The National Catholic Review

“The synod journey culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, (who is) called to speak authoritatively as ‘the Pastor and Teacher of all Christians,'" Pope Francis stated on October 17, on the eve of the final week of the synod on the family. 

In a keynote talk of the utmost importance delivered at the celebration for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the synod of bishops, Francis spoke about “synodality in the church,” the synod’s place within this, the relation between the synod and the Successor of Peter, and reminded the synod fathers that he has the last word.

He emphasized the need to give new life to structures of synodality in the local churches worldwide, and confirmed his intention to promote greater “decentralization” in the Catholic Church and to bring about “a conversion of the papacy.”

Pope Francis began by recalling that ever since he became Bishop of Rome, “I wanted to give value to the Synod, which constitutes one of the most precious inheritances of the last council gathering.”  

Paul VI had established the synod he said, so that "it should re-propose the image of the ecumenical council and reflect its spirit and method,” but he foresaw then that with the passage of time “it could be greatly perfected.”  John Paul II too recognized that the synod “could be improved” by giving it fuller collegial responsibility, and Benedict XVI made revisions to it in the light of new Canon Law.

Francis told the synod participants that “we must continue on this road” because today’s world demands “the strengthening of synergies in all areas of her (the Church’s) mission.” 

“The way of synodality is the way that God wants for the Church of the third millennium,” Francis declared. He explained that what Jesus is asking of the church today “is all contained in the word ‘synod,’” which means “walking together—laity, pastors, the Bishop of Rome.” This is an easy concept, but it’s on that’s difficult to put it into practice, he admitted.

He recalled that the Second Vatican Council had reaffirmed that “the People of God is constituted by all the baptized” and that “the entire people cannot err in believing.”  Then, in a statement that has far-reaching implications, Francis declared that “the sense of faith impedes the rigid separation between the Teaching Church and the Learning Church, because the flock possesses its own ‘sense’ to discern the new roads that the Lord reveals to the church...” He revealed that it was this conviction that led him to hold the consultations in churches worldwide before the 2014 and 2015 synods, because it’s not possible to speak about the family without talking to families.

“A synodal church is a listening church, (one that is) aware that listening is more than hearing. It’s a mutual listening in which each one has something to learn,” he stated.

He explained that the synod of bishops “is the point of convergence of this dynamic of listening conducted at all levels of the life of the church,” and recalled that on the eve of the 2014 synod he had asked the Holy Spirit to help the synod fathers to listen to God, and with God to listen to the voice of the people so as to understand what God is calling us to do.

Much of the attention at this synod has been focused on the final document, with a minority of fathers expressing anxiety or even worried that the text might be predetermined or even dilute Catholic doctrine. Some have wanted a paragraph by paragraph vote, as if everything depended on the final vote. In his talk today, however, Francis called them to their senses by reminding the 270 fathers that, in actual fact, “the synod journey culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, (who is) called to speak authoritatively as ‘Pastor and Teacher of all Christians.'”   In other words, the buck stops with him, not them.

As Bishop of Rome, he said, the pope speaks “not out of his own personal convictions, but as the supreme witness of the faith of the whole church, ‘the guarantor of the obedience and conformity of the church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ and to the tradition of the church.”

Then, in words that have particular significance at this moment in church history as the synod moves to an end, Pope Francis emphasized that “the fact that the synod always acts with Peter and under Peter—therefore not only with Peter, but also under Peter—is not a limitation of freedom, but a guarantee of unity.”

As the Second Vatican Council has taught, he said, the pope is, by the will of the Lord, “the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the multitude of the faithful.”  

He reminded the fathers that “the bishops are joined to the Bishop of Rome with a bond of episcopal communion (with Peter) and at the same time (are) hierarchically subject to him as Head of the College (under Peter).”

Having spelled out clearly the relation of both the bishops and the synod to the Successor of Peter, he went onto speak at some length about “synodality.” He described it as “a constitutive dimension of the church” that offers “an interpretative frame for better understanding the hierarchical ministry.”

Speaking with passion, he nsisted that “church and synod are synonyms” because the church is nothing other than “the walking together” of God’s flock on the paths of history to that meeting with Christ the Lord.  He recalled that Jesus established the church with the apostolic college at the top, in which (college) the apostle Peter is "the rock," which must confirm the brothers in the faith. He again reminded the bishops that those who exercise authority in the church are called “to serve” the people of God; and said the pope is “the servant of the servants of God.” Today as yesterday, “the only authority is the authority of service.”

Pope Francis told the assembly that “in a synodal church” the synod of bishops “is only the most evident manifestation of a dynamic of communion that inspires all ecclesial decisions.” 

He identified three levels of the exercise of synodality in the church. The first is found at the level of the local churches, starting with the diocesan synod and including the other “organisms of communion”—the council of priests, the college of consultors, the chapter of canons and the pastoral council. He asserted that a synodal church can only become a reality if all these organisms remain connected with the grassroots; that is, with the people and their problems. He called for a “re-valuing” of these bodies “as an occasion for listening and sharing.”

Pointing to “the second level” of the exercise of synodality, Francis explained that this exists in the ecclesiastical provinces and regions, as well as in the particular councils, and “in a very special way” in bishops’ conferences.  He underlined the need to reflect on how this synodality can be realized even more, through these “intermediate instances of collegiality.” He recalled that the Second Vatican Council had hoped that these organisms “could contribute to the growth of the spirit of episcopal collegiality,” but that hope “has not yet been full realized.” Indeed,“we’re only half way on the journey.”

