If synodal midwifery is to prevent hemorrhaging a familial Church …
There was a time when Africa was sneered at as the Dark Continent. But no longer. The recent Rome synod showed that now there is more to Africa than the stigma of Boko Haram, ISIS or Ebola.
Both theologian-Saint Augustine and his mystic mother, Saint Monica, would have felt vindicated by African voices at the Oct. 5-19 Synod on Family. Amid media-mediated efforts of deviant cultures, African synodists spoke up courageously for family values cherished by their peoples. As Augustine’s voice did in an earlier decadent era, African bishops’ stand helped prevent the synod’s gay abandon to effete post-Christian trends.
Some claim that it was pastoral realism that led German Cardinal Walter Kasper to canvass for permissiveness both sacramental and sexual. Whatever that may be, it brought into the open a reality less spoken of in public up until now: if pastoral policies need to suit the times, they need also to suit the climes.
As Hans Kung once wrote, this modern age too may “produce various and contradictory views of the Kingdom of God.” But every such view need not be imposed arbitrarily on all Catholics as universal Church teaching. Perhaps, that was why Nigerian Archbishop Ignatius Kagama held that, “the time has gone when we would just follow without question.” Also, that was why Guinean Cardinal Robert Sara recapped arbitrary moves to impose Western gender ideologies as a precondition for humanitarian aid to developing nations.
Some Asian synodists too echoed related sentiments. Their passivity did not always match the passionate pleas of African prelates. Yet, their interventions cited the unsung heroism of poor but virtuous families struggling to resist the imposition of secular values.
In a way, Cardinal Kasper’s disputed claim that “Africans should not tell us too much what we should do” did more than open a can of worms. It was a profound moment of truth. There was no need for others to make a big hue and cry about it.
After all, his plain-speak was an admission of the plurality of Catholics worldwide, who live in varied cultures while sharing a common faith. And of course, the converse also has to be true! Dechristianized societies should not dictate what Churches elsewhere should do. In particular, they should not project their secularized worldview as a universal Christian ethic.
If that realization emerges undiluted in the final document of the synod, then the consultation could claim a considerable achievement by way of preparation for next year’s synod proper. Hopefully, the recent synod had an opportunity to assess over-concerns about people’s sacramental and sexual life. And Pope Francis, who spoke very little during that process, seems to have said it all in his post-synodal remarks that the family is being “devalued”. Some translators of his remarks used the word “bastardized”!
In those frank words spoken Oct. 25 to members of a Marian movement from Cardinal Kasper’s own country, the Holy Father summed up the gut feeling of most Catholics about the trend to downgrade family life from a joyous vocation to a permissive social industry.
If those words are to hold out hope for the synod of 2015, that upcoming consultation will need active participation of more mothers, fathers and youths, but fewer celibates. Opening the synod to families will give voice to Church members who strive to live marital spirituality in family beyond what some may see as just a sacramental or sexual partnering.
Hector Welgampola has retired as Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Hong Kong, then Bangkok. Before UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.
Write him: firstname.lastname@example.org