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Posted by on Nov 28, 2015

Synod on the Family: A Brief Summary

Synod on the Family: A Brief Summary

KampalaFamily-255x275 Wiki_PublicDomain_The Synod on the Family in October 2015 had as its focus “the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the modern world.” Meeting in Rome for a second time in as many years, and following consultation with members of the Church around the world, Bishops came together to consider the challenges facing families and make recommendations for ways to help couples and families live out their vocations.

The final report to the Pope of the Synod on the Family calls for all Catholics to reach out to couples and families and to attempt to understand and help with their needs and struggles. The church’s teaching on the importance and lifelong nature of marriage between a man and a woman has not changed. However, when people are divorced and remarried or living together without being married, the Catholic community should not reject or abandon them or their children. Catholics who are divorced and remarried outside the Church are not supposed to receive communion. However, the Synod has said that people in this situation should work closely with their pastors to examine their conscience and their relationship with God. In other words, priests and all Catholics should look on these situations from a pastoral standpoint. How do we walk with them? How do we encourage them?

The Synod recommended that divorced and remarried Catholics should be included in the life of the Church as much as possible, even as lectors, catechists, and godparents. Homosexuals should also be welcomed and treated with equal respect and dignity. Pope Francis encouraged the synod to take this approach which focused more on the person’s own conscience as opposed to focusing exclusively on Church law. What is often hard for us to understand is how it is that someone can be doing something that is objectively wrong,like living together without being married, and yet there may be internal reasons of conscience that keep them in this situation. For example, the couple involved may have come from homes in which there was violence or great unhappiness and the thought of marriage for them means repeating what they suffered as children. Sometimes they see marriage as “only a piece of paper.” Yet these couples often show a great deal of commitment and unconditional love for each other and create a happy home.

Some critics are upset that the synod did not condemn people who are not following the rules, arguing that if you are not harsh with them you are approving the wrong things that they are doing. The pastoral approach recommended by the Pope and long tradition of the Church upholds the ideal of how we should live while helping people to see what God is doing in their lives and where He is leading them.

Two reports provide some highlights:

 

 

 

English translation of the final report: Synod 15 – Final Report of the Synod of Bishops to the Holy Father Francis – 24.10.2015

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Posted by on Jun 16, 2015

CNEWA: Bringing Christ’s Love to the Poor

CNEWA: Bringing Christ’s Love to the Poor

CNEWA logo_HQ

The Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) was founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926 to provide support for the Eastern Catholic Churches. The geographic area of service has expanded from its original focus on Greece and Eastern Europe to include the Middle East, North East Africa, and India as well.

CNEWA works with and through the Eastern Churches to share the love of Christ as needs for assistance are identified and solutions implemented by members of those churches themselves.


Money raised by CNEWA goes directly to the Holy Father for use in supporting educational programs, refugee assistance, and emergency relief services. Additionally, funds are used to support longer term programs for alleviation of poverty, affirmation of human dignity, construction of churches, schools, and clinics, and building bridges of communication among the many peoples and faiths in the areas served.

A papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support, CNEWA is an arm of the Holy See in coordination with the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. In recognition of the original organizations  in New York state that were merged to create the association, CNEWA’s Board of Trustees is located in New York and the archbishop of New York is charged with overseeing its administration. The organization’s board includes bishops, archbishops, and cardinals from the United States and the hierarchies of other countries that have national branches of CNEWA. The trustees meet annually.

The CNEWA website includes information about current events and needs in the areas served, including an overview of the many ancient Christian churches still present: Assyrian, Oriental Orthodox, Orthodox, and Catholic Eastern Churches.

The association offers an educational magazine, One, that is available in digital format or via tax deductible annual subscription for a print version.

To help CNEWA meet the needs of our sisters and brothers in faith, especially during these times of upheaval and persecution in the Middle East, please visit their website.