Then in a clear reference to the bishops’ conferences, Francis told them that “in a synodal church it is not opportune that the pope replaces the local episcopates in the discernment of all the problems that present themselves in their territories.” For this reason, he said, “I feel the need to proceed in a healthy ‘decentralization.’” He had already stated this in his programmatic document “The Joy of the Gospel” (N.16 and 32), and today he declared categorically that he intends to move ahead with such decentralization.  

Francis then came to what he called “the last level” in the exercise of synodality. This exists at the level of the universal church; here, the synod of bishops, representing the Catholic episcopate, becomes the expression of episcopal collegiality within one church that is entirely synodal. 

Then, in another significant statement, Pope Francis told the assembly: “I am convinced that, in a synodal church, the exercise of the Petrine ministry can become clearer (receive more light). The pope is not, alone, above the church; but within it as one baptized among the baptized, and within the episcopal college as a bishop among bishops, called at the same time—as successor of the apostle Peter—to guide the church of Rome that presides in love over all the churches.”

That Francis has affirmed all this on the eve of the conclusion of the Synod on the Family is particularly significant not only for the internal life of the Catholic Church, and the follow up to the synod, but also for her relations with the other Christian churches and communities—beginning with the Orthodox Church, and her witness in the world.    

When he finished speaking, the audience, that included some 300 cardinals and bishops, gave Pope Francis a standing ovation.

Comments

Guillermo Reyes | 10/20/2015 - 8:22am

The Pope's sermon today is true food and light for a weary soul, wearied by all of the infighting by Bishops questioning, attacking, writing inflammatory articles for mainstream publications ("Wall Street Journal") and running out of Synod meetings in the Vatican to grant someone, anyone, a dour, anxiety ridden, full of fear "interview". One wonders what these fearful bishops do in their Dioceses when confronted with scandals while on their watch, as if we all dont already know. Do they face them head on like their mentor and spiritual father, Pope Francis did with the Vatican Bank, corruption in the Curia, the sexual abuses by priests and Bishops covering for them, and demonstrating it is no longer "business as usual"? Where are the fearless men of God who are visible in the piblic square and do not cower from their sheep?

The Pope's sermon today is applicable for today's events

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/10/20/pope_god_seeks_us_out_and_his...

God's love for us is limitless while man gives only in half measures, and that which has been gifted to him!

I believe Pope Francis is a gift to the planet. Clearly the Church has been hemorrhaging for decades. Divorce is unchecked, parents have abdicated their roles as catechists for their children, today's young are lost, young men in their 20s today are a shadow of those men after World War II who, in their 20s, married, had jobs, provided for their familes and had their own home as a family unit before reaching age 30.

The Bishops have failed us, failing to be heralds in the public square, failing to act like shepherds for sheep who truly do smell (to use Pope Francis' imagery) more preoccupied with their careers (clericalism) than walking, being, listening to the people of God who are in dire straits today

Let us pray for God to send us Bishops who will join us in the public square, guide us and their priests to provide us authentic instruction in the sermons, the Sacraments and catechesis on the street corners

"Rebuild my Church". Now is as good of a time to do just that as St Francis of Assisi did 800+ years ago

Oremus

AMDG

Robert Killoren | 10/19/2015 - 1:11pm

Why do so many bishops appear to fear Pope Francis?

Sam Scully | 10/19/2015 - 8:45am

Pope Francis is a breeze from heaven. He is the preacher for the preachers. He is the preacher for the laity. We all are Church. We are family. And a listening family is the measure of a sound corner-stone, without it the Church will spiral into suicide. Pope Francis is awakening our conscious to the Holy Spirit. He is Faith in action. I'm privileged to have witnessed it albeit from afar. God Bless all synod attendees. Pax.

Wayne Miller | 10/23/2015 - 8:22am

That "breeze" is more like the smoke of Satan that Paul VI warned us about.

Patrick Murtha | 10/19/2015 - 6:37pm

Please explain how "a listening family is the measure of a sound corner-stone" and how would "the Church spiral into suicide"? I would have thought Faith, or the belief in God, might be a corner-stone. For from that stems Charity, which is the love of God, but "a listening family"?

Sam Scully | 10/19/2015 - 11:43pm

A sound cornerstone
Ears to hear. Not everyone has been gifted with 'faith'. Many of the saints struggled with faith, for example, St. Augustine. Our contemporary, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta found the going tough. I find faith a struggle at times just as I'm certain that you do. That's where 'ears to hear' come in..that is, a listening family..a listening family meaning being attentive to God and neighbour...this makes for a sound cornerstone.

I don't know where you live but in my country approx. 80-90% of Catholics have walked out the door and it's the same predicament in Europe.....this is a Church suicide in slow motion...Why has this happened?
So just getting back to my little blurb on the importance of listening:
To Listen..is scriptural. The prophets listened. "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9). And, 1 Kings 19 describes how God made his presence known to Elijah at Mount Horeb, in “a still small voice.” If we don't listen we can't be effective in our communication. But our ability to listen well can be distracted by the White-noise of a busy world. We are only human and can easily switch off from that ,'still, small voice'. Christ listened. The saints listened....the desert fathers and mothers listened and St. Benedict taught us to listen with the 'ears of the heart' he was instrumental in saving our Church from suicide (lot of bad history back then) Holy Spirit is not measurable nor fixed. 'Truth' is infinite...it needs to be discerned and listening is the teacher.

