Day 6 in Rome
Experience comes first according to Nichols and a Filipino couple tell an important story of failure in their attempt to offer ministry to couples in "irregular situations"
At the midday press conference Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said that, daily, the experience of married couples is being heard first before prelates speak.
"Their testimony is very important. I think there is some foundation being laid for the discussion," said Nichols.
Referring to Chapter 1 of the "Instrumentum Laboris," the theme of today's conference was "The Gospel of the Family and Natural Law" and "The Family in the Vocation of the Person of Christ."
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines introduced the first speakers this morning. George and Cynthia Campos told the story of their marriage in 1987, the birth of their four children, their discernment regarding their vocations (Cynthia felt called to be a nun at one point).a high risk pregnancy and Cynthia's diagnosis with breast cancer.
Speaking to one of the important issues at this synod, they told a story of failure. Couples for Christ had developed a special ministry called "Jacob's Well" for couples in "irregular situations." A biblically-inspired outreach rooted in John's Gospel account of Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman, they reached out to those who were considered outsiders in the parish because of their unorthodox living arrangements. But, things did not go well.
"It didn't fare well due to mutually felt uneasiness and lack of interactive preparedness with regularly married couples and a Church advisory that our organization is meant only for couples married in the Church."
If Nichols can be taken seriously and experience is the foundation for all the work that will be conducted at this synod, the story this couple told is critical - a lesson, a bit of real life wisdom, and a story of ministry foiled for those who will have a hand in shaping new pastoral practices. According to the Campos couple, "An enlightened pastoral charity inaugurating innovative forms of 'accompaniment', of conjugal spirituality formation and of inclusionary participation in church life leading to full communion needs promotion and enactment by our ordained ministers."
In short, we need a better way.
Rosica sums up the work thus far
Fr. Thomas Rosica CSB, English language assistant to the Holy See summed up the synod work thus far. He said right now there are a number of categories that capture the English interventions being discussed including
- The process within the synod itself including both the day to day workings and the weight given to the questionnaires that were completed
- The application of the "law of graduality" as developed in "Familiaris Consortio"
- The use of language describing marriage saying "marriage is already seen as being filtered by harsh language in the Church"
- The virtue of hope in marriage preparation and life
- Creative pastoral practices and programs to help develop strong marriages and families
- The unique place of family as a cell in society and the Church.
- The unchangeability of doctrine and yet the desire for a change in pastoral practice
- The multifaceted nature of marriage
- The evolving nature of biblical interpretation of Jesus' words regarding marriage and divorce
- Marriage as a mystery of Trinitarian relational life
Explaining some of the categories further, on point 1 Rosica said the synod participants were aware of both the blessings and the dangers in consulting Catholics on the issues addressed in the preparatory survey. They warned that the consultation was not a popular opinion poll where the media might report, "everyone is against the teaching of the church," but a methodology for listening to Catholic experience.
Referring to point 2, a component that would have implications for softening pastoral practices, Rosica said, "the law of graduality refers to the stepping stones in the journey of faith and holiness."
Nichols clarified further saying, "The mention of the law of graduality is part of moral theology. In 1982 there was much discussion of this law which meant, 'take one step at a time in our search for holiness in our lives,' yet at the end of the synod on 1982, John Paul II make the distinction, 'There is a law of graduality, but it should not be confused with graduality of the law.'" Lombardi continue, "It is not as if there is one law at this time and another law at another time, but there is a pathway."
Taking up the importance of language in point 3, Rosica noted there was much discussion about the necessity of rethinking some of the language of the Church. He said, "phrases like, 'living in sin,' 'contraception mentality' and 'intrinsically disordered' do not bring people to Christ. The language has to change."
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