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Cardinals feel the aftershocks of


BY TAPPING into its eastern theological and spiritual traditions, the Catholic Church can find a way to minister to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics and others in situations the Church considers irregular, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church has said.

is mother, but a teacher as well, that they are not alone in their difficult situation.’

“Our hope, our final goal,” he said, is to help every Catholic grow “toward a holy and happy life in the fullness of Jesus Christ. Our goal is not to put everybody into the right canonical position. Our goal is not to declare that somebody is right or wrong. Our goal is how to help everyone grow in the grace of God.”

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the Major Archbishop of Kiev-Halych, told reporters: “According to the tradition of the Byzantine Church, a priest or a bishop is not a judge. His task is not to justify or to condemn somebody, especially in such a delicate area as marriage and family. Our task, our duty is to be spiritual fathers and provide some sort of spiritual healing.”

Much of the initial discussion at the Synod of Bishops on the family, he said, was “focused on canonical procedures and possibilities – how to help those who were married and then divorced to be more and fully accepted into the Christian communities. But our tradition is mostly focused not in canon law, in canonical procedures, but in the spiritual and aesthetical guidance of Christians.”

No one at the synod is questioning the Christian teaching that marriage is indissoluble, he said. “Our question is how do we support and help the people of today’s culture, people who are getting more and more fragile,” to grow spiritually, he said.

The married couples and families Archbishop Shevchuk ministers to are not all lay people like other Eastern Catholic churches in full union with Rome, his Church admits married men to the priesthood. Overall, he said, about 90 per cent of the Ukrainian Catholic priests are married and about 99 percent of the priests in his archdiocese are.

Adapting an expression of St Alphonsus Liguori about good and bad priests, the archbishop said, a happy, solid priest’s family is “a very attractive and truthful way to proclaim the Gospel of the family”.

“I have to think how to be a good father not only to my priests, but to their families,” he said. “And if some family of our priests will fall into serious crisis, it will be a big tragedy not only for them, but for the Church.”

The archbishop also spoke to reporters about how his faith had been passed to him by his family.

He said: “Everything I learned about Church, about Christ, the ambience where I learned to pray – before I met a priest for the first time – was my home, my family.”

Pope Francis has described the Church as a “field hospital” in the midst of a battle, the archbishop said. “We have to deal with so many wounded people. And we have to realise how many different possibilities, how many instruments Jesus Christ gave us.”

The Church’s medicine chest includes “spiritual assistance, the sacraments of the Church, prayer, blessings, support, solidarity”, he said. On a battlefield, “in some cases, a physician would apply very strong and not very sweet medicines in order to save the life. But in some cases we are to provide some – I would say – more efficient medicine, not to cover a wound, but to heal.”

At a time when “the globalised culture is becoming more and more aggressive against the very institution of family”, he said, the Church must take seriously its responsibility “to proclaim that according to the Christian faith, family is a covenant between man, woman and God.”

The bishops at the synod, he said, are realistic in recognising there is no “simple and general rule,” no single medicine, that will bring healing to all couples in irregular situations. But, “everybody would agree that we have to approach those people, we have to be with them, they have to feel that Church

He was a 19-year-old doing his obligatory service in the Soviet army in 1989 when the Soviet Union finally legalised the Eastern Catholic Church in Ukraine, allowing members to leave their catacomb existence and openly profess and celebrate their faith.

He said his people’s experience was that the family was “the last defence of human dignity; only inside the family did we feel ourselves protected because society outside your own home was very dangerous, not human, not Christian”.

As tensions and battles in the Eastern part of the country with pro-Russian militants continue, he said, the suffering of families and their essential role in society are clear once again. Pain is a common experience, he said, especially for mothers “because they have to send their sons to a war and many of them will receive their sons [back] in a coffin. This is a tragedy.”

The destruction of the economy that comes with social unrest also is weighing particularly heavily upon families. “War brings poverty, economic crisis [and] unemployment, so mothers and fathers today are thinking: ‘How will we heat our house next winter?’ ‘Where will we find money to buy food for our family? How will we provide an education for our children?’”

