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.
A synod is a process more than an outcome. It’s vitally participatory. It’s a collegial experience. That’s partially why it’s so wearying yet invigorating too. And all this, yes, cum petro but finally sub petro, and the Holy Spirit.
So let’s imbibe some of the successor of Peter’s own concluding words:
- the Synod was not about settling all the issues having to do with the family, but rather attempting to see them in the light of the Gospel and the Church’s tradition and two-thousand-year history;
- it was not about finding exhaustive solutions for all the difficulties and uncertainties which challenge and threaten the family, but rather about seeing these difficulties and uncertainties in the light of the Faith, studying … and confronting them fearlessly, without burying our heads in the sand;
- It was about listening to and making heard the voices of the families and the Church’s pastors, who came to Rome bearing on their shoulders the burdens and the hopes, the riches and the challenges of families throughout the world;
- It was about showing the vitality of the Catholic Church, which is not afraid to stir dulled consciences or to soil her hands with lively and frank discussions about the family;
- It was about bearing witness to everyone that, for the Church, the Gospel continues to be a vital source of eternal newness, against all those who would “indoctrinate” it in dead stones to be hurled at others;
- It was also about laying bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families;
- It was about making clear that the Church is a Church of the poor in spirit and of sinners seeking forgiveness, not simply of the righteous and the holy, but rather of those who are righteous and holy precisely when they feel themselves poor sinners;
- It was about trying to open up broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints, so as to … transmit the beauty of Christian Newness, at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible;
- Different opinions which were freely expressed – and at times, unfortunately, not in entirely well-meaning ways – certainly led to a rich and lively dialogue;
- We have also seen that what seems normal for a bishop on one continent, is considered strange and almost scandalous – almost! – for a bishop from another; … what for some is freedom of conscience is for others simply confusion.
- Cultures are in fact quite diverse, and every general principle – as I said, dogmatic questions clearly defined by the Church’s magisterium – every general principle needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied.
- Inculturation does not weaken true values, but demonstrates their true strength and authenticity, since they adapt without changing; indeed they quietly and gradually transform the different cultures;
- We have seen, also by the richness of our diversity, that the same challenge is ever before us: that of proclaiming the Gospel to the men and women of today, and defending the family from all ideological and individualistic assaults;
- Dear Brothers and Sisters, the Synod experience also made us better realize that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness;
- This is in no way to detract from the importance of formulae – they are necessary – or from the importance of laws and divine commandments, but rather to exalt the greatness of the true God, who does not treat us according to our merits or even according to our works but solely according to the boundless generosity of his Mercy (cf. Rom 3:21-30; Ps 129; Lk 11:47-54);
- The Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy, to call to conversion, and to lead all men and women to salvation in the Lord (cf. Jn 12:44-50);
- Benedict XVI, too, said: “Mercy is indeed the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God…;
- In effect, for the Church to conclude the Synod means to return to our true “journeying together” in bringing to every part of the world, to every diocese, to every community and every situation, the light of the Gospel, the embrace of the Church and the support of God’s mercy!
Everyone rose from their chair and clapped – a few less vigorously than most – but all very much aware that ‘Peter’ had spoken. Dixit. Then, finally, we chanted the Te Deum laudamus, Thee, O God, we praise, and left with hearts brimming with hope.
Bishop Charles Drennan is Bishop of Palmerston North.