The much-reported Extraordinary Synod on the Family is almost upon us, starting in Rome next month. There has been a great deal of speculation and debate whether the Synod will signal some reforms, such as allowing Catholics who have contracted an invalid second marriage to receive Holy Communion. Other proposals include fast-track annulments and allowing remarriage along the lines of the Orthodox Churches.
The list of cardinals, bishops and lay experts who will attend the Synod has just been published. Of particular concern is the inclusion of Cardinal Walter Kasper and Cardinal Godfreid Daneels, who for decades have been among the leaders of a school of thought which seeks to adapt the Church’s teaching to the changeable mores of Western society.
Cardinal Kasper has been active in promoting a highly dangerous and false theory of ‘mercy’. The Cardinal seems to think that mercy consists in framing the Church’s practices, not according to the truth which comes from the unchanging God, but to placate the sensitivities of sinners. However, it is when the Lord leads us in paths of truth that he shows us His mercy. A mercy that hides the truth is not merciful, but only a caricature.
A real danger of the Kasper proposal is that the Church becomes reduced to a service-provider, mainly concerned with individuals’ subjective feelings rather than with the salvation of souls.
The trials and failures of individuals should not be used as excuses to devalue or attempt to redefine the Church’s irreformable teachings on sexual ethics. In overemphasising the need to improve the Church’s pastoral care to people in ‘irregular situations’, out of fear of offending them, lies a great risk. It risks seriously undermining children’s natural inclination to admire and choose the moral good of Christian marriage, which is by definition indissoluble.
On the question of altering the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, nothing less is at stake than fidelity to Christ’s teaching. This teaching directly and profoundly affects the lives of hundreds of millions of faithful. The integrity of the sacrament of marriage is also of fundamental importance in terms of protecting the unborn.
The Instrumentum Laboris , or ‘working document’ of the Synod, says: “The role of parents as primary educators in the faith is considered vital and essential”. Everybody wishes the best for their children. Often even parents with weak faith or no faith at all seek assistance from the Church and Her schools when facing the responsibility of educating their children.
Many realise as parents that even if one’s own life has been ruled by passions, then in bringing up children, moral absolutes become important. Virtues that people are not willing to guard in their own lives seem almost always valuable in the lives of their children.
By making a particular stand in defence of parents as primary educators, the Synod Fathers would be embracing marriage, the sanctity of human life, and the truth about human sexuality. The potency of this issue at grassroots level cannot be overestimated.
To that end, an new initiative has been launched. Voice of the Family is an initiative of Catholic laity from major pro-life/pro-family organisations. It has been formed to offer expertise and resources before, during and after the Synod. The group is offering assistance to Synod Fathers, such as research, expert briefings, speech-drafting, and professional support and contacts.
Voice of the Family argues that the following themes must be central to the Synod’s conclusions:
• Sacramental marriage, binding parents together in an indissoluble union, is the greatest protector of children both born and unborn.
• the inseparability of the unitive and procreative dimensions of the sexual act is an essential defence against the culture of death.
• parents are the primary educators of their children.