British abuse survivor named to papal safeguarding commission

GF27hi SaundersPeter Saunders, chief executive of the UK charity the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), has been named to the Vatican’s commission for the Protection of Minors.

Saunders, who spent half an hour with Pope Francis earlier this year, is one of a number of abuse survivors from many different countries who will meet at the Commission’s next plenary session on 6-8 February.

“This is a massive privilege and further evidence that His Holiness is making the protection of children and young people his highest priority for the Church,” said Saunders. “I very much look forward to joining Baroness Sheila Hollins and Ireland’s Marie Collins as representatives from the British Isles.”

He described the appointment as a “tremendous recognition” for NAPAC, which he founded 18 years ago and is the only such helpline for adult survivors of abuse.

“His Holiness has made it clear that his concern is not just for those who have suffered within the Catholic community but for all victims and survivors,” Saunders added. “I welcome that very much. I know there is a great deal of work to be done and I look forward to our first meeting of 2015 at the Vatican in February.”

For background on Saunders, see his interview with the Boston Globe last July.

Saunders also appears in Austen Ivereigh’s new papal biography, The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope (Allen & Unwin). There he describes how Francis had listened closely to him as he told the Pope how the Church needed to invest more in helping and healing survivors.

“I knew I was listened to,” he told Ivereigh. “He gave me his total attention. We had eye contact. I told him I wasn’t interested in being part of a public relations exercise, but it was clear that’s not what it was.”

Saunders sees himself as a bridge between the Catholic Church he loves and the community of abuse survivors who are often deeply critical of the Church.

The papal commission, whose president is Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, and its secretary Mgr Robert Oliver, now includes two British members (the other is Baroness Sheila Hollins).

The others members are: Fr Luis Manuel Ali Herrera (Colombia), Dr Catherine Bonnet (France), Marie Collins (Ireland), Dr Gabriel Dy-Liacco (Philippines), Bill Killgallon (New Zealand), Sr Kayla Gertrude Lesa (Zambia), Sr Hermenegild Makoro (South Africa), Kathleen McCormack (Australia), Dr Claudio Papale (Italy), Hon. Hanna Suchicka (Poland), Dr Krysten Winter-Green (US), Fr Humberto Miguel Yáñez (Argentina), and Fr Hans Zollner SJ (Germany).

The Vatican’s bulletin announcing the new appointments gives the following information on the commission members.

Cardinal Seán O’MALLEY, OFM Cap. (United States) is the Archbishop of Boston and serves as the President of the Commission and a member of the Council of Cardinals which advises His Holiness, Pope Francis.

Mons. Robert OLIVER (United States) serves as the Secretary of the Commission, following many years in child protection work for the Archdiocese of Boston, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as the Promoter of Justice.

Rev. Luis Manuel ALI HERRERA (Colombia) is the Director of the Department of Phychology, professor of pastoral psychology in the Conciliar Seminary of the Archdiocese of Bogotá, and as a parish priest.

Dr. Catherine BONNET (France) is a child psychiatrist, psychotherapist, researcher, and author on child sexual abuse and perinatal violence and neglect.

Marie COLLINS (Ireland) is a survivor of child sexual abuse. A founder Trustee of the Marie Collins Foundation she served on the committee which drafted the Catholic Church’s all-Ireland child protection policy, “Our Children Our Church.”

Dr. Gabriel DY-LIACCO (Philippines) is an adult and adolescent psychotherapist and pastoral counselor for various mental health concerns including of individuals, couples, families and groups, including victims and perpetrators of abuse.

Prof. Sheila the Baroness HOLLINS (England) has worked as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist with children and adults with intellectual disabilities including those who have been sexually abused, and is a life peer in the House of Lords.

Bill KILGALLON (New Zealand) is Director of the National Office for Professional Standards of the Catholic Church in New Zealand where he has lived for the last four years. Prior to that he had a long career in social work and health services in the UK.

Sr. Kayula Gertrude LESA, RSC (Zambia) is a Development Professional, trainer and author on child protection, human trafficking, refugee rights and the right to information. She served as a member of the African Forum for Church Social Teaching (AFCAST).

Sr. Hermenegild MAKORO, CPS (South Africa) is a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood in the Diocese of Mathatha in South Africa. She works as a high school teacher and for several years in the diocese as a trainer in pastoral work. After serving as an Associate Secretary General of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference for six years, Sr. Hermenegild was appointed as the Secretary General of the SACBC in 2012.

Kathleen McCORMACK AM (Australia) is a social welfare worker who served as Director of Welfare of CatholicCare in the Diocese of Wollongong for 29 years and held leadership roles in Family Services, Child Protection, Out Of Home Care and Ageing and Disability Services.

Dr. Claudio PAPALE (Italy) is a canon lawyer and a civil lawyer, professor of canon law at the Pontifical Urban University, and an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Peter SAUNDERS (England) was abused throughout his childhood in Wimbledon, South West London.  Later in life, after earning a Business Studies degree, Peter discovered that he was one of millions who had suffered such abuse and who could not find any appropriate support.  So he set up NAPAC, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, for supporting all survivors and for developing greater resources for responding to child abuse.

Hon. Hanna SUCHOCKA (Poland) is a professor of constitutional law and specialist in human rights at the University of Poznan, and was formerly Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland and Ambassador of Poland to the Holy See.

Dr. Krysten WINTER-GREEN (United States) is a New Zealander with post-graduate degrees in Theology, Human Development, Social Work, Religion and Pastoral Psychology. She has served in dioceses around the world with homeless persons and those living with AIDS. Krysten’s concentration in the areas of child abuse include forensics, assessment and treatment of priest/clergy offenders.

Rev. Dr. Humberto Miguel YÁÑEZ, SJ (Argentina) is Director of the Department of Moral Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, professor of moral theology at the Gregorian and the Pontifical Urban University, and former Director of the Center of Research and Social Action in Argentina.

Rev. Dr. Hans ZOLLNER, SJ (Germany) is President of the Centre for Child Protection of the Pontifical Gregorian University and Director and Professor of the Institute of Psychology. He was Chair of the organizing committee for the Symposium “Towards Healing and Renewal” on sexual abuse of minors (February 2012).

Posted in Uncategorized

Questions on the family for the Church to ponder in advance of 2015 synod

1569082_ArticoloThe Vatican today released the English translation of the preparatory document for the October 2015 synod, which it wants the 114 bishops’ conferences of the world to disseminate. The document, known as the ‘Outline’ or Lineamenta, contains the final report of October’s extraordinary synod followed by 46 questions. The synod’s general secretariat says it wants these questions to be put to “diverse components of particular churches, as well as academic institutions, organizations, lay groups and other ecclesial bodies”. The statement adds that bishops should avoid “starting over from zero”, but take account of what already happened in the first synod.

The results of this consultation must be returned to the Synod Secretariat by April 15th 2015 so that the working document for that synod can be published before next summer. The Instrumentum Laboris will be, in effect, the agenda for next October’s ordinary synod, in which delegates of bishops’ conferences will vote on specific proposals.

The Lineamenta for 2015 instructs bishops’ conferences to “avoid, in their responses, a formulation of pastoral care based simply on an application of doctrine,” in favour of what it describes as Pope Francis’ call to “pastoral activity that is characterized by a ‘culture of encounter’ and capable of recognizing the Lord’s gratuitous work, even outside customary models.”

The 2015 synod is to be held 4-25 October, 2015, on the theme: “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World.” It follows on from the extraordinary synod held 5-19 October 2014 on the theme: “Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”

The Lineamenta are summarized and analyzed by Vatican Radio, Catholic News Service, Crux, National Catholic Reporter, National Catholic Register, and Religion News Service.

What follows is the preface to the lineamenta, and the questions which the synod wants bishops to put to the faithful. The relatio synodi, or final report of last October’s synod, which they refer to, can be read here, together with the voting tallies on each paragraph which Pope Francis wanted published.

[begins]

Preface

At the conclusion of the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, celebrated in 2014 to treat the topic, The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization, Pope Francis decided to make public the Relatio Synodi, the document which concluded the synod’s work. At the same time, the Holy Father indicated that this document would be the Lineamenta for the XIV Ordinary General Assembly to take place from 4 to 25 October 2015 to treat the topic, The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World.

The Relatio Synodi, which is sent as the Lineamenta, concludes in the following words: “These proposed reflections, the fruit of the synodal work that took place in great freedom and with a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate points of view that will later be developed and clarified through reflection in the local Churches in the intervening year leading to the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops” (Relatio Synodi, n. 62)

The Lineamenta has a series of questions aimed at knowing how the document is received and to generate an in-depth examination of the work initiated during the Extraordinary Assembly. It is a matter of re-thinking “with renewed freshness and enthusiasm, what revelation, transmitted in the Church’s faith, tells us about the beauty, the role and the dignity of the family” (Relatio Synodi, n. 4). From this vantage point, we have “one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront” (Pope Francis, Concluding Discourse, 18 October 2014). The results of this consultation, together with the Relatio Synodi, will serve as the basis for the Instrumentum laboris of the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of 2015.

 

Questions Aimed at a Response to
and an In-Depth Examination of
the Relatio Synodi

Preliminary Question Applicable to All Sections of the Relatio Synodi

Does the description of the various familial situations in the Relatio Synodi correspond to what exists in the Church and society today? What missing aspects should be included?

Part I

Listening: The Context and Challenges of the Family

As indicated in the Introduction (ns. 1 – 4), the Extraordinary Synod was intended to address all the families of the world in a desire to share their joys, struggles and hopes. At the same time, considering the many Christian families who faithfully live their vocation, the Synod expressed to them a sense of gratitude and encouraged them to become involved more decisively, as the Church strives to “go out of herself”, and to rediscover the family’s vital character in the work of evangelization, primarily in nourishing for themselves and for families in difficulty the “desire to form a family”, which endures and underlies the conviction that an effective proclamation of the core message of the Gospel must necessarily “begin with the family”.

The path of renewal delineated by the Extraordinary Synod is set within the wider ecclesial context indicated by Pope Francis in his Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, namely, starting from “life’s periphery” and engaging in pastoral activity that is characterized by a “culture of encounter” and capable of recognizing the Lord’s gratuitous work, even outside customary models, and of confidently adopting the idea of a “field hospital”, which is very beneficial in proclaiming God’s mercy. The numbers in the first part of the Relatio Synodi are a response to these challenges and provide a framework for reflecting on the real situation of families.

