Return to the little circles

The Vatican today released the reports of the circuli minores after their discussions on the second part of the Instrumentum Laboris. Once again, being, well, not hugely fluent, putting it decorously, in some of the languages represented, we have to take the media’s word for the contents of some of the reports. (To our discomfort.)

Anglicus “A,” with Cardinal Pell as moderator and Archbishop Kurtz as relator, made an interesting point, which ought to be discussed more, both clerics and laity alike:

While the sense of the word “vocation” is clear when applied to the priesthood, more clarity is needed when we talk about the phrase “vocation to the married life.” We must recognize that the family itself also has a vocation.

It is easy to discuss the vocation of the priesthood or religious life. (Though discerning and living that vocation is another story, sometimes.) It is harder, however, to talk about a vocation to married life in coherent terms. Obviously, there is a trend to promote everything to vocation, and the “vocation to the married life” is part of that. We have heard intelligent, reasonable arguments in support of the position that there is no vocation, strictly speaking, to married life. (Certainly, Paul’s attitude toward marriage figures in this analysis.) Anglicus “A” has identified a thorny issue. It is too bad that the Synod is well past the point where it is going to consider it.

Anglicus “D,” with Cardinal Collins as moderator and Archbishop Chaput as relator, launches another withering critique of the Instrumentum Laboris, noting,

The Instrumentum Laboris nowhere defines marriage. This is a serious defect. It causes ambiguity throughout the text. Most bishops agreed that the document should add the definition of marriage from Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes 48, as a correction.

It is a mark of the quality of the Instrumentum Laboris when Gaudium et Spes is being suggested as a source for clarification and precision. But Anglicus “D” went to the heart of the Kasperite position when it noted,

Some said the text needs to frame the notion of “indissolubility” more positively, rather than treating it as a burden. Others saw a danger in referring to Catholic teaching as simply an “ideal” to be pursued and honored but not practical for the living of daily life. They described this as an approach that implies that only the “pure” can live the Gospel, but not ordinary people. Some stressed that we should always speak of virtues, not just values. They are not the same thing.

(Emphasis supplied.) The Kasperite position requires that fidelity to the Gospel and the timeless teaching of the Church be treated both as a burden and as an unattainable ideal. Too many people, the Kasperites hold, are simply too weak to shoulder their crosses and follow Christ. Timothy Cardinal Dolan, by presenting the chaste and faithful Catholic as a new minority that needs the Church’s encouragement and support, has, we think, opened a new line for moderates at the Synod. So has Anglicus “D” with this reasoning. Certainly, there are difficulties involved with being a follower of Christ. Just ask the saints and martyrs. But the difficulties are not insuperable and the reward far outweighs even the worst of these difficulties.

Anglicus “D” also takes issue with the scriptural basis for the discussions of marriage as reflected in the Instrumentum Laboris:

In the material on family and God’s salvific plan, the text lacks grounding in the Book of Tobit and the Song of Songs, which is vital to the Scriptural presentation of marriage. Bishops voiced concern that the document seems to present Mosaic divorce as one of the stages of God’s plan, yet we know that divorce is never part of God’s will for humanity, but was a consequence of original sin.

Obviously, the willingness to disregard Christ’s own words in the Gospel is a big problem at this Synod. But there are apparently other scriptural weaknesses in the Instrumentum Laboris.

Andrea Gagliarducci has a report about how the “Shadow Council,” headed up by such prelates as Reinhard Cardinal Marx and Walter Cardinal Kasper, has set the tone for the Germanicus group’s report. Recall that Christoph Cardinal Schönborn is the moderator but Archbishop Heiner Koch, a participant in the pre-Synod meetings, is the relator. And it apparently shows. Based on our Google Translate scan of Germanicus’s report, it appears that they are forging ahead, notwithstanding the presence of Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller (who have no trouble believing is hugely marginalized in the group, notwithstanding his seniority in the Church), with the Kasperite agenda. But they’ve gotten smarter, citing John Paul’s Familiaris consortio, a favored document of the traditionalists, in favor of new proposals regarding pre-marital cohabitation:

Deutlich wurde uns auch, dass wir in vielen Diskussionen und Wahrnehmungen zu statisch und zu wenig biographisch-geschichtlich denken. Die kirchliche Ehelehre hat sich geschichtlich entwickelt und vertieft. Zunächst ging es um die Humanisierung der Ehe, die sich in der Überzeugung der Monogamie verdichtet hat. Im Licht des christlichen Glaubens wurde die personale Würde der Ehepartner tiefer erkannt und die Gottebenbildlichkeit des Menschen in der Beziehung von Mann und Frau wahrgenommen. In einem weiteren Schritt wurde die Kirchlichkeit der Ehe vertieft und sie als Hauskirche verstanden. Schließlich wurde der Kirche die Sakramentalität der Ehe ausdrücklich bewusst. Dieser geschichtliche Weg der Vertiefung zeichnet sich heute auch in der Biographie vieler Menschen ab. Sie sind zunächst berührt von der humanen Dimension der Ehe, sie lassen sich von der christlichen Sicht der Ehe im Lebensraum der Kirche überzeugen und finden von daher den Weg zur Feier der sakramentalen Ehe. Wie die geschichtliche Entwicklung der kirchlichen Lehre Zeit beansprucht hat, so muss die kirchliche Pastoral auch den Menschen heute auf ihrem Weg hin zur sakramentalen Ehe Zeit der Reifung gewähren und nicht nach dem Prinzip „Alles oder Nichts“ handeln. Hier ist der Gedanke eines „Prozesses von Stufe zu Stufe“ (FC 9) auf die Gegenwart hin weiter zu entfalten, den Johannes Paul II. bereits in Familiaris consortio grundgelegt hat: „Das pastorale Bemühen der Kirche beschränkt sich nicht nur auf die christlichen Familien in der Nähe, sondern kümmert sich, indem es den eigenen Horizont nach dem Maßstab des Herzens Jesu ausweitet, noch intensiver um alle Familien in ihrer Gesamtheit und vor allem um jene, die sich in einer schwierigen oder irregulären Lage befinden.“ (FC 65) Die Kirche steht dabei unausweichlich in dem Spannungsfeld zwischen einer notwendigen Klarheit der Lehre von Ehe und Familie einerseits und der konkreten pastoralen Aufgabe andererseits, auch diejenigen Menschen zu begleiten und zu überzeugen, die in ihrer Lebensführung nur teilweise mit den Grundsätzen der Kirche übereinstimmen. Mit ihnen gilt es Schritte auf dem Weg zur Fülle eines Lebens in Ehe und Familie zu gehen, wie es das Evangelium von der Familie verheißt.

(Emphasis supplied.) Our German, as we say, is not so good. But it sure sounds like the Germans are arguing for gradualism in relationships—a little premarital cohabitation here, a little rejection of the bonum prolis there—using Familiaris consortio. Everyone knows what the Germans are about, but it is interesting to see them using orthodox teaching to get their arguments over the hump.