Archbishop Paul Durocher of Gatineau, leader of Canada’s bishops, is reminding people that Jesus worked directly with individuals, not generalities. He says the synod participants are now called to do the same as they bring the synod’s eventual outcomes to their communities.
“In the Church,” he said, “we priests have a tendency to think deductively, starting with principles. However, in this synod, we are starting to see ‘inductive’ thinking, starting with looking at the individual situations. We are looking at ‘what is going on here.'”
At a briefing today held by Vatican press office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, along with Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, Fr. Thomas Rosica, and Fr. Manual Dorantes, the Canadian prelate shared his pastoral experience and noted that “no template” will be applicable for all the diverse situations that exist, so we have to keep an open mind as we look case by case.
“Each person is an individual person,” he said, noting Church leaders must remember that “Jesus didn’t meet general cases, he met and addressed individuals.”
On the topic of Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, he made a point during the question-and-answer session that some of those “who speak strongly of not readmitting the divorced and remarried to receiving the Eucharist also see this as an act of mercy, because mercy is an act of bringing people closer to the truth.”
Canadian Father Thomas Rosica, who is assiting the Vatican spokesman for English-speaking press, said that the synod has stressed the need for language “which invites, rather than repels” and for support groups, including for those with a homosexual orientation.
The importance of children, he added, was also a primary topic stressed.
“We must do everything at all costs to avoid the erosion of values,” Fr. Rosica said, underscoring that the consensus among the delegates is that their “journey together cannot become an attempt to go in different directions, but must be a communal effort.”
Cardinals and bishops spoke to one another and addressed comments to each other, rather than one facing all the others, he said.
Fr. Rosica stressed that people were encouraged to avoid the temptation to respond to the immediate and instead come up with long term pastoral strategies.
“There is such a desire to respond to the immediate crises, hurts, and the difficulties,” he said, “but there’s no moment now for quick solutions, but rather deep pastoral reflection that will last for a long time.”
The priest summarized Wednesday afternoon’s sessions, in terms of the interventions and the free discussion, saying there were 20 who spoke and, during the closed session, there were 18 synod fathers who spoke, as well as those of this morning.
Beforing turning to themes, he said there were “very vast, full presentations, especially the quotations.”
Describing the hour of pre-discussion, Father Rosica suggested we could describe that discussion as “animated,” “impassioned,” “fraternal,” “laying their cards on the table.” He said, “It was very charitable.”
Giving an idea of the dialogue taking place, the Canadian priest said, “It was a lively exchange. Many things were covered. There was a clear affirmation of the doctrine of marriage, the doctrine and teaching of family love.”
All presentations, he pointed out, had a great sense of urgency, from “whatever angle they came.” They called for discernment, as well as “critical, patient reflection.”
Much encouragement was given to episcopal conferences, bishops with dioceses, and to institutions to deal with these situations together and come up with pastoral strategies.
However, he noted, there is no attempt to create one pastoral strategy for everyone, because “each situation is so different and requires a different response.”
A great emphasis also was placed on reflection groups and supports groups, in these different circumstances.
There was a discussion about spiritual communion, or a spiritually uniting with Christ in the Eucharist, which was approached in two different ways.
“First of all, there’s a need to rediscover it and to develop a good theology and pastoral practice about it. But there was also a warning, if you will, a desire to say ‘wait a minute,’ to say we are a sacramental church. We need the flesh and blood and the encounter with them.”
“So how do we deal with the spiritual communion on one hand,” he continued, “and also be a Church that is conscious and heals and sees.”
There was a reference to the catechumanate, and again the emphasis that a solid need for marriage preparation is needed.
“How do we present marriage in a way that is appealing, especially to young people?” was a question posed.
Fr. Rosica also listed challenges, the “many, many challenges to marriage,” that cardinals and bishops brought up in the discussions, including “cohabitation, same sex unions, single parent families, divorce, abuse, violence, the dowry, discrimination, unjust wages, child labor, alcoholism, drugs, globalization, subhuman conditions, domestic servants, and religious persecution.”
Aware that there is not “one solution or response” to these challenges facing marriage and the family, the bishops and cardinals stress the need “for careful discernment.”