Upcoming Synod Must Address Family Disintegration

Judging by the media reports on the Extraordinary Synod to be held in Rome this October, the bishops present will be mainly concerned with issues such as the admission to the Eucharist of divorced and remarried persons, the speeding up of annulment processes, and the possible revision of the Church’s teaching on contraception. Implicit in most of the reports is the view that a liberalization or “relaxation” of the Church’s present discipline in these matters could help to ameliorate the pastoral problem or concern that the Synod is called to examine. What could be said about this view?

First, it must be remembered that the Synod is on the Family, not on Marriage. Certainly the health of the family depends on the health of marriage; hence the two questions are intimately connected. Yet, if the topics so highlighted by the media are discussed, then it should be in the light of their relevance to the health of the family itself.

From this latter point of view, divorce, annulments, and contraception certainly have their impact on the quality of family life. But surely it is a negative impact, not a positive one? Hence, proposals to make them more “available” or more “acceptable” would seem to run clear counter to the presumed purpose of the Synod.

What in fact is this purpose? Why has the Synod been convoked? The recent Instrumentum Laboris expresses it in its opening paragraph: “to bring about a new springtime for the family.” While this is suggestive (implying also that the family is going through a winter), it is not too concrete. Let us go directly then to Pope Francis himself, who can certainly tell us what is central in his concerns about the family and, therefore, what he wants the Synod to discuss.

The media might have taken more notice of a letter of his of February 2, 2014, the Feast of the Presentation, addressed directly to Christian families themselves. There, along with requesting prayers for the Synod, he expresses his mind about the role of the family, and the dangers that threaten it today, in a very condensed but beautiful manner.

It is certainly no accident that Francis chose to date this brief letter on February 2. On the contrary, the Pope uses the Gospel of the feast to show how the family can make generations more united, overcome individual self-centeredness, and bring joy to itself and the world. He first dwells on how the presentation of Jesus brings together two old people, Simeon and Anna, and two young people, Mary and Joseph. “It is a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations!” And then, “He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self‑absorption, solitude, and sadness. In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support … Nevertheless, if there is no love, then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus.…”

This is very positive. It presents an ideal. But it also communicates the underlying concerns of the Pope regarding the family, and the recommendations regarding them that he hopes to receive from the synodal debates. To understand this, it should be enough to ask ourselves a few questions.

Are Christian families today united in themselves, and with others? Do they help their members out of self-absorption? Do they give an example to those around them of generous and dedicated love? There is the ideal of the Christian family; there is the role it is meant to play in the new evangelization of the world. And, yet, it seems that a great majority of Christian families today do not sense the greatness of their ideal, and do not know how to live it, or are not motivated enough to engage in their privileged evangelizing role. If so, then this must surely suggest the main topics that the Synod of this year, and that of 2015, should address.

The Lost Concept of “Family”
My almost 60 years as a priest have been particularly involved in the consideration of marriage and the family from many points of view: theological, moral, juridical, and pastoral. While not pessimistic by nature, I must say that we are blinking at reality if we do not face up to the fact that since the 1950s, marriage and the family, outside and inside the Church, have been plunged into an ever-growing crisis—to the extent that their nature, and very existence, are threatened by total collapse.

If I had to sum up the causes of this crisis in one factor, it would be this: marriage is no longer approached as a family enterprise. It has become basically a “you-and-me” affair. It is essentially a (tentative) commitment of two persons, one to the other; and no longer a total commitment of love, where a sexual love-union is expected to lead to, and be cemented by, the children that this union should naturally give rise to. In this secular view (which has become so widespread in the Church), marriage is basically an à deux arrangement, while a family is a possible annex that can be added later on, if convenient. Children, instead of being the natural fruit of married love, and the glue that holds it together in times of stress, are reduced to the category of minor accessories to the personal happiness of each of two fundamentally separate people, hence dispensable (like the marriage itself), if they no longer serve each individual’s happiness. Under such a view, marriages open-to-divorce, or simple cohabitation, become valid and even preferable options.

What is needed is a more natural, noble, and generous response to the family ideal that should inspire every healthy decision to marry. What we have instead, and it has been growing powerfully over the past 50 years, is a calculated individualistic approach to marriage and the family. Such an approach can only increase solitude and sadness, never overcome them.

