This important contribution for the good of the universal Church is a demonstration of the concerns of African bishops regarding many controversial matters that are going to be considered in the Synod on the Family. It is presented by Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship. He underlines how marriage comes from God and that no human person has the authority to try to reinvent it. He shows how part of the forces that militate against marriage are a form of “ideological colonization.” He wisely expresses reservations about interfaith marriages, and underlines how Catholics involved in second “marriages” cannot be admitted to Holy Communion because that action would be equivalent to declaring their first marriage dissolved.
Robert Cardinal Sarah: Response to the New Challenges to the Family
Robert Cardinal Sarah, current Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, presents an article full of wisdom: “What Sort of Pastoral Mercy in Response to the New Challenges to the Family? A Reading of the Lineamenta.” He points out that the truth of the faith is no longer believed everywhere and by everyone within the Church, noting that some want to adjust teaching to the current sociological trends. He underlines that in the Relatio Sinodi of the past Extraordinary Synod of October 2014 there is not only confusion, but even some serious errors. He notes that paragraph 14 of the Relatio seems to insinuate that insisting on the indissolubility of marriage would be synonymous with subjugating persons. He emphasizes that paragraph 27 contains “unacceptable, scandalous points,” such as the suggestion that “a period of ‘civil marriage’ may be recommended as phase in which a couple’s relationship can mature.”
He underlines that we find “slippery language in the document in the midst of correct statements.” And that this document lacks “a clear position and all the confusion that we note in the Relatio synodi are obvious signs, not only of a deep crisis of the faith, but also of an equally deep crisis in pastoral practice.” With a bit of pointed irony he expresses his astonishment “that instead of a more in-depth study and an organized, systematic diffusion of this great pastoral effort deployed by John Paul II, some speak as though nothing had been done to be close to families, and they narrow the perspective to an opposition between those who are allegedly fixated on legalism and those who invoke the Divine Mercy.” He underlines how the Relatio synodi reflects the malaise of the Church of the West that is stifled by godless secularized society. He concludes this analysis with a pithy statement: “But is it not strange, sad, and even dangerous to pit divine laws and canonical norms in this way against values, when these norms are the synthetic, comprehensive expression of doctrine in the service of life—precisely what we call pastoral ministry?”
Cardinal Sarah further notes well how Christian families in the Northern Hemisphere are becoming a sociological minority as they experience an oppressive and relentless discrimination. “Everything is against them, the prevailing values, media and cultural pressure, financial constraints, legislation, and so on.” He underlines “the Church herself, through documents like the Lineamenta, seems to be pushing them toward the exit.” The Cardinal wisely notes, that besides the “little remnant” that is faithful and needs encouragement we have to help those who want to return to the Church. We should help them not through a sort of false “mercy” that lets them sink deeper into evil, but by the truth about life that comes from Jesus Christ. They have to be healed through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Those who have remained faithful should not be scandalized by a pressure that tries to oblige them to recognize positive values in situations that are contrary to the Gospel, because it is not possible to find “human values” or “positive values” in forms of union that are contrary to the Gospel. Those who have been healed and have remained faithful could become powerful missionaries. Cardinal Sarah concludes his article with a ringing assurance that if the Church clearly proclaims the Gospel of the Family the wild beasts that seek to destroy it will flee.
Bishop Barthelemy Adoukonou Emphasizes Concerning Aspects of the Instrumentum Laboris
Bishop Barthelemy Adoukonou, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture in his article “Starting from Living Faith, An African take on the Instrumentum Laboris.” He shows that this document leaves several points of concern: Starting with fundamental methodological limitations, it utilizes the resources of the social sciences to study the current situation of the family without bringing to light the historical choices that led to this disaster, especially the decision to exclude God from everyday life. Bishop Adoukonou calls upon the Synod fathers to deliver a clear message to those many Christians who are striving to live the Gospel. If the Church fails to do that, she would dangerously compromise the future of Christianity in Africa, where she is forcefully challenged not only by a radical, militant Islamism, but also by a Western civilization that is secularist, hedonist, sensualist, and consumerist.