the neglected elderly, to children pained by the separation of their parents, to poor families struggling to survive, to sinners knocking on our doors and those who are far away, to the differently able, to all those hurting in soul and body, and to couples torn by grief, sickness, death or persecution; Illuminating consciences often assailed by harmful and subtle dynamics which even attempt to replace God the Creator, dynamics which must be unmasked and resisted in full respect for the dignity of each person; Gaining and humbly rebuilding trust in the Church, which has been gravely weakened as a result of the conduct and sins of her children – sadly, the counter-witness of scandals committed in the Church by some clerics have damaged her credibility and obscured the brightness of her saving message; Labouring intensely to sustain and encourage those many strong and faithful families which, in the midst of their daily struggles, continue to give a great witness of fidelity to the Church’s teachings and the Lord’s commandments; Inventing renewed programmes of pastoral care for the family based on the Gospel and respectful of cultural differences, pastoral care which is capable of communicating the Good News in an attractive and positive manner and helping banish from young hearts the fear of making definitive commitments, pastoral care which is particularly attentive to children, who are the real victims of broken families, pastoral care which is innovative and provides a suitable preparation for the sacrament of Matrimony, rather than so many programmes which seem more of a formality than training for a lifelong commitment; Aiming to love unconditionally all families, particularly those experiencing difficulties, since no family should feel alone or excluded from the Church’s loving embrace, and the real scandal is a fear of love and of showing that love concretely.

Somehow he looked less tired than before the conference and perhaps got again some positive feeling of the togetherness which was before the gathering perhaps disturbed by the many voices sounding loud for asking to look at the holebi community and transgender people.

In effect, for the Church to conclude the Synod means to return to our true “journeying together” in bringing to every part of the world, to every diocese, to every community and every situation, the light of the Gospel, the embrace of the Church and the support of God’s mercy!

the church father concluded.

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Preceding articles:

Synod of Bishops concerning minors

Growing rift between observant parents and their children

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Additional reading

  1. Two synods and life in the church community
  2. 72 Synod Fathers on the topic “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world”
  3. Need to Embrace People Where They Are
  4. Learning that stuff is just stuff
  5. Importance of parents 1
  6. Importance of parents 2
  7. Father and motherhood
  8. Parents forbidden to pray in front of their children or to take them to church
  9. Poverty and conservative role patterns
  10. Connection between women and environmental sustainability
  11. Agape, a love to share with others from the Fruit of the Spirit
  12. Teach children the Bible
  13. Which Christians Actually Evangelize
  14. Fear of God reason to return to Holy Scriptures
  15. Crisis man needed in this world
  16. Families with four or more kids most happiest
  17. Family happiness and little things we do
  18. How to Raise a Happy Child
  19. Are Christadelphians so Old Fashioned?
  20. Inculcate God’s words and speak of them
  21. Church has to grow through witness, not by proselytism
  22. Church sent into the world

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Further reading:

2 thoughts on “Conclusion of the synod of bishops for seeing the family in the light of the Gospel and church tradition

  1. Pingback: The Catholic synod on the family and abortion | From guestwriters

  2. Pingback: Detachment by Family problems | From guestwriters

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