The proposed questions which follow and the reference numbers to the paragraphs in the Relatio Synodi are intended to assist the bishops’ conferences in their reflection and to avoid, in their responses, a formulation of pastoral care based simply on an application of doctrine, which would not respect the conclusions of the Extraordinary Synodal Assembly and would lead their reflection far from the path already indicated.

The Socio-Cultural Context (ns. 5 – 8)

1. What initiatives are taking place and what are those planned in relation to the challenges these cultural changes pose to the family (cf. ns. 6 – 7): which initiatives are geared to reawaken an awareness of God’s presence in family life; to teaching and establishing sound interpersonal relationships; to fostering social and economic policies useful to the family; to alleviating difficulties associated with attention given to children, the elderly and family members who are ill; and to addressing more specific cultural factors present in the local Church?

2. What analytical tools are currently being used in these times of anthropological and cultural changes; what are the more significant positive or negative results? (cf. n. 5)

3. Beyond proclaiming God’s Word and pointing out extreme situations, how does the Church choose to be present “as Church” and to draw near families in extreme situations? (cf. n. 8). How does the Church seek to prevent these situations? What can be done to support and strengthen families of believers and those faithful to the bonds of marriage?

4. How does the Church respond, in her pastoral activity, to the diffusion of cultural relativism in secularized society and to the consequent rejection, on the part of many, of the model of family formed by a man and woman united in the marriage and open to life?

The Importance of Affectivity in Life (ns. 9 – 10)

5. How do Christian families bear witness, for succeeding generations, to the development and growth of a life of sentiment? (cf. ns. 9 – 10). In this regard, how might the formation of ordained ministers be improved? What qualified persons are urgently needed in this pastoral activity?

Pastoral Challenges (n. 11)

6. To what extent and by what means is the ordinary pastoral care of families addressed to those on the periphery? (cf. n. 11). What are the operational guidelines available to foster and appreciate the “desire to form a family” planted by the Creator in the heart of every person, especially among young people, including those in family situations which do not correspond to the Christian vision? How do they respond to the Church’s efforts in her mission to them? How prevalent is natural marriage among the non-baptized, also in relation to the desire to form a family among the young?

Part II

Looking at Christ: The Gospel of the Family

The Gospel of the Family, faithfully preserved by the Church from the time of Christ’s Revelation, both written and transmitted through the ages, needs to be proclaimed in today’s world with renewed joy and hope, continuing all-the-while to look at Jesus Christ. The vocation and mission of the family is fully configured to the order of creation which develops into that of redemption, as summarized by the desire of the Council, “let the spouses themselves, made to the image of the living God and enjoying the authentic dignity of persons, be joined to one another in equal affection, harmony of mind and the work of mutual sanctification. Thus, following Christ who is the principle of life, by the sacrifices and joys of their vocation and through their faithful love, married people can become witnesses of the mystery of love which the Lord revealed to the world by his dying and his rising to life again” (Gaudium et Spes, 52; cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1533-1535). From this vantage point, the questions arising from the Relatio Synodi are devised to prompt a faithful and bold response from the Pastors and the People of God in a renewed proclamation of the Gospel of the Family.

Looking at Jesus and the Divine Pedagogy in the History of Salvation (ns. 12 – 14)

Accepting the invitation of Pope Francis, the Church looks to Christ in his enduring truth and inexhaustible newness, which also sheds light on the family. “Christ is the ‘eternal Gospel’ (Rev 14:6); he ‘is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb 13:8), yet his riches and beauty are inexhaustible. He is for ever young and a constant source of newness” (Gaudium Evangelii, 11).

7. A fixed gaze on Christ opens up new possibilities. “Indeed, every time we return to the source of the Christian experience, new paths and undreamed of possibilities open up” (n. 12). How is the teaching from Sacred Scripture utilized in pastoral activity on behalf of families. To what extent does “fixing our gaze on Christ” nourish a pastoral care of the family which is courageous and faithful?

8. What marriage and family values can be seen to be realized in the life of young people and married couples? What form do they take? Are there values which can be highlighted? (cf. n. 13) What sinful aspects are to be avoided and overcome?

9. What human pedagogy needs to be taken into account — in keeping with divine pedagogy — so as better to understand what is required in the Church’s pastoral activity in light of the maturation of a couple’s life together which would lead to marriage in the future? (cf. n. 13)

10. What is being done to demonstrate the greatness and beauty of the gift of indissolubility so as to prompt a desire to live it and strengthen it more and more? (cf. n. 14)

11. How can people be helped to understand that a relationship with God can assist couples in overcoming the inherent weaknesses in marital relations? (cf. n. 14) How do people bear witness to the fact that divine blessings accompany every true marriage? How do people manifest that the grace of the Sacrament sustains married couples throughout their life together?

The Family in God’s Savific Plan (ns. 15 – 16)

In creation, the vocation of the love between a man and woman draws its full realization from the Paschal Mystery of Christ the Lord, who, in his total gift of self, makes the Church his Mystical Body. Christian marriage, in drawing on the grace of Christ, thus becomes, for those who are called, the path leading to the perfection of love, which is holiness.

12. How can people be made to understand that Christian marriage corresponds to the original plan of God and, thus, one of fulfillment and not confinement? (cf. n. 13)

13. How can the Church be conceived as a “domestic Church” (Lumen Gentium, 11), agent and object of the work of evangelization in service to the Kingdom of God?

14. How can an awareness of this missionary task of the family be fostered?

The Family in the Church’s Documents (ns. 17 – 20)

The Church’s Magisterium in all its richness needs to be better known by the People of God. Marital spirituality is nourished by the constant teaching of the Pastors, who care for the flock, and grow through their continual attentiveness to the Word of God and to the sacraments of faith and charity.

15. The Lord looks with love at the Christian family and through him the family grows as a true community of life and love. How can a familial spirituality be developed and how can families become places of new life in Christ? (cf. n. 21)

16. What initiatives in catechesis can be developed and fostered to make known and offer assistance to persons in living the Church’s teaching on the family, above all in surmounting any possible discrepancy between what is lived and what is professed and in leading to a process of conversion?

The Indissolubility of Marriage and the Joy of Sharing Life Together (ns. 21 – 22)

“Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ’s redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church, so that this love may effectively lead the spouses to God and may aid and strengthen them in the sublime mission of being father and mother. For this reason, Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state. By virtue of this sacrament, as spouses fulfil their conjugal and family obligation, they are penetrated with the spirit of Christ, which suffuses their whole lives with faith, hope and charity. Thus they increasingly advance the perfection of their own personalities, as well as their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God” (Gaudium et Spes, 48).

17. What initiatives can lead people to understand the value of an indissoluble and fruitful marriage as the path to complete personal fulfilment? (cf. n. 21)

18. What can be done to show that the family has many unique aspects for experiencing the joys of human existence?

19. The Second Vatican Council, returning to an ancient ecclesial tradition, expressed an appreciation for natural marriage. To what extent does diocesan pastoral activity acknowledge the value of this popular wisdom as fundamental in culture and society? (cf. n. 22)

The Truth and Beauty of the Family and Mercy Towards Wounded and Fragile Families (ns. 23 – 28)

After having considered the beauty of successful marriages and strong families and shown appreciation for the generous witness of those who remain faithful to the bonds of marriage, even when abandoned by their spouses, the Pastors at the Synod asked themselves — in an open and courageous manner but not without concern and caution — how the Church is to regard Catholics who are united in a civil bond, those who simply live together and those who, after a valid marriage, are divorced and remarried civilly.

Aware of the obvious limitations and imperfections present in many different situations, the synod fathers assumed the positive outlook indicated by Pope Francis, according to which “without detracting from the evangelical ideal, they need to accompany with mercy and patience the eventual stages of personal growth as these progressively occur.”(Evangelii Gaudium, 44).

20. How can people be helped to understand that no one is beyond the mercy of God? How can this truth be expressed in the Church’s pastoral activity towards families, especially those which are wounded and fragile? (cf. n. 28)

21. In the case of those who have not yet arrived at a full understanding of the gift of Christ’s love, how can the faithful express a friendly attitude and offer trustworthy guidance without failing to proclaim the demands of the Gospel? (cf. n. 24)

22. What can be done so that persons in the various forms of union between a man and a woman — in which human values can be present — might experience a sense of respect, trust and encouragement to grow in the Church’s good will and be helped to arrive at the fulness of Christian marriage? (cf. n. 25)

Part III

Confronting the Situation: Pastoral Perspectives

In examining Part III of the Relatio Synodi, it is important to be guided by the pastoral approach initiated at the Extraordinary Synod which is grounded in Vatican II and the Magisterium of Pope Francis. The episcopal conferences have the responsibility to continue to examine this part thoroughly and seek the involvement, in the most opportune manner possible, all levels of the local Church, thus providing concrete instances from their specific situations. Every effort should be made not to begin anew, but to continue on the path undertaken in the Extraordinary Synod as a point of departure.

Proclaiming the Gospel of the Family Today in Various Contexts (ns. 29 – 38)

Because of the needs of the family and, at the same time, the many complex challenges that are present in the world today, the Synod emphasized making a renewed commitment to proclaiming the Gospel of the Family in a bold and more insistent manner.

23. How is the family emphasized in the formation of priests and other pastoral workers? How are families themselves involved?

24. Are people aware that the rapid evolution in society requires a constant attention to language in pastoral communication. How can an effective testimony be given to the priority of grace in a way that family life is conceived and lived as welcoming the Holy Spirit?

25. In proclaiming the Gospel of the Family, how can the conditions be created so that each family might actually be as God wills and that society might acknowledge the family’s dignity and mission? What “pastoral conversion” and what further steps towards an in-depth examination are being done to achieve this?

26. Are people aware of the importance of the collaboration of social and civil institutions on behalf of the family? How is this actually done? What criteria are used to inspire it? In this regard, what role can be played by family associations? How can this collaboration be sustained even in a bold repudiation of the cultural, economic and political processes which threaten the family?

27. How can relations between family, society and civil life be fostered for the benefit of the family? How can the support of the State and the international community be fostered on behalf of the family?

Guiding Engaged Couples in Their Preparation for Marriage (ns. 39 – 40)

The Synod recognized the steps taken in recent years to facilitate an effective preparation of young people for marriage, stressing, however, a need for a greater commitment of the entire Christian community in not only the preparation but also the initial years of family life.

