A new revelation is needed to solve this puzzle. The Holy Spirit needs to arise anew upon the land of the Magisterium if a solution to this enigma is to be found soon. This one is not easy. This is the second synod within a year, yet the same concerns and barriers linger. Yes it is about the Synod on the Family currently happening in Rome under the watchful eyes of Pope Francis. The three most burning issues are deemed the “vexed questions” by the media. Here they are: Should divorced and remarried Catholics be allowed to receive the Eucharist? Can the church recognize some positive values in cohabitation? How can the church take a more positive, welcoming approach to homosexuality? For some, the answer to these questions is clear-cut. Others are persuaded that a pastoral solution is possible.
The dilemma is the following: a) some divorced and remarried or cohabitating catholic couples maintain that they are starved for the Eucharist; b) the world who has gone bombastic about homosexuality in the last five years. Both of these groups are demanding to be given a seat of honor at the cathedral of the church while Jesus says “whoever divorces his wife… and marries or cohabits with another commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9). Further yet, neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men … will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10).
As of now, there are no pastoral answers for these pressuring questions. So the synod is an effort to discover an answer. That would be swimmingly easy had revelation not been very pronounced on these issues. The Pope, the bishops, every pastor, the faithful understand there is a problem, but everyone who understand revelation also understand that whatever solution we find must be faithful to the living tradition of the church.
If we were a parliament or congress, we could just reverse the law and move forward. But we are not for good or for ill. Whatever we have to pronounce on this topic must be compatible with the “hierarchy of truth”. That means the solution must be measured against the overarching economy of salvation to see if it fits it. Every element of the faith, every particular issue we decide on takes its meaning and force from the central doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. The Christian life is an ever striving to be conformed to the Trinitarian life, who is an indissoluble communion of persons. Faithful to her duty of being the mirror through which the three persons see themselves, she knows that she has no authority to make decisions that do not correspond to their ideal. Hence, no solution is within our power so far.
The discussion has focused a lot on mercy and rightly so because the ministry of Jesus Christ, continued by the church, has mercy at its center. However, mercy and the truth about the human person are intrinsically linked. Out of mercy for this people who long to receive the sacraments, we must do something, but no matter how merciful we are, we have to act within the limit set by He who is the Truth. Concerns to find a pastoral answer cannot trump the truth. Hopefully, prayer and fasting can provide clarity in this one.
About whether there’s value in the so-called cohabitation with a view to marriage, some African bishops would like this to be dealt with according to each region’s culture. in Africa, marriage is negotiated between families and realized in stages, with the couple living together at a certain point before the formal marriage. The delay in marrying is often linked to the man’s inability to come up with the dowry immediately sometimes— interesting huh! They cohabit with a view to marriage. So culture is very entrenched on the issue; the church in the west needs time, wisdom, and prudence to find the best way to proceed on issues like this. Now should the church recognize Christian value in such cohabitation? What do you say?
In an interesting speech given recently at the synod, Pope Francis reminds everyone “the synod journey culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, [who is] called to speak authoritatively as ‘the Pastor and Teacher of all Christians.’” We hope he also lets the Holy Spirit speak in him. Let us pray while our fingers are crossed in hope of a bright future for the church centered on Christ and his teachings and where people feel they belong and care for.