Since the synod is for bishops, we may be tempted to pass it off as a “bishop thing” that doesn’t concern us. Think again. It does concern us, since the bishops will be meeting October 5-19, 2014 in order to discuss a topic that is vital to the Church – you, me, and every member of every parish in every region of the world. The Holy Father wants to discuss with his fellow shepherds the state of the family and what needs to be done to regain its dignity and integrity.
At the end of the document are several questions for the bishops to consider, which I believe we ourselves should be considering, too. It evaluates the Church’s teaching on the family and whether that is being adequately communicated and accepted by the faithful. It considers marriage according to natural law, its effect on culture and society, and how breaches of natural law are handled by the clergy. It looks at the family during crisis and the pastoral challenges of serving families that are broken and dysfunctional. It also asks about the consequences of same-sex unions and its impact on the children involved. Finally, the document looks into parenthood and openness to life.
These all are tough questions. On the surface, they may seem like no-brainers. Well, of course the Church teaches such-n-such. Sure, that’s what the Church teaches, but is that what we actually live?
You see, we need to ask ourselves these questions because it’s not really up to the bishops to answer them. At least it’s not up to them to answer them alone. The bishops can ask all the questions, give all the answers, repeat all the teachings they want. If we’re not embracing and putting them into practice, then it’s all for naught.
I urge you to read through the document and go through the questions one at a time. Challenge yourself on what you truly believe, what you actually understand, and what you realistically live. I find that most people who disagree or fail to live the Church’s teaching simply don’t fully understand it. Once understood, the beauty and sense of it are irresistible – and contagious. Poor catechesis is Catholicism’s biggest threat (next to you-know-who).
Pope Francis has called the synod because he knows that without the family, there will be no Church, no society, no world. Regardless of our vocation and state-of-life, we are compelled to champion the family simply for our own survival as a people. The ways in which we do that are unique to each individual, but the goal is the same. Without family, there is nothing. And that’s not just a “bishop thing.”