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Posted by on Feb 24, 2015

The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World

The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World

800px-Petersdom_von_Engelsburg_gesehen - public domainThe Synod of Bishops and Pope Francis have asked members of the Catholic community, from both the Western and Eastern churches, to read the draft document prepared at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family last October in Rome and to respond with comments and insights drawn from their own experience of the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World.

Generally, members of the hierarchy do not consult ordinary members of the community regarding establishment of policies for dealing with pastoral issues such as how to help people prepare for marriage, how to support married couples in their life commitment, how to care for families that are wounded or broken apart, how to help members who are not heterosexual in their orientation, how and when to welcome children into the lives of a family, and how to pass on our faith within our families.

Nevertheless, all of us have some experience in this regard, since all have lived as members of a family. The bishops are asking us to share our experiences and the wisdom we have gained through the  practical challenges of living in families as people of faith.

The document prepared in October 2014 has been published. Each diocese has been asked to distribute the draft document and a questionnaire regarding the information included in the document. The dioceses are to collect responses, and prepare a summary of the thoughts of those who live with its geographic region.

The time frame is short. Responses are needed by the end of the first week of March so there will be enough time to summarize them and return them to Rome before the bishops assemble again in October 2015.

Please read the document carefully and respond to the questionnaire honestly and prayerfully, based on your own experience. Pope Francis and the bishops really want to know what the thinking of the People of God (the Church) is on these matters, because the Holy Spirit speaks through the everyday experiences of ordinary people.

Links to the document in several European languages are included in the sidebar to the right. For readers in other countries, check with your local diocese for the document in other languages.

Surveys for the Diocese of Monterey, California are available at the diocesan website.

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Posted by on Nov 20, 2014

New Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich

New Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich

Chicago has new archbishop

Archbishop Blase Cupich

The Chicago Archdiocese officially has a new archbishop, Blase Cupich (soopitch) as of November 18. Cupich became the bishop of Spokane, WA in 2010. He has graduate training in Liturgy and has studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska he was the third of nine children born to Blasé and Mary Cupich.

The Chicago Tribune calls him a charismatic clergyman, the grandson of Croatian immigrants, with a strong emphasis on social justice and a pastoral approach that involves listening and dialog. The same newspaper quotes him as saying, “The church can challenge society, but society also challenges the church.”

Cupich has become known for his more moderate approach for dealing with controversial issues such as abortion and gay marriage. As the bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, Cupich was one of the bishops in 2004 who was not in favor of denying communion to candidates who supported abortion rights.  He said that we cannot cherry-pick particular issues. We have to be willing to talk about all issues. He emphasized that, while the Catholic position begins with protecting the unborn,  it doesn’t end there.

In 2011 Cupich headed the US Catholic Conference of Bishops Committee for Protection of Children and Young People. At that time there was a Grand Jury finding that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had allowed 37 priests accused of abuse or inappropriate behavior to remain in active ministry. Cupich’s response to this failure to comply with the reforms listed in the Dallas Charter of 2002 was to express frustration and disappointment since so many people were working hard to implement the reforms. He later said that the Philadelphia situation was unusual.

As bishop of Spokane, Cupich lived in simple suite of rooms in the seminary. In Chicago he has announced that he will be living in the cathedral rectory and not in the opulent Gold Coast mansion with is the Archbishop’s official residence. Many have pointed out a similar tone and style in Archbishop Cupich and Pope Francis. Their simplicity, cordiality, and focus on engagement as opposed to separation or denunciation of those who disagree with the church are attributes they share.

Cupich gave a talk in June 2014 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC on the contradiction between Catholic social teaching and libertarianism in the United States. He supported the position of Pope Francis which focuses on encounter and accompaniment in society and the economy. In other words, Catholic social teaching focuses on our obligations to each other. This contrasts with the Libertarian view that the one’s interests as an individual come first.

Cupich is the first major appointment in the United States by Pope Francis. Additional appointments by the Pope will likely bring significant change to the church in the United States.