The synod is a great example of it's members not listening...how many times has the Pope said that Church doctrine won't be changed....how many homilies during the course of the synod have been pertinent to some of the synod member's paranoiac elements.

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Let's say for example, that you are in line waiting to receive the Eucharist and your mind in a flash becomes distracted when you see a person inappropriately dressed or whatever else that creates in your mind an inappropriate thought...and Christ teachers us along these lines, 'angry words and or hateful thoughts' against another are on a par with murder..i.e. the commandment of thou shalt not kill..... How can any Catholic/Christian say, "I love God, but I do not love my neighbor.” 1 John 4:20, says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don’t love your neighbour. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor who you see, who you touch, and, who you live with?

So, where is the sense in banning people from receiving the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation....it's outrageously pharisaical. The only consolation is knowing that God is the final judge of each and everyone.
Peace to you.

Patrick Murtha | 10/20/2015 - 12:51am

None of this explains why the salvation of the church is in a listening family. But I guess it is a mere figure of speech and has little relevance.

Yet, the significant issue you raise is this idea of supposed "mercy." Is it mercy to allow a person in mortal sin, who has rejected his God and Redeemer by his mortal sin and continues, by living in that sin without repentance for that sin, to receive Christ in the Blessed Sacrament? The Church cannot change the fact that any receiving of Christ by a soul in the state of mortal sin is an sacrilege. "Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord." Is it mercy for the Church to allow an sacrilege to another mortal sin?

The same applies to Confession. If the soul is not sorry for his sin or persists in continuing his sin, there is no valid confession but a sacrilege. For there is no contrition in the soul, nor no desire to amend his ways. These are facts of the spiritual life.

The true love of a Christian must be firstly for God. It is for that reason that St. Paul teaches that Charity is the greatest of the virtues. For as Christ said, the first command is to love God. But how does one love God: "Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it." The love of neighbor is not found in giving the neighbor what he wants but what is good for him, what he needs. And if the neighbor is in mortal sin, he cannot, by God's own decree, receive the Body and Blood of Christ without sin. He needs first to have a firm desire to amend his life, he needs to confess his sin with true contrition, and he needs to do penance. Encourage your neighbor to do this, and this is an example of the love of neighbor because you are desiring that he do what is best--that is, love God as God desires to be loved. It is the foolishness of our age to play to the whims and fancies of men as if they were the will and wisdom of God. But as you yourself have said that God said, "my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways."

For a priest to forbid a public sinner--that is, a person who has committed public scandal, true scandal, which is sin and not that silly and superficial scandal which is mere shock--he does so not because he is pharisaical nor because he judges, but rather out of love for the sinner. The priest desires the sinner to repentance, but he cannot give him what will further damn his soul. Even Christ is clear, "Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 7:21)

Remember that Christ commanded the sinners whom He forgave, "Go and sin no more."

To those that have rejected the will and ways of God, He says this in his justice: "And these men have not known my ways: so I swore in my wrath that they shall not enter into my rest." (Psalm 94: 11)

Sam Scully | 10/20/2015 - 7:12am

None of this explains why the salvation of the church is in a listening family?
This is not perfected as yet, but Pope Francis is aiming for a Church that listens.

Yet, the significant issue you raise is this idea of supposed "mercy." Is it mercy to allow a person in mortal sin, who has rejected his God and Redeemer by his mortal sin and continues, ....hung on, let's stop there... Firstly, the sacrament of reconciliation according to some cardinals is a no go zone for those in a divorced state. So no reconciliation means no Eucharist. It's that simple. Is this what Christ wanted? I don't believe so...the Gospels speak louder than the institutional rules and regs.

The Church cannot change the fact that any receiving of Christ by a soul in the state of mortal sin is an sacrilege.
Who knows who is in mortal sin!. Are you or I to judge?

Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord." Is it mercy for the Church to allow an sacrilege to another mortal sin?
Hmmm..that is an interesting question...can you explain how many times you received the Eucharist from a Paedophile priest or a bishop/Cardinal who had moved the criminal priest onto other parishes...how mortal is this sin? Is it at all in align with what you say?

The same applies to Confession. If the soul is not sorry for his sin or persists in continuing his sin, there is no valid confession but a sacrilege. For there is no contrition in the soul, nor no desire to amend his ways. These are facts of the spiritual life.

Matt. 18:22..21Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" 22Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

The true love of a Christian must be firstly for God. It is for that reason that St. Paul teaches that Charity is the greatest of the virtues. For as Christ said, the first command is to love God. But how does one love God: "Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it." The love of neighbor is not found in giving the neighbor what he wants but what is good for him, what he needs. And if the neighbor is in mortal sin, he cannot, by God's own decree, receive the Body and Blood of Christ without sin. He needs first to have a firm desire to amend his life, he needs to confess his sin with true contrition, and he needs to do penance. Encourage your neighbor to do this, and this is an example of the love of neighbor because you are desiring that he do what is best--that is, love God as God desires to be loved. It is the foolishness of our age to play to the whims and fancies of men as if they were the will and wisdom of God. But as you yourself have said that God said, "my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways."

You may take this path but it is certainly foreign for me. I was always taught never to judge. And I was always taught it was by our works that will attract attention to Christ.

For a priest to forbid a public sinner--that is, a person who has committed public scandal, true scandal, which is sin and not that silly and superficial scandal which is mere shock--he does so not because he is pharisaical nor because he judges, but rather out of love for the sinner. The priest desires the sinner to repentance, but he cannot give him what will further damn his soul. Even Christ is clear, "Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 7:21)

Not sure I follow.