28. How is marriage preparation proposed in order to highlight the vocation and mission of the family according to faith in Jesus Christ? Is it proposed as an authentic ecclesial experience? How can it be renewed and improved?

29. How does the catechesis of Christian initiation present an openness to the vocation and mission of the family? What practices are seen as most urgent? How is the relation among Baptism, Eucharist and marriage proposed? What emphasis is given to the character of the catechumenate and mystagogy which is often a part of marriage preparation? How can the community be involved in this preparation?

Accompanying Married Couples in the Initial Years of Marriage (n. 40)

30. Does marriage preparation and accompanying couples in the initial years of married life adequately value the important contribution of the witness and sustenance which can be given by families, associations and family movements? What positive experiences can be reported in this regard?

31. The pastoral accompaniment of couples in the initial years of family life — as observed in synodal discussion — needs further development. What are the most significant initiatives already being undertaken? What elements need further development in parishes, dioceses or associations and movements?

Pastoral Care of Couples Civilly Married or Living Together (ns. 41 – 43)

The Synod discussed diverse situations resulting from a multiplicity of cultural and economic factors, practices grounded in tradition, and the difficulty of young people to make lifetime commitments.

32. What criteria in a proper pastoral discernment of individual situations are being considered in light the Church’s teaching in which the primary elements of marriage are unity, indissolubility and openness to life?

33. Is the Christian community able to be pastorally involved in these situations? How can it assist in discerning the positive and negative elements in the life of persons united in a civil marriage so as to guide and sustain them on a path of growth and conversion towards the Sacrament of Matrimony? How can those living together be assisted to decide to marry?

34. In a particular way, what response is to be given to problems arising from the continuity of traditional forms of marriage in stages or those between families?

Caring for Wounded Families (Separated, Divorced and Not Remarried, Divorced and Remarried, Single-Parent Families) (ns. 44 – 54)

Synod discussion highlighted the need for a pastoral based on the art of accompaniment, “the pace of [which] must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life”(Evangelii Gaudium, 169).

35. Is the Christian community in a position to undertake the care of all wounded families so that they can experience the Father’s mercy? How does the Christian community engage in removing the social and economic factors which often determine this situation? What steps have been taken and what can be done to increase this activity and the sense of mission which sustains it?

36. How can the identification of shared pastoral guidelines be fostered at the level of the particular Church? In this regard, how can a dialogue be developed among the various particular Churches cum Petro and sub Petro?

37. How can the procedure to determine cases of nullity be made more accessible, streamlined and possibly without expense?

38. With regard to the divorced and remarried, pastoral practice concerning the sacraments needs to be further studied, including assessment of the Orthodox practice and taking into account “the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances” (n. 52). What are the prospects in such a case? What is possible? What suggestions can be offered to resolve forms of undue or unnecessary impediments?

39. Does current legislation provide a valid response to the challenges resulting from mixed marriages or interreligious marriages? Should other elements be taken into account?

Pastoral Attention towards Persons with Homosexual Tendencies (ns. 55 – 56)

The pastoral care of persons with homosexual tendencies poses new challenges today, due to the manner in which their rights are proposed in society.

40. How can the Christian community give pastoral attention to families with persons with homosexual tendencies? What are the responses that, in light of cultural sensitivities, are considered to be most appropriate? While avoiding any unjust discrimination, how can such persons receive pastoral care in these situations in light of the Gospel? How can God’s will be proposed to them in their situation?

The Transmission of Life and the Challenge of a Declining Birthrate (ns. 57 – 59)

The transmission of life is a fundamental element in the vocation and mission of the family: “They should know they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love in the task of transmitting human life and to raising children; this has to be considered their proper mission” (Gaudium et Spes, 50).

41. What are the most significant steps that have been taken to announce and effectively promote the beauty and dignity of becoming a mother or father, in light, for example, of Humanae Vitae of Blessed Pope Paul VI? How can dialogue be promoted with the sciences and biomedical technologies in a way that respects the human ecology of reproduction?

42. A generous maternity / paternity needs structures and tools. Does the Christian community exercise an effective solidarity and support? How? Is it courageous in proposing valid solutions even at a socio-political level? How can adoption and foster-parenting be encouraged as a powerful sign of fruitful generosity? How can the care and respect of children be promoted?

43. The Christian lives maternity / paternity as a response to a vocation. Is this vocation sufficiently emphasized in catechesis? What formation is offered so that it might effectively guide the consciences of married couples? Are people aware of the grave consequences of demographic change?

44. How does the Church combat the scourge of abortion and foster an effective culture of life?

Upbringing and the Role of the Family in Evangelization (ns. 60 – 61)

45. Fulfilling their educational mission is not always easy for parents. Do they find solidarity and support from the Christian community? What suggestions might be offered in formation? What steps can be taken to acknowledge the role of parents in raising children, even at the socio-political level?

46. How can parents and the Christian family be made aware that the duty of transmitting the faith is an intrinsic aspect of being a Christian?


© The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

 

[ends]

Posted in marriage, Pope Francis, Synod2014 | Tagged

Pope Francis gives his vision of the synod

Francis at synod 2In his first interview to a Latin-American newspaper — the one he used to subscribe to, Argentina’s La Nación — Pope Francis has given his view of October’s synod, defending it as a protected space in which brother bishops could seek answers to difficult pastoral questions. He also responded to criticisms of the process and outlined his vision of what the synod is seeking to achieve.

Francis rejected the idea of the synod as divided between those open to discussion and those opposed to it, but agreed that “there were some more on one side or more on the other”. He said the synod wasn’t a parliamentary debate, but “an enclosed, protected space which allowed the Holy Spirit to work”. He said two qualities above all were needed: “courage to speak up, and the humility to listen. And that happened very well.” There were differences, he said, but “on the level of searching for the truth”. True, he went on, there were some who were very obstinate, “but that doesn’t worry me. It’s question of praying for the Spirit to convert them.”

He went on:

What I felt happened [at the synod] was a fraternal search for how to confront pastoral problems in the family. The family is nowadays so badly beaten up; young people don’t get married. What’s going on? When they eventually come to get married, they’re already living together, and we think that giving them three talks is enough to prepare them for marriage. But it’s not, because the overwhelming majority have no idea what it means to commit for life. Benedict twice said it in his final year: we have to bear in mind what faith the person had when they got married in assessing marriage annulments.  If it was a general faith, did they properly understand what marriage was, sufficiently to entrust it to another? This is something we must study in depth and work out how better to help people.

Francis said that a few days earlier a cohabiting couple had told him they were going to get married. He described their obsession with decisions about the church, the guest list, and where to hold the reception, but neither had spoken about what the decision meant in their lives. “For a large number of people,” the Pope said, “getting married is a social matter. The religious part never takes off. So, how can the Church help in this? If they are not prepared for marriage, do we just close our doors? This is a serious problem.”

pope synod day 2Asked about opposition to the synod, Francis said it was a process in which one synod father’s opinion was just an opinion, and the draft of the synod report was just that — a draft. He said no one spoke of gay marriage, but rather how a family dealt with a gay son or daughter, which was an issue that came up often in the confessional. “We have to see how we can help that father or that mother to walk with that son or daughter — that’s what we discussed in the synod.”

What people believed from some reports and what actually happened were two different things, Francis went on. “What was the important part of the synod? The post-synodal report, the post-synodal message, and the Pope’s speech. This is what definitively emerged from the synod, although these in turn become relative and provisional as they become the lineamenta [discussion document] for the next synod.”

The Pope also defended the synod’s communications methodology, noting that the synod fathers had complete freedom to say whatever they wanted to the media. But unlike previous synods, the participants’ speeches were not given to the journalists; instead, the Press Office gave summaries to journalists of the content of the speeches, but not who said them. This was for two reasons, Francis said. First, because at previous synods what journalists were given was not necessarily what was actually said by the participants; secondly, to protect the person speaking.

And this for me is the most important thing. Because if this were a parliament, [the synod father] would be accountable to whom they were representing, namely, the local Church. But this isn’t a parliament; so this man has complete liberty to express what is going on inside him, without anyone knowing that it was he who said it.

This, he said, was “to protect this work, and so the Holy Spirit can move ahead.”

Francis said he was “not afraid” of following what he called “the path of synodality”, which he described as “the path that God is asking of us”. What is more, he said, the Pope’s presence was its guarantee.

At no point was the Church’s doctrine on marriage ever touched, the Pope added.

In the case of the divorced and remarried we asked: what can we do for them, what door can we open to them? It was a pastoral concern. So should they be given Communion? That’s not a solution; that alone is not a solution. The solution is integration. They are not excommunicated, it’s true. But they cannot be godparents at a baptism, they can’t be readers at Mass, they can’t be eucharistic ministers, they can’t be catechists — there are about seven things they can’t do; I have the list somewhere. Come on! If I carry on like this it would soon look as if they were excommunicated in practice. So let’s open the doors  a bit more.

Asking why the divorced and remarried cannot be godparents, Francis said that a couple who said, “I made a mistake, I messed up on this, but I believe that the Lord loves me, I want to follow God, I was not defeated by sin, I want to move on” gave a powerful testimony. Was there “anything more Christian than that?” the Pope asked.

pope-francis-council of europe-.si (1)Asked about Cardinal Walter Kasper’s speech to the consistory of cardinals in February, Pope Francis said the speech was in five parts, four of which were concerned with the purpose of marriage and the fifth with the question of what to do with the divorced and remarried.

He advanced a hypothesis; he did not make any concrete proposal of his own.  What happened? Some theologians were alarmed by these hypotheses and buried their heads in the sand. What Kasper did was to say: “Let’s look at these hypotheses”, that is, he opened up the field.  And some got alarmed and said: never Communion, only of the spiritual sort. Tell me: Do we not have to be in a state of God’s grace to receive spiritual communion? That’s why the spiritual communion passage got the fewest votes in the synod’s concluding report, because neither side agreed with it. Those who were in favour, because it offered very little, voted against it, as did those who are against it because they want the other.

In another part of the interview, Pope Francis said he was surprised by criticism that the synod, and his pontificate generally, had created confusion. “Generally, it’s because [the critics] don’t read things. “I’m continually issuing declarations and saying homilies, and that’s teaching. What is there is what I think, not what the media say I think. Go there and you’ll find it and it’s very clear. Evangelii Gaudium is very clear.”