 

 

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Posted by on Nov 15, 2014

Discurso del Papa Francisco

Discurso del Papa Francisco

800px-Petersdom_von_Engelsburg_gesehen - public domain

La conclusión del Sínodo Extraordinario termina la primera etapa del proceso de los obispos a reflexionar sobre cuestiones y necesidades pastorales de familias y los del sacramento de matrimonio. En su discurso al concluir el Sínodo, el Papa Francisco les agradeció a los participantes y al Espíritu Santo por el  éxito del sínodo. Tambíen el Papa recomienda a todos que sigan madurando las reflexiones y las ideas propuestas en sus conferencias episcopales como  segunda etapa del proceso. Luego, regresarán los obispos de nuevo para la tercera etapa del proceso, El Sínodo Ordinario sobre la Familia que empezará in Octubre de 2015.

Para el texto entero del discurso, haga clic abajo.

Discurso del Papa Francisco al concluir Sínodo Extraordinario de los Obispos sobre la Familia

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Posted by on Nov 9, 2014

Synod on the Family – The Unfolding Story

Synod on the Family – The Unfolding Story

Deacon William Ditewig, PhD

Deacon William Ditewig, PhD, served as the Executive Director of the Secretariat for the Diaconate for the US Catholic Conference of Bishops from 2002 – 2007. He is a professor at Santa Clara University and directs the diaconate, faith formation, and pastoral planning programs for the Diocese of Monterey, California.

Deacon Ditewig wrote an excellent review of the synod process in his blog Deacons Today – Servants in a Servant Church. He points out that we have just seen the end of Act One, The Extraordinary Synod, and the curtain is going up on Act Two, The Global Reflection. The current document or “relatio” is now a draft that will be studied by each of the bishops’ conferences around the world. The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops has it on the agenda for their November 2014 meeting. Individual bishops will then work with it in their own ways in their individual dioceses. The methods will vary as they did when Rome asked for contributions of ideas and comments on the pastoral needs of families in preparation for the just concluded Extraordinary Synod. Some bishops worked only with their clergy and others held meetings on the issues throughout their dioceses.

Act Three will begin next October with opening of the Ordinary Synod on the Family. The Pope will then take those deliberations and write his own apostolic exhortation. (Pope Francis has already issued his first apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel. )

Deacon Ditewig makes it clear that the current document under consideration is a draft and does not constitute Church teaching. He also points out that there has been a mistranslation into English of the Pope’s remarks. In the Italian original version, the Pope speaks of welcoming homosexuals (accogliere) but it was translated as “to provide for”. In his address, the Pope again says that we should welcome homosexuals, but then he corrects himself and says that welcoming them is not enough. The Pope says we have to go and find them, to seek them out.

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Posted by on Oct 9, 2014

Synods and Councils — What is Going On?

Synods and Councils — What is Going On?

Mark Shea

Mark Shea

 

“Mark, have you been following the news coming out of the Synod? I’m sick with worry! Some of the ideas they are talking about aren’t at all what I learned from reliable Catholic sources!”

Yes. That’s true. And that’s *normal*. A conciliar event in the life of the Church is when, in the memorable description of Fr. Robert Barron, the Church “holds itself in suspense” as it makes up its mind. We do this too in moment of discovery and decision-making (if we are smart). We find that we face a problem, one which does not seem to yield to ways we have hitherto thought or methods we have hitherto used for navigating life. Click here for more…

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Posted by on Oct 5, 2014

Extraordinary Synod on the Family Begins

Extraordinary Synod on the Family Begins

 

Shortly after his election, Pope Francis called for an Extraordinary Synod of the bishops of the Catholic church to meet in Rome. The meetings of this synod began today, October 5, and will continue for 2 weeks (October 5 – 19, 2014).

A synod is a gathering of leaders of a church community in which questions of doctrine or administration are addressed. In the Roman Catholic Church, a synod is a meeting of bishops. Synods have been regularly scheduled meetings since Vatican II, but extraordinary synods may be called by the Pope to address specific issues. This is only the third Extraordinary Synod since the Council ended.

