Friday, December 12, 2014

Maybe we need to remind ourselves that the Catholic Church's pastoral care extends beyond the United States.

So why is Rome now 'suddenly' discussing Marriage and family?

First of all it isn't a 'sudden' turn of events and no one is wringing their hands about marriage.  The Church doesn't act like the blogosphere.  In fact the Synod was planned, it was foreseen before Francis; both John Paul II and Benedict XVI had concerns over the the issues so hotly discussed today.  Not a few Catholics in the United States are caught up in what seems to me to be the self-referential Catholicism Pope Francis speaks about from time to time.  They seem to think everything discussed in Rome is all about the Catholic Church in the United States.

Many have no idea what the situation for ordinary people is like in Latin America, Africa, India, or countries such as the Philippines.  Marriage and family life is culturally quite different.  Many of us have heard that in Latin America, Protestantism has been making inroads - often welcoming the disenfranchised.  In the Philippines and elsewhere, many cannot afford to get married, or may have a spouse who left them, found another to live with, and so on.  I'm being especially vague here simply because as Americans, we normally do not understand the cultural differences, much less be aware of individual circumstances which affect family life in other countries.

Yesterday one blogger asked, "So why the hand-wringing all of a sudden in Rome? If there's a problem in the Church, it's certainly not a lack of pastoral care for bigamists. Honestly. Matrimony is in a shambles, and "remarried" Catholics don't seem to have consciences that trouble them. Where's the pastoral crisis?"

I'm not so sure about that - why else would a divorced and remarried spouse(s) long to be reconciled to the Church?  Circumstances in the US may have a different set of problems - we can certainly argue that - but threats against the family and the crisis in marriage is a bigger problem across the globe than we in the US may be able to grasp.  The situation in the US is only part of the discussions in Rome.  We who cast aspersions upon those we imagine are obstinate sinners are acting like self-referential Catholics.  We judge others from our subjective, limited perspective.  As Pope Francis said early on in his papacy: "When the church is self-referential, inadvertently, she believes she has her own light... The self-referential church keeps Jesus Christ within herself and does not let him out," he added.  Likewise, self-referential individuals may judge people and circumstances from their subjective POV and experience.

A quite recent example of cultural differences can be found in this story from the Philippines:
DAGUPAN CITY – A total of 346 indigent couples in this city exchanged their marriage vows in a Catholic wedding ceremony sponsored by the local government last December 6 at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral. 
Mayor Belen T. Fernandez, together with Fourth District Representative Gina de Venecia, former House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr, and the Lingayen-Dagupan Archdiocese sponsored the mass wedding for unwed couples, who were given the chance to legitimize their union as husbands and wives, some of whom were already living together and have children. 
The mass wedding was one of several activities lined up during the month-long city fiesta coinciding with the celebration of the 400th year of Dagupan as a parish. 
Also present during the ceremony were 2014 city fiesta hermano mayor Councilor Jeslito Seen, Councilor Jose Netu Tamayo, Councilor Alfie Fernandez, and punong barangays who also served as ninongs and ninangs to the married couples. 
Rev. Fr. Ariel Aquino from the St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort parish officiated the wedding ceremony. 

Mayor Fernandez cited the importance of legalizing marital unions of live-in couples for every member of the family to avail of various benefits under the law. 
Fernandez also reminded the newly-married couples to maintain respect, understanding, and love within the family unit, which in turn will result in a stronger community.
“We are always here to guide you in attaining progress and happiness for every family in Dagupan,” Fernandez said. 
Meanwhile, de Venecia advised the hundreds of newlyweds to have a relationship built on trust and communication. 
Most of the couples who had been living together without the sanction of legal marriage for years now were elated for the opportunity given them by the city government.
“We are very much happy that we are officially married and to be part of this grand occasion. It is really a blessing for couples like us to have this kind of celebration given us,” newlyweds Leonardo and Darlina Velasco said. - Source

Very few in the United States would understand a ceremony like that.  We just don't get it.  We have big, extravagant weddings for just one couple.  It's an event - a production - an extravaganza starring two people.  We do pre-nups, we plan our families, we plan our lives.  We have no idea how other people live.  We think we do, but when we talk as if the Synod on the Family is only discussing marriage and family and liturgical/sacramental abuses in the mid-western United States we clearly demonstrate we don't know what we are talking about.



That goes for me too.


  1. that always drove me nuts when Pope Benedict would say something about economics the "conservatives" would go mad as if he was personally indicting them... not that he didnt do so indirectly but still... im going outside to wave my flag now. have a good day

  2. great blog ! Thank you !


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.