The diistance between families and the Church

Questions triggered from the first outcomes of the Synod questionnaire

A widening gap separates Church teaching on the family and the real life of married couples that declare themselves Catholic. These are the highlights of over two-thousand pages submitted to the French Bishops’ Conference by 83 dioceses, movements and groups, along with personal contributions in response to the world consultation promoted by the Vatican ahead of the bishops’ Synod on the family scheduled for the coming October. In France, after a debate the permanent Council of bishops decided not to disseminate publically the summary of the findings that will be sent to Rome. However, the website of the French Bishops’ Conference uploaded a 4-page summary edited by Msgr. Pierre-Marie Carré, archbishop of Montpellier, vice-President of the bishops’ conference. The bishop’s preliminary remarks focus on the number of questionnaire filled out. “Such a large amount of answers – he said – clearly underlines the importance of the role and the mission of the family. Respondents conveyed their aspirations and expectations, as well as their suffering. Everything has been welcomed”. An existing gap. While on the one side the family enjoys widespread consideration, the questionnaires also highlight “the existing gap separating Church teaching and the decisions of the couples who identify themselves as Catholic”. This gap is evident especially in matters such as contraception and in the requests to the Church “by remarried divorcees regarding the sacraments of the Eucharist and reconciliation”. As regards Church teaching – “often not well known or ignored” – a large number of respondents argued that “Jesus used much harsher words about money and its use rather than about sexuality. They wonder why today the opposite is being done instead”. France is experiencing a battle against the “mariage pour tous” and it is now struggling with a revision of the law on abortion. Msgr. Carré pointed out that “civil legislation has increased the number of laws which are clearly contrary to the positions of the Catholic Church, and all this”, he added, “eventually influences mindsets, and Catholic families themselves are in some way involved”. It therefore happens that “Church teaching is against the tide when compared to common practices in all fields”. Moreover, the bishop added, “proceeding against the tide is hard, especially for adolescents and young people”. The bishops expressed their hopes that new avenues for the future may open up, which include the challenge “to not present Church teaching with a moralizing approach, but rather highlight its role that leads to authentic respect for the human person”. Divorce, painful experience. Having said that many expect greater care in preparing couples for marriage, the bishop pointed out: “The number of divorces increases constantly in France. The causes are many and personal factors are important. To experience a separation is a painful reality for the couple and for their children. Often a new union is established that the Church does not recognize, based on the indissolubility of marriage, which leads to the impossibility of receiving the sacraments”. “Many people – continued Cassé – contend that Church practice may draw inspiration, for example, from that of the Orthodox Church which envisages a celebration that recognizes the new union after a time of penance, and after having verified that the new union has clearly been established, without questioning the indissolubility of marriage”. Welcome without prejudice. As regards same-sex unions, “the approach requested is that of welcome without prejudice nor rejection, on the part of the Church and of its members alike. At the same time, the Church cannot renounce her beliefs on Christian marriage”. But an interesting proposal emerges from France: “To help parents of a homosexual child live this situation with the right behaviour. Catholic homosexuals movements are still scarcely known”. The last paragraph is dedicated to the spouses’ openness to life. To this regard, “a large majority of respondents stressed that the encyclical ‘Humanae Vitae’ has led many couples to break apart from Church teaching and that the insistence of the Church on this aspect appears incomprehensible”.

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