The Synod must proclaim the beauty and truth about marriage: attempting to bend the rules is not true compassion or mercy

During the daily Holy See Synod press conference on October 8th Fr. Rosica explained what he believed to be “one of the salient interventions” of the day, noting that according to the presenter, “language such as ‘living in sin’, ‘intrinsically disordered’, or ‘contraceptive mentality’ are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to Christ and the Church.”

“There is a great desire that our language has to change in order to meet the concrete situations,” he added.

“Marriage is already seen by many as being filtered in harsh language in the Church. How do we make that language appealing, and loving and inviting. We’re not speaking about rules or laws we’re speaking about a person who is Jesus who is the source of our faith, the leader of our Church, he is the one who invites us into a mystery.”

The president of the New Zealand Bishop’s Conference  Archbishop John Dew Of wellington blogged the same day that he was one of the speakers at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family to call on the Church to drop traditional language describing sin, such as the term “disordered.”

‘I gave my own Intervention today and it seemed to be well received by most. I basically said that we have to change the language which is used in various Church documents so that people do not see and hear the Church judging or condemning, passing out rules and laws, but rather showing concern and compassion and reaching out to help people discover God in their lives he wrote

This approach seems to echo the recent pastoral letter issued by the Bishop’s Conference of New Zealand on the ‘Responses of the Preparatory Document’ for the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which claimed that (A) strong sense of exclusion and hurt is felt by many people who are living in situations not in accord with Church teaching in areas such as divorce and re-marriage, cohabitation, contraception and same sex unions. This sense of exclusion and hurt they say is also felt by their family and friends, and by those in the wider community who see what they consider to be the exclusion of others.

The sense of exclusion according to the Pastoral letter can come from one or all of the following:

  • The existence of the teaching itself, which on its own is seen to exclude those who can’t match the ideal.
  • Hard-line un-pastoral presentation of the teaching, in a few cases by priests, but mostly by organizations or individuals who “police” the “rules”.
  • The attitudes of some parishioners which are perceived to be, or actually are, judgmental in relation to the life situation of others.

A strong personal sense of failure, of “not meeting the ideal” set by the Church, and therefore a feeling of not being accepted in the Church community.

Colleen Bayer of Family Life International who is the New Zealand spokesperson for Voice of the Family has expressed concern that those proclaiming the truth of marriage and family at the Synod on the Family are described as “defensive” by Archbishop John Dew, while those proposing a new language were being “pastoral”.

“Pastoral care of the faithful includes teaching them so that they know the truth and can live it” she said.  “Those who teach the truth unreservedly do so out of great love and compassion as they know that ultimately healing and peace can only come through following Jesus through the teaching of the Church.”

She stressed that pitting pastoral versus defensive against each other only served to undermine the teaching authority of the Church.

Those who wish to see the Church’s teaching change or certain language removed, were causing the faithful serious harm through lack of teaching and a skewed version of the Catholic faith.

In relation to the NZ Catholic Bishop’s Statement Colleen was unsure if this was a true and fair understanding and analysis of the real situation or a reaction to the perceived hurts of individuals.

She noted that she knows families who faithfully live out the Church’s teaching on marriage and family.  “These families often struggle, but they rely on God’s grace to get them through” she said.

Often these families are seen as fundamentalist or self-righteous. They often feel marginalized for their faithfulness.  “This is not mentioned in the Bishop’s statement” Colleen said.

Bayer felt that the Bishop’s really needed to be acknowledging these families and their difficulties and thanking them for their faithfulness, their deep love of Christ and His Church and for their sacrificial love.

She felt the Church needed to put in place concrete support systems for families and provide solid teaching so that the faithful can be real witnesses as they live the truth in love.

“Yes there are people hurting and who feel they don’t belong because of their personal circumstances, but ‘bending the rules’ as it were to make them feel welcome is not loving them, it is not showing them true compassion and mercy.”