Thursday, October 15, 2015

Circuli Minores - Round 2

The small groups have reported in from their deliberations about the second part of the Instrumentum Laboris. Like the reports themselves, my comments this time will be briefer, and will again be confined exclusively to the English-language reports. 

English Group A ("Circulus Anglicus A") again began by referencing Jesus and argued for a more abundant use of scripture, especially the exemplary accounts of Old Testament couples. Group A emphasizes the family's vocation within the context of the "universal call to holiness" and the family as "the first and primary evangelizer in which one discerns a vocation to a particular state in life." I suggests identifying "best practices" to "show families how to more fully and faithfully live out their vocation." Finally, it calls for both "streamlined, attractive language" and "ell-grounded explanations of church teaching on marriage and the family."

Group B called for "a much more detailed reflection on the Family and Divine Pedagogy." It employs the classic contrast between marriage as created in Genesis - "monogamy, permanence, equality of the sexes" - and "the reversal of these basic characteristics as a result of sin." Seeking "a language accessible to the men and women of our times," it proposes "alongside the term 'indissolubility' to use a language which is less legal, and which shows better the mystery of God's love speaking of marriage as a grace, a blessing, and a lifelong covenant of love." Echoing Group A's affirmation of the integration of scripture study and reflection into the lives of families, Group B focuses on "the centrality of the Word of God in the theology of marriage, in the pastoral care of the family, and in family piety." It identified as a goal for every couple and family "worshipping together faithfully at mass every Sunday" and stressed Catholic schools as "an extension of parish and family catechesis."

Group C repeated the need to speak positively to families who "are living their Christian marriage as a genuine vocation." It called for culturally attuned catechetical programs and resources for family prayer and identified  "need to explore further the possibility of couples who are civilly married or cohabiting beginning a journey toward sacramental marriage and being encouraged and accompanied on that journey." Like Group B, it suggested presenting indissolubility "as a gift from God rather than a burden" and finding "a more positive way of speaking about it." It seeks "presenting the Bible as a matrix for Christian married and family life," not neglecting sacrifice and suffering, with an awareness of "how the Church through the ages has come to a deeper understanding and surer presentation of the teaching on marriage and the family which has its roots in Christ himself." Wary of "too simplistic a reading of a complex phenomenon," it calls "for a more nuanced understanding of why young people these days decide not to marry or delay marriage" and cites the view of marriage "as a purely personal or private matter," "a culture of options which baulks at closing doors" and "powerful economic factors." Finally, it suggests identifying "practical initiatives or strategies to support families and to help those that are in trouble."

Group D also sought more reflection on scripture. It raised the issue of "the relationship between the newness of the Christian sacrament of matrimony and the natural structure of marriage built into God's plan from the start." It criticizes the IL for not defining marriage and proposes correcting tht by incorporating the definition in Gaudium et Spes, 48. This group also raised the question of framing "indissolubility" in a more positive way. It worried whether Mosaic divorce was being presented as a stage of God's plan, whereas "divorce is never part of God's will for humanity, but was a consequence of original sin." I particularly liked the observation "that priests are not trained to be marriage counselors" and so "should move away from marriage counseling and do clearly defined spiritual guidance instead."

Overall, there seems to be widespread dissatisfaction with the Instrumentum Laboris, stressing its scriptural and theological limitations. There seems to be a widespread desire to reaffirm the best of the Church's teaching on marriage and family, to (so to speak) say the same thing, but say it in a newer, nicer way.  This could be either very promising or a dead-end. Which it will be remains yet to be seen. How we speak about marriage may be part of the problem some people experience, but it may not. And again the desire to affirm the positive experience of faithful marriages and to be more of a useful resource for faithful families strongly stands out.

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