Schönborn “in no way” wanted to advocate changing canon law but merely to show how difficult it was to bring the ideal family model into line with reality. "The decisive point is not to condemn the way most people actually live together, but to ask, ‘How do we cope with failure?’ " he said.
While most people’s “wishes, hopes and longings often largely correspond to what the Bible and the church say about marriage and the family” and they longed for a successful relationship and a successful family life, real life told a different story, the cardinal said. “The great challenge is to span a bridge between what we long for and what we succeed in achieving.” It was a case of bringing truth and mercy together, he said.
Schönborn said he regretted that the Austrian bishops haven’t dared to speak out openly on necessary church reforms in the past. They haven’t had the courage to address the need for greater decentralization and to strengthen local churches’ responsibilities, he said. “We were far too hesitant. I beat my own breast here. We certainly lacked the courage to speak out openly.”
Responses showed that 95 percent of those who had filled out the questionnaire in Austria were in favor of allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments.
Francis spoke of his experiences in Latin America, where the situation of marriage and the family was, to a certain extent, “far more dramatic” than in Europe, Schönborn said. It is important to realize that today many couples live together without getting married and have children, then later marry in a registry office, with some opting for a church marriage, the pope explained. The church must take this way of life seriously and accompany the couples on their way, Francis underlined. His basic message was “Don’t judge, but look closely and listen very carefully,” Schönborn said.
Well to be fair the surveys were sent to the bishops, not the priests and the instructions they were given didn’t tell them they had to ask every registered Catholic for their opinion nor that they had to conduct them via the Internet.
You may want to read this article before you start laying into your priest:
[LEFT]Vatican Collecting Diocesan Data, Not Lay Opinions in Worldwide Survey
This pastoral approach sounds wonderful in theory, but reality is that many people make choices that contradict what their faith teaches. People choose to remarry civilly. People choose to cohabit and have children out of wedlock.
And the church must take these lifestyle choices seriously and perhaps accept them as being morally valid?
It is one thing to help those who want to find a way out of the immoral circumstances, to support them, to love them. But to accept it simply because it is what many people do these days is another matter altogether. Maybe their freedom to choose to live outside of the church should be respected.
“As soon as we receive the summary responses prepared by the episcopal conferences, an ad hoc group of experts, chosen by our office, will have the task of examining these responses and making a presentation which is to be a concise, faithful summary of all the responses,” he said.
That group of experts, he said, “will then be challenged to direct work on a fitting, exhaustive and faithful summary” of the responses that will be used to create the formal working document for the synod, known in Latin as the Instrumentum laboris.
That first draft of that document will be presented and discussed at a meeting of the synod secretariat at the Vatican at the end of February, he said.
The point of the pastoral approach is not to change Church teaching - it’s to get people to hear Church teaching in a loving and compassionate way. The fact is that every person in the Church Militant is a sinner. However, there is wisdom in the saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” In other words, the point is to express the Truth with Love. If the Church uses methods that are seen as unyielding and unforgiving, it will drive the people who are in most need of salvation away. Pope Francis does not want Church teaching changed - just the way that it is presented so that people will lovingly understand why what they are doing is wrong and sinful - in other words, he has tried to emphasize the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd over the image of Jesus as the Just Judge.
I understand what you are saying and I do agree. Love and compassion are crucial. However, it seems that many priests and bishops for some reason ignore the fact that people choose to do certain things. And that many of these people then feel entitled to demand that the church gives them special treatment. Those who wish to rectify their situations will follow the church teaching and move away from sin at some point. But all these studies show that many people have no desire to change a thing about their circumstances, but expect that the church adapts to them. Although the church is not doing that, statements such as the one quoted above give the impression that it does. What good does that serve?
Sticking to the truth is not incompatible with love and charity. The language does not need to be so ambiguous and confusing.
I think part of the reason that many people have no desire to change a thing about their circumstances is because they don’t truly understand the reasons why the Church is against their sinful choices, and why the Church considers them sinful choices. This is especially true in today’s secular West, where it seems like every media venue outside of the Church (including secular news, state-run schools, secular TV programming, secular music, etc.) pretty much says “if it feels good, do it”. Not only do these media venues not oppose sinful behavior, they often encourage the sinful behavior (and blast that the Church is wrong). In addition, in Western countries, we are bombarded with this material 24/7 - and often only get Church teaching if and when we attend Mass. As such, all they know about Church teaching is a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” - a list which often contradict what we hear 24/7 when not at Mass.
Honestly, if people don’t understand the reason why something is sinful, especially if it contradicts what they hear in the world, they will do it anyway. For example - most Catholics know that the Church forbids artificial contraception, but most Catholic couples use it anyway. Why? Because the pre-Cana training the couples receive in NFP is often minimal, if any. In order to use NFP, couples need to actually understand both the reason why the Church is against artificial contraception and understand how to use NFP well.
The thing is, though, is that shaming people into following the Church’s teachings to a “T” won’t work. Giving the Truth without Love results in a clashing gong, a noisy cymbal - and infuriates people. We have to stop thinking of First Communion and Confirmation to be “graduations” from learning the faith - where parents sent their children to catechism classes only until the children make their First Communions, and often don’t send them back (if the parents ever send their children back) until it’s time for Confirmation classes. It’s for this very reason why our adults are poorly catechized - most adult learning of the faith outside of RCIA is at (a) Mass or (b) a person self-teaching.
I kept nodding in agreement reading your post. I am from Europe and have the exact experience as you when it comes to being bombarded with secular ideologies and its ethics. I converted as a teenager and it took me many years of navigating through this secular mess to figure out what it means to be a Christian. I simply couldn’t believe that the world is wrong and that what the church says is right. It was too hard, to counter-cultural, too challenging. But with God’s grace I came to the conclusion that I cannot rely on what secularism promotes, not one little bit.
The western societies have gone completely mad, and I see that more than ever now that I am far away and have a new perspective of things. Secularism and relativism are the greatest enemies of the faith today, and I have no idea how we can fight against it. The only thing we can do is to pray that Christians take the Gospel seriously and start thinking critically about the world that surrounds them.
Catechesis of adults is crucial. Priests should have homilies about all the difficult, uncomfortable topics. They should talk about the reasons behind the teachings, as well as the consequences of remaining in mortal sin. If people in the pews still decide to commit mortal sin, remain in it and continue taking communion, that is their freedom. God has given it to us. But at least they will have no excuse of ignorance.
In the end, we have the ability to make the right choice, no matter how hard it is. Yes, we are assaulted by insane ideologies from all directions and that makes things much more difficult, but it can hardly remain an excuse forever, at least for those Catholics who attend mass.
Serious question now. Is the church really that unwelcoming?
I have always found it to be most welcoming, even when I was not at my best behaviour. I know converts who told me they found it very welcoming and helpful, even when they had to sort out a few things in order to be received.
I can’t help but feel that the accusation of it being unwelcoming is simply the refusal to accept sin as normal and acceptable.