"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Monday, October 26, 2015

Synod Ends With "Closed Hearted" Bishops? More "Mercy"...

Synod Ends With "Closed Hearted" Bishops?
Articles Are Not Endorsements Nor reflection Of This Apostolates Position (s)

It was the latest in a series of admonitions to bishops by the pontiff, who has stressed since his election in 2013 that the 1.2 billion-member Church should be open to change, side with the poor and rid itself of the pomp and stuffiness that has alienated so many Catholics.
In his final address, the pope appeared to criticize ultra-conservatives, saying Church leaders should confront difficult issues "fearlessly, without burying our heads in the sand."

He said the synod had "laid 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".
He also decried "conspiracy theories" and the "blinkered viewpoints" of some at the gathering, and said the Church could not transmit its message to new generations "at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible"
The outcome of the gathering, over which the pope presided, marked a victory for conservatives on homosexual issues and for progressives on the thorny issue of remarriage.
The final synod document restated Church teachings that gays should not suffer discrimination in society, but also repeated the stand that there was "no foundation whatsoever" for same-sex marriage, which "could not even remotely" be compared to heterosexual unions.
The 94-article document indicated that the assembly had decided to avoid overtly controversial language and seek consensus in order to avoid deadlock on the most sensitive topics, leaving it up to the pope to deal with the details.
The synod is an advisory body that does not have the power to alter church doctrine. The pope, who is the final arbiter on any change and who has called for a more merciful and inclusive Church, can use the material to write his own document, known as an "apostolic exhortation".

The synod document did offer some hope for the full re-integration into the Church of some Catholics who divorce and remarry in civil ceremonies.
Under current Church doctrine they cannot receive communion unless they abstain from sex with their new partner, because their first marriage is still valid in the eyes of the Church and they are seen to be living in an adulterous state of sin.
They only way such Catholics can remarry is if they receive an annulment, a ruling that their first marriage never existed in the first place because of the lack of certain pre-requisites such as psychological maturity or free will.
The document spoke of a so-called "internal forum" in which a priest or a bishop may work with a Catholic who has divorced and remarried to decide jointly, privately and on a case-by-case basis if he or she can be fully re-integrated.
"In order for this happen, the necessary conditions of humility, discretion, love for the Church and her teachings must be guaranteed in a sincere search for God's will," the document said.
Tally sheets showed that the three articles on the divorced and re-married were the most fought-over, reaching the two-thirds majority needed to remain in the document by only a few votes each. One passed by only one vote.

Progressives have for years been advocating the "internal forum" and some observers said the mere fact that phrase was included in the document was a victory for those promoting merciful change.
During the synod, some bishops said the Church should introduce welcoming and inclusive language regarding homosexuals, such as calling them "brothers, sisters and colleagues" in the document.
But Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna told reporters many of the 270 bishops felt homosexuality was still "too delicate a theme" in their countries. During the meeting, African bishops were particularly adamant in their opposition to welcoming language toward homosexuals, saying it would only confuse the faithful.
At a preliminary meeting a year ago, conservative clerics made sure an interim report deleted a passage they thought was too welcoming to gays.

Vatican’s family chief calls for end to ‘ecclesiastical gobbledygook’

ROME — A divided Synod of Bishops on the family came to an end Sunday with a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis, but according to one high-profile prelate who took part, the summit was only the beginning.
Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, said that at the end of the gathering, “The pope told us: ‘Now, go back to walk among the people.’”
Paglia told Crux that during the synod, “it became clear that there’s a need for a new alliance between the family and the Church to proclaim the Gospel in our time.”
For this alliance to be possible, he said, the Church must “surpass the values that sterilize families,” and the “ecclesiastical gobbledygook” that prevents Christian communities to be nourished by the freshness of family life.

Paglia said the synod “has certainly announced that the law alone is not enough.”
“Taken by itself, the law governs but does not dream, [it] condemns and doesn’t forgive,” Paglia said via e-mailed responses to questions.
“The imperative that has emerged from these two years is mercy!” he said.
Paglia believes that under the merciful gaze of God, every issue the bishops discussed can be faced, including one of the synod’s hot-button issues: the matter of Communion for the divorced and remarried.

“The Eucharist is not a right, nor a way to claim recognition,” he said. “It’s a gift that allows us to grow in friendship with the Lord who saves the lives of all.”
Paglia addressed both the situation of the divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, who were hoping for a more concrete step that would allow them to receive Communion, and that of members of the LGBT community who were hoping for a more welcoming stance on homosexuality.
“We continue to walk together, to support and stimulate each other in this path where every journey and every seed of goodness must above all be valued and supported, whatever the story of the wearer,” he said, without indicating where he comes down on the merits of either issue.
As president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Paglia helped organize the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September. The gathering, which brought together thousands of families from around the world, was the main reason for Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.