Remember that Christ commanded the sinners whom He forgave, "Go and sin no more."

And, Christ also said, who amongst you is without sin...can throw stones at the prostitute.

To those that have rejected the will and ways of God, He says this in his justice: "And these men have not known my ways: so I swore in my wrath that they shall not enter into my rest." (Psalm 94: 11)

Let's not play these games. Remember the story of the prodigal son..it's a beauty.

Pax

Patrick Murtha | 10/20/2015 - 10:14am

1. Let us take the confession issue again. If a divorcee has remarried, that divorcee is in the state of mortal sin. This is no judgement on my part or your part. This is a reality that the soul must face. "...he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery." (Matt. 5:32) If the sinner remains in this state, he remains in the state of adultery willfully. How can he be sorry for his sin of adultery? And if he lacks true contrition and a firm purpose of amendment, how can he be forgiven? The priest must know this in the confessional, for he may ask the person if he has taken away or separated himself from this adultery. If the soul says no, the priest is bound by the sacrament and by charity and justice to God and to the soul and to his office to hold back absolution.

You quote Christ's response to Peter on how often a man ought to forgive his brother. However, this quote means that a man must forgive those who offend, who persecute, who cause harm, but this forgiveness does not remit the act from the actor. The offender must still confess his sin, otherwise the sin is still on the soul. Remember St. Paul says, "I mourn many of them that sinned before, and have not done penance for the uncleanness, and fornication, and lasciviousness, that they have committed." (2Cor 12:21) And what is St. Paul's cause to mourn if the sins have been forgiven? But that they might be forgiven, but not remitted, and so the soul is still weak and not striving towards perfection.

Again, Christ makes it clear that sinners will be damned for their sins. Speaking His betrayer, Christ says, "it were better for him, if that man had not been born." If Judas were sought forgiveness and was forgiven--but he despaired--why need Christ, who desires eternal life for all men, to say that it were better had Judas never lived? He also speaks of the man without the wedding garment being bound and cast into the darkness "where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

We need to remember God's mercy and His justice. Now the story of the prostitute is there to establish God's mercy. But as I said before Christ commands her, "Go and now sin no more."

2. How does a person know that another is in sin? If the sin is private, he does not know. But the sinner is required to know himself and thereby recuse himself from communion if he knows that he is in the state of mortal sin. For a public sinner, such as those who openly support abortion, euthanasia; those who spread heresy, etc; the priest can know by the public nature of the sin and the lack of penance, as a public sin would demand, in justice, mercy, and charity, a public act of penance or a public retraction.

3. Let me take up this topic of "judging." Have you ever punished anyone, a son or a daughter? Have you ever reprimanded anyone? Have you not judged? It was you that actually said, speaking about the banning of people from receiving the Eucharist, "It's outrageously pharisaical." That is a judgement.

But we must make a distinction between what is meant by "judge" in Scripture, for there are two senses. The first is condemnation, which is to be understood as sending a person to hell, as announcing that a man is damned. This is the judgement Christ refers to when He says, "Judge not lest ye be judge" for He follows it with "Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned." (Luke 6:37)

In the story of the prostitute, Christ alludes to this same type of judgement. "Has no man condemned thee?...Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more." For Christ there is only one significant condemnation, and that it to be condemned to Hell. As He says, "Be not afraid of them who kill the body...But I will show you whom you shall fear: fear ye him, who after he hath killed, hath the power to cast into hell." (Luke 12: 4-5). Even St. Paul, speaking of judgement as condemnation, says, "neither do I judge my own self. For I am not conscious to myself of any thing, yet am I not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me, is the Lord." (1Cor 4:3-4)

And yet, all men are called to judge--that is, to gauge and to discern. For Christ Himself tells His apostles, "Beware of false prophets who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. By their fruits you shall know them." (Matt 7: 15-14). How can man discern a false prophet if he does not make some judgement? How can man determine the nature of the fruit if he does not judge? And again Christ says, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge just judgement." (John 7: 24). Here Christ actually commands not mere judging, but just judging.

And so, it is not wrong to judge an action or determine a mortal sin. Nor is it wrong for one in authority to determine the virtue or the vice of those relying on him for guidance. The judgement that we are forbidden is condemnation. That is, declaring that the person is damned. This is duty of God, and no man.

4. And finally, I do remember the prodigal son. But I also remember that the prodigal son rejected his prodigal nature, abandoned his sin, sought to do and did penance by feeding swine (and would have done more), and begged forgiveness. The beauty of the story is not merely in the father forgiving, but also in the son begging forgiveness.

Sam Scully | 10/21/2015 - 11:16am

Let us take the confession issue again. If a divorcee has remarried, that divorcee is in the state of mortal sin. This is no judgement on my part or your part. This is a reality that the soul must face. "...he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery." (Matt. 5:32)

1. Why does Matthew use the word porneia instead of the word moicheia, which actually means adultery? Porneia is used in conjunction with adultery, but doesn't mean adultery.
2. And the wording itself is ambiguous. Who is committing adultery? Is it the divorced woman who remarries or the woman (the new woman) who marries the man who (perhaps) instigated the divorce.
3. Annulment: An annulment, on the other hand, basically says that the Sacrament of Matrimony never took place to begin and a Church annulment declares that the Sacrament of Matrimony didn’t occur from day one.
4. The clarity of mortal sin appears to be very blurry!

