Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Is the "crisis of the family" a pastoral one, or a doctrinal one?

Maybe it's both, but here are some interesting considerations. Pope Francis recently said:
We know that there is a crisis of the family. Young people do not want to get married, or do not get married, live together... I do not wish that we got into casuistry: what can be done or cannot be done... That is why I am so thankful for this question, because it gives me the opportunity to clarify. The pastoral problem of the family is very, very wide, and should not be plucked case by case.
A reader wrote, commenting on the Holy Father's words:
I don't really get this. Perhaps it IS Latin American. But what "crisis"? The family remains intact, as much as people will embrace it. There is no pastoral problem, that I see at all, but a doctrinal one. People have rejected Church teaching, pretty plain and simple. Yes, there are other cases, but for the most part... Young people don't want to get married? Is that a problem? Well yes, but if they are Cathoic young people, it simply means the faith community rearing them is wildly broken. Maybe the problem is the Church expects society in general to be Catholic. Likewise, the minute you hear "pastoral," you know fudging is about to occur. Vatican II set the template there...
Next up from Pope Francis:
To study the faith with which a person enters matrimony, and clarify that divorcees are not strange. Oftentimes they are treated as if they were. I am certain that it was the Spirit of the Lord who guided us to choose this theme for the Synod. The family needs much pastoral help.
Our reader continues with his observations:
I guess Francis is not a biological father. If he was, he would know you always, always want divorce to be strange. The minute it is not "strange," you have a problem. I have always told friends I cannot imagine telling my parents I was going to live together or get a divorce. I just could not go there ... and hence most likely would not go there. I don't know. But these comments to me seem not so much alarming as just jarringly simplistic.
Indeed, we live in bizarre times. I can remember coming back to the States from Japan with my parents when I was nine years old -- a lifetime ago. We were in a restaurant in my mother's original home town in rural Iowa. During dinner she leaned over and whispered, by way of illuminating the hushed adult conversation around the table which left me puzzled, "Don't look, but there's a lady at a table near us who is divorced." She said the word in a way that signified it's awful wrongfulness and tragedy. I'll never forget that.

C.S. Lewis once described divorce as the moral equivalent of having one's legs amputated; and the idea that now it has become so commonplace that people refer to their "ex" as though it were having a feather in their cap is deplorable.

I have no doubt that this situation presents wrenchingly-difficult situations for pastors who have to confront well-meaning people who are uninformed about Church teaching. I know of situations where people have been received into the Church where it was known that they were married two or three times before becoming Catholics, and apparently the issue of annulments was not even raised. It can't be easy.

Having said that, however, the practice of allowing various ad hoc "pastoral provisions" to bypass the doctrinal demands of the Church give the impression that the Church doesn't really believe in the indissolubility of marriage after all. There always seem to be loopholes. This, in turn, undermines the faith of the "faithful" in the bindingness of matrimony, no matter what what the Catechism says or what words they may say in their marriage vows.

Doesn't this mean, as our reader suggests, that the issue finally comes down to whether we really believe Church teaching or not? If we really believe it, we would adhere to it, would we not? Your thoughts?

[Hat tip to JM]


Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

The only logical basis for saying that divorcees are not "strange" is to say that divorce is not strange. If, however, divorce is not strange, then it is normal, at which point divorce is on a par with "until death do us part" as a legitimate path marriage can take. Typical liberal fudge words are running amok in this discussion. A failed marriage is termed "less than ideal," but Kasper & Co. can never bring themselves to see this less-than-ideal status as "strange", much less sinful.

JM said...

When I see shots of flight cabin scenes, somehow I think of movies like "Non-Stop." Actually seems appropriate.