The Synod which has just begun has as its focus the family, specifically, “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” Pope Francis not only called the bishops to Rome, he invited the people of the church to gather as well and Saturday evening, before the Synod opened, he led the people and the assembled bishops in prayer to the Holy Spirit. “May the Wind of Pentecost blow upon the Synod’s work, on the Church, and on all of humanity,” Francis prayed. “Undo the knots which prevent people from encountering one another, heal the wounds that bleed, rekindle hope.”

In his homily for the opening Mass of the Synod, Pope Francis preached on the readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, the vineyard of the Lord. He reminded those gathered, “Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent. We are all sinners and can also be tempted to ‘take over’ the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings. God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants. We can ‘thwart’ God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit.”

In the synod, the bishops, having consulted with the people of their dioceses around the world, will wrestle with pastoral issues faced by many families, including questions of divorce and remarriage, reform of the annulment process, contraception, celibacy, and other topics. This first meeting is a time for discussion and prayer. No decisions on policy will be made until a second meeting next year.

As we enter this time of study and consideration by our bishops, we join with Pope Francis in his prayer for the Synod and in praying the Rosary.

 

Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod
composed by Pope Francis

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
In you we contemplate
The splendor of true love,
To you we turn in trust.

 Holy Family of Nazareth,
Grant that our families too
May be places of communion and prayer,
Authentic schools of the Gospel
And small domestic Churches.

 Holy Family of Nazareth,
May families never again
Experience violence, rejection and division:
May all who have been hurt or scandalized
Find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
May the approaching Synod of Bishops
Make us once more mindful
Of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
And its beauty in God’s plan.

 Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Graciously hear our prayer. Amen.

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Posted by on Aug 29, 2014

Church: Organizing as a Community

Church: Organizing as a Community

Models of Church

A conversation overheard recently in the locker room of our local gym led me to consider the concept of community more deeply: what living as community implies, how our relationship with God shapes our lives, and how all of these are reflected in the way we structure our community.

Two women were visiting as they changed back into street clothes to leave the gym. One was Jewish and the other was from a small, evangelical Christian community. They seemed to be continuing a conversation they had begun on the exercise machines earlier that afternoon. We’ll call the Jewish woman Miriam and the Christian one Carol. Carol was describing her small church community. She noted that there had been some stress recently as the community dealt with a difference of opinion over what to believe and how to respond to a controversial issue. She expressed her opinion that it shouldn’t really be a serious problem for her church community because the important thing was that each person believe in Jesus and accept Him as Savior. The relationship is between the individual and Jesus.

Miriam did not agree with Carol that a personal relationship with God is all that is needed. She explained that she is Jewish and for Jews the fundamental relationship is between the community as a group and their God. Simply having a personal relationship with God does not suffice. Worship and relationship with God occur in a community and together have concrete implications and results for the community. They are not separate realities.

As an anthropologist, I found the conversation fascinating. I’d have loved to hear more, but they continued on their way and I was left to ponder community and our relationship with God.

A Faith Based in Community

Not too long ago, Carol’s beliefs might not have been all that unusual to hear expressed within Catholic circles as well. While Catholics have not traditionally believed that simply accepting Jesus as personal Lord and Savior will guarantee admission to Heaven, we have at times forgotten how deeply our responsibilities to the community of all human beings is tied to our salvation. We often forget that our faith began in Jewish faith and tradition. We come before God as a community of people, responsible to and for each other.

More recently, with a return to a greater focus on God as Trinity, the idea of each individual standing alone does not explain who we are quite as well. God is one, yet God is Trinity. Self-knowledge, the Word that expresses and embodies that self-knowledge, and the total loving acceptance of the reality as known and expressed, all swirl around in the reality of one God,  a God dancing  in beautiful harmony.

We live in the midst of the Divine Community as members of Christ’s Body. We meet Christ in and through each other. We share together in the Body and Blood of Christ. And we are responsible to care for each other, including the least loveable among us, because Jesus is there … “Whatsoever you do …”

Living in Community

How, then, do we live in community? What organizational models would be best for us as a community? How can our communal life best support our own journey of faith and growth in holiness? How does community bring us closer to God?

Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, in Models of the Church,  suggests that our community, the Church, can be better understood in term of six different models. The one that comes to the fore at any given moment will differ, based on the needs of the community in that moment. Each has strengths and each has weaknesses. Together they offer a picture of a vibrant community. Cardinal Dulles’ models reflect the images of church presented in the Documents of the Second Vatican Council, particularly Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope) The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World and Lumen Gentium (Light of Nations) The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. The First Vatican Council (1869-1870) emphasized the self-contained nature of the Church as an institution sufficient unto itself – a “perfect society”. Vatican II (1962-1965) focused on the Church in its relationship to the modern world including non-Catholics, and non-Christians.

Church as Institution: In this model, the focus is on the administrative role of Church leaders. The Pope, bishops, priests, and deacons (collectively known as clerics) are responsible to teach what the community has come to believe and understand about God. They help the community to become more holy (sanctified), more in tune with divine life, through the administration of the sacraments. Finally, clerics are responsible to set the standards for faith and morals, to govern or rule the church community. In their role as rulers, clerics have many of the same kinds of responsibilities as the civil authorities who govern our towns and countries.

Church as Community (The Body of Christ): In this model, the Church is a community of believers who worship together and through their faith and worship become both a sign of the union of God with humans and an instrument through which the union occurs.

Church as Sacrament: A sacrament is the visible form of an invisible grace, a grace that brings about the reality towards which the form or symbols/actions point. As Catholics, we recognize and celebrate seven formal Sacraments as part of our lives as Church. However, the Church also teaches that the source and authority for our seven sacraments actually comes from Jesus as the Sacrament of God and the Church as the Sacrament of Christ. The community (the church) is to be a sign of God’s grace in the world as Jesus was. With the help of the grace of God, we are made holy in Christ.

Church as Herald: This model is focused on the Word of God.  We are called to hear God’s word and keep it, putting our faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior and then sharing that faith with our world. This is much more like the model Carol (in our example above) would find familiar. The Word comes to us both to transform our lives and to be passed on to others as Good News.

Church as Servant: In this model, the church’s role is to serve those in need of help directly and work to change social and political institutions that promote injustice. The church is in the world and serves the human community, but its service is one with a spiritual foundation rather than a strictly secular one. We as community serve in imitation of the Lord who washed His disciples’ feet and called those at the lowest rungs of society His sisters and brothers.

Church as School of Discipleship: The final model was developed after the first edition of  Dulles’ work was published. It recognizes that to be followers of Jesus requires the community and its members to continue to learn what it means to be a Christian and members of a Christian community. In this school of discipleship, we are informed, we are formed, and we are transformed; all as part of the process of learning and growing in faith.

For a summary of the characteristics of each model see Fr. Yeo’s presentation on SlideShare.

The Organization Supports the Life and Faith of the Community

Which of these models is correct? None of them! Each offers important insights and helps describe the experience of Christian life in community. Even within one individual parish community, some will experience that life more in terms of one of the models than in terms of the others. Is that bad? I don’t think so. God created a world of wonderfully different people, each with special gifts needed by our world. Those gifts and our experience of them may lead us to favor one or another of the models of Church. But if we are honest, we would be a much poorer and more limited community if we did not embrace the richness that multiple models offer. After all, God is infinitely creative and loving. No human model could ever hope to define conclusively the limits of what God’s communal life  actually is. Yet we live within that divine community, continually loved into existence. So we move through our lives in this great community, with first one model and then another taking the lead. With the grace of God, we’ll all muddle through and reach our final goal: union with God.

For a more detailed summary of Cardinal Dulles’ models and other useful materials visit Young Adult CLC .

 

 

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