God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Synod on the family: on the way…

It has been exciting two weeks for the Catholic Church – a drama unfolding at the Vatican in a way we have not seen in my life time: open debate, no scripted texts, a pope listening and not expecting to hear only what he wants to hear. That is and remains the first victory for openness in the church. And there is more positive to report: clear lines were drawn between those wanting to move the church and those wanting to preserve the churches teaching and pastoral approach with no changes at all. The first document created an outcry of synod fathers like  Cardinals Napier, Burke, Mueller and others who stemmed their weight against any even little opening in terms of welcoming gay people more into the church or open a path to the sacraments for divorced re-married couples. Interesting is that the divide went so far, that even within the final document for example the text about gay people, just reaffirming the old teaching, did not get a 2/3 majority.  Well, I guess it would have asked for the Holy Spirit to work overtime to get all participants on the same page – for me the two weeks have shown that there is movement within the church and that we have to work hard to make the spelled out theory that “the church welcomes everybody and excludes nobody” is more than a phrase.
It simply does not work in the long run, that we welcome people but tell them that they are intrinsic evil; it also does not work to say that the sacraments are specially needed for those in need, but exclude generally divorced remarried couples officially. We have to tackle the theological question what it means if somebody is born transgender or lesbian or gay and wants to live his or her live to the fullest and in fulfillment of his or her goodness and god-likeness.
We also have to take note of the fact that in reality divorced remarried are receiving communion in most parishes with the conscious decision of priest and concerned parties – the sensus fidelium is practically much more developed than the teaching of the church – so one could argue.
So did Pope Francis suffer a setback or the church? In my humble opinion no, we have done the first step as a very open church and there is now another year of discernment and reflection coming before the synod fathers meet again. I believe that the journey continues and if the Holy Spirit is guiding the church we can trust that hearts will be converted in this year besides the fact that the population of cardinals will also change over the year. So lets wait, see and work hard that our church will find the middle way the pope is hoping for – a way not putting unnecessary burdens on the backs of the faithful. And with that also ending so much hypocrisy in our church on all levels when it comes to those questions most hardly contested.

More reading:
http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/synod-report-narrows-open-tone-pope-calls-middle-path

http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/synod-win-francis-and-openness

http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/sinodo-famiglia-37009/

http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/sinodo-famiglia-37008/

http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/sinodo-famiglia-36992/

http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2014/10/18/0770/03044.html

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/10/18/message_from_the_synod_on_the_family/1108920

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/18/catholic-bishops-gays_n_6008300.html?&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000055

The popes speech at the end of the Synod:
http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/10/18/pope_francis_speech_at_the_conclusion_of_the_synod/1108944

Filed under: Catholic Church, Religion and Ethics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Changing the teaching?

I guess meanwhile even those far away from the Roman Catholic Church could not avoid to notice that a debate is going on about family and sexuality and how church should see, consider and tackle those problem areas of Christian fabric. There are those in favor of changes and the surveys in Europe show clearly that some of  the teaching is not only not understood but simply ignored even by those going to church every Sunday. Others resent changes and one of the loudest prominent voices is now Cardinal Mueller, heading the department watching over the right faith of the church. He is surely a controversial figure and I have the impression he likes like the late Manto Tshabala Msimang to be in that place of controversy and harsh judgements. But he is also an academic and I fail to understand why he argues in the matter divorced-remarried so non-academic and in my opinion simply wrong. Where ever I read about his comments mainly in the German press, he insists that the church teaching cannot be changed. He insists that dogmas can’t change and therefore divorced – remarried cannot receive communion until – so to speak – Jesus comes back and corrects it.
Maybe I am mistaken but I cannot see that this argument meets the request of changes at all. I see from all the surveys that people yearn for lifelong intimacy, faithfulness and most Christians would agree that this is the aim, even if times have changed since Jesus. But they also acknowledge that failure is an option and that in the light of the unconditional love of God there is the mercy factor the church holds dear in tradition and teaching.

Mueller has only to look to the Orthodox Church – the sister church,the other lung of the church as John-Paul II has put it. They have the same teaching and still, there is a way via “oikonomia” to remedy situations of failure. In excluding such an option Mueller indirectly accuses the Orthodox Church of being unfaithful to the teaching of Jesus, which I find quite amazing. Or he maybe is ignorant and has not understood yet, that the letter of the law kills, but he spirit of the law gives life. The Orthodox Church has given room to the spirit and there is a clear feeling in the Western part of the church, that the spirit should govern the whole church and so overcome the split of the 11th century. I can’t remember which Cardinal from South America it was, but he pointed out in an interview, that  Cardinal Mueller has to learn that the German way of seeing things either “black or white” does not apply to real life, also therefore not to the life of the church. We all live in shadows of grey. And this gives the light of mercy the special attractive sparkle when seen from outside.

So, I don’t think we need to change the teaching, but we should stop declaring an ideal the measurement for our daily life. And we should not use another sacrament to punish people. The grace of God in the Sacrament of the Eucharist is in my eyes often a comfort for those going to the trauma of shattered dreams. If the “spiritual communion” has the same effect of God’s closeness as the “real communion” , so John – Paul II, then there is indeed no need to differentiate between them. Let’s keep praying that the Synod of Bishops in October experiencing the spirit which liberates and gives life.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Religion and Ethics, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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