The enduring document of the first part of the synod, the Relatio post disceptationem, had an all-too-Western problem: too much focus on controversial doctrine. It cannot change, but instead should be embraced for the anchor that it is in stormy times. Since the Church's teaching on homosexuality is already well-established in both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and since the need for the faithful to respond with charity toward people struggling with same sex attraction is already quite clear in the Church's doctrine, and since Sacred Scripture is quite clear concerning the sinfulness of adultery, I suggest that the synod on the family that convenes next year shift its focus: to the family.
In that regard, I offer some suggested starting points for the next synod on the family:
- African bishops speak and Western bishops listen. Witchcraft, for instance, is a serious problem for the family in Africa. Do we care? We should. We are also in the body (cf. Hebrews 13:3). How do African bishops respond to witchcraft? How can we perceive its growing influence in our culture? That would be useful for the West to know. If I were a Western prelate, I would like to ask one of the African bishops, “Can you really trust a Satanist who says he is giving you back a stolen consecrated host?”
- Edify the nuclear family. This is a synod on the family. Yes, more in this regard, please. Recognize the reality that war is all around us in both East and West, and that the nature of those problems vary depending on the culture, but that there is war on the family everywhere.
- Concerning homosexuality, I suggest that the synod be more realistic about the cultural attacks against the faithful, rather than offer platitudes such as “accepting and valuing their sexual orientation.” How can bishops and priests present a unified response to the threats posed to local churches when the radical gay agenda attacks parishes, Catholic schools, small business owners, and families legally (as happens in America and Europe) or with violence (as happens in South America).
- Regarding annulment, clearly there is need for reform of this process (as one can see in paragraphs 43-44 of the Relatio). Dioceses have different processes, some more excruciating than others. A meaningful reform of the annulment process could ensure consistency and efficiency. The synod should also focus on equipping pastors with the words to inspire sacrifice for those who are in irregular unions. The synod should further instruct pastors on how to advise the faithful to accept the decision of canon lawyers if the decision is that the first union is the marriage. The Church should also solve the problem of the lengthy administrative process. It should not take a decade to determine the validity of a marriage. A major starting point for reform could be preventative—instruct pastors to be more forthright with Catholics who are entering into high-risk unions (this seems to be reflected in the paragraphs 34-35 of the Relatio).
- How to strengthen the faith within families, empowering fathers and mothers to take a more leading role—as primary catechists—in the religious instruction of their children. The children, who are all too often forgotten as the fundamental good of married love. The Church should embrace more subsidiarity in religious instruction, shifting its focus to adult catechesis so that more religious instruction can take place in the home.
- Here’s a big topic: the family and the other sacraments. This has been a point on which Pope Francis has been outspoken. How often do the bureaucratic matters postpone the reception of the sacraments! This is a serious problem in the United States, where RCIA programs are often two or three years long. In other places, the order of the reception of the sacraments of initiation has been changed from the traditional baptism-confirmation-Eucharist. Placing confirmation after Eucharist needs to justify itself theologically and pastorally, and it does not appear to do so in either case. Is it not perhaps time to consider smoothing out the process for entry into the mystical body for those interested in conversion, and restoring the order of the sacraments of initiation for the benefit of the young?
Our little ones are good, and we've gotten this look. ... ... and this one.
'You aren't breastfeeding at Mass?!'
When a little one makes some noise, the parent probably feels something like this (watch from 2:06-2:48):
Well, if you have a noisy little one, you are most welcome in my pew. I accept and value you. Speaking of noisy pews, one of my little ones once made a few big noises during the consecration a while ago. What was amazing was that she timed the double movement to concur with the elevation of the host and then that of the chalice. If only there had been bells! She would not have been noticed (except by me, who was holding her). Such is life, but I was really embarrassed. Someone looked at me and smiled genuinely, and I really appreciated it, and off I went for the clean-up. Sometimes, the necessities of married life, too, cause one to abstain from communion, as I did on that day.
I digress. Back to the synod. I hope that the prelates of the Church consider the media’s ability to communicate their message over the last 50 years, and that they consider the effects those distortions have had. If they cling to Christ’s Gospel on marriage and family, all will be well. If they try to be innovative, their work and ours becomes harder.