New Zealand particpants will be sending posts from the Synod on Marriage and the Family in Rome this month.
Here is a post from Bishop Charles Drennan.
In any large group the characters soon emerge. At this Synod, one is a Bishop from Greece. Following a couple of woe-is-us interventions in the Synod Hall, he said in his: look, you need three things - will, conscience, and matter - to sin. So, it’s actually quite difficult. Let’s worry a bit less about sin and get on with what’s positive. Everyone laughed and the air was lightened accordingly.
But back to what I have mentioned earlier as points of difference.
Language. This has emerged sharply as a point of difference: copy and paste, or fresh and creative? Some interventions do sound like a collection of underlinings. Notwithstanding the earnestness with which the points are made, the message fails to fly.
This observation is not of course a call to bypass prudent theological method. On the contrary, no generation is exempt from making a contribution to the living tradition of theological insights. So tradition cannot be reduced to mere repetition. Many have been at pains to point out that we already have excellent documents on the Family and related subjects such as Familiaris Consortio and Mulieris Dignitatem. Let’s refer to them but not repeat them ad infinitum.
It seems to me that we need to elucidate the beauty of marriage and family life with a language that also reflects its ordinariness; a daily lived reality, setbacks and all, rather than an idealized object of lofty analysis.
The struggles and strains of family life aren’t secondary to it; in fact they are precisely where we see the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, such as patience and fortitude, at work. Idealism neither can nor should be a vain attempt to escape the real.
One simple language gear-change has been suggested: let’s talk less of “the family” and more of “families”. Sure, the latter runs the risk of generalizations but the former locks discussion in the abstract, so loved by the Italians.
Anyhow, a breakthrough occurred I think when a globally prominent and much respected Cardinal Archbishop said in an off the cuff intervention in the Synod Hall: “my parents were divorced, I’m a son of a divorced mother and father, and so are other Bishops. Indeed every family is a patchwork family”.
The reaction this time obviously wasn’t a laugh. It was a murmur: good-on-you for saying so.
Bishop Charles Drennan is Bishop of Palmerston North.