The following editorial by Father Peter Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D., appears in the current (May/June) issue of The Catholic Response magazine. It is posted here with Father’s permission.
When the Extraordinary Synod on the Family was announced and when it concluded, I promised our readers ongoing reflections on the Church’s understanding of marriage and the family, particularly as a preparation for the Ordinary Synod on the topic this coming October. Please allow the present piece to serve as part of that process.
Throughout these months, Pope Francis has consistently asked the faithful to participate in the Synod by offering input and by praying. Here is my contribution, which I present for your consideration.
Most objective observers have noted that the Synod of 2014 was chaotic and confusing at best, characterized by a lack of genuine leadership and disgraceful manipulation by a handful of ideologues. An inordinate amount of attention was given to concerns marginal to the average person in the pews. To be sure, the Church must exhibit pastoral solicitude for those living in irregular situations, whether that is of the divorced/remarried or those in same-sex unions. However, a topsy-turvy impression was created that those issues (which involve an infinitesimal percentage of Catholics) were paramount. On the other hand, where was the pastoral solicitude and robust pastoral advice for the millions of good, struggling Catholic families? It seems to me that the following elements ought to be part of such a plan.
• Starting in childhood, provision of lifelong formation in Christian discipleship and the insertion of the married vocation within that horizon.
• Therefore, stressing the importance of Catholic schools as the indispensable support for parents. The virtual absence of this component from the various Synod documents and even, presumably,from the Synod debates was quite remarkable to me.
• Education in chastity for adolescents and young adults. If this plank of the program were in place, many other aspects would fall into place automatically.
• Ongoing preaching and teaching by the clergy on the Catholic vision of marriage and the family, giving intelligent and comprehensible explanations of the Church’s understanding of human sexuality.
• Serious and solid marriage preparation, including basic catechesis. It is pastorally irresponsible and grossly unjust to allow couples to enter upon a sacramental union after but a handful of “Pre-Cana” sessions. Truth be told, the average couple of my experience is relatively clueless about the very basics of the Christian Faith, let alone the finer points of the marital vocation.
• Special attention needs to be given to ecumenical and interfaith marriages, which are in the majority in many countries nowadays. It was commonplace in the United States up through the 1950s that the non-Catholic partner became a Catholic even before the marriage was solemnized. Now it is regrettably common that the Catholic spouse converts to the faith of the other person or both spouses simply opt out of “organized religion,” joining the growing ranks of the “nones.”
• Programs ought to be established to assist couples in troubled relationships — before it is too late. A “mentor” couple could be assigned to the engaged, who accompany the newly-weds for at least the first five years of the marriage, hopefully becoming an intimate part of the lives of the young couple and thus a permanent resource.
• Parenting courses are essential today. All too many of the current crop of young marrieds were poorly raised and thus have no background to be good parents themselves. This kind of course could begin in the baptismal preparation programs that are standard in most parishes at present, continuing in the various stages of the children’s development, on into adolescence. Especially needed is assistance in how to introduce children to a life of faith, dissuading parents from ever imagining that allowing children to go unaided in the process (on the pretext of giving them “freedom of choice”) is a loving act.
• Parents likewise need help in dealing with the sad phenomenon of adult children who have fallen away from the practice of the Faith. Good Catholic parents wonder what they did wrong for such a result; the Church needs to be present to them with consoling and practical counsel.
• A lasting contribution of the 2015 Synod should be the production of a Compendium of Catholic Teaching on Marriage and the Family. At the Synod of 1985, Cardinal Bernard Law suggested the publication of a catechism to enshrine Catholic doctrine in a format which would instruct generations of Catholics, precisely to honor the twentieth anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council. We also have the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, as well as the Enchiridion of the New Evangelization. My proposal for a Compendium on the Family would be a fitting homage for the fiftieth anniversary of the close of Vatican II, which had so much to say about Catholic family life.
• Last but not least, Synod affairs need to be conducted in total transparency. The faithful have a right to know what their bishops think and say. The shroud of secrecy surrounding the last Synod’s proceedings aided and abetted cloak-and-dagger rumors and actual dishonest dealings.
If you find merit in any or all of these suggestions, let me make one further suggestion: Submit your thoughts to the bishops who will be representing the United States hierarchy at the Synod: Archbishop Joseph Kurtz (Louisville) and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo (Galveston-Houston), president and vice-president, respectively, of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Archbishop Charles Chaput (Philadelphia); Archbishop José Gomez (Los Angeles). And, yes, by all means, storm Heaven, that the Holy Spirit will use the Synod Fathers of 2015 to advance the very sane and joyful truths of Christian family living. And, above all… remember that our Eucharistic Lord accompanies us — His Church — along the pathways of this life, toward His Heavenly Kingdom.
Born and raised in Binghamton, New York, Fr. Thomas Kocik was a computer programmer for IBM Corp. before entering the seminary. In 1997 he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Fall River by Bishop (now Cardinal) Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap. He is the author of The Reform of the Reform? A Liturgical Debate (2003), Loving and Living the Mass (2nd ed. 2011), The Fullness of Truth: Catholicism and the World’s Major Religions (2013), and Singing His Song: A Short Introduction to the Liturgical Movement (2nd ed. 2019), as well as many published articles and book reviews. From 2009 to 2012 he was editor of Antiphon, the journal of the Society for Catholic Liturgy. A complete bibliography is available HERE.
Not a single word about one of the biggest threats to families everywhere, and one that should be very close to the heart of the pope: the crushing burden of debt and taxes that steal from families’ pocketbooks and force mothers to work outside the home instead of rearing children, and which adds to the temptation to limit the number of children in order to support them. Keeping the world in debt serves the wealthy few and their sycophants in governments everywhere but destroys families.
In addition, nothing is said about the blatantly false teaching that is running rampant throughout the Church everywhere and puts at risk the souls of entire families, and this by some of the very members of the hierarchy who are participating in the Synod.
Here in the US, the top marginal income tax rate was SUBSTANTIALLY higher in the 1950s than it is today. http://www.businessinsider.com/history-of-tax-rates#lets-begin-with-a-look-at-the-top-income-tax-bracket-since-the-federal-income-tax-was-started-in-1913-as-you-can-see-relative-to-history-its-currently-very-low-1
Perhaps a move in that direction would help. (I agree that the economy is the big problem here.)
Pope Francis has been asked by overwhelming petition to clarify Church teaching. What have we heard from him? …………NOTHING! And….’Not a single word about one of the biggest threats to families everywhere…etc’? As of late there has indeed been word from the Holy Father himself about ‘forcing mothers to work outside the home.’ LOL……he made the comment that it was a ‘scandal’ that women are not paid as much as men for the same work and that they should be compensated at the same wage, and that then husband and wife can come together as ‘equals’. I guess that means he’s OK with people outside the home raising the children, not the mom…….obviously.
Disgaceful manipulation was by more than a handful and engineered by you-know-who.
Wonderful concrete recommendations.
These quality proposals are a tacit admission that Popes and Bishops have failed to pass on the Faith and in our Hierarchal Faith it is a failing with consequences that have poured out upon the domestic church – speaking of which, we have been uncatechised about that truth also.
Most of the problem is owing to Ecumenism – the Universal Solvent of Tradition – but that had already taken hold within the Hierarchy prior to Vatican Two even though it was the matter that provided the fuel that fired the V2 rocket.
At least that is what I think*
* Hey, Steve. I am cured 🙂
And there was much rejoicing.