Why care about the Synod in Rome?
By Deb OHara-Rusckowski
An “Extraordinary General Assembly Synod” focused on the family has convened in Rome. What does this mean? Why do Pope Francis and the bishops feel this is needed?
If you simply listen to popular media networks you might be lead to believe that “the Church is finally going to get their doctrines/teachings regarding abortion, contraceptives, family planning, and same-sex marriages in line with 2014!” However, that would be an inaccurate misunderstanding. The Secretary of the Synod, Archbishop Bruno Forte, clearly stated “the doctrine of the Church is not up for discussion,” but rather we hope to improve the pastoral applications of church teachings.”
So, should this really concern the everyday layperson like you or I? Perhaps it would be easiest for the bishops to simply acquiesce to popular cultural sentiment toward family issues. After all, isn’t the Church being old-fashioned and out of touch with society while maintaining the countercultural thinking? Shouldn’t they consider “lightening up?”
The sad truth is that family practices have not been in line with Catholic teaching for quite some time. But so what? What harm has it caused? One need not look further than the newspaper to learn that the staggering divorce rates around the world include high percentages of Catholics. As George Weigel recently wrote, “Marriage is under assault throughout he world by the forces of moral confusion, misconstrued ‘tolerance’ and societal deconstruction.”
How could the Christian understanding of marriage get so lost? It has been taught for centuries that marriage is a covenant, not a contract, which unites a man and a woman together, for the two persons to become one. This new family unit springs forth the gift of new life--not a right, but a gift. This teaching seems to have been changed and twisted to accommodate people’s individual desires. The new teaching is that of moral relativism – whatever makes a person feel good and happy, and doesn’t appear to be hurting anyone else, is just fine. No right or wrong is spoken, lest you be judged as intolerant. Clearly, “tolerance” is only accepted one-way today.
Many causes could be cited for this change, but one is media. As beneficial and good as new technologies have been to medicine, agriculture, and industry, it has had irreprehensible harm to the moral landscape. Media now expands globally and into our own personal living rooms. We have all witnessed and experienced the power the media has over our lives. Our minds and decision-making abilities are heavily influenced on which way the societal norm winds are blowing. An example is the multibillion-dollar pornography industry -- images being flashed at us from many different venues day and night, without regard to “family times” if children may be present. A clear effort to normalize and desensitize what previously was outrageous.
Love and sacrifice remain the cornerstone of happy, healthy and holy lives. So, it’s understandable when the culture turns toward fulfilling their own happiness first ,before that of their spouse or children, families breakdown and get redefined.
So should we be surprised that the culture has grown secular and less sacred? Is there possibly a cause and effect link to the increase of unhappy marriages, domestic abuse, and violence in society? Dare I say, even an attempt to change the definition of marriage altogether from what God originally planned -- for a man and a woman to be united as one -- and be fruitful either with children or be accepting to embrace an unexpected spiritual fruitfulness? However, the latter takes a big leap of faith and trust.
Has this faith been taught and passed down to our children? The Atlantic reported that the Millennial Generation is the least religiously affiliated of any American generation. Possibly, to no fault of their own, poor formation and poor transmission of faith has resulted in today’s breakdown of family values.
Given all this, Pope Francis and the bishops have their work cut out for them. We can’t expect things to be corrected overnight, but the discussions need to begin. Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will guide this synod and God will act quickly to untwist what we have twisted.