The enthusiastic reception of his speech following the synod showed that “the problem was not the Pope, but the different pastoral positions” of the synod fathers.

[Translations my own. Austen Ivereigh’s biography of Pope Francis, The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, is published in the UK by Allen & Unwin.]

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Pope Francis address to the Council of Europe

pope-francis-council of europe-.si (1)

Mr Secretary General,

Madame President

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am happy to address this solemn session which brings together a significant representation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, representatives of member States, the Judges of the European Court of Human Rights as well as the members of the various institutions which make up the Council of Europe.  Practically all of Europe is present in this hall, with its peoples, its languages, its cultural and religious expressions, all of which constitute the richness of this continent.  I am especially grateful to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, for his gracious invitation and for his kind words of welcome.  I greet Madame Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly.  To all of you I offer my heartfelt thanks for your work and for your contribution to peace in Europe through the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

This year the Council of Europe celebrates its sixty-fifth anniversary.  It was the intention of its founders that the Council would respond to a yearning for unity which, from antiquity, has characterized the life of the continent.  Frequently, however, in the course of the centuries, the pretension to power has led to the dominance of particularist movements.  We need but consider the fact that, ten years before the Treaty instituting the Council of Europe was signed in London (5 May 1949), there broke out the most lethal and destructive conflict in the memory of these lands.  The divisions it created long continued, as the so-called Iron Curtain split the continent into two, from the Baltic Sea to the Gulf of Trieste.  The dream of the founders was to rebuild Europe in a spirit of mutual service which today too, in a world more prone to make demands than to serve, must be the cornerstone of the Council of Europe’s mission on behalf of peace, freedom and human dignity.

The royal road to peace – and to avoiding a repetition of what occurred in the two World Wars of the last century – is to see others not as enemies to be opposed but as brothers and sisters to be embraced.  This entails an ongoing process which may never be considered fully completed.  This is precisely what the founders grasped.  They understood that peace was a good which must continually be attained, one which calls for constant vigilance.  They realized that wars arise from the effort to occupy spaces, to crystallize processes and to attempt to halt them.  Instead, the founders sought peace, which can be achieved only when we are constantly open to initiating processes and carrying them forward.

Consequently, the founders voiced their desire to advance slowly but surely with the passage of time, since is it is precisely time which governs spaces, illumines them and makes them links in a constantly expanding chain, with no possibility of return.  Building peace calls for giving priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups, who can then develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events.

That is why the founders established this body as a permanent institution.  Pope Paul VI, several years later, had occasion to observe that “the institutions which in the juridical order and in international society have the task and merit of proclaiming and preserving peace, will attain their lofty goal only if they remain continually active, if they are capable of creating peace, making peace, at every moment”.   What is called for is a constant work of humanization, for “it is not enough to contain wars, to suspend conflicts… An imposed peace, a utilitarian and provisional peace, is not enough.  Progress must be made towards a peace which is loved, free and fraternal, founded, that is, on a reconciliation of hearts”;  in other words, to encourage processes calmly, yet with clear convictions and tenacity.

Achieving the good of peace first calls for educating to peace, banishing a culture of conflict aimed at fear of others, marginalizing those who think or live differently than ourselves.  It is true that conflict cannot be ignored or concealed; it has to be faced.  But if it paralyzes us, we lose perspective, our horizons shrink and we grasp only a part of reality.  When we fail to move forward in a situation of conflict, we lose our sense of the profound unity of reality,  we halt history and we become enmeshed in useless disputes.

Tragically, peace continues all too often to be violated.  This is the case in so many parts of the world where conflicts of various sorts continue to fester.  It is also the case here in Europe, where tensions continue to exist.  How great a toll of suffering and death is still being exacted on this continent, which yearns for peace yet so easily falls back into the temptations of the past!  That is why the efforts of the Council of Europe to seek a political solution to current crises is so significant and encouraging.

Yet peace is also put to the test by other forms of conflict, such as religious and international terrorism, which displays deep disdain for human life and indiscriminately reaps innocent victims.  This phenomenon is unfortunately bankrolled by a frequently unchecked traffic in weapons.  The Church is convinced that “the arms race is one of the greatest curses on the human race and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be endured”.   Peace is also violated by trafficking in human beings, the new slavery of our age, which turns persons into merchandise for trade and deprives its victims of all dignity.  Not infrequently we see how interconnected these phenomena are.  The Council of Europe, through its Committees and Expert Groups, has an important and significant role to play in combating these forms of inhumanity.

This being said, peace is not merely the absence of war, conflicts and tensions.  In the Christian vision, peace is at once a gift of God and the fruit of free and reasonable human acts aimed at pursuing the common good in truth and love.  “This rational and moral order is based on a conscientious decision by men and women to seek harmony in their mutual relationships, with respect for justice for everyone”.

How then do we pursue the ambitious goal of peace?

The path chosen by the Council of Europe is above all that of promoting human rights, together with the growth of democracy and the rule of law.  This is a particularly valuable undertaking, with significant ethical and social implications, since the development of our societies and their peaceful future coexistence depends on a correct understanding of these terms and constant reflection on them.  This reflection is one of the great contributions which Europe has offered, and continues to offer, to the entire world.

In your presence today, then, I feel obliged to stress the importance of Europe’s continuing responsibility to contribute to the cultural development of humanity.  I would like to do so by using an image drawn from a twentieth-century Italian poet, Clemente Rebora.  In one of his poems,  Rebora describes a poplar tree, its branches reaching up to the sky, buffeted by the wind, while its trunk remains firmly planted on deep roots sinking into the earth.   In a certain sense, we can consider Europe in the light of this image.

Throughout its history, Europe has always reached for the heights, aiming at new and ambitious goals, driven by an insatiable thirst for knowledge, development, progress, peace and unity.  But the advance of thought, culture, and scientific discovery is entirely due to the solidity of the trunk and the depth of the roots which nourish it.  Once those roots are lost, the trunk slowly withers from within and the branches – once flourishing and erect – bow to the earth and fall.  This is perhaps among the most baffling paradoxes for a narrowly scientific mentality: in order to progress towards the future we need the past, we need profound roots.  We also need the courage not to flee from the present and its challenges.  We need memory, courage, a sound and humane utopian vision.

Rebora notes, on the one hand, that “the trunk sinks its roots where it is most true”.   The roots are nourished by truth, which is the sustenance, the vital lymph, of any society which would be truly free, human and fraternal.  On the other hand, truth appeals to conscience, which cannot be reduced to a form of conditioning.  Conscience is capable of recognizing its own dignity and being open to the absolute; it thus gives rise to fundamental decisions guided by the pursuit of the good, for others and for one’s self; it is itself the locus of responsible freedom.

It also needs to be kept in mind that apart from the pursuit of truth, each individual becomes the criterion for measuring himself and his own actions.  The way is thus opened to a subjectivistic assertion of rights, so that the concept of human rights, which has an intrinsically universal import, is replaced by an individualistic conception of rights.  This leads to an effective lack of concern for others and favours that globalization of indifference born of selfishness, the result of a conception of man incapable of embracing the truth and living an authentic social dimension.

This kind of individualism leads to human impoverishment and cultural aridity, since it effectively cuts off the nourishing roots on which the tree grows.  Indifferent individualism leads to the cult of opulence reflected in the throwaway culture all around us.  We have a surfeit of unnecessary things, but we no longer have the capacity to build authentic human relationships marked by truth and mutual respect.  And so today we are presented with the image of a Europe which is hurt, not only by its many past ordeals, but also by present-day crises which it no longer seems capable of facing with its former vitality and energy; a Europe which is a bit tired and pessimistic, which feels besieged by events and winds of change coming from other continents.

To Europe we can put the question: “Where is your vigour?  Where is that idealism which inspired and ennobled your history?  Where is your spirit of curiosity and enterprise?  Where is your thirst for truth, a thirst which hitherto you have passionately shared with the world?

The future of the continent will depend on the answer to these questions.  Returning to Rebora’s image of the tree, a trunk without roots can continue to have the appearance of life, even as it grows hollow within and eventually dies.  Europe should reflect on whether its immense human, artistic, technical, social, political, economic and religious patrimony is simply an artefact of the past, or whether it is still capable of inspiring culture and displaying its treasures to mankind as a whole.  In providing an answer to this question, the Council of Europe with its institutions has a role of primary importance.

I think particularly of the role of the European Court of Human Rights, which in some way represents the conscience of Europe with regard to those rights.  I express my hope that this conscience will continue to mature, not through a simple consensus between parties, but as the result of efforts to build on those deep roots which are the bases on which the founders of contemporary Europe determined to build.

These roots need to be sought, found and maintained by a daily exercise of memory, for they represent the genetic patrimony of Europe.  At the same time there are present challenges facing the continent.  These summon us to continual creativity in ensuring that the roots continue to bear fruit today and in the realization of our vision for the future.  Allow me to mention only two aspects of this vision: the challenge of multipolarity and the challenge of transversality.

The history of Europe might lead us to think somewhat naïvely of the continent as bipolar, or at most tripolar (as in the ancient conception of Rome-Byzantium-Moscow), and thus to interpret the present and to look to the future on the basis of this schema, which is a simplification born of pretentions to power.

But this is not the case today, and we can legitimately speak of a “multipolar” Europe.  Its tensions – whether constructive or divisive – are situated between multiple cultural, religious and political poles.  Europe today confronts the challenge of creatively “globalizing” this multipolarity.  Nor are cultures necessarily identified with individual countries: some countries have a variety of cultures and some cultures are expressed in a variety of countries.  The same holds true for political, religious, and social aggregations.

Creatively globalizing multipolarity calls for striving to create a constructive harmony, one free of those pretensions to power which, while appearing from a pragmatic standpoint to make things easier, end up destroying the cultural and religious distinctiveness of peoples.

To speak of European multipolarity is to speak of peoples which are born, grow and look to the future.  The task of globalizing Europe’s multipolarity cannot be conceived by appealing to the image of a sphere – in which all is equal and ordered, but proves reductive inasmuch as every point is equidistant from the centre – but rather, by the image of a polyhedron, in which the harmonic unity of the whole preserves the particularity of each of the parts.  Today Europe is multipolar in its relationships and its intentions; it is impossible to imagine or to build Europe without fully taking into account this multipolar reality.

