In order to restore to Christians the beauty of the family, the Church must first of all become credible again. Speaking with journalists, at the end of the press conference to present the Instrumentum laboris, in view of the forthcoming Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the subject The Pastoral Challenges on the Family in the Context of Evangelization (October 5-19), Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, clarified some aspects regarding this widely debated and greatly awaited event.
The cardinal clarified first of all that the scandals connected in particular with pedophilia, which have implicated the Church in the last ten years, though having been particularly emphasized by the media, have been to a large extent “acknowledged” and have undermined the credibility of the Church, inducing her to “intervene in a very resolute way.”
However, he told reporters one cannot think that “Bishops and priests are angels”; they too can “sin.” As opposed to what happens in “other environments”, in the Church a sin is recognized and “can be repented,” admitting that there are “rotten apples.”
Cardinal Baldisseri explained that intervening in the Extraordinary Synod will be 23 lay auditors, seven of whom will be married couples, one of whom will render its testimony during the Synodal sessions.
One of the objectives of the Synod will be to furnish a more organic and universal pastoral approach to the divorced and to unwed mothers, harmonizing the programs of the various Episcopal Conferences.
–Q: Eminence, what is the underlying problem regarding the pastoral approach to divorced-remarried persons? Is the model of “second nuptials” practiced by the Orthodox Churches a course to be followed?
–Cardinal Baldisseri: The Instrumentum laboris distinguishes in the first place three categories: the simply separated, the divorced, and the divorced who have remarried. The separated live their condition of matrimony which is still valid; their position, however, is legitimate. Different, instead, is the case of divorce, which entails a civil act not recognized by the Church. In the case of those who ‘remarry’, added to the civil act is a new union. The Document published today, therefore, will help to execute pastoral care. It could happen, in fact, that a not very instructed priest could think that the divorced person is in the same condition as one who has remarried. Therefore, the Synod will serve to pastorally take care of these aspects, and the Synodal Fathers will have to reflect on this widespread phenomenon in the West.
In regard to the “Orthodox model,” it is suggested as a proposal in the Instrumentum laboris and the Synodal Fathers will also discuss this.
–Q: To what degree will the Church, through the Synod, be able to motivate young people in a credible way to rediscover the beauty of marriage?
–Cardinal Baldisseri: I think the Synod will contribute much in this regard, where in Western society the media emphasizes only some aspects while others, equally important or perhaps even more important, are put in the shade. There are few young people who wish to marry or to talk about the beauty of marriage. It is an argument that doesn’t “make news” or is not put in evidence. The concept is well explained in the Instrumentum laboris, whether it be in regard to the opportunities that marriage offers, or in regard to the critical aspects, but always seeking solutions.
–Q: What will the “pastoral care” of homosexual couples, desired by the Document, consist of?
–Cardinal Baldisseri: Pastoral care concerns everyone, therefore, also same-sex couples. Up to today it seemed to be a taboo or a problem. What to do? We are speaking of human persons … If they are baptized Christians and live in a family, why should they be discriminated? They must be accepted, also in the parishes. I think it is a lightening of a somewhat heavy situation which was created for historical reasons. Persons who find themselves in this situation must also be received, supported, have their place in the Church and live like others.
–Q: The Instrumentum laboris refers also to matrimonial catechesis (or the sacraments of Christian initiation in the presence of children) as a possibility for returning to the Christian faith and to the Church. In what way could this come about?
–Cardinal Baldisseri: If a family lives marriage in a Christian way, it also offers a teaching to the children. Unfortunately, we also find broken families, in which the children are the principal victims. They are situations in which the Church is interpellated; she must take charge of these situations of suffering and understand how to make them walk in a Christian way. It happens frequently that broken families are estranged from the Church or have never had contact with the Church herself. It could happen, however, that one day, for various reasons, they approach the Church and discover that there are ways to be able to live well and in a Christian way. It is a question of finding, also in this, a new style in the perspective indicated by Pope Francis, described by some, not accidentally, as “parish priest of the world.”