Earlier this week, Cardinal Vincent Nichols made an intervention at the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops currently underway in Rome that is examining the issues surrounding family life.
Most Holy Father, brothers and sisters in Christ.
I wish to recall, at this moment, given to us by the Holy Father, here in this Aula, last October.
He said that we were to avoid certain temptations.
The first was “wanting to close oneself within the laws, within the certitude of what we know”.
The second was to act “in the name of a deceptive mercy which binds the wounds without first healing them; that treats symptoms and not causes and the roots”.
I think we have fallen into these temptations and in doing so given credence to those who wish to portray this Synod as a battle between “traditionalists” and “liberals”.
How can we avoid these temptations over these coming weeks?
By giving our attention first and consistently to the family not as a focus of problems but the first place in which the drama of the working of grace and nature is to be found. And in this work, we know that “God is not bound by his sacraments” (CCC 1257).
The “Instrumentum Laboris”, in Part 1, does not do this. It is too focused on problems. As suggested earlier, we should look at the reality of the family with the eyes of faith, in the light of faith, seeing the hand of God at work in so many ways. This is a Catholic way of reflection.
In our consultations in England and Wales, many anxieties and criticisms were offered, However, the most consistent voice tells us that the family is what people treasure most, care about most passionately.
Despite all the difficulties they face, most people want to speak, again and again, of the love they have for their family, which gives meaning to everything they do.
We must do the same. If our focus becomes fixed on problems we miss the most important message: that every family is a light in the darkness. At the heart of the work of this Synod must be this: the joy of the family.
Many families give a powerful witness to the Church. We must both learn from this witness and bring it to the great stage of the Church and the world. We must be taught by the family especially about how to face difficult problems.
Most families never withdraw a loving welcome home, even when dismayed by certain behaviour. We, the entire Church, must learn this pathway of “tough love”, a love that is compassionate, honest, and always seeking to find and nurture all that is good, as illuminated by the Gospel.
Let us be taught by the family.
Our web section on the Ordinary General Assembly of Synod on the Family
Website for the Bishops’ Conference Marriage and Family Life project work