If the sinner remains in this state, he remains in the state of adultery willfully. How can he be sorry for his sin of adultery? And if he lacks true contrition and a firm purpose of amendment, how can he be forgiven? .

1. Aha this is exactly what a 'listening Church' Is about. The man either doesn't know about the annulment process or the priest doesn't know how to initiate the annulment.
2. Remember St. Paul says, "I mourn many of them that sinned before, and have not done penance for the uncleanness, and fornication, and lasciviousness, that they have committed." (2Cor 12:21) Yes and didn't Christ sort that out when he I descended into Hell...he freed many..and who knows those last words of the dying...
3. It is written that way...O.T. Scripture speaks of Christ's death...Judas has to become institutionalised...we all need to take a lesson from him...not to follow greed.

4. The stoning Parable and the words 'go and sin no more'..was not only directed at the prostitute but to all the stone throwers who were with sin.
5. judging..."banning of people from receiving the Eucharist, "It's outrageously pharisaical." That is a judgement." No, it is merely an observation.(the ability to notice things)
6. there are a few re the prodigal son...I like the loving father, the unconditional love of a father, always present. Both running to meet each other along the road with arms wide open.
7. Pax

Patrick Murtha | 10/21/2015 - 8:09pm

Why St. Matthew chooses a Greek word that can mean "sexual immorality" or also "adultery" as many Biblical scholars contend, instead of "moicheia," I do not know. Regardless, both speak to marital infidelity and to immorality.

Nevertheless, in answer to the first part, I simply say that the Council of Trent made it very clear that a "re-married" divorcee does, in fact, commit adultery. In such a case, the Church has declared infallibly on the subject. It would be good to go back and revisit the words of the popes through the ages on this matter, most specifically Pius XII's Casti Connubi. You will find the popes are of one mind in this matter--divorce is opposed to the nature of marriage and even to the natural institution as ordained by God. Pius XII even lists divorce, along with adultery, as some of the "basest vices." It is clear in the long tradition of the Church that, while at times separation through divorce may be necessary, neither divorcees--the innocent or the guilty party--may contract a second matrimony, for divorce does not sever the marriage bond.

And so, we must not confuse an annulment with divorce. For a divorce, the marriage was and still is very real. "What God has joined, let no man put assunder." An annulment, on the contrary, is a declaration that the marriage never was due to some circumstance or fact that made the marriage "nul" as in non-existent. And the criteria for an actual annulment is determined quite simply but not haphazardly by nature and by Canon Law. It is not determined by feeling or by fancy. Nor do even serious post-ceremony problems create grounds for an annulment. There must be some matter before the marriage that gives grounds for the actual marriage to have never taken place, even though the couple may have gone through the motions of the marriage.

In part 2, I will try to answer each individually.

1. It is not a matter of the annulment process, but it is a question of divorce. There is, as I said above, a great and grave distinction and difference between the two. One says there has never been nor is a marriage; the other requires, for grave reason, the husband and the wife, still married, to be separated for the safety of one or the other.

2. I am not sure what you mean by "didn't Christ sort that out when he descended into hell." St. Paul is calling the sinners to penance long after Christ has descended into hell, and ascended into heaven. Christ and the Church has always taught that it is not enough to confess the sin but also to do penance for it.

3. Again, I am confused. For it is Christ quoting Scripture, quoting, as it were, Himself, the author of Scripture, but He is still clearly saying that it were better that Judas "were never born." Christ, knowing what Judas will do and not do, knows where Judas is going. This is not some institutionalization of the damnation of a very real man. The model Judas gives us is not so much a model against greed, but the model of a man, especially a man close to Christ, who has rejected the grace of God and, as it seems from the words of Christ, loses his soul for eternity.

4. I agree, "go and sin no more" is meant for all men--this applies to the child stealing a cookie from the cookie jar and to the divorcee claiming to be married again. But at that moment, it was directed to her as she was one Christ was speaking to at that moment.

5. It is not merely an observation, for you are making a statement determining the morality of a certain act. It is a judgement, and it is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, Christ demands such things: "By their fruits you shall know them." (That is a judgment as well.) Again, we must distinguish between the two types of judgment: to judge as to observe and determine the good or the evil, or the apparent good or the apparent evil (which is what you do when you say, "It's outrageously pharisaical") or to judge as to condemn to hell (which is what one ought not to do when he says, "Because you have refused these people communion, you are damned.")

6. While remembering the prodigal son, remember that God is both all-just and all-merciful. Remember the man who does not wear his wedding garment. Remember as well the foolish virgins--a sad, sad parable--where the Lord says, "I know you not." Also, remember the unprofitable servant who lost his talent and was cast out where "there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." If a soul does not return to Christ and die in the state of grace, He cannot save that soul. God requires every human to will and to live according to God's grace. God requires every man to love Him by his own free will and to prove his love.

Sam Scully | 10/22/2015 - 8:11am

1. How can a person who is condemned by the Church as an adulterer be barred from receiving the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist ever live according to God's grace, or even continue trying to be a Christian. When I was very young I knelt next to a man at mass. Around communion time I noticed that he was sobbing...he didn't receive Christ. On the way home I asked my father why was the man crying..Dad said he was divorced and wasn't allowed communion. Being young I didn't understand BUT I do now..with tears in my eyes.

2. All sins are equal (except, whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin. (Mark 3:29)) Yet looking and reflecting on the punishment of the adulterer there is a gross injustice..as other sinners, whatever the degree are allowed to receive the Eucharist and are granted reconciliation.