The second challenge which I would like to mention is transversality.  Here I would begin with my own experience: in my meetings with political leaders from various European countries, I have observed that the younger politicians view reality differently than their older colleagues.  They may appear to be saying the same things, but their approach is different.  This is evident in younger politicians from various parties.  This empirical fact points to a reality of present-day Europe which cannot be overlooked in efforts to unite the continent and to guide its future: we need to take into account this transversality encountered in every sector.  To do so requires engaging in dialogue, including intergenerational dialogue.  Were we to define the continent today, we should speak of a Europe in dialogue, one which puts a transversality of opinions and reflections at the service of a harmonious union of peoples.

To embark upon this path of transversal communication requires not only generational empathy, but also an historic methodology of growth.  In Europe’s present political situation, merely internal dialogue between the organizations (whether political, religious or cultural) to which one belongs, ends up being unproductive.  Our times demand the ability to break out of the structures which “contain” our identity and to encounter others, for the sake of making that identity more solid and fruitful in the fraternal exchange of transversality.  A Europe which can only dialogue with limited groups stops halfway; it needs that youthful spirit which can rise to the challenge of transversality.

In light of all this, I am gratified by the desire of the Council of Europe to invest in intercultural dialogue, including its religious dimension, through the Exchange on the Religious Dimension of Intercultural Dialogue.  Here is a valuable opportunity for open, respectful and enriching exchange between persons and groups of different origins and ethnic, linguistic and religious traditions, in a spirit of understanding and mutual respect.

These meetings appear particularly important in the current multicultural and multipolar context, for finding a distinctive physiognomy capable of skilfully linking the European identity forged over the course of centuries to the expectations and aspirations of other peoples who are now making their appearance on the continent.

This way of thinking also casts light on the contribution which Christianity can offer to the cultural and social development of Europe today within the context of a correct relationship between religion and society.  In the Christian vision, faith and reason, religion and society, are called to enlighten and support one another, and, whenever necessary, to purify one another from ideological extremes.  European society as a whole cannot fail to benefit from a renewed interplay between these two sectors, whether to confront a form of religious fundamentalism which is above all inimical to God, or to remedy a reductive rationality which does no honour to man.

There are in fact a number of pressing issues which I am convinced can lead to mutual enrichment, issues on which the Catholic Church – particularly through the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe (CCEE) – can cooperate with the Council of Europe and offer an essential contribution.  First and foremost there is, in view of what I have said above, the area of ethical reflection on human rights, which your Organization is often called to consider.  I think in particular of the issues linked to the protection of human life, sensitive issues that demand a careful study which takes into account the truth of the entire human being, without being restricted to specific medical, scientific or juridic aspects.

Similarly, the contemporary world offers a number of other challenges requiring careful study and a common commitment, beginning with the welcoming of migrants, who immediately require the essentials of subsistence, but more importantly a recognition of their dignity as persons.  Then too, there is the grave problem of labour, chiefly because of the high rate of young adults unemployed in many countries – a veritable mortgage on the future – but also for the issue of the dignity of work.

It is my profound hope that the foundations will be laid for a new social and economic cooperation, free of ideological pressures, capable of confronting a globalized world while at the same time encouraging that sense of solidarity and mutual charity which has been a distinctive feature of Europe, thanks to the generous efforts of hundreds of men and women – some of whom the Catholic Church considers saints – who over the centuries have worked to develop the continent, both by entrepreneurial activity and by works of education, welfare, and human promotion.  These works, above all, represent an important point of reference for the many poor people living in Europe.  How many of them there are in our streets!  They ask not only for the food they need for survival, which is the most elementary of rights, but also for a renewed appreciation of the value of their own life, which poverty obscures, and a rediscovery of the dignity conferred by work.

Finally, among the issues calling for our reflection and our cooperation is the defence of the environment, of this beloved planet earth.  It is the greatest resource which God has given us and is at our disposal not to be disfigured, exploited, and degraded, but so that, in the enjoyment of its boundless beauty, we can live in this world with dignity.

Mr Secretary General, Madame President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Pope Paul VI called the Church an “expert in humanity”. In this world, following the example of Christ and despite the sins of her sons and daughters, the Church seeks nothing other than to serve and to bear witness to the truth.   This spirit alone guides us in supporting the progress of humanity.

In this spirit, the Holy See intends to continue its cooperation with the Council of Europe, which today plays a fundamental role in shaping the mentality of future generations of Europeans.  This calls for mutual engagement in a far-ranging reflection aimed at creating a sort of new agorá, in which all civic and religious groups can enter into free exchange, while respecting the separation of sectors and the diversity of positions, an exchange inspired purely by the desire of truth and the advancement of the common good.  For culture is always born of reciprocal encounter which seeks to stimulate the intellectual riches and creativity of those who take part in it; this is not only a good in itself, it is also something beautiful.  My hope is that Europe, by rediscovering the legacy of its history and the depth of its roots, and by embracing its lively multipolarity and the phenomenon of a transversality in dialogue, will rediscover that youthfulness of spirit which has made this continent fruitful and great.

Thank you!

Posted in Pope Francis, Pope Francis address | Tagged ,

Pope Francis address to European Parliament at Strasbourg

Francis at Strasbourg

Mr President and Vice Presidents,

Members of the European Parliament,

All associated with the work of this Institution,

Dear Friends,

I thank you for inviting me to address this institution which is fundamental to the life of the European Union, and for giving me this opportunity to speak, through you, to the more than five hundred million citizens whom you represent in the twenty-eight Member States.  I am especially grateful to you, Mr President, for your warm words of welcome in the name of the entire assembly.

My visit comes more than a quarter of a century after that of Pope John Paul II.  Since then, much has changed throughout Europe and the world as a whole.  The opposing blocs which then divided the continent in two no longer exist, and gradually the hope is being realized that “Europe, endowed with sovereign and free institutions, will one day reach the full dimensions that geography, and even more, history have given it”.[1]

As the European Union has expanded, the world itself has become more complex and ever changing; increasingly interconnected and global, it has, as a consequence, become less and less “Eurocentric”.  Despite a larger and stronger Union, Europe seems to give the impression of being somewhat elderly and haggard, feeling less and less a protagonist in a world which frequently regards it with aloofness, mistrust and even, at times, suspicion.

In addressing you today, I would like, as a pastor, to offer a message of hope and encouragement to all the citizens of Europe.

It is a message of hope, based on the confidence that our problems can become powerful forces for unity in working to overcome all those fears which Europe – together with the entire world – is presently experiencing.  It is a message of hope in the Lord, who turns evil into good and death into life.

It is a message of encouragement to return to the firm conviction of the founders of the European Union, who envisioned a future based on the capacity to work together in bridging divisions and in fostering peace and fellowship between all the peoples of this continent.  At the heart of this ambitious political project was confidence in man, not so much as a citizen or an economic agent, but in man, in men and women as persons endowed with transcendent dignity.

I feel bound to stress the close bond between these two words: “dignity” and “transcendent”.

“Dignity” was the pivotal concept in the process of rebuilding which followed the Second World War.  Our recent past has been marked by the concern to protect human dignity, in constrast to the manifold instances of violence and discrimination which, even in Europe, took place in the course of the centuries.  Recognition of the importance of human rights came about as the result of a lengthy process, entailing much suffering and sacrifice, which helped shape an awareness of the unique worth of each individual human person.  This awareness was grounded not only in historical events, but above all in European thought, characterized as it is by an enriching encounter whose “distant springs are many, coming from Greece and Rome, from Celtic, Germanic and Slavic sources, and from Christianity which profoundly shaped them”,[2]thus forging the very concept of the “person”.

Today, the promotion of human rights is central to the commitment of the European Union to advance the dignity of the person, both within the Union and in its relations with other countries.  This is an important and praiseworthy commitment, since there are still too many situations in which human beings are treated as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed, and who can then be discarded when no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age.

In the end, what kind of dignity is there without the possibility of freely expressing one’s thought or professing one’s religious faith?  What dignity can there be without a clear juridical framework which limits the rule of force and enables the rule of law to prevail over the power of tyranny?  What dignity can men and women ever enjoy if they are subjected to all types of discrimination?  What dignity can a person ever hope to find when he or she lacks food and the bare essentials for survival and, worse yet, when they lack the work which confers dignity?

Promoting the dignity of the person means recognizing that he or she possesses inalienable rights which no one may take away arbitrarily, much less for the sake of economic interests.

At the same time, however, care must be taken not to fall into certain errors which can arise from a misunderstanding of the concept of human rights and from its misuse.  Today there is a tendency to claim ever broader individual rights; underlying this is a conception of the human person as detached from all social and anthropological contexts, as if the person were a “monad” (μονάς), increasingly unconcerned with other surrounding “monads”.  The equally essential and complementary concept of duty no longer seems to be linked to such a concept of rights.  As a result, the rights of the individual are upheld, without regard for the fact that each human being is part of a social context wherein his or her rights and duties are bound up with those of others and with the common good of society itself.

I believe, therefore, that it is vital to develop a culture of human rights which wisely links the individual, or better, the personal aspect, to that of the common good, of the “all of us” made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society.[3]  In fact, unless the rights of each individual are harmoniously ordered to the greater good, those rights will end up being considered limitless and consequently will become a source of conflicts and violence.

To speak of transcendent human dignity thus means appealing to human nature, to our innate capacity to distinguish good from evil, to that “compass” deep within our hearts, which God has impressed upon all creation.[4]  Above all, it means regarding human beings not as absolutes, but as beings in relation.  In my view, one of the most common diseases in Europe today is the loneliness typical of those who have no connection with others.  This is especially true of the elderly, who are often abandoned to their fate, and also in the young who lack clear points of reference and opportunities for the future.  It is also seen in the many poor who dwell in our cities and in the disorientation of immigrants who came here seeking a better future.

This loneliness has become more acute as a result of the economic crisis, whose effects continue to have tragic consequences for the life of society.  In recent years, as the European Union has expanded, there has been growing mistrust on the part of citizens towards institutions considered to be aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples, if not downright harmful.  In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a “grandmother”, no longer fertile and vibrant.  As a result, the great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions.

Together with this, we encounter certain rather selfish lifestyles, marked by an opulence which is no longer sustainable and frequently indifferent to the world around us, and especially to the poorest of the poor.  To our dismay we see technical and economic questions dominating political debate, to the detriment of genuine concern for human beings.[5]  Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited, with the result that – as is so tragically apparent – whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms, as in the case of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb.