Cardinal Raymond Burke, right, speaks to Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko on the way to a morning session of the synod

Photo: CNS


ON IRREGULAR UNIONS In considering the principle of gradualness in the divine salvific plan, one asks what possibilities are given to married couples who experience the failure of their marriage, or rather how it is possible to offer them Christ’s help through the ministry of the Church. In this respect, a significant hermeneutic key comes from the teaching of Vatican Council II, which, while it affirms that “although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure … these elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward Catholic unity” (Lumen Gentium, 8).

In this light, the value and consistency of natural marriage must first be emphasised. Some ask whether the sacramental fullness of marriage does not exclude the possibility of recognising positive elements even the imperfect forms that may be found outside this nuptial situation, which are in any case ordered in relation to it. The doctrine of levels of communion, formulated by Vatican Council II, confirms the vision of a structured way of participating in the Mysterium Ecclesiae by baptised persons.

In the same perspective that we may consider inclusive, the Council opens up the horizon for appreciating the positive elements present in other religions (cf Nostra Aetate, 2) and cultures, despite their limits and their insufficiencies (cf Redemptoris Missio, 55) ...

Realising the need,

therefore, for spiritual discernment with regard to cohabitation, civil marriages and divorced and remarried persons, it is the task of the Church to recognise those seeds of the Word that have spread beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries. Following the expansive gaze of Christ, whose light illuminates every man (cf. Jn 1,9; cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22), the Church turns respectfully to those who participate in her life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcomings. ON HOMOSEXUALITY Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony? ...

The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology. Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasising that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority. ON THE REPORT ITSELF The reflections put forward, the fruit of the synodal dialogue that took place in great freedom and a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer by the reflection of the local Churches in the year that separates us from the ordinary general assembly of the synod of bishops planned for October 2015. These are not decisions that have been made nor simply points of view. All the same the collegial path of the bishops and the involvement of all God’s people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit will lead us to find roads of truth and mercy for all.

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natural methods of family planning, which they said had acquired an “unjust reputation of being unreliable,” because they were badly explained and thus badly practised.

A MARRIED couple from Brazil have told Pope Francis and the synod of bishops that the Church should stop giving “contradictory advice” on birth control and help Catholics obey Church teaching against contraception.

On the same morning Cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris spoke forcefully against a “contraceptive mentality” that had led many Catholics to think the use of artificial birth control was not a sin.

Arturo and Hermelinda As Zamberline, married for 41 years and with three children, addressed a morning session of the synod on the subject of

Cardinal Vingt-Trois added his voice on the subject CNS

“pastoral challenges concerning an openness to life.”

The Zamberlines, leaders in the international movement Teams of Our Lady, said: “We must admit without fear that many Catholic couples, even those who seek to live their marriage seriously, do not feel obligated to use only the natural methods” of birth control condoned by the Church. “We must add that generally they are not questioned by their confessors” on the subject.

The Zamberlines said the “rhythm of life” today made it difficult to find time to learn

“The great majority of couples do not reject the use of contraceptive methods. In general, they do not consider them a moral problem,” the Zamberlines said.

The Brazilian couple concluded with an appeal to the Pope and the synod to help Catholics understand and obey Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI that affirmed Church teaching against contraception.

“If couples, as well as clergy, could at least find illumination and support, that would already be a great encouragement! Often, contradictory advice only aggravates their confusion,” they said.

Couple: marriage helped by teaching VIEW OFFERED BY SYNOD SPEAKERS BY CINDY WOODEN

Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, spoke at the synod last week, urging efforts to find new ways to share its teaching about the beauty of family life.

couple said Church teaching about married sexuality, openness to life and against the use of artificial contraception was clearly a place where new ways of presenting the message were needed.

CATHOLIC couples who ignore Church teaching on contraception “don’t know what they are missing”, an American couple invited to address the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family have said.

Alice and Jeff Heinzen, family life leaders in the

Although the couple has practised natural family planning for 27 years and taught natural family planning, they did not speak specifically about family planning in their presentation to the synod.

But in an interview with Catholic News Service the

The good news, they said, is that natural family planning is good for a marriage, good for one’s health and good for the environment.

Mr Heinzen said that once it became “part of our lifestyle, then it was pretty amazing because it led to a mastery for myself of my own human sexuality... And for Alice it ended up bringing a higher level of trust because I think for so long women have been taught to be the gatekeepers and men to be the demanders. And it completely changed everything.” Mrs Heinzen said that once couples start practising natural family planning “they notice a shift in their relationship, they notice a deepening of their conversation”.












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