“The World Meeting of families in Philadelphia formed the real framework within which to place the synod’s work,” Paglia said.
“I tried to bring to the Synod Hall the voices of the tens of thousands of families encountered there: their stories, their joys, their pains and also their questions.” According to the prelate, the synod bishops who participated in the gathering and saw the faces of the crowd “preferred this to the formulas and words.”
On the final document, drafted by 10 cardinals and voted on by the bishops on Saturday, Paglia said that seeing that it was approved by a majority [every one of the 94 proposals had a 2/3 majority approval], “indicates that everyone recognized themselves in the document.”
Regarding the synod process itself, Paglia said that “communion won, and this is what I desired the most.”
“To use a car metaphor: not only is the car on track, but it’s in motion and ready to speed up!”

Synod Fathers approve text on “discernment” for remarried divorcees

All paragraphs of the final document have been approved with a two-thirds vote from the Synod Fathers. Number 85 was also only just approved (178 placets, 80 non placets and there was a qualified majority quorum of 177). The text does not introduce any general rules, nor has unconditional access to the sacraments been granted but it does build on the work Wojtyla started with the “Familiaris consortio”, advocating “discernment” on a case-by-case basis

Andrea Tornielli
The concluding text of the Synod, approved by participating bishops makes no changes to Church doctrine and values the family and Gospel teaching, but also shows greater understanding to remarried divorcees. Two paragraphs in particular address the attitude to adopt with regard to remarried divorcees – a hotly debated and controversial issue – and also the possibility of them participating in the sacraments in certain cases and under certain conditions.

The decision to entrust communion for remarried divorcees to the “discernment” of pastors has been approved by a two-thirds majority, with only one vote beyond the necessary two thirds (178 “yes” votes against the required 177 votes for a qualified majority). These are the result of the vote on the Relatio Sinodi.  There were 80 “no” votes. Three of the text’s paragraphs – numbers 84, 85 and 86 –  received consensuses that were higher than the required two-thirds (177) but only by a narrow margin.
Paragraph 85 quotes the following passage of John Paul II’s “Familiaris consortio” as a “general criterion”: “Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is in fact a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned, and those who through their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage. Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children's upbringing, and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid."
On the basis of these criteria, the document approved by the Synod, states: “Priests therefore have the task of accompanying interested parties along the path of discernment, according to the teaching of the Church and the directions offered the bishop. It is useful to examine our consciences in the process, through moments of reflection and repentance. Remarried divorcees should ask themselves how they treated their children when their conjugal union entered a crisis; whether there were attempts at reconciliation; what the situation of the abandoned partner is; what consequences has it had on the rest of the family and the community of faithful; what example it offers to young people preparing for marriage.”
The text goes on to present some criteria for “discerning” different situations, in relation to the previous marriage, to the children involved and to the relationship interested parties have with the Christian community. The relationship with the confessor is also discussed: “Sincere reflection can reinforce trust in God’s mercy, which no one is denied. Furthermore, it cannot be denied that is certain circumstances, ‘imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified’ due to a number of factors,” the text says, quoting point number 1735 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
“Consequently,” the document goes on to say, “judgement of an objective situation cannot lead to a judgement on the “subjective imputability” (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration of 24 June 2000, 2a). In certain circumstances, people find it very difficult to act differently. Therefore, although a general rule is to be followed, it must also be recognised that responsibility for certain actions or decisions is not always the same in all situations. Pastoral discernment must address these situations bearing in mind that people’s conscience is based on the Church’s teaching. The consequences of an act are also not necessarily the same in all cases.” On the basis of traditional doctrine, the Synod Fathers recall that besides the objective situation in which remarried divorcees live, one must also take subjective situations into consideration and these could significantly reduce the level of responsibility.
In this way, paragraph 86 of the concluding document explains, “the process of accompaniment and discernment encourages faithful to take stock of their situation before God. Discussion with the priest in an internal forum, facilitates the formation of a correct judgement about what stands in the way of the possibility for full participation in the life of the Church and on the steps that can be taken to move in this direction and help it grow.” The text clarifies that this discernment, “can never overlook truth and charity, which are vital elements of the Gospel that the Church encourages. This is possible  when the necessary conditions of humility, discretion, love for the Church and its teaching are guaranteed, demonstrating sincere efforts to respect God’s will and the willingness to respond to this in a better way.”
Essentially, the text the Synod Fathers delivered to the Pope, presents a path of prudent openness for the evaluation of situations on a case-by-case basis, leaving it up to him to decide and to possibly discuss this in a potential future document.
Paragraph 84, states that “Catholics who have divorced and remarried in a civil ceremony, need to be integrated into Christian communities more, in all ways possible, avoiding scandal. The logic of integration is the key to their pastoral accompaniment,” in order to help them feel that not only do they “belong” to the Church, but that their experience within it can be a joyful and fertile one. They are baptised, they are brothers and sisters, the Holy Spirit pours gifts and charisms into them for the good of everyone.” As far as the forms of participation are concerned, it is necessary “to discern which of the different forms of exclusion currently practiced” – for example the fact they cannot become godfathers or godmothers or teach the catechism or give readings in Church – can “be overcome”. Not only must remarried divorcees “not feel excommunicated, but they must live and grow as living members of the Church, feeling it as their mother that welcomes them always”. “Taking care of these people” “does not mean the faith” of the Christian community “is weakened, nor that their testimony of the indissolubility of marriage is weakened: on the contrary, the Church expresses its charity through this kind of care.”
Finally, the text also asks for “pastoral discernment” in situations to do with “access to the sacrament of baptism for people experiencing complex matrimonial circumstances,” in other words those who have entered a civil marriage and only subsequently discover the faith and ask to be baptised.