This is the great mistake made “when technology is allowed to take over”;[6] the result is a confusion between ends and means”.[7]  It is the inevitable consequence of a “throwaway culture” and an uncontrolled consumerism.  Upholding the dignity of the person means instead acknowledging the value of human life, which is freely given us and hence cannot be an object of trade or commerce.  As members of this Parliament, you are called to a great mission which may at times seem an impossible one: to tend to the needs of individuals and peoples.  To tend to those in need takes strength and tenderness, effort and generosity in the midst of a functionalistic and privatized mindset which inexorably leads to a “throwaway culture”.  To care for individuals and peoples in need means protecting memory and hope; it means taking responsibility for the present with its situations of utter marginalization and anguish, and being capable of bestowing dignity upon it.[8]

 

II

How, then, can hope in the future be restored, so that, beginning with the younger generation, there can be a rediscovery of that confidence needed to pursue the great ideal of a united and peaceful Europe, a Europe which is creative and resourceful, respectful of rights and conscious of its duties?

To answer this question, allow me to use an image.  One of the most celebrated frescoes of Raphael is found in the Vatican and depicts the so-called “School of Athens”.  Plato and Aristotle are in the centre.  Plato’s finger is pointed upward, to the world of ideas, to the sky, to heaven as we might say.  Aristotle holds his hand out before him, towards the viewer, towards the world, concrete reality.  This strikes me as a very apt image of Europe and her history, made up of the constant interplay between heaven and earth, where the sky suggests that openness to the transcendent – to God – which has always distinguished the peoples of Europe, while the earth represents Europe’s practical and concrete ability to confront situations and problems.

The future of Europe depends on the recovery of the vital connection between these two elements.  A Europe which is no longer open to the transcendent dimension of life is a Europe which risks slowly losing its own soul and that “humanistic spirit” which it still loves and defends.

Taking as a starting point this opening to the transcendent, I would like to reaffirm the centrality of the human person, which otherwise is at the mercy of the whims and the powers of the moment.  I consider to be fundamental not only the legacy that Christianity has offered in the past to the social and cultural formation of the continent, but above all the contribution which it desires to offer today, and in the future, to Europe’s growth.  This contribution does not represent a threat to the secularity of states or to the independence of the institutions of the European Union, but rather an enrichment.  This is clear from the ideals which shaped Europe from the beginning, such as peace, subsidiarity and reciprocal solidarity, and a humanism centred on respect for the dignity of the human person.

I wish, then, to reiterate the readiness of the Holy See and the Catholic Church, through the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (COMECE), to engage in meaningful, open and transparent dialogue with the institutions of the European Union.   I am likewise convinced that a Europe which is capable of appreciating its religious roots and of grasping their fruitfulness and potential, will be all the more immune to the many forms of extremism spreading in the world today, not least as a result of the great vacuum of ideals which we are currently witnessing in the West, since “it is precisely man’s forgetfulness of God, and his failure to give him glory, which gives rise to violence”.[9]

Here I cannot fail to recall the many instances of injustice and persecution which daily afflict religious minorities, and Christians in particular, in various parts of our world.  Communities and individuals today find themselves subjected to barbaric acts of violence: they are evicted from their homes and native lands, sold as slaves, killed, beheaded, crucified or burned alive, under the shameful and complicit silence of so many.

The motto of the European Union is United in Diversity.  Unity, however, does not mean uniformity of political, economic and cultural life, or ways of thinking.  Indeed, all authentic unity draws from the rich diversities which make it up: in this sense it is like a family, which is all the more united when each of its members is free to be fully himself or herself.  I consider Europe as a family of peoples who will sense the closeness of the institutions of the Union when these latter are able wisely to combine the desired ideal of unity with the diversity proper to each people, cherishing particular traditions, acknowledging its past history and its roots, liberated from so many manipulations and phobias.  Affirming the centrality of the human person means, above all, allowing all to express freely their individuality and their creativity, both as individuals and as peoples.

At the same time, the specific features of each one represent an authentic richness to the degree that they are placed at the service of all.  The proper configuration of the European Union must always be respected, based as it is on the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, so that mutual assistance can prevail and progress can be made on the basis of mutual trust.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the European Parliament, within this dynamic of unity and particularity, yours is the responsibility of keeping democracy alive for the peoples of Europe.  It is no secret that a conception of unity seen as uniformity strikes at the vitality of the democratic system, weakening the rich, fruitful and constructive interplay of organizations and political parties.  This leads to the risk of living in a world of ideas, of mere words, of images, of sophistry… and to end up confusing the reality of democracy with a new political nominalism.  Keeping democracy alive in Europe requires avoiding the many globalizing tendencies to dilute reality: namely, angelic forms of purity, dictatorships of relativism, brands of ahistorical fundamentalism, ethical systems lacking kindness, and intellectual discourse bereft of wisdom[10].

Keeping democracies alive is a challenge in the present historic moment.  The true strength of our democracies – understood as expressions of the political will of the people – must not be allowed to collapse under the pressure of multinational interests which are not universal, which weaken them and turn them into uniform systems of economic power at the service of unseen empires.  This is one of the challenges which history sets before you today.

To give Europe hope means more than simply acknowledging the centrality of the human person; it also implies nurturing the gifts of each man and woman.  It means investing in individuals and in those settings in which their talents are shaped and flourish.  The first area surely is that of education, beginning with the family, the fundamental cell and most precious element of any society.  The family, united, fruitful and indissoluble, possesses the elements fundamental for fostering hope in the future.  Without this solid basis, the future ends up being built on sand, with dire social consequences.  Then too, stressing the importance of the family not only helps to give direction and hope to new generations, but also to many of our elderly, who are often forced to live alone and are effectively abandoned because there is no longer the warmth of a family hearth able to accompany and support them.

Alongside the family, there are the various educational institutes: schools and universities. Education cannot be limited to providing technical expertise alone.  Rather, it should encourage the more complex process of assisting the human person to grow in his or her totality.  Young people today are asking for a suitable and complete education which can enable them to look to the future with hope instead of disenchantment.  There is so much creative potential in Europe in the various fields of scientific research, some of which have yet to be fully explored.  We need only think, for example, of alternative sources of energy, the development of which will assist in the protection of the environment.

Europe has always been in the vanguard of efforts to promote ecology.  Our earth needs constant concern and attention.  Each of us has a personal responsibility to care for creation, this precious gift which God has entrusted to us.  This means, on the one hand, that nature is at our disposal, to enjoy and use properly.  Yet it also means that we are not its masters.  Stewards, but not masters.  We need to love and respect nature, but “instead we are often guided by the pride of dominating, possessing, manipulating, exploiting; we do not ‘preserve’ the earth, we do not respect it, we do not consider it as a freely-given gift to look after”.[11]  Respect for the environment, however, means more than not destroying it; it also means using it for good purposes.  I am thinking above all of the agricultural sector, which provides sustenance and nourishment to our human family.  It is intolerable that millions of people around the world are dying of hunger while tons of food are discarded each day from our tables.  Respect for nature also calls for recognizing that man himself is a fundamental part of it.  Along with an environmental ecology, there is also need of that human ecology which consists in respect for the person, which I have wanted to emphasize in addressing you today.

The second area in which people’s talents flourish is labour.  The time has come to promote policies which create employment, but above all there is a need to restore dignity to labour by ensuring proper working conditions.  This implies, on the one hand, finding new ways of joining market flexibility with the need for stability and security on the part of workers; these are indispensable for their human development.  It also implies favouring a suitable social context geared not to the exploitation of persons, but to ensuring, precisely through labour, their ability to create a family and educate their children.

Likewise, there needs to be a united response to the question of migration.  We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery!  The boats landing daily on the shores of Europe are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance.  The absence of mutual support within the European Union runs the risk of encouraging particularistic solutions to the problem, solutions which fail to take into account the human dignity of immigrants, and thus contribute to slave labour and continuing social tensions.  Europe will be able to confront the problems associated with immigration only if it is capable of clearly asserting its own cultural identity and enacting adequate legislation to protect the rights of European citizens and to ensure the acceptance of immigrants.  Only if it is capable of adopting fair, courageous and realistic policies which can assist the countries of origin in their own social and political development and in their efforts to resolve internal conflicts – the principal cause of this phenomenon – rather than adopting policies motivated by self-interest, which increase and feed such conflicts.  We need to take action against the causes and not only the effects.

 III

Mr President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Awareness of one’s own identity is also necessary for entering into a positive dialogue with the States which have asked to become part of the Union in the future.  I am thinking especially of those in the Balkans, for which membership in the European Union could be a response to the desire for peace in a region which has suffered greatly from past conflicts.  Awareness of one’s own identity is also indispensable for relations with other neighbouring countries, particularly with those bordering the Mediterranean, many of which suffer from internal conflicts, the pressure of religious fundamentalism and the reality of global terrorism.

Upon you, as legislators, it is incumbent to protect and nurture Europe’s identity, so that its citizens can experience renewed confidence in the institutions of the Union and in its underlying project of peace and friendship.  Knowing that “the more the power of men and women increases, the greater is individual and collective responsibility”,[12] I encourage you to work to make Europe rediscover the best of itself.

An anonymous second-century author wrote that “Christians are to the world what the soul is to the body”.[13]  The function of the soul is to support the body, to be its conscience and its historical memory.  A two-thousand-year-old history links Europe and Christianity.  It is a history not free of conflicts and errors, but one constantly driven by the desire to work for the good of all.  We see this in the beauty of our cities, and even more in the beauty of the many works of charity and constructive cooperation throughout this continent.  This history, in large part, must still be written.  It is our present and our future.  It is our identity.  Europe urgently needs to recover its true features in order to grow, as its founders intended, in peace and harmony, since it is not yet free of conflicts.

Dear Members of the European Parliament, the time has come to work together in building a Europe which revolves not around the economy, but around the sacredness of the human person, around inalienable values.  In building a Europe which courageously embraces its past and confidently looks to its future in order fully to experience the hope of its present.  The time has come for us to abandon the idea of a Europe which is fearful and self-absorbed, in order to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership, a repository of science, art, music, human values and faith as well.  A Europe which contemplates the heavens and pursues lofty ideals.  A Europe which cares for, defends and protects man, every man and woman.  A Europe which bestrides the earth surely and securely, a precious point of reference for all humanity!

 

Thank you!

 


[1]  JOHN PAUL II, Address to the European Parliament (11 October 1988), 5.

[2]  JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (8 October 1988), 3.