Pre-marriage Instruction
To me, perhaps the most important issue to be addressed by the Synod is the need for pre-marriage instruction, inspired by sound anthropological (and not just theological) arguments, that draw out the positive, if challenging, nature of the commitment to marriage and the family. I say this because, in my experience, premarital instruction is often seriously deficient in its presentation of the power and appeal of Christian marriage; and this on both the supernatural and human levels.

The supernatural aspect: marriage must be presented as a genuine, God-given vocation to holiness, dwelling equally on the specific graces that, as a sacrament, it continually offers for the joyful and faithful fulfillment of this divine calling and mission.

The human aspect: bringing out, in-depth, the marvelously positive anthropological teachings of Vatican II, which present marriage as a covenant of love, highlighting marital consent as a mutual self-gift, and seeing children as both the natural outcome of that love, and the guarantee of its continuance in the future.

Both aspects need to be developed in any proper catechesis. But the second, if presented in all its human power, should come first. Only if fully expounded and personally absorbed can it counter, and gradually overcome, the pervading modern mindset which considers any binding choice to be alienating, and a threat to one’s freedom, and regards marrying and having a family as a fool’s choice, when all one needs is sex—which can be had free, just provided that it is made “safe.”

The personalism of Vatican II, firmly grounded in the Gospel, and with its human logic and appealing challenge, offers the jolting but only true answer to this dead-end individualism. Self-centeredness is the great enemy of happiness and salvation (“whoever seeks his life will lose it”). We all need to be drawn out of isolating self-protectiveness (“it is not good for man to be alone …”). People’s hearts are made for love, not for selfishness. They need to be reminded that selfishness leaves the heart cold, empty, and alone; only love can fill and expand it. We need love that is true, love that admires, and wants to respect and give. For true love wants to give, as well as to possess. Without giving one’s self, one cannot experience true love. We all need a self-gift that is for something worthwhile as well as total (if the gift is not total, then it is, at most, a loan). For the vast majority of persons, marriage is meant to be precisely such a gift: freely, totally, and unconditionally made. Those who baulk at such a self-gift will remain progressively more and more trapped in their own isolation and solitude.

Then children can be seen as what they are meant to be—“the supreme gift of marriage” (GS 50), a gift that comes from God, and binds the spouses more strongly together in the noblest aspect of their common enterprise. Children are what make each married couple uniquely rich. Other people may have a better job or house or car; only they can have their children.

Divorce, Nullity
Divorce, ungrounded petitions of nullity, and contraception, have never favored happiness; certainly not that of the children, but not that of the spouses either. These are anthropological, not theological, truths. Divorce is always a collapse of a dream, a failure. It destroys the family. Those who most suffer from it are the children. Hence, anything that might make divorce seem an acceptable option (and not, as it almost always is, a major reneging on freely accepted responsibilities) is anti-family.

Declarations of nullity, if they are truly based on the facts, are a matter of justice to the parties; but, if there are children, they also mark the breakup of a family. If the necessary process for deciding a petition of nullity can be quickened without detriment to truth and justice, I am all in favor. But the anti-family aspect of the matter remains.

As a former judge of the Rota, I do think that matrimonial processes can be simplified and, thus, speeded up—but marginally. To address that question however is not to address the problems facing the family. Besides, if “speeding up” were to be at the cost of truth, we would have done harm to people’s fundamental trust in the Church, as well as to the whole institution of marriage.

A further marginal, but important, observation on this point: For more than 50 years, our tribunals have been treating nullity cases almost exclusively on the grounds of consensual incapacity (c. 1095). I do not believe that the great majority of those marrying today are incapable of giving valid consent. I believe that they are quite capable; but many do not give it—not because of incapacity, but because of exclusion of one of the essential properties of matrimonial consent (the indissolubility of the bond, for instance). That is not incapacity, but simulation (c. 1101).

Contraception
To my mind, the main cause of greatly increased marital breakdowns, and the consequent breakup of families, has been the lost sense of the sacredness of human sexuality, and of how the meaning and dignity of the sexual relationship must be respected both before, and in, marriage. Once contraception within marriage began to be presented as legitimate (in a generalized form from the 1960s on), it was inevitable that we reach the present situation where the one and only rule about sex is that it be “safe.”

Elsewhere (avoiding any appeal to theology) I have tried to elucidate the purely natural reasons why contraception is incompatible with, and destructive of, any genuine expression of married love.

