Dear Parish Family,
Wow, what a difference a week makes! In case you were away on a NASA Space mission….The Extraordinary Synod on the Family made headlines around the world on Monday when the Relatio post Disceptationem or “Speech after the debate” was released. This paper is a mid-synodal announcement, a general summary concerning topics that were debated in the first week of closed sessions. This past week the extraordinary synod met in small groups. There was, as one Cardinal put it, “Intellectually honest” discussions about many vexing issues related to family life in the Church today. Among the headline grabbers were the topics of homosexuality, cohabitation, separated/divorced and remarried, and contraception.
While the global news media found the open discussion of these topics to be earth shaking, the ‘Relatio’ did not say anything that is not in keeping with the practice of charity and mercy. While it may be shocking to hear Cardinals and Bishops discussing these topics in an open and public way; these complex and messy issues are dealt with reg-ularly in every parish on the globe. From a pastoral perspective it is helpful to hear our hierarchy discuss these real life issues in a meaningful way. The ‘Relatio’ however is not a final document nor is it an authoritative document, it is simply a summary of debate in the mid-point of the Synod. The Synod will produce a formal document to be used to guide the Ordinary Synod in 2015, the Ordinary Synod will produce a formal document of recommenda-tions to the Pope in 2015 and he will then decide what he will include in what is called an Apostolic Exhortation, a formal letter to the entire Church.
There should be no dichotomy between doctrine and pastoral practice as they support and inform one another, however the application must conform to an individual believer’s life in a way that helps them to move toward greater holiness, even those who live irregular lives. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us there is a Universal Call to Holiness. Each of us is a sinner of varying degrees and all of us are in need of the Mercy of the Father dis-pensed by the Son. Whether the worst sinner or one near sainthood, each of us is called by Christ to become Holy, each of us ought to be striving to journey to the House of Our Father. For some that journey is rough, scarred, rid-dled with potholes, twists and even detours and an occasional dead end. God speaks to each person in their heart; each believer must open their heart to the truth of God’s message as mediated by the Church which Christ estab-lished. Some truths are more difficult than others and many individuals, if not most, gradually move toward the truth.
Frankly, as a priest of 23 years I can say that on the parish level these issues have always been dealt with between the priest and the penitent. Pope Francis reminds us the Church is not a Storied Fortress but a field hospital for the wounded after the battle. Not everyone heals at the same rate or responds to the same treatment. The doctor of the soul must apply the medicine of Mercy in a way the patient can progress toward healing. This is what is at the heart of the ongoing debate of the Extraordinary Synod. It is past time that these issues, that are realities in parishes, are openly spoken of at the world wide gatherings of Bishops for the common good of all. After all, Christ wills that we dare hope all humanity be brought to salvation. Let’s not deliberately abandon any soul if we can help it! It is an exciting time in Salvation History to be Catholic!
Pray the Holy Spirit continues to enflame the hearts of the participants in the Synod to find new and creative ways, even surprising ways, to make the truth understood and lived in each believer.
Peace and Good –Fr. Bambrick