Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Gospel of the Family

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)?

Loneliness, in other words. Pain and isolation, quite often. And the Church is called to meet that, and to offer not accommodation of teaching or silence about the teaching, but the Gospel of the family revealed by Jesus Christ, which the report makes very clear over and over again. More on that tomorrow.


  1. keep writing, Father. I trust your judgement. Meaning I don't trust a lot of other people's. ;-)

    1. Thanks a lot, Colin. Means a lot coming from you. Not because you're so brilliant, of course, but because you're such a hardass. ;)

  2. Okay, Father, I tried to take your judgment seriously, even though I don't see what is so "good" about the starting point you mention; I think it is banal and hopelessly vague. But maybe I just need to read on and get more context. So I tried, but I had to stop when I got to this: "Today’s world appears to promote limitless affectivity, seeking to explore all its aspects, including the most complex. Indeed, the question of emotional fragility is very current: a narcissistic, unstable or changeable affectivity do not always help greater maturity to be reached." - Seriously? This is awful!. It sounds like it was written by a clueless university student who is desperately trying to sound intelligent by making grand generalizations she could never hope to justify, using fancy terms which she clearly doesn't understand. It's embarrassing!

    1. When the words a-hit your mind like the author had too much wine, that's Italian! When your brain starts to fry and you might start to cry, that's Italian!
      In all seriousness, the sentence you instance (admittedly, one of many) too me is classic Italian-to-English translation done in a hurry. I totally acknowledge that this is not the best written document ever, and I hope over the next few days anyhow, to help translate it from 'bad English' to 'not-so-bad'.
      Re: banal and vague - well, like I say, I think some of that reflects the kind of document it is--cautious, exploratory, laying foundations but not writing policy with any firmness or boldness. Too soon for that. I wouldnt' call the part I quote 'banal', but that's a judgment call. Thanks for the feedback - good to hear what people are thinking. Blessings.

  3. Father, your charity is on display here, which is a good example to those of us who do not see the Synod’s halfway report as a good document. There's a lot to say, but your comment that "people are not just being bloody-minded and doing these things to spit in God’s face" is a good point at which to register disagreement.

    In the wake of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the violent birth of the same sex sexual rights movement, "Gay Liberation Fronts" sprang up whose rally cry was, "Two four six eight, smash the family, smash the state." Pride parades occur on the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and so are a celebration of that cry. That is the pedigree of those who seek acceptance of same sex sexual behavior, an activism that does not so much spit as lunge with a knife; it has very much a bloody intent.

    While the push for same sex marriage may seem to contradict “smash the family”, it is actually a major means of accomplishing this goal. The revolution sought is from natural to unnatural, and results directly from the insistence that an intrinsic disorder is a normal human condition. And it is this disorder ( this “sexual orientation”, as the report terms it) that the midway report asks if we can accept and value.

    The only sexual orientation is male to female and vice versa. Anything else is disorientation. To ask whether disorientation should be accepted and valued, antithetical as it is to the gospel of the family revealed by Jesus Christ, is to question that revelation. That alone is grounds for considering the document defective.

    Someone may yearn for family, and may be lonely and in pain, but when he seeks to find resolution through acceptance of disorientation, he is complicit in the effort to smash the family. That effort is every bit a bloody-minded course: children robbed of opposite sex parents, parents encouraging children who have this temptation to submit to it, artificial conception methods that replace the conjugal act, and so on. Perhaps the final document will be clear that accepting and valuing disorientation is the diametric of what we should be doing: harnessing the beauty of the family to assist a proper orientation of these people in whom we see the image of Christ.

    1. I agree with everything you say, especially re the damage wrought by ssm, etc. And the agenda of the LGBTQ movement is a matter of public record. Kyrie eleison.
      That being said, I do think that many of these people entering same-sex marriages etc., while following a course that will do grievous harm to them and to the children and so forth (all you said, yes!), nonetheless are moving out of a desire for love and communion. Yes, totally mis-directed and disastrous, but I believe the Church needs to find a way to meet that desire for love and communion, and I do believe the Synod is trying to grapple with those very tough matters. Let's keep praying for the Church, its unity, peace, and above all wisdom at this time.
      I will be grappling along with everyone else, so to speak, for the next few days on this, and am always grateful for the feedback, especially when it as thoughtful and courteous as yours is. Pax.


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