"The true defenders of doctrine uphold not its letter, but its spirit”

Vatican Insider publishes the full text of Francis’ address marking the conclusion of the Synod on the family: "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”

Pope Francis

Dear Beatitudes, Eminences and Excellencies, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like first of all to thank the Lord, who has guided our synodal process in these years by his Holy Spirit, whose support is never lacking to the Church.
My heartfelt thanks go to Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, its Under-Secretary, and, together with them, the Relator, Cardinal Peter Erdő, and the Special Secretary, Archbishop Bruno Forte, the Delegate Presidents, the writers, consultors and translators, and all those who have worked tirelessly and with total dedication to the Church: My deepest thanks!
I likewise thank all of you, dear Synod Fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors and Assessors, parish priests and families, for your active and fruitful participation.
And I thank all those unnamed men and women who contributed generously to the labours of this Synod by quietly working behind the scenes.
Be assured of my prayers, that the Lord will reward all of you with his abundant gifts of grace!
As I followed the labours of the Synod, I asked myself: What will it mean for the Church to conclude this Synod devoted to the family?
Certainly, the Synod 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, bringing the joy of hope without falling into a facile repetition of what is obvious or has already been said.
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. 
It 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 about listening to and 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. 
It was about showing the vitality of the Catholic Church, which is not afraid to stir dulled consciences or to soil her hands with lively and frank discussions about the family. 
It was about trying 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.
It 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.
It was also about laying 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. 
It was 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. 
It was about trying 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.
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. 
And – apart from dogmatic questions clearly defined by the Church’s Magisterium – we have also seen that what seems normal for a bishop on one continent, is considered strange and almost scandalous for a bishop from another; what is considered a violation of a right in one society is an evident and inviolable rule in another; what for some is freedom of conscience is for others simply confusion. Cultures are in fact quite diverse, and each general principle needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied.2 The 1985 Synod, which celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, spoke of inculturation as “the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity, and the taking root of Christianity in the various human cultures”.3 Inculturation does not weaken true values, but demonstrates their true strength and authenticity, since they adapt without changing; indeed they quietly and gradually transform the different cultures. 
We have seen, also by the richness of our diversity, that the same challenge is ever before us: that of proclaiming the Gospel to the men and women of today, and defending the family from all ideological and individualistic assaults. 
And without ever falling into the danger of relativism or of demonizing others, we sought to embrace, fully and courageously, the goodness and mercy of God who transcends our every human reckoning and desires only that “all be saved” (cf. 1 Tm 2:4). In this way we wished to experience this Synod in the context of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy which the Church is called to celebrated. 
Dear Brothers,
The Synod experience also made us better realize that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness. This is in no way to detract from the importance of formulae, laws and divine commandments, but raather 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 11:37-54). 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, 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 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).
Blessed 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”. 
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”.  
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)”. 
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” has a new resonance, so much so that the word itself already evokes the richness of the family’s vocation and the significance of the labours of the Synod. 
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!