Natural Family Planning has come to occupy a disproportionate place in premarital instruction. Well-formed Christian couples, with a proper understanding of the greatness of their married mission, will always see it, in the context of  “the proper generosity of responsible parenthood” (cf. CCC 2368), as a privation which sufficient reasons may indeed impose on them; but still remains a privation for them and especially for their existing children. How they need to be reminded of that incisive observation of John Paul II early in his pontificate: “it is certainly less serious (for a couple) to deny their children certain comforts, or material advantages, than to deprive them of the presence of brothers and sisters, who could help them to grow in humanity, and to realize the beauty of life at all its ages, and in all its variety.”

NFP, if not adopted for serious reasons, introduces that element of calculation into married life, which in turn makes the fostering of generous ideals among the children more difficult. Generous parents make for generous children; calculating parents, for calculating children. Generous parents rear generous children. Calculating parents, smaller-hearted children. The great decline in vocations to the priesthood, etc., over the past 50 years surely finds part of its explanation right here.

Only proper instruction can free our young people preparing for marriage from the pervading anti-family mindset of the world in which they are immersed. The Christian ideal has always appeared as “counter-cultural.” It is no longer just unborn children, but the family itself, the first school of humanity, which is threatened by the culture of death, to which John Paul II so strove to alert us, calling Christians to oppose it with a vigorous culture of life. “Life to humanity,” “Life to the family,” these are the rallying cries that Christian couples (and the world through them) need to be inspired by, and to incarnate in, their married lives.

Little sense of marriage as a God-given call and mission; self-defeating fear of commitment; children seen as “optional extras,” to be rationed or simply avoided; the family regarded as a demanding burden, and not as a fulfilling privilege. All of this is becoming the prevalent outlook of modern western society. And it powerfully affects married Christians, or those preparing for marriage. There are really major issues facing the Synod.

Editor’s note: This essay first appeared August 25, 2014 in Homiletic and Pastoral Review and is reprinted with permission. Footnotes are in the original article. (Photo credit: Courtesy of Shutterstock.)

Rev. Cormac Burke

By

Cormac Burke, a former Irish civil lawyer, was ordained a priest of the Opus Dei Prelature in 1955. After 30 years of pastoral work in Africa, the United States, and England, he was appointed a judge of the High Court of the Church, the Roman Rota (1986-1999). On retirement, he returned to Nairobi, Kenya, where he continues to teach and write. His latest book, The Theology of Marriage: Personalism, Doctrine and Canon Law, is being published Fall 2014 by the Catholic University of America Press. His website is: www.cormacburke.or.ke

  • ForChristAlone

    One of the major problems with Catholic marriage (and I might add, with the priesthood) is that it is presented with an eye on the fruits of the Christian life viz. joy and peace. But it neglects to offer what comes before: a life of self-sacrifice and denial. Tell that to couples about to be married, as well as to those discerning priesthood. Paint the picture of perhaps not having it all – not having the vacations one desires, not eating out at restaurants all the time, no morning visits to Starbucks, holding down a job one doesn’t care for so that the family might be fed, housed and clothed, getting up in the middle of the night to change a wet diaper, driving used cars rather than the latest model, not being able to buy the latest Apple i-phone, being open to the life of another child knowing that it means even more sacrifice, and on and on.

    No we market life as “You Can Have It All: because we don’t want to make the poor babies feel the least bit of discomfort. I once saw a diocesan ad for the priesthood depicting a handsome fellow sporting a cigar and sunglasses and promoting all the perks of the job. It’s no wonder that there are no takers.

    No, what we as a Church must proclaim is that Calvary precedes the Resurrection. Is it any wonder that most Catholics who attend Church regularly go from Palm Sunday with all its pomp about Jesus being hailed as king (despite the reading of the Passion) and the next contact with Church is Easter Sunday. Good Friday used to be a day when few worked – it was that sacred a day. Everything pretty much stopped – even in New York City of the 1950’s.

    No, marriage is hard work, sacrifice and self-denial. THAT is the recipe for joy and happiness because you have poured out your life for another. That is the lesson children should learn in turn – that they are to sacrifice their lives for others. So I would rename this Synod and call it: The Christian Family: From Good Friday to Easter Sunday.

    • Fred

      Except that true reward and hapiness comes from a life of sacrifice to others – not from selfish desires. Granted, most 20 years olds think your crazy when you say that and many still don’t get it after living a full life.

      • ForChristAlone

        Exactly. People get married and have been led to believe that once married, joy and happiness is theirs right off the bat.