It is not a matter of the annulment process, but it is a question of divorce. There is, as I said above, a great and grave distinction and difference between the two. One says there has never been nor is a marriage; the other requires, for grave reason, the husband and the wife, still married, to be separated for the safety of one or the other.
3. Most divorces are for a grave reason.

While remembering the prodigal son, remember that God is both all-just and all-merciful.
4. Yes, indeed, I meditate on a large copy of Rembrandt's prodigal son daily.
Pax

Patrick Murtha | 10/22/2015 - 11:01pm

A person guilty of adultery has the power to live according to God's grace by seeking forgiveness for and abandoning that mortal sin. But it is impossible to be sorry for a sin, but determining at the same time to remain in the sin. Where is the contrition? There is none. And no purpose of amendment, no contrition, no true sorrow, no forgiveness. Why is that so difficult to understand? It is true that the person may not want to leave abandon the actions that make up the sin, but that is what needs to be done. It is a question of how much they love God? They must decide. "Either you are with me or against me," says Christ. "No man can serve two masters...you cannot serve God and mammon."

Let me pose this question. Let us say your son steals money from your wallet. He comes to you and says he is sorry. You forgive him but you ask him to return the money stolen. He refuses to return the money, but rather tells you that he will steal more money in the future. And the next day, he steals again. He comes and says he's sorry again, but again at the same time tells you that he will continue to steal more money and not pay any of it back. How good is his sorrow for his theft? That is hardly the prodigal son who returns to his father and asks to be accepted as a servant.

All sins are not equal. Just as virtues have degrees according to their various ends and effects, so also vices have degrees according to their various effects and how and whom they offend. I think your source in Mark 3:29 already makes that clear that there are degrees in sin. St. Thomas Aquinas actually takes up this question and reminds us of John 19:11 when Christ says to Pilate, "He that hath delivered me to thee, hath the greater sin."

The question is not whether a man or a woman might divorce, but rather can he or she remarry after getting a divorce? The Church, being directed by Christ, by His own words, clearly says that it is adultery to remarry. It may sound hard and hurtful, but the reality must be understood that the marriage bond lasts until the death of one of the married couple. No divorce can sever that. "What God has joined, let no man put asunder." To not be able to remarry may be a cross, but it will be a lot more beneficial than entering into a state of mortal sin. And so, the cross must be accepted for the love of God. Remember, if God sent His only Son to die for our sins, we can at least offer both small and great inconveniences and crosses to Him. Some we can offer by choice; others we must offer by necessity. No remarriage after a divorce is a necessity since the necessity is set by nature and divine law.

Sam Scully | 10/23/2015 - 4:43am

A person guilty of adultery has the power to live according to God's grace by seeking forgiveness for and abandoning that mortal sin. But it is impossible to be sorry for a sin, but determining at the same time to remain in the sin. Where is the contrition? There is none. And no purpose of amendment, no contrition, no true sorrow, no forgiveness. Why is that so difficult to understand? It is true that the person may not want to leave abandon the actions that make up the sin, but that is what needs to be done. It is a question of how much they love God? They must decide. "Either you are with me or against me," says Christ. "No man can serve two masters...you cannot serve God and mammon."

1. Okay. Let’s say that the person living in the ‘guilt’ of adultery seeks to be forgiven through the sacrament of reconciliation. How can they….. when they can’t even get a foot in the confessional? Sign says, ‘We the ecclesiastical members of the Church have washed our hands of all adulterers….Go away you’re doomed”.

2. Now, let’s say that the relationship between the man and the woman was an absolute disaster from the beginning. They divorced and remarried and produced eight healthy children each…two of the children want to enter religious life. Both families are liked by their community….now, may I ask how am I supposed to get my head around these divorcees walking out from their families….eight children each and two partners. The scenario that I’ve just illustrated may sound like a ‘Walt Disney thriller’ but believe me this is a totally feasible argument. I believe that it is sinful for the Church to expect this abandonment of family…and to equate this.... "No man can serve two masters...you cannot serve God and mammon" compared to a father’s or a mother’s love for their children is nonsense.....Christ is in you, me and all those attached to my scenario.

Let me pose this question. Let us say your son steals money from your wallet. He comes to you and says he is sorry. You forgive him but you ask him to return the money stolen. He refuses to return the money, but rather tells you that he will steal more money in the future. And the next day, he steals again. He comes and says he's sorry again, but again at the same time tells you that he will continue to steal more money and not pay any of it back. How good is his sorrow for his theft? That is hardly the prodigal son who returns to his father and asks to be accepted as a servant.

3. I don’t wish to sound facetious but my father once said to me. “The tempter is worse than the thief.”

4. Catholics also do not believe in Sola Scriptura (only) due to the fact that there is no guide to decipher important theological issues without the Church. The Catholic Church collected and organized the Holy Scriptures via Tradition, and has the Papal Office guiding and helping decipher important scripture verses. (http://www.theopedia.com/sola-scriptura)
5. It is evident from the ‘Synod of the Family’ that …”What God has joined, let no man put asunder." will be seen in a different light….AND, imho this is ONE OF THE SIGNS of a ‘Listening Church’ well, at least on the hierarchal side.

PAX.

.

Patrick Murtha | 10/23/2015 - 2:09pm

I will simply respond to this, as it seems we are not going in circles.

