Pastoral approach the real revolution: Durocher
By Michael Swan
TORONTO (CCN) — Simply repeating church teaching on difficult subjects, including pastoral care of homosexual Catholics and communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, wasn’t good enough for the bishops gathered at the 2014 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, said Canada’s lone representative at the two-week gathering, Archbishop Paul-André Durocher.
On homosexuality, the final report backed off language in an interim report that surprised many and caused an uproar in some church circles. Where the interim report spoke of providing a “welcome” for homosexuals and praised the self-sacrifice of partners in some same-sex relationships, the final text emphasized that homosexual unions could not be considered analogous to marriage. It also repeated the admonishment in the Catechism of the Catholic Church against any “sign of unjust discrimination” against gay people.
However, the revised paragraph with the catechism lesson on gay relationships was far from unanimously approved. It received 118 votes in favour and 62 against, failing to meet the two-thirds majority needed to be considered a consensus of the synod fathers.
Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, passes retired Pope Benedict XVI as he arrives in procession for the beatification mass of Blessed Paul VI celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 19. The mass also concluded the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
“Why did some bishops choose not to approve a text which only repeated the church’s received teaching?” Durocher asked in his Sing and Walk blog on Oct. 18. “I have the impression many would have preferred a more open, positive language. Not finding it in this paragraph, they might have chosen to indicate their disapproval of it. However, it has also been published and the reflection will have to continue.”
On communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, Durocher noted that the topic was discussed “with much passion.”
“This discussion is far from finished, and it will be taken up by the episcopal conferences of the world during the coming year as we prepare for the General Ordinary Synod in October 2015,” he wrote.
Paragraphs 52 and 53, which dealt with communion for the divorced and remarried, were also based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1735) but both failed to get a two-thirds majority. The three paragraphs that fell short of the two-thirds majority mark all received more than half the votes cast.
For all the passion and open debate unleashed on sensitive topics, the synod has changed nothing in Catholic ethics — sexual or otherwise — said University of St. Michael’s College moral theologian Dennis Patrick O’Hara.
“It comes down to tone,” O’Hara told The Catholic Register. “There’s a way of looking at synods where a synod is a re-articulation of doctrine, as if doctrine is a set of rules. The synod then becomes a reminder of how you’re supposed to obey the rules. There’s an element of that and there needs to be an element of that. But this synod was also saying — and Pope Francis said in his closing remarks — let’s focus on the love of Christ.”
For two weeks O’Hara found himself constantly caught up in conversations with Catholics who were engaged and fascinated by the synod. He repeatedly reminded them that it’s not over.
“This is a wonderful start, because it’s gotten matters on the table that usually aren’t on the table,” he said. “We were almost not supposed to talk about them and if you did it was as though you were some kind of weak Catholic who really didn’t understand their catechism. Well, now we have the issues and the complexity of the reality is on the table.”
The real revolution at the synod has been its pastoral approach, Durocher said on the last day of the meeting of over 190 bishops and more than 50 non-voting lay experts.
“It (the synod) has approved a very precise pastoral approach, one which is more attentive to the good in people than to their faults,” Durocher wrote. “One that speaks less of the sin to be avoided and more of the grace to be attained. One which is less centred on the faults of our society and more attuned to its possible openings to the Gospel message. It’s not about being naive or pollyannaish, but rather of counting on the Spirit of Jesus Christ already present in the hearts of human beings, even those who believe themselves to be far from God.”
The new approach isn’t in fact very new, only new at the level of synods, said Durocher.
“And it fills my heart with joy. In a certain sense, we have done for family life what the Second Vatican Council did for liturgy and ecumenism — give the green light to a style of ministry that is already emerging in the church, assure its theological grounding and invite the whole church to make it its own,” said Durocher.
Over the next year there will be a role for theologians and for lay people generally to advance the discussion before the 2015 general synod, said O’Hara. In particular, there are many interpretations of the “law of graduality” which holds that Christians grow gradually toward a more perfect union with Christ and his church.
“There’s a role for theologians in this,” O’Hara said. “Francis warns us that he doesn’t want theologians who are only interested in intellectual ideas so separated from reality of the people that the ideas themselves become the purpose of the discussion. But I think the theologians have a role to play now.”
Durocher contributes to final report
By Michael Swan
The Canadian contribution to the final report of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family comes up in paragraph 10, where synod fathers speak of dangers of the Internet.
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops president Archbishop Paul-André Durocher spoke about positive and negative effects the Internet is having on married couples and families in his French-language working group after the interim report was issued Oct. 11. At the end of the process Durocher’s concerns were reflected in the final text.
A culture built on “affectively narcissistic, unstable and changeable” images of sexuality spread by marketing and a “distorted use of the Internet” must be denounced, said the synod fathers.
“In this context, couples are sometimes uncertain, hesitant and struggling to find ways to grow,” said the final text.
The paragraph goes on to condemn an “anti-birth mentality” and government policies that limit family size.
The paragraph passed with 174 votes in favour to eight against.
Durocher told Vatican Radio he wasn’t blind to the good the Internet does, including married couples he knows who met through Catholic dating sites.
“There are blessings that come with the Internet,” Durocher said. “There are great, great gifts with the Internet, but there are great dangers also.”
From chat rooms where virtual contact leads to real-life dates and subsequent adultery to pervasive pornography, the Internet is putting new stresses on marriage, said Durocher.
“(Pornography) is a huge business that involves the demeaning of women, that involves human trafficking — basically slavery and prostitution,” said Durocher. “It is not about free expression. It is about selling a product and going to the lowest common denominator to sell whatever you can. It is degrading, it is debasing and our children are being exposed to it continually.”
Durocher had a hand in more than just paragraph 10 of the final document. He was also a member of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi’s writing committee that came up with the final message from synod fathers to the Catholics of the world.