    • slainte

      The suffering Church has given way to the joyful Church; the Crucifix has been replaced by the empty cross symbolizing a resurrection wiped clean of the bloody tragedy that gave rise to it.

      You are right FCA…we cannot experience the joy of the resurrection without the suffering of the crucifixion.

      In all things persevere and, with the help of God, we will merit the joy which follows the travails and sorrows of this world.

      • Objectivetruth

        “No pain, no gain” Good Friday always comes before Easter Sunday.

        • AnneM040359

          …..Or as is said in the American south, “today is Friday, but Sunday is coming.”

    • To recover the family, we need to promote St. Faustina’s equation of Divine Mercy: Suffering + Love = Joy

    • Koufax

      Brilliant comment, my friend. As one who is discerning marriage, it is nice to read the truth about the Sacrament.

  • lifeknight

    So when do we stand firm and stop condoning the acts of others we know are wrong? Like contraception—Anyone who has worked in the pro life movement knows this is the one unmentionable area—Women can be told, cajoled, supported in every way— to not commit abortion, but mention the C word and you will be run out of town! At a recent crisis pregnancy conference the discussion was about getting pregnant women assimilated into the world after birth. “We must teach them how not to get into this situation again,” was the tenor of the discussion. That means tell them that babies are not a gift, but a hindrance in the world. Until the Church makes this a real message, the family will remain broken.

    • Sam Scot

      The most successful crisis pregnancy centers I know are in NYC, and they do not steer women toward contraception, but chastity and marriage to the right guy. I suspect it works because describing a working vision of life is a more attractive alternative to a girl in crisis than a toxic band-aid like contraception. Girls already know that sex outside of marriage causes problems—that’s why they were looking for an abortion. What works is to show them that they are worthy of better.

    • fredx2

      Contraception is looking less and less attractive. A fair number of doctors are starting to believe that it causes cancer, and the WHO has declared it a carcinogen. The argument is that new dosages are much lpwer and therefore must be safe, but who is willing to take “a little bit” of a carcinogen?

      In addition, Europe risks disappearing. Could it be that contraception is simply a society killer? In Japan, they are starting to make robots to keep old people company, because they have so few children.

      And Scientific American had an article that said recent research showed that women on the pill tended to choose the wrong men. With the wrong immune system match ups. Which leads to divorce later when the women finds that she is no longer attracted to that man.

      The seamy world of contraception is just beginning to unravel

  • Russ

    Most of us are not graced with spirit to the degree that the faith calls ideal. Marriage here on earth has always been of practical importance as well; providing for the protection and well being of a family especially women and children. One of the side effects of our welfare society has been to destroy the practical importance of marriage and hence, the family.

  • AcceptingReality

    Great article, Father. I agree with your assessment of the “Lost Concept of Family”. And I think you are correct in saying the diminished number of vocations is due to the increasingly small size of people’s hearts. I would submit to you, that because of this, the synod needs to focus on what comes before pre-marriage instruction. The reason society, including the Church, has lost it’s outward focus is because it has lost the concept of objective truth. The idea that we can’t know truth has become widely accepted both in and out of the Church. This doubt leads to a belief that all truth is relative; which in turn leads to an “I, me, mine” culture. To turn the aircraft carrier from this destructive heading, the clergy needs to focus on teaching and preaching the Truth. The truths of the faith regarding the main moral issues of the day need to be heard from the pulpit with regularity. The reality of hell and that people go there needs to be unvarnished. We need to be exhorted to receive the Eucharistic in a state of grace, with reverence and to avail ourselves of the sacrament of Penance regularly. Restore the faith of the clergy and the by-product will be the restoration of the faith of the people and thus the restoration of the family. In reality, that is what the “new evangelization” is about. It’s about evangelizing the Church not the world.

  • Fred

    Here’s what we’re up against – a crazed poet and supporter of Scottish independence from birth. Tactfully titled “I think she was a she”. She’d fight to the death to defend her right to choose death for her child. How brave and noble she feels.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaQmoKe8rFQ&feature=player_embedded

    • fredx2

      Yeah, pretty sad. One phrase comes to mind “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”

  • Fred

    I recently completed my annulment and it took over 2 years for a situation that was as about as simple and cut and dry as could be. It wasn’t really a big deal for me because I was on fire to put that behind me and to finally come into the church to receive the sacraments. There were many others in my RCIA group who faced several difficulties and I know in talking with my Deacon it would take them even years longer to complete. I used to think about whether they would eventually tire and give up, wondering if the church really welcomes them if they are held at bay for 3-4-5 years. I don’t know what the answer is, but that strikes me as not inviting. Maybe it’s simply that the Tribunal office(s) are understaffed with the case load that they must process and more resources are needed. I’m all for shedding some light on the issue and discussing how to make the process better without losing sight of the holiness in the sacrament of marriage. I hate the thought of people feeling unwelcome in the church and turned away because of what for many I know seems like a daunting obstacle.

