Cardinal George Pell of Australia, who is the current Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, was interviewed by Francis X. Rocca of Catholic News Service, and issued some strong remarks about the Synod and where it will—and will not—go:
Cardinal George Pell said working-group reports from the Synod of Bishops on the family finally give a true picture of the assembly’s views, counteracting what he characterized as a misleading midterm report.
“We wanted the Catholic people around the world to know actually what was going on in talking about marriage and the family and, by and large, I think people will be immensely reassured,” Cardinal Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, told Catholic News Service Oct. 16, the day the reports were published.
“We’re not giving in to the secular agenda; we’re not collapsing in a heap. We’ve got no intention of following those radical elements in all the Christian churches, according to the Catholic churches in one or two countries, and going out of business,” he said. …
The midterm report was “tendentious, skewed; it didn’t represent accurately the feelings of the synod fathers,” said Cardinal Pell. “In the immediate reaction to it, when there was an hour, an hour-and-a-half of discussion, three-quarters of those who spoke had some problems with the document.”
“A major absence was Scriptural teaching,” he said. “A major absence was a treatment of the church tradition,” including teaching on the family by Pope Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Pell also states that just 3 of the 10 small groups were in support of Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to allow for some divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion, calling that proposal a “stalking horse”. He indicated that Kasper’s proposal was just the “tip of the iceburg,” an attempt to open the door to even more radical measures: “They want wider changes, recognition of civil unions, recognition of homosexual unions. The church cannot go in that direction. It would be a capitulation from the beauties and strengths of the Catholic tradition, where people sacrificed themselves for hundreds, for thousands of years to do this.”
The texts of the ten groups are available on the Vatican website. While only three of the ten are available in English, the substance and approach are notably different than what was in the text of the Relatio. For example, from the text from the group (Circulus Anglicus “A”) moderated by Cardinal Raymond Burke:
We believed that there needed to be a new introduction to the Relatio. Our proposed Introduction is placed within the context of the great gift of the Sacrament of Matrimony and the grace of God freely given through the sacraments. It also provides a theological anthropological foundation, which we believe is needed in order to address serious issues spoken on in the Synod. We have addressed these issues within the context of Scripture and the remarkably rich Magisterium of the Church. We want the final Synod document to speak of human life, marriage and family life, as we know it to be revealed to us by God through reason and faith, both aided by the grace of God. The Relatio Synodi must proclaim the truth of the Gospel, the truth of human life and sexuality as revealed by Christ. The Word of Christ illuminates our knowledge of human nature and the intrinsic sexuality of man and woman through the natural law. …
We know that the final Synod document gives us a wonderful opportunity to influence the prevailing culture and for the Church to present the way of Jesus Christ who is “The Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14). Our amendments have tried to show that living as disciples of Jesus Christ, with all the challenges that brings is the life that leads to true joy and human happiness.
For example, where the Relatio appeared to be suggesting that sex outside of marriage may be permissible, or that cohabitation may be permissible, we have attempted to show why such lifestyles do not lead to human fulfillment. At the same time, we want to acknowledge that there are seeds of truth and goodness found in the persons involved, and through dedicated pastoral care these can be appreciated and developed. We believe that if we imply that certain life-styles are acceptable, then concerned and worried parents could very easily say “Why are we trying so hard to encourage our sons and daughters to live the Gospel and embrace Church teaching?”
We did not recommend the admission to the sacraments of divorced and re-married people, but we included a very positive and much –needed appreciation of union with Christ through other means.
The group recognizes and favors the concern and compassion the Relatio shows for those who face difficult pastoral situations in their lives. However our amendments suggest that we express these carefully so as not to create confusion in the minds and hearts of our people.
And from the group (Circulus Anglicus “B”) moderated by Card. Wilfrid Fox Napier, O.F.M.:
However, the Report of the Synod should go beyond a mere focus on the problems and the pathology of marriage and the family. The group felt that it could well draw on the testimonies – and the language – of the lay men and women who addressed the Synod.
Many in the group felt that a young person reading the Relatio would if anything become even less enthusiastic about undertaking the challenging vocation of Christian matrimony. The Synod Report – and the Message – should direct itself towards young people, to help them understand and be attracted by the Christian vision of marriage and the family, in a world in which they are exposed to many contradictory visions.
It was felt that in the current situation of widespread cultural confusion about marriage and the family and the human suffering that this can bring, there is an urgent need for leadership in today’s world and that such clear leadership can only come from the Church. Such leadership is an urgent part of the Church’s service to contemporary society and a failure to give such witness would be to fail humanity.
Some members of the group stressed the need of pastors to recognize their own failures and their inadequacies in fostering support for families. The Church needs a radical renewal of its style of ministry to families. Marriage accompaniment is a lifelong task not limited to preparation for the wedding. It is a task which belongs within a broad faith itinerary and must encourage and foster family prayer.
The main thrust should be to encourage those who are committed and witness to the Christian ideal and who struggle day by day, with the help of God’s grace to realize that ideal. This is important to stress as we move towards the Ordinary Session of the Synod of 2015 which is about “the vocation and mission of the family”.
The Church must of course also reach out to the realities of those whose lives do not yet fully realize that ideal. The problems should not be allowed to steal the principal narrative, but neither should the narrative end up marginalizing or discouraging those are still struggling.
It is not primarily a question of producing new documents or of simply repeating the Church’s teaching, but of reaching out and finding a language which can help the men and women and especially the young people of our time to open their hearts and minds to the Gospel of the Family, to understand it and to be attracted by it. This new language must dig deeper into the treasury of the faith and tradition of the Church and find ways of listening to the lived experience of faithful couples of their Sacrament of Matrimony.
Here is the video of Cardinal Pell’s interview with CNS: