Synod - Day 4
Starting yesterday afternoon, we discussed situations that do not correspond to the figure of the Christian family as presented by Jesus himself. In a special way, we discussed the accompaniment of people who have divorced and remarried, as well as those living in polygamy (which, in Africa, is culturally accepted). The discussion focused on the issue of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist.
Some answer NO: for them, the objective reality of non-correspondence to the Law of Christ, either at the moral or sacramental level, impedes access to these sacraments. According to them, we should rather consider spiritual communion as a way forward.
Other say YES: for them, this would be a sign of mercy in response to a sincere need to feel close to Christ. One of them cited the prophet Isaiah: « You who are hungry, come and eat, without paying any price. »
Third option: SOMETIMES - all would depend on the concrete situation of the individual, of his or her attachment to Christ, of his personal journey. This calls for discernment in each case
Nearly all the delegates feel we need to make it easier for the first marriage to be judged and, when appropriate, declared null. Thus, some suggest: i. that the judicial process of nullity be simplified; ii. that an administrative be process be set in place; iii. that a broader understanding and generous use of the pauline privilege in dissolving certain marriages by the Pope be developed; iv. that the process be made free for those using it.
People ask me what my own position is. At this moment, I think we need to study this issue in the context of a more global approach to the pastoral care of those whose marriage has failed. We need to recognaize that in some of these cases such people are undergoing a deeply spiritual journey. Could bishops not then have the liberty to include access to the sacraments as an element of this pastoral care?
One thing is certain: ALL the bishops at the Synod are FOR the indissolubility of marriage and FOR merciful pastoral care of those who experience failure. It's not so much a case of choosing between the two, but of knowing how to articulate them concretely in the various situations that present themselves to us.
One last remark for today: I am particularly struck by the place that personal stories are taking in our discussions. Bishops are telling stories; observers are telling THEIR stories; and I feel that there are very concrete stories behind some of the more abstract interventions. It seems to me that the Synod is passing from a purely deductive theology (which starts from principles and applies them to concrete situations) to a more inductive theology (which starts from concrete situations to draw out the principles).
Obviously, such a distinction should not be held in an absolute way, but rather in equilibrium, in a healthy and fruitful tension. It reminds us that the concrete experience of Christians is also a 'locus theologicus', a theological space, a source for understanding the ways of God