So, yesterday towards the end of the afternoon I read the mid-term report of the Synod on the family, and promptly posted this on my Facebook page:
OK - so I just read the mid-term report of the family Synod. As I thought it would be, it is thoughtful, careful, reflective, faithful, and deeply pastoral in the best sense of the word. It is, indeed, a very carefully written document that needs to be read equally carefully and not skimmed looking for sensational quotes. It bodes well for the Church, in my opinion, that after one week the bishops have produced a document with such thoughtful and prudent content.
I went away from my computer immediately after that, and did not return to it until quite late in the evening, to find that I had quite a little contretemps going on over there, several of my friends quite disturbed that I had written such positive things about such a horrible, horrible document.
Well, it was late and I was tired and it had been ‘one of those days’ in general, so I just went to bed, to be honest (nothing good happens on Facebook after 10 p.m., in my experience). That being said, the time has come (the walrus said) to talk of many things on this blog. I will use the document as a springboard for this discussion, but rather than my usual ‘block quote then discuss block quote’ format, I’ll just pick out pieces and bits.
Before I jump in, I should clarify what those who either know me personally or who read my blog regularly know very well: that I am an orthodox, straight-down-the-line, tell it like it is Catholic priest. My belief in the Church’s doctrines on all subjects but in this context on sex and marriage is, at this point in my writing life, beyond dispute. Those who do not know me well can click on the labels ‘sex’, ‘marriage’, ‘sin’, ‘moral law’, ‘abortion’, ‘same sex marriage’ and so on and so forth to see what I have written in the past on all that stuff. Those who do know me well, meanwhile, are already tapping their feet impatiently saying, “Yeah, Fr. Denis, duh. Now get on with it.” Ok, all right, already.
I stand by what I wrote on Facebook. I want to emphasize that the report “needs to be read equally carefully and not skimmed looking for sensational quotes,” which is what I am afraid many people have done. It is seriously a good document—an interim report, mind you, by design general, cautious, non-specific, and of course as others have pointed out, not a magisterial document at all. So if you don’t like what is in this report, relax—it is not Church teaching in any way, shape, or form. It’s a report on a conversation, and based on what I read, it is a really good conversation.
So let’s join in on it, not with guns blazing and angry rejoinders (the trouble, Chesterton wrote, with a quarrel is that it so often spoils a good argument), but with thoughtful responses and reflection. The Internet is not well known for this; let’s change the Internet, then, why don’t we?
Despite the many signs of crisis in the institution of the family in various contexts of the “global village”, the desire for family remains alive, especially among the young, and is at the root of the Church’s need to proclaim tirelessly and with profound conviction the “Gospel of the family” entrusted to her with the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ.
Well, that’s a good starting point. Yes, there is real crisis in the institution of the family, and the bishops are from the outset establishing that there is a crisis. They will proceed to outline many aspects of that crisis on a global scale, not just the particular situation of North America (always gotta remember that, folks—it’s not always about us). But in that crisis, there is a desire in the human heart for family. This is what is operative, often, in couples who live together, in (yes) homosexual men and women who enter into committed relationships, in divorced people who remarry civilly.
People are not just being bloody-minded and doing these things to spit in God’s face, you know. People enter all sorts of relationships and domestic arrangements because they have a hunger for love and for community. Part of the problem is that in our terribly individualistic and atomized world, there is no community except the community of the nuclear family unit. Parishes are cold and everyone is busy about their own affairs. Let us all examine our hearts on this point: if a person doesn’t find someone to share his bed, can he find anyone to share anything at all with him (or her)?