    • GG

      I think a fair question to ask is if many people who apply to see if their marriage is valid or null already have a new “spouse” picked out? Then they complain it all takes too long.

      The problem is people are already thinking their marriage is null simply because they have experienced anguish and pain. It has become so self serving that everyone automatically believes their marriage is not a real marriage and go on to to adultery thinking it is not adultery. Then they want confirmation of their wishes.

    • ForChristAlone

      Unfortunately, the onus is left to the Church to rectify the situation with regard to annulments. My experience with RCIA is that Catholics marry sacramentally, they divorce and, not too long after, get involved with someone else (most of the time while they are still married and part of the reason for the divorce itself aka adultery). They then marry the newbie but then want to regularize their relationship with the Church vis a vis the Eucharist.

      However, it these Catholics were really honest about the whole situation and their still-valid marriage ended in a civil divorce, there is no reason why they would be compelled to take up with another person. If their relationship with the Eucharistic Christ were more important to them than their relationship to another human being, then they would refrain from adulterous relationships and then there is no impediment to their receiving Christ in the Eucharist. The problem is that we have a generation that wants it both ways and fully expects the Church to accommodate. And we have bishops would are no better than they and do what they can to shill for these accommodations.

      • Micha Elyi

        The problem is that we have a generation that wants it both ways and fully expects the Church to accommodate.–ForChristAlone

        God answers all their prayers. Sometimes the answer is “no”.

  • Fred

    I touched on this the other day, but it’s appropriate here again. I had the good fortune to live in Europe a while ago and see first-hand what happens when people stop having children and the birth rate approaches one. There are now a lot of older people who are full of loneliness and have no families to bring them joy. Our culture is trying to emulate that with its wanton disregard for the family. I insisted we only have 2 children also much to my wife’s displeasure, and mine now too. In our new parish we’ve gotten to know many large families and see what a blessing they are. Many material sacrifices along the way we’re made to be sure, but the abundance of joy that they bring when they’re together – well, there is no price that can be put on that. Once again, I wished I had listened to my wife instead of my desires at the time.

    • Koufax

      God Bless you Fred. We all make mistakes but it takes true character to recognize them, even if we recognize them at a later point.

    • lifeknight

      Many on this forum would say, “If not for the grace of God, go I.”

  • Florian

    Sept. 23rd…I believe that many, many couples enter into a ‘sacramental’ marriage without any idea of what that means. Father is right in saying that there should be more substantial pre-marriage counseling but this cannot be done over a period of a few weeks or a few months. First of all, ask the couple how they are now living their faith, how they have lived their faith since their First Holy Communion; how do they intend to live their faith after marriage. I have found that few I know have entered into sacramental marriage understanding what that means: a covenant not only with one’s spouse but with Christ and His Church; a sacrificial covenant of love.

    • fredx2

      From the time they are in grade school, one message should go out to children, and be reinforced all during their teenage years:
      “Choosing a person to marry is the most important decision you will make in your life”

      No one thinks of it that way anymore, but it is true.

      • Micha Elyi

        The vocations should be part of the preparation for reception of all the sacraments. Because most people will choose the vocation of marriage, of necessity and prudence marriage will be the vocation for which one should receive the most instruction.

        Of course, bringing up the importance of marriage and the sinfulness of shacking up to children will distress many parents. However, that does not excuse timidity in homiletics, catechesis, or pastoral care.

  • JP

    ” It is certainly no accident that Francis chose to date this brief
    letter on February 2. On the contrary, the Pope uses the Gospel of the
    feast to show how the family can make generations more united, overcome
    individual self-centeredness, and bring joy to itself and the world. .…” This is very positive. It presents an ideal. But it also communicates
    the underlying concerns of the Pope regarding the family, …”

    I’m sorry but I lack your enthusiasm. The very fact that you are highlighting something that should be a default position as something that is novel with the current Pope doesn’t give me much optimism.It’s as if you were not expecting Pope Francis to say something so “positive” about the traditional ideals of the Catholic Family.

