EDMONTON (CCN) — The Catholic Church needs to find images and metaphors that will better communicate “the rich heritage which is ours” on marriage and family issues, said Archbishop Paul-André Durocher.
Durocher told Catholic communicators that the church tends to present its teachings in terms of laws and structures, but it should be making clear that faithfulness, fruitfulness and the indissolubility of marriage are “gifts that God gives to humanity.”
Durocher, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said there is “a disconnect” between the contemporary view of the family, at least in the western world, and the Christian understanding of family.
The Archbishop of Gatineau, Que., spoke about the recent world synod of bishops on the family with members of the Association of Roman Catholic Communicators of Canada in a 50-minute teleconference Dec. 2.
“What we need to be improving is a method of engaging contemporary society in a dialogue around what marriage and family are.”
Asked about comments by at least one cardinal that the church appears to have lost its compass on core teachings about marriage and family, Durocher said the synod did not challenge any teachings of the church.
The synod rather was trying to find pastoral practices that might allow divorced and remarried Catholics whose first marriage has not been annulled to receive communion, he said.
“Some bishops said in the synod there is no way they can be readmitted (to communion) because they are in a state of mortal sin since they are breaking one of the clear commandments of Christ.”
Durocher cited the view of Cardinal Marc Ouellet who agreed that divorced and remarried Catholics should not receive communion. Ouellet, however, maintains it is “insulting” to say these Catholics are in mortal sin.
He rather says that the ban on their receiving communion should be upheld in order to maintain the cohesion of the meaning of marriage as a sacrament with the meaning of the eucharist as a sacrament, Durocher related.
“You have voices that come to the same conclusion from two very different points of view.”
The archbishop said it is crucial to continue dialogue on these issues until the next synod revisits them in the fall of 2015.
Such discussion, Pope Francis said, should involve listening to one another in humility, “rather than staking out positions which we defend at all costs,” he said.
Some bishops and cardinals are ill at ease with this sort of discussion, he said. “I think we have to appreciate that and respect that. We have to listen to that and gently invite them into that dialogue and to trust that God’s Spirit is active in the church as we enter into that dialogue.”
Durocher said the dialogue leading to such conclusions can often appear messy. People are accustomed to seeing the final documents produced by church councils and synods, but not the process that went into producing the documents. Media coverage today has made the process more transparent.
He likened completed church documents with a finished sausage with everything tucked neatly into the casing. Today, “you see the sausage making being done in front of your eyes and that’s not a pretty sight.”
The process of reaching a conclusion is not easy, he said. But once a consensus has been reached on how God is calling the church, there is a common commitment to that consensus. “We need to trust that the Spirit leads the church.”