1. To a truly Catholic mind, your scenario is ludicrous. But it must be understood that it is ludicrous only if the penitent is truly penitent and is committed to abandoning his sin and the state of life that leads to that sin. If he does not, as I said before and will say again, there is not true contrition. Ergo, no possibility of confession.

2. It does not matter if the marriage was "an absolute disaster from the beginning." The vows of marriage state "for better or for worse...until death do we part." These are not mere sounds, but words with meaning spoken before God and binding before God "until death" severs that bond. That is the reality. Regardless of whether or not a sinful union produces children who are good, the union itself is still sinful. And it once more proves that only God can truly bring good out of evil. Just as from the bertrayal of Judas, He words our redemption.

3. The father, in this case, is not tempting his son. He is not intentionally leaving money for his son to snitch. The case is simply the son steals from his father. And what is more, you fail to answer the question.

4. It is true that Catholicism teaches that there are two forms of revelation: Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The Catholic Church, however, cannot re-interpret Scripture to be what it wants to be but be understood universally as Christ wants it to be. The meaning does not change from age to age. You might want to read Pius XII's Divino Afflante Spiritu and Leo XIII's Providentissimus Deus.

5. The Synod is not guaranteed infallibility and therefore can err and will err if it brings an understanding that is contrary to infallible declarations and to the universal teaching of the Church, to that understanding that has been handed down from Christ through his apostles and clarified by the Apostolic Fathers and by the Sacred Councils, such as the Lateran Council, the Council of Trent, and First Vatican Council, and by the infallible decrees of the popes. (I cannot include the Second Vatican Council in this list because there was, to my knowledge, no infallible declaration as it were a pastoral council and not a doctrinal council.) Remember St. Paul: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema." (Gal. 1: 8-9) It is a shame that Catholics play haphazardly with very serious and soul-saving doctrine, which informs the action, which provides the principles by which we know and love God and, through God, our neighbor.

Sam Scully | 10/23/2015 - 11:23pm

1. In our poor countries, like India, the Philippine's and parts of Africa, the scenario I gave, albeit 'ludicrous' is quite feasible. Their culture is not of the Western world..arranged marriages, forced marriages and obedience to Church teachings may be forfeited or confused or even combined with their own cultural ways. And so, the Catholic Church cannot be seen as an island with its draw-bridge pulled up. It must be seen as Christ and not just as Bulls, Decrees, Docs. etc. These create a division and alienate the people of God. Indeed we need to discern and listen to the Holy Spirit, in a world that is spiralling almost out of control, with wars, homelessness, hunger, families in disarray often neglecting their vulnerable members and the climate change with the likes of empty dams, hungry stock/people and an increased farmer suicides, and so on. Are we a 'listening Family'? No. How can we be, if we neglect and ignore so called sinners. Christ spent His time on earth with those misled and confused by the antiquity of the laws and rituals that were imposed by their religious leaders. He showed Mercy by seeing outside the square. So one solution is to splint the broken man or woman just as the parable of the 'Good Samaritan' illustrated. We need to encompass all cultures with the Universal Spirit that Is/was given to us by Christ.

2. Okay..the 'Prodigal Son' I understand this to magnify God's unconditional love. Meaning, as humans we are not without sin..we make poor choices or have ill informed wills. Most of us know right from wrong. Scripture says the law is written in our hearts..and before we were even created. However, and for whatever reason, be it, mental illness or whatever this becomes fractured. Hence, the father of the prodigal son is an illustration of God's unconditional love. Forgive, forgive, forgive and keep forgiving.

3. Our interpretation of Scripture has changed over time. It is not fixed because God IS.

4. The last Commandment that Jesus gave us, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another". John 13:34 "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" Galatians 6:2

Pax

Keeping Private | 10/18/2015 - 8:41am

Where has respect for collegiality gone? Is this not a time to listen to, along with the laity, the synod fathers, or do we choose to listen only to those who already agree with us?

Patrick Murtha | 10/18/2015 - 6:13pm

Where has the respect for God gone? Where has obedience to the will of God gone? Christ set the example of obedience even in the face of difficulty and death. Christ became obedient unto death; yet many modern churchmen and laity seem to have become obedient to politics, to fads and fashions. I would rather offend all of the churchman and all of the laity, than offend one aspect of God. "What God has joined, let no man put assunder."

With all of this talk of being inclusive and listening, the clergy and the laity have forgotten to hear the word of God. Remember the law of charity demands first: "Thou shalt love the Lord your God with your whole heart, mind and soul." The love of neighbor comes second to the love of God. (It is for that reason that Charity is the greatest of the virtues.)

Richard S | 10/18/2015 - 2:04am

From Mark Chapter 10

"Therefore what God has joined together,no human being must separate."

In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this. He said to them,"Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

It's pretty clear. Think about it.

To confess to divorce and to marrying another is to confess adultery. To confess this sin while intending to violate the covenant of the (original) marriage again cannot constitute a valid confession. One cannot receive the blessed sacrament while in a state of serious sin.

Are we headed for a Church that promotes heresy... but only where it won't face too much resistance? If so, Christ's Church will lose what's left of its credibility and legitimacy.