[3]  Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 7; SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 26.

[4]  Cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 37.

[5]  Cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 55.

[6]  BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 71.

[7]  Ibid.

[8]  Cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 209.

[9]  BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps, 7 January 2013.

[10] Evangelii Gaudium, 231.

[11]  FRANCIS, General Audience, 5 June 2013.

[12]  Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Gaudium et Spes, 34.

[13]  Cf. Letter to Diognetus, 6.

(from Vatican Radio)

Posted in abortion, human ecology, Pope Francis, religious freedom | Tagged , , , , ,

In full: Lord Sacks speech that brought Vatican conference to its feet

Sacks[From Austen Ivereigh in Rome]

Among many speeches yesterday following Pope Francis’s address to the Humanum colloquium on complementarity, that of Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, was the standout, bringing the audience of 300 in the synod hall to their feet. Using dazzling oratory, he offered a magisterial account of the development of marriage from the very start — a sexual act between fish in Scotland — right up to the present day, told by means of seven stories, and ending with a spectacular exegesis of the Genesis account. It is a story with a tragic end: the dismantling of what he calls “the single most humanising institution in history” resulting in a whole new era of poverty and social division. Yet the recovery of that institution offers hope.  The full speech follows. 

I want this morning to begin our conversation by one way of telling the story of the most beautiful idea in the history of civilization: the idea of the love that brings new life into the world. There are of course many ways of telling the story, and this is just one. But to me it is a story of seven key moments, each of them surprising and unexpected.
The first, according to a report in the press on 20th October of this year, took
place in a lake in Scotland 385 million years ago. It was then, according to this new
discovery, that two fish came together to perform the first instance of sexual reproduction
known to science. Until then all life had propagated itself asexually, by cell division,
budding, fragmentation or parthenogenesis, all of which are far simpler and more
economical than the division of life into male and female, each with a different role in
creating and sustaining life.

When we consider, even in the animal kingdom, how much effort and energy the
coming together of male and female takes, in terms of displays, courtship rituals, rivalries
and violence, it is astonishing that sexual reproduction ever happened at all. Biologists
are still not quite sure why it did. Some say to offer protection against parasites, or
immunities against disease. Others say it’s simply that the meeting of opposites generates
diversity. But one way or another, the fish in Scotland discovered something new and
beautiful that’s been copied ever since by virtually all advanced forms of life. Life begins
when male and female meet and embrace.

The second unexpected development was the unique challenge posed to Homo
sapiens by two factors: we stood upright, which constricted the female pelvis, and we had
bigger brains – a 300 per cent increase – which meant larger heads. The result was that
human babies had to be born more prematurely than any other species, and so needed
parental protection for much longer. This made parenting more demanding among
humans than any other species, the work of two people rather than one. Hence the very rare phenomenon among mammals, of pair bonding, unlike other species where the male contribution tends to end with the act of impregnation. Among most primates, fathers don’t even recognise their children let alone care for them. Elsewhere in the animal kingdom motherhood is almost universal but fatherhood is rare.

So what emerged along with the human person was the union of the biological mother
and father to care for their child. Thus far nature, but then came culture, and the third
surprise.

It seems that among hunter gatherers, pair bonding was the norm. Then came
agriculture, and economic surplus, and cities and civilisation, and for the first time sharp
inequalities began to emerge between rich and poor, powerful and powerless. The great
ziggurats of Mesopotamia and pyramids of ancient Egypt, with their broad base and
narrow top, were monumental statements in stone of a hierarchical society in which the
few had power over the many. And the most obvious expression of power among alpha
males whether human or primate, is to dominate access to fertile women and thus
maximise the handing on of your genes to the next generation. Hence polygamy, which
exists in 95 per cent of mammal species and 75 per cent of cultures known to
anthropology. Polygamy is the ultimate expression of inequality because it means that
many males never get the chance to have a wife and child. And sexual envy has been,
throughout history, among animals as well as humans, a prime driver of violence.

That is what makes the first chapter of Genesis so revolutionary with its
statement that every human being, regardless of class, colour, culture or creed, is in the image and likeness of God himself. We know that in the ancient world it was rulers, kings, emperors and pharaohs who were held to be in the image of God. So what Genesis was saying was that we are all royalty. We each have equal dignity in the kingdom of faith under the sovereignty of God.

From this it follows that we each have an equal right to form a marriage and have children, which is why, regardless of how we read the story of Adam and Eve – and there are differences between Jewish and Christian readings – the norm presupposed by that story is: one woman, one man. Or as the Bible itself says: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

Monogamy did not immediately become the norm, even within the world of the
Bible. But many of its most famous stories, about the tension between Sarah and Hagar,
or Leah and Rachel and their children, or David and Bathsheba, or Solomon’s many
wives, are all critiques that point the way to monogamy.

And there is a deep connection between monotheism and monogamy, just as
there is, in the opposite direction, between idolatry and adultery. Monotheism and
monogamy are about the all-embracing relationship between I and Thou, myself and one
other, be it a human, or the divine, Other.

What makes the emergence of monogamy unusual is that it is normally the case
that the values of a society are those imposed on it by the ruling class. And the ruling
class in any hierarchical society stands to gain from promiscuity and polygamy, both of which multiply the chances of my genes being handed on to the next generation. From monogamy the rich and powerful lose and the poor and powerless gain. So the return of monogamy goes against the normal grain of social change and was a real triumph for the equal dignity of all. Every bride and every groom are royalty; every home a palace when furnished with love.

The fourth remarkable development was the way this transformed the moral life.
We’ve all become familiar with the work of evolutionary biologists using computer
simulations and the iterated prisoners’ dilemma to explain why reciprocal altruism exists
among all social animals. We behave to others as we would wish them to behave to us,
and we respond to them as they respond to us. As C S Lewis pointed out in his book The
Abolition of Man, reciprocity is the Golden Rule shared by all the great civilizations.

What was new and remarkable in the Hebrew Bible was the idea that love, not
just fairness, is the driving principle of the moral life. Three loves. “Love the Lord your
God with all your heart, all your soul and all your might.” “Love your neighbour as
yourself.” And, repeated no less than 36 times in the Mosaic books, “Love the stranger
because you know what it feels like to be a stranger.” Or to put it another way: just as
God created the natural world in love and forgiveness, so we are charged with creating
the social world in love and forgiveness. And that love is a flame lit in marriage and the
family. Morality is the love between husband and wife, parent and child, extended
outward to the world.

The fifth development shaped the entire structure of Jewish experience. In
ancient Israel an originally secular form of agreement, called a covenant, was taken and
transformed into a new way of thinking about the relationship between God and
humanity, in the case of Noah, and between God and a people in the case of Abraham
and later the Israelites at Mount Sinai. A covenant is like a marriage. It is a mutual
pledge of loyalty and trust between two or more people, each respecting the dignity and
integrity of the other, to work together to achieve together what neither can achieve
alone. And there is one thing even God cannot achieve alone, which is to live within the
human heart. That needs us.

So the Hebrew word emunah, wrongly translated as faith, really means faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty, steadfastness, not walking away even when the going gets tough, trusting the other and honouring the other’s trust in us. What covenant did, and we see this in almost all the prophets, was to understand the relationship between us and God in terms of the relationship between bride and groom, wife and husband. Love thus became not only the basis of morality but also of theology. In Judaism faith is a marriage. Rarely was this more beautifully stated than by Hosea when he said in the name of God:

I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will know the Lord.

Jewish men say those words every weekday morning as we wind the strap of our tefillin
around our finger like a wedding ring. Each morning we renew our marriage with God.

This led to a sixth and quite subtle idea that truth, beauty, goodness, and life
itself, do not exist in any one person or entity but in the “between,” what Martin Buber
called Das Zwischenmenschliche, the interpersonal, the counterpoint of speaking and
listening, giving and receiving. Throughout the Hebrew Bible and the rabbinic literature,
the vehicle of truth is conversation. In revelation God speaks and asks us to listen. In
prayer we speak and ask God to listen. There is never only one voice. In the Bible the
prophets argue with God. In the Talmud rabbis argue with one another. In fact I
sometimes think the reason God chose the Jewish people was because He loves a good
argument. Judaism is a conversation scored for many voices, never more passionately
than in the Song of Songs, a duet between a woman and a man, the beloved and her
lover, that Rabbi Akiva called the holy of holies of religious literature.

The prophet Malachi calls the male priest the guardian of the law of truth. The
book of Proverbs says of the woman of worth that “the law of loving kindness is on her
tongue.” It is that conversation between male and female voices, between truth and love,
justice and mercy, law and forgiveness, that frames the spiritual life. In biblical times
each Jew had to give a half shekel to the Temple to remind us that we are only half.
There are some cultures that teach that we are nothing. There are others that teach that we are everything. The Jewish view is that we are half and we need to open ourselves to another if we are to become whole.

All this led to the seventh outcome, that in Judaism the home and the family
became the central setting of the life of faith. In the only verse in the Hebrew Bible to
explain why God chose Abraham, He says: “I have known him so that he will instruct
his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is
right and just.” Abraham was chosen not to rule an empire, command an army, perform
miracles or deliver prophecies, but simply to be a parent. In one of the most famous lines in Judaism, which we say every day and night, Moses commands, “You shall teach these things repeatedly to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house or when you walk on the way, when you lie down and when you rise up.” Parents are to be educators, education is the conversation between the generations, and the first school is the home.

So Jews became an intensely family oriented people, and it was this that saved us
from tragedy. After the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70, Jews were
scattered throughout the world, everywhere a minority, everywhere without rights,
suffering some of the worst persecutions ever known by a people and yet Jews survived
because they never lost three things: their sense of family, their sense of community and
their faith.

And they were renewed every week especially on Shabbat, the day of rest when
we give our marriages and families what they most need and are most starved of in the
contemporary world, namely time. I once produced a television documentary for the
BBC on the state of family life in Britain, and I took the person who was then Britain’s
leading expert on child care, Penelope Leach, to a Jewish primary school on a Friday
morning.

There she saw the children enacting in advance what they would see that evening
around the family table. There were the five year old mother and father blessing the five
year old children with the five year old grandparents looking on. She was fascinated by
this whole institution, and she asked the children what they most enjoyed about the
Sabbath. One five year old boy turned to her and said, “It’s the only night of the week
when daddy doesn’t have to rush off.” As we walked away from the school when the
filming was over she turned to me and said, “Chief Rabbi, that Sabbath of yours is saving
their parents’ marriages.”