    I fear the Synod on the Family will only introduce heterodox practices (as points of study, of course), which over time will ultimately destroy the Catholic Family. Yes, the Pope and others will continue to speak orthodox words, but the Catholic bureaucracies will write position papers and issue advisory communiques to the various Bishops Conferences around the world that will be anything but orthodox. And once the cat is out of the bag it is all over.

  • slainte

    The liberal state derives its relevance by fostering familial dependency through welfare schemes and policies which undermine and make redundant the role of men as heads of families.

    Intact families headed by husbands who provide for and support their wives and children are anathema to a liberal state which is determined to substitute itself as husband to a single mom and provider to her children. From cradle to grave, the state controls by enmeshing itself into the family, promoting dependency, and disrupting the natural order of the family unit.

    The family will begin to recover from liberalism’s unwarranted intervention into family life when the traditional roles of husband and wife as parents to their children are restored.

    For this to occur, the Church, through Pope Francis, is tasked with renewing and reaffirming God’s natural order by educating generations of adults steeped in liberalism’s errors that there is a better way for the family to thrive.

    Our Blessed Mother, her devoted and loving spouse Joseph, and their child Jesus are the better way.

    • Tamsin

      The new evangelization could begin with (Joseph(Mary(Jesus))).

      • slainte

        The New Evangelization is the restoration of Natural Law and the upcoming Synod is the restoration of the Natural Order of the Family by reference to the Holy Family…..just as you suggest Tamsin.

  • Buffalo63

    “Relaxation” is what the Episcopalians did and now they are dying, dying from divorce, dying from abortion, dying from “Gaiety” and quickly losing any raison d’etre. In fact many Episcopalians are coming to the Roman Catholic Communion. This has happened with all sects and, while we ‘Papists” have issues, at least we ONCE knew right where the Church stood. BEWARE!

  • Beachtowel

    “NFP, if not adopted for serious reasons, introduces that element of calculation into married life” Couldn’t that be said about “responsible parenting,” period? Part of being prudent and responsible generally means calculating what you can reasonably provide for your family and what it would mean for your family if you choose to have intercourse while fertile, behavior which generally results in a new baby within rather short order (provided the couple is healthy and of normal fertility).
    When the Church uses the term “responsible parenting” in reference to a couple’s family planning choices, she implies you can be an “irresponsible parent” due to those family planning choices. It can be irresponsible to get pregnant and bring another baby into the world–it can be irresponsible to have sex with your husband if you know you might be fertile. Avoiding being irresponsible requires a certain amount of calculation. I don’t see how that can be avoided.
    I generally agree with the author about NFP, by the way—NFP touted as the most wonderful thing since sliced bread is a problem. It truly IS a privation and should be regarded as such, rather than being treated as the Thing by Which the Goodness of Catholic Couples is Measured. In an ideal world, none of us would have to use NFP.
    But as far as responsibility goes, there is always going to be calculation involved when making “responsible” choices.

    • Sam Schmitt

      Naturally, all deliberation and responsibility involves “calculation” in the sense of weighing various things, but I think the author meant “calculation” in the sense of merely looking at the material factors in raising children, and using these as a reason not to be more generous.

  • elarga

    Fr. Burke is certainly correct in his judgement of NFP but the conversation on NFP must include a subject not touched on by him: the new (since the 1950s) status of women — married or not married — as fully participating members of the work force, with legitimate career options of their own. I cannot see how a woman who has accepted this now-almost universal view of women’s workforce role can also join in a marriage that is committed to generosity in the procreation of children. That kind of generosity is fully compatible with a working father, but not compatible at all with a mother who has a fulltime job outside the home. Even very faithful Catholic women (not all of course) are planning lifelong professional careers, which would seem to exclude mothering on a generous scale.

    • lifeknight

      You are correct! From my personal experience as an educated, upwardly mobile female, I had to make a choice. Now, as a mother of 5 women, they, too, must consider their vocational choices: vibrant careers in law and medicine, or watching the little one(s) taking that first step. It is a serious decision, however it is the freedom to make that choice that has given them the perspective of generosity. Also, when you educate the mother, you educate the home. (Some will be in the position to homeschool, and will make that choice as well…..I pray.)

    • ForChristAlone

      Perhaps it need not be lifelong professional careers.

      When you think about it, however, motherhood IS a professional career. And these days, it is not at all unusual for people to “re-invent” themselves and have multiple careers. So why not 20 years of the professional career of motherhood that then leads into yet another professional career of the woman’s choosing?