Lula Bennett | 10/18/2015 - 1:59am

I find the contents of this article very distressing. Because the Bishops are so divided at the Synod, a delegation by the Pope under the banner of 'conversion of the Papacy' giving 'authority' to customise doctrines, structures and more to Bishops' Conferences globally which themselves are divided Bishop from Bishop, will not be the end of it. Within every Diocese, unhappily Priests themselves often find themselves not receiving the full support of their local Bishop in many important ways regarding Catholic belief. For some decades, Catholic laity have worked at getting along together with all the various understandings of what it means to be Catholic. However, once the new official understanding of customising belief and practice swings into full gear, what we will see dissolved - some might say 'annulled' is the universality of the Faith and the unity arising from the universality of the Faith.
No matter what side of the fence Catholics are on, is this what we want? Isnt this one of the distinctive elements of what it means to be Catholic ? I have many good Christian evangelicals who belong to a Church reduced to some 50 'souls' centered around the understanding of what it means to be Christian in the eyes of their own Pastor. That's the beginning and the end of it: their Pastor's understanding of Faith, the Bible and Conscience. What will have to happen is a new fuller and deeper understanding of what it means to be in communion with the Pope.

Patrick Murtha | 10/17/2015 - 6:21pm

Will all due respect to this article and the idea of a listening church, but shouldn't that line be "ears to listen" and not "ears to hear"?

I speak somewhat tongue-in-cheek when I misrepresent the Scriptural passage because there is so much talk today of the "listening church." Rather, it is wiser and more proper to speak of a church that hears, just as Christ words are "Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it," rather than "Blessed are they that listen to the word of God and keep it." There is a deep divide between the concept of hearing and listening, which is why the word-choice of "listening" is detrimental to the idea of the Church.

The word listening implies consideration or contemplation but no necessary action. Listening requires no act outside of contemplating the sound or the words said. Hearing demands action. Hearing requires a response, and the failure of the hearer to respond can be significant. Thus the words, "Blessed are that hear the word of God and keep it." The act requires an immediate response from the hearer to follow the commands of God. "They that have ears let them hear!" There is no let them listen. "For the heart of this people is grown gross, and with their ears they have been dull of hearing, and their eyes they have shut: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them."

It would be good if the Synod heard and heeded the word of God, which has already made its voice resound in the Eternal Word, the Word-made-flesh, and not the words of a people who want a church that listens to their whims and wishes, and grants them their desires like a parent who might spoil his child.

As a side-note, it is fantastical and, dare I say, hypocritical to hear clergy talk of listening, when the modern church has continue not to listen to the Blessed Virgin who has called specifically for the Consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart as the means to end the modern crisis and catastrophe. How can churchmen claim to want a listening church when they do not listen to the very Mother of God herself--or rather, I should say, hear and heed the very Mother of God herself?

Guillermo Reyes | 10/17/2015 - 5:42pm

Many of us have become impatient and weary of those prelates who continually hammer at Pope Francis for "failing" to do x, y and z, for "needing" to affirm the Church's doctrines on a, b and c, and for having the hubris to state publicly as bishops that Pope Francis is "causing" "confusion" and allowing the "smoke of Satan" to enter the Church.

In the Spirit of the Council of Trent, let those dour, fearful, anxious prelates be anametha sit! Enough already!

Marriage has declined, parents have abdicated their rightful roles as teachers of God's Word to children, families are broken (as opposed to economically broke) and Mass attenendance is dismal. Few elected or public officials care what Bishops say and do not consult with them nor respect their words. Priests fail to celebrate the Mass worthily, subjecting us to "sermons" that are beyond banal.

These have occurred on the watch of all bishops: from Archbishop Charles Chaput (author of a Wall Street Journal piece that was SCANDALOUS) all the way down to all of the other prelates.

It is time for Bishops to enter the public square, evangelize, walk with the People of God, break bread with the commoners, sell their palaces, burn their silk red trains and give up their insulated and insular lives

If Bishops like Chaput and Raymond Burke fail to walk the Talk, let them be anathema sit, laicize them or send them to prisons to be Chaplains and bring on fearless men of the cloth like Pope Francis to evangelize. What has allowed to be in place as instruments of leadership has failed us all. Our society is a joke and no one thinks we are on the right path.

In Thanksgiving to God Above for gifting the planet with Pope Francis. These past 20 years as a cradle Catholic have been painful to continually defend the Church from leaders who do nothing. Its time to smell like your Sheep, dear Bishops. Give it up!

Oremus

AMDG

Frank Gibbons | 10/17/2015 - 6:10pm

Mr. Reyes,

Charles Chaput is a great defender of the poor. His sense of the Gospel mandate is sure and true. Here are some of the Archbishop's remarks from the 2014 Erasmus Lecture:

"As I’ve said many times before, we have serious obligations as believers to care for the poor, the immigrant, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. Those duties belong personally to you and me, not just to the government—though government clearly has an important role. If we ignore the poor, we will go to hell. If we blind ourselves to their suffering, we will go to hell. If we do nothing to ease their burdens, then we will go to hell. Ignoring the needs of the poor among us is the surest way to dig a chasm of heartlessness between ourselves and God and between ourselves and our neighbors."

Bruce Snowden | 10/18/2015 - 8:37am

Jesus said to St. Francis of Assisi. "Rebuild My Church!" and that's exactly what Pope Francis is doing. It has become increasing clear why the Spirit of Joy chose the name "Francis" for the Pope. Incidentally I also see joyful Trinitarian High Fiving in the name "Francis" for a Jesuit Pope, remembering that it was the Franciscan Pope Clement XIV who suppressed the Jesuits, a delightful humorous "gotcha" making He who is throned in heaven "laugh" as Psalm 2 says God can do. And with God, also those in the Church with "eyes to see and ears to hear."