So that is one way of telling the story, a Jewish way, beginning with the birth of
sexual reproduction, then the unique demands of human parenting, then the eventual
triumph of monogamy as a fundamental statement of human equality, followed by the
way marriage shaped our vision of the moral and religious life as based on love and
covenant and faithfulness, even to the point of thinking of truth as a conversation
between lover and beloved. Marriage and the family are where faith finds its home and
where the Divine Presence lives in the love between husband and wife, parent and child.
What then has changed? Here’s one way of putting it. I wrote a book a few years
ago about religion and science and I summarised the difference between them in two
sentences. “Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things
together to see what they mean.” And that’s a way of thinking about culture also. Does it
put things together or does it take things apart?

What made the traditional family remarkable, a work of high religious art, is
what it brought together: sexual drive, physical desire, friendship, companionship, emotional kinship and love, the begetting of children and their protection and care, their early education and induction into an identity and a history. Seldom has any institution woven together so many different drives and desires, roles and responsibilities. It made sense of the world and gave it a human face, the face of love.

For a whole variety of reasons, some to do with medical developments like birth
control, in vitro fertilisation and other genetic interventions, some to do with moral
change like the idea that we are free to do whatever we like so long as it does not harm
others, some to do with a transfer of responsibilities from the individual to the state, and
other and more profound changes in the culture of the West, almost everything that
marriage once brought together has now been split apart. Sex has been divorced from
love, love from commitment, marriage from having children, and having children from
responsibility for their care.

The result is that in Britain in 2012, 47.5 per cent of children were born outside
marriage, expected to become a majority in 2016. Fewer people are marrying, those who
are, are marrying later, and 42 per cent of marriages end in divorce. Nor is cohabitation a
substitute for marriage. The average length of cohabitation in Britain and the United
States is less than two years. The result is a sharp increase among young people of eating
disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, stress related syndromes, depression and actual and
attempted suicides. The collapse of marriage has created a new form of poverty
concentrated among single parent families, and of these, the main burden is born by
women, who in 2011 headed 92 per cent of single parent households. In Britain today
more than a million children will grow up with no contact whatsoever with their fathers.

This is creating a divide within societies the like of which has not been seen since Disraeli spoke of “two nations” a century and a half ago. Those who are privileged to grow up in stable loving association with the two people who brought them into being will, on average, be healthier physically and emotionally. They will do better at school and at work. They will have more successful relationships, be happier and live longer.

And yes, there are many exceptions. But the injustice of it all cries out to heaven. It will go down in history as one of the tragic instances of what Friedrich Hayek called “the fatal conceit” that somehow we know better than the wisdom of the ages, and can defy the lessons of biology and history. No one surely wants to go back to the narrow prejudices of the past.

This week, in Britain, a new film opens, telling the story of one of the great minds of the twentieth century, Alan Turing, the Cambridge mathematician who laid the philosophical
foundations of computing and artificial intelligence, and helped win the war by breaking
the German naval code Enigma. After the war, Turing was arrested and tried for
homosexual behaviour, underwent chemically induced castration, and died at the age of
41 by cyanide poisoning, thought by many to have committed suicide. That is a world to
which we should never return.

But our compassion for those who choose to live differently should not inhibit us from being advocates for the single most humanising institution in history. The family, man, woman, and child, is not one lifestyle choice among many. It is the best means we have yet discovered for nurturing future generations and enabling children to grow in a matrix of stability and love. It is where we learn the delicate choreography of relationship and how to handle the inevitable conflicts within any human group. It is where we first take the risk of giving and receiving love. It is where one generation passes on its values to the next, ensuring the continuity of a civilization. For any society, the family is the crucible of its future, and for the sake of our children’s future, we must be its defenders.

Since this is a religious gathering, let me, if I may, end with a piece of biblical
exegesis. The story of the first family, the first man and woman in the garden of Eden, is
not generally regarded as a success. Whether or not we believe in original sin, it did not
end happily. After many years of studying the text I want to suggest a different reading.

The story ends with three verses that seem to have no connection with one
another. No sequence. No logic. In Genesis 3: 19 God says to the man: “By the sweat of
your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were
taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Then in the next verse we read: “The
man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all life.” And in the next,
“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”

What is the connection here? Why did God telling the man that he was mortal
lead him to give his wife a new name? And why did that act seem to change God’s
attitude to both of them, so that He performed an act of tenderness, by making them
clothes, almost as if He had partially forgiven them? Let me also add that the Hebrew
word for “skin” is almost indistinguishable from the Hebrew word for “light,” so that
Rabbi Meir, the great sage of the early second century, read the text as saying that God
made for them “garments of light.” What did he mean?

If we read the text carefully, we see that until now the first man had given his
wife a purely generic name. He called her ishah, woman. Recall what he said when he
first saw her: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be
called woman for she was taken from man.” For him she was a type, not a person. He
gave her a noun, not a name. What is more he defines her as a derivative of himself:
something taken from man. She is not yet for him someone other, a person in her own
right. She is merely a kind of reflection of himself.

As long as the man thought he was immortal, he ultimately needed no one else. But now he knew he was mortal. He would one day die and return to dust. There was
only one way in which something of him would live on after his death. That would be if
he had a child. But he could not have a child on his own. For that he needed his wife.
She alone could give birth. She alone could mitigate his mortality. And not because she
was like him but precisely because she was unlike him. At that moment she ceased to be,
for him, a type, and became a person in her own right. And a person has a proper name.
That is what he gave her: the name Chavah, “Eve,” meaning, “giver of life.”

At that moment, as they were about to leave Eden and face the world as we
know it, a place of darkness, Adam gave his wife the first gift of love, a personal name.
And at that moment, God responded to them both in love, and made them garments to
clothe their nakedness, or as Rabbi Meir put it, “garments of light.”

And so it has been ever since, that when a man and woman turn to one another
in a bond of faithfulness, God robes them in garments of light, and we come as close as
we will ever get to God himself, bringing new life into being, turning the prose of biology
into the poetry of the human spirit, redeeming the darkness of the world by the radiance
of love.

[ends]

 

Posted in gay marriage, human ecology, Humanum, marriage | 12 Comments

Francis deplores ‘false compassion’ of abortion and euthanasia

Vatican Radio has released a translation of Pope Francis’s remarks Saturday to the Association of Italian Catholic doctors. In it he praises them for “implementing the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church in the field of medical ethics”, and urges them to use the compassion of the Good Samaritan — offering concrete help — rather than the “false compassion” which is used to justify the taking of life, especially of the elderly and the unborn. 

There is no doubt that, in our time, due to scientific and technical advancements, the possibilities for physical healing have significantly increased; and yet, in some respects it seems the ability to “take care” of the person has decreased, especially when he is sick, frail and helpless. In fact, the achievements of science and of medicine can contribute to the improvement of human life to the extent that they are not distanced from the ethical root of these disciplines. For this reason, you Catholic doctors are committed to live your profession as a human and spiritual mission, as a real lay apostolate.

Attention to human life, especially that in greatest difficulty, that is, to the sick, the elderly, children, deeply involves the mission of the Church. The Church also feels called to participate in the debate that relates to human life, presenting its proposal based on the Gospel. In many places, the quality of life is related primarily to economic means, to “well-being”, to the beauty and enjoyment of the physical, forgetting other more profound dimensions of existence — interpersonal, spiritual and religious. In fact, in the light of faith and right reason, human life is always sacred and always “of quality”. There is no human life that is more sacred than another – every human life is sacred – just as there is no human life qualitatively more significant than another, only by virtue of resources, rights, great social and economic opportunities.

This is what you, Catholic doctors, try to say, first of all with your professionalism. Your work wants to witness by word and by example that human life is always sacred, valuable and inviolable. And as such, it must be loved, defended and cared for. Your professionalism, enriched with the spirit of faith, is one more reason to work with those— even from different religious perspectives or thought—who recognize the dignity of the human person as a criterion for their activities. In fact, if the Hippocratic Oath commits you to always be servants of life, the Gospel pushes you further: to love it no matter what, especially when it is in need of special care and attention. This is what the members of your Association have done over seventy years of fine work. I urge you to continue with humility and trust on this road, striving to pursue your statutory goals of implementing the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church in the field of medical ethics.

The dominant thinking sometimes suggests a “false compassion”, that which believes that it is: helpful to women to promote abortion; an act of dignity to obtain euthanasia; a scientific breakthrough to “produce” a child and to consider it to be a right rather than a gift to welcome; or to use human lives as guinea pigs presumably to save others. Instead, the compassion of the Gospel is that which accompanies in times of need, that is, the compassion of the Good Samaritan, who “sees”, “has compassion”, approaches and provides concrete help (cf. Lk 10:33).

Your mission as doctors puts you in daily contact with many forms of suffering. I encourage you to take them on as “Good Samaritans”, caring in a special way for the elderly, the infirm and the disabled. Fidelity to the Gospel of life and respect for life as a gift from God sometimes require choices that are courageous and go against the current, which in particular circumstances, may become points of conscientious objection. And this fidelity entails many social consequences. We are living in a time of experimentation with life. But a bad experiment. Making children rather than accepting them as a gift, as I said. Playing with life. Be careful, because this is a sin against the Creator: against God the Creator, who created things this way. When so many times in my life as a priest I have heard objections: “But tell me, why is the Church opposed to abortion, for example? Is it a religious problem?” No, no. It is not a religious problem. “Is it a philosophical problem?” No, it is not a philosophical problem. It’s a scientific problem, because there is a human life there, and it is not lawful to take out a human life to solve a problem. “But no, modern thought…” But, listen, in ancient thought and modern thought, the word “kill” means the same thing. The same evaluation applies to euthanasia: we all know that with so many old people, in this throwaway culture, there is this hidden euthanasia. But there is also the other. And this is to say to God, “No, I will accomplish the end of life, as I will.” A sin against God the Creator! Think hard about this.

I hope the seventy years of your association will stimulate a further process of growth and maturation. May you work constructively with all the people and institutions who share your love of life and seek to serve it in its dignity, sanctity and inviolability. St. Camillus de Lellis, in suggesting the most effective method in caring for the sick, would simply say: “Put more heart into those hands.” Put more heart in these hands! This is also my hope. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Salus infirmorum, support the intentions with which you intend to continue your action. I ask you to please pray for me and I give you my heartfelt blessing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,