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Father Muench Says...

Looking back on the family synod

Nov. 5, 2014

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I followed the proceedings of the recent Synod on the Family at the Vatican very carefully.  I have such high hopes for this Synod – hopes for our Catholic Church as so many good things were discussed.

As you may already know, there will be another session of this Synod next fall.  I am hoping that there will be extensive discussions, even debates, during this coming year.

Personally, I believe that the discussions at the Synod and the statement that was issued by the Synod were excellent and meaningful. 

The purpose of this Synod was not about changing any teachings of the Church – rather it was about the Catholic Church’s attitude toward certain groups. 

The Synod considered the many challenges of the Church’s approach to “family” – to “marriage” – to “finding ways for the Church to reach out with love and concern to the families.”

The over powering spirit of the Synod is Jesus – Jesus’ attitude toward others, toward family,  an attitude of love and tenderness. 

Jesus approached others with patience and mercy.  Jesus will be the guide for the Synod and for the Catholic Church as it continues throughout its efforts to deal with the challenges of family life.

My hope is that this Synod will develop a more welcoming Spirit for our Church.  Our Catholic Church has not always been so welcoming.  Too many times the Catholic Church has driven away many who truly longed to be involved with the Church.

I remember well when I was young that our Church was very harsh toward those who were divorced, even though their status as a Catholic has never changed.

I know only too well they were made to feel uncomfortable by Catholics, even by Catholic leaders.  Many thought they were excommunicated.  They, of course, were not but, because of this some simply left the Catholic Church.

I have even noticed that even today there is confusion about this.  I do hope all of you realize that a divorced person is not restricted by our Church from sacraments.

I know that the divorced and remarried are instructed not to receive Holy Communion without an annulment. 
Pope Francis has formed a committee to study and make recommendations for streamlining the annulment process.  I know well it can be a complicated process. 

The Synod has begun a discussion of the concern that these couples cannot receive Holy Communion. 

I also know that often, because these couples have carefully followed all the Church’s regulations as they prepared their marriage, their hope for an annulment is impossible.  Yet, they stay faithful to the Church – and to being a Catholic.

They want to remain involved in their parish – even though they cannot receive Holy Communion.

I pray that we can do something for them. Now, I must admit that some couples simply decided to just leave the Catholic Church.

So, I am pleased that this Synod is considering the situation of the divorced and remarried.

I truly hope that this Synod will develop a possible solution to allow these couples to return to the sacraments.  My prayer is that this will be settled – and soon.

I have known as a pastor many couples - divorced and remarried – who were truly great parishioners, raising their children Catholic yet, accepting the Church’s restriction on receiving Holy Communion.  They long to – yet, they are faithful to their Church – they follow all the rules.

One other welcoming concern that the Synod has discussed.  The Synod discussed the welcoming of homosexuals to the Catholic family.  The Synod says in their final statement, “Men and women with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect and sensitivity.” Our Church should be welcoming.

I would think that the Synod would like us to put a large sign over all Catholic Churches: “All are welcome, All are welcoming.”

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