October 2, 2015
Fr. Fred Scinto, CR
BACKGROUND AND REFLECTIONS ON THE 2015 SYNOD
(ABOUT POPE FRANCIS FOR PEOPLE IN THE PEW)
What the Pope Wants And Is Working For (Continued)
One last point needs to be made here. And it shows how solicitous our Holy Father is for the welfare of all Catholics. The point has to do with the question of separated or divorced people who are remarried without an annulment and the reception of Holy Communion at Mass. The Pope is considering what possibility we Catholics may learn from the practice of our brothers and sisters in the Orthodox Church for our pastoral practices.
In some of the Orthodox Churches, a couple in the situation described above can remarry in an Orthodox ceremony but without fanfare and without the use of the regular marriage ceremony. These Orthodox Churches review each case of a broken/failed marriage and, if justified, grant a divorce with the possibility of contracting a second (or even a third) marriage within the Church community. Only the first marriage is considered sacramental and it lasts forever; the second marriage is not considered to be sacramental but is still blessed in church. The Orthodox solution “allows participation in the [other] sacraments yet still affirms the permanence of the first marriage’ (Sister Mary Ann Walsh, R.S.M., theologian). Pope Francis stated in July 2014 that this is the way the Orthodox operate and we should carefully look at it because “I believe that we need to look at this [Holy Communion for divorced Catholics who have remarried without an annulment for the first marriage] within the larger context of the entire pastoral care of marriage” (Francis).
Our Holy Father is also very much aware of the suffering and difficulties that divorce creates for children and his heart goes out to them too. In his pastoral sensibilities, then, the Pope does not have just the divorcing couple in mind and so he is also very worried about these children of divorce. And he realizes that the faster we can do something for the parents, the better it will be for the children: modern professional scientific and psychological studies clearly indicate the effects of divorce upon children, even the grown-up children.
“Francis also knows that if people leave the Church because of divorce, they will take their children with them. This affects the spiritual health of the entire family, including the family of the Church. His actions are propelled by both compassion and pragmatism; the Pope recognizes the damages of spousal abuse and the reality that many modern marriages are undertaken without full consideration. He wants to extend the olive branch of forgiveness to those who feel alienated, secure the spiritual future of their children, and uphold the sanctity of marriage.” (Candida Moss, theological writer for Crux, online at www.cruxnow.com)
We all need to keep in mind that “the final report of the synod [last year in October 2014] described children as the ‘real victims’ of divorce and recognized that it leads to an interruption of the ‘transmission of faith’ between parents and children. Ministering to the divorced became a concern and particularly when children are concerned.” (Moss) From my long experience in this ministry (40 years) I can vouch for the truth of the above remarks. I also know that we need to do much more for these children because in the past we did not do much for them since we were concentrating on the adults involved. Please keep these children, especially the little ones, (and the parents) in your prayers. Thank you.
The Pope’s Theological Context Here
Mercy is a huge element in Pope Francis’ theology. His very recent trip to the United States highlighted mercy and mercy as grace. We all must practice mercy if we consider ourselves to be followers of Jesus Christ. On September 10, 2015 (before his American trip), Pope Francis really showed how important mercy is. During his homily at this day’s Mass in Rome, he said “if you do not know how to forgive, you are not a Christian;” this was “before imploring priests who cannot be merciful to ask for a desk job and ‘never walk into a confessional, I beg you’” (News Briefs in Signs of the Times section of America magazine for September 28, 2015)! Francis constantly reminds us of the core of the Gospel, i.e., mercy, kindness, caring for the poor, and not judging so we won’t be judged. Because Francis spiritually strongly follows this Gospel core, on his trip to the United States, he embraced all the people of this country. Recall also his personal motto which reflects this too, e.g., miserando atque eligendo, which in Latin roughly means “miserable but called” (by God).
By now, you are very much aware of how important the family is to and for him. During his American visit, the Pope strongly emphasized the traditional family. Since the very beginning of his papacy, Francis has spoken about the urgent pastoral needs of our modern families. “Wage stagnation has increased on families as the cost of food, housing, transportation and education continue to pick up” (Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami). This is why economics and the need for true values to be present in this is so important for Francis – economics strongly impact on the family. So Francis challenges us to make the connections between human labour, care for creation (ecology), and “honouring the dignity of the universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect,” as he so eloquently says in his new encyclical, Laudato Sí.
Recall what the Holy Father said in Philadelphia at the gathering of families from all over the world, i.e., the people’s presence was “a kind of miracle in today’s world, an affirmation of the family and the power of love. Would that all of us could be open to the miracle of love for the sake of all the families of the world!” When the Pope left Philadelphia, among other things, he noted the American concern for the family and saw this as a good thing. For Francis, the family is the answer to the world’s blandness and brokenness (as he stated in a public audience after his return from the United States).
At the general audience on September 30, 2015, after the return to Rome from the United States Francis stated that the climax of his visit was the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia “where the horizon extends to all the world through the ‘prism’ of the family. The family is the answer to the great challenge of our world, which is a dual challenge: fragmentation and solidification, two extremes which co-exist, support each other and together support the consumerist economic model. The family is the answer as it is the cell of a society that balances the personal and community dimensions, and at the same time the model for a sustainable management of goods and resources of creation. The family is the protagonist of an integral ecology, as it is the primary social subject which contains within itself the two basic principles of human civilisation on earth: the principles of communion and fruitfulness. Biblical humanism presents us with this icon: the human couple, united and fruitful, placed by God in the garden of the world to cultivate it and protect it.” (Pope Francis – note how well in these words the Pope links together many important realities and ideas; he is a master of speaking in a holistic sense!)
This October’s Synod runs from October 4 to October 25. For the duration of the Synod, please add the following intercession/petition to our Sunday Eucharists’ Prayer of the Faithful (General Intercessions or Intentions):
“May the Risen Lord’s Holy Spirit generously fill the hearts of all those involved in the present Synod and open our ears to what the Synod is saying to us, we pray to the Lord.”
TO BE CONTINUED
Father Fred Scinto, C.R.,
Resurrection Ministries, Waterloo, Ontario.