    • AnneM040359

      Remember there are not only Catholics who are married as well as Catholics who are priests and religous, with those who are thinking on such great and wonderful vocations, but Catholics who are also are “single in the world”, who are neither are married or in a religious vocation and are faithful to the Church. Do not forget them please.

      • Micha Elyi

        Even those of us who are “single in the world” must receive instruction about marriage. The marriage relationship is what God uses to instruct us about His relationship to us and our relationship to Him.

  • Dick Prudlo

    More “springtime”………The life and love of man and woman has been a pretty predictable success story for thousands of years, and now we have something else. Now, what may have caused that? PROTEST from the truth from the 16th century, and our foray into the nonsense of the 60’s church. Want some springtime? Get rid of the dross of VAT II and dust off the old encyclicals and carry forward with what needs done and done NOW.

    • AnneM040359

      Best wishes on that! There are those Catholics who have lived in the shadow of VC II who are simply not prepared for such old encyclicals!

  • Aliquantillus

    At worst the October Synod will embrace the proposals of Card. Kasper or something quite similar; at best it will confirm traditional doctrine with “pastoral” exceptions and adaptations. In both cases the long-term effect will be the same: the complete undermining of the sacramental discipline of the Church. The end-result is predictable: anything goes and everyone is welcome, which exactly is the agenda of Kasper, who in this matter seems to be the voice of Pope Francis, aka His Mercifulness.

  • John O’Neill

    Be very afraid when the Francis Church talks morality and Church teachings. We are approaching the point of becoming Episcopalians. We will have the smells and bells but not the doctrine.

  • ForChristAlone

    Excellent quote from Cardinal Burke about marriage, admitting those living in adultery to reception of Communion and the upcoming Synod: “It simply makes no sense to talk about mercy which doesn’t respect the truth. How can that be merciful.?”

  • AnneM040359

    Do not be surprised if we see changes happening at this upcoming synod on the family.

  • AnneM040359

    I have a question. Will the Church adopt a practice is practiced now in the Orthodox churches regarding divorce and remarriage, treating the second marriage service more in a penence type style? Thank-you for responses and God Bless.

    • GG

      I hope not. The Orthodox practice is a serious error.

      • AnneM040359

        It is? Can you explain as best as possible. That is new. Thank-you and God Bless.

  • jacobhalo

    “to bring about a new springtime for the family.” Where did I hear “Springtime” before? Oh, Vatican II, the disastrous Vatican II, which brought us a decline in vocations, catholic school closings, seminaries and covent closing, a large decline in church attendance. Vatican II actually has brought us the winter of discontentment.

  • bonaventure

    One word may yet define the upcoming synod: homosexuality.

    Most of the infighting among bishop may be on that issue, not the other issues. Marriage and divorce will always exist, and will always be a pastoral challenge. But the issue of homosexuality, and more specifically of homosexual “marriage,” won’t be around for much longer. Liberals know that, and they will overlook everything else if needed, to push this one issue.

  • 1crappie2

    “To me, perhaps the most important issue to be addressed by the Synod is the need for pre-marriage instruction…”
    Methinks, that is far too late, as the formation of one’s understanding of “family” is formed indelibly many years earlier–in their own families for the most part.
    I would prefer aggressive catechesis and a few million homilies, since it is, within the Church, as well as outside, that the breakdown occurs.

  • JohnE_o

    Elsewhere
    (avoiding any appeal to theology) I have tried to elucidate the purely
    natural reasons why contraception is incompatible with, and destructive
    of, any genuine expression of married love.

    From that link, I find this:

    In each conjugal act, there should be something of the magnificence –
    of the scope and power – of Michelangelo’s Creation in the Sistine
    Chapel in Rome…

    Which shows why people unfamiliar with marital sex probably shouldn’t write about it in terms of ‘shoulds’.

    Sometimes sex is simply a comfort – it doesn’t always have to be mind-blowing…

    • Pofarmer

      There is a book titles “Sex and God.” that talks about how religious ideas affect our sex lives. The Author is a psychologist and a sex counselor. One of the things he talks about is all the different functions sex has in our relationships. The way that the Church focuses on sexuality, disembodies it from what it actually means to most individuals. For some, it may work, but for an awful lot, it just won’t. It doesn’t do us any good to still be teaching around the Peccadillo’s of Augustine.

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