let’s have a personal dialogue on family life

I’m still struggling to regain a writing routine. My time, my mind, my energies have been focused on family this past year. The heart-tugs of family make church issues fade into irrelevancy. And yet, the intensity of family life is now calling me to write.

Bishops are preparing for the second synod for the family. We are, once again, made to hope that a more democratic spirit is finally blowing into Vatican halls. A questionnaire has been distributed reflecting on the current state of family life in the church and in the world. Unfortunately, the questionnaire is just as complicated and convoluted as the one for the recent synod. Also, it’s promotion and distribution depends on the good will of individual bishops and-or local episcopal conferences.

NCR editor, Dennis Coday, has published a cross-section list of American dioceses reporting on their efforts to canvass the opinions of local women and men. Some dioceses merely provide a link to the original lineamenta and questions. Some provide the same questions in an online survey format. Others have formulated a simplified version of the questionnaire. Some are making the questions open to every one. Others are seeking only the opinions of priests and those in active diocesan ministry. In all cases, the time frame is extremely limited.

This “catholic dialogue” blog was begun as a vehicle for open and free discussion on current issues facing our church. It was formed from personal frustration with a lack of true dialogue between our church leadership and the women and men whom they serve.

Our all male, celibate leadership is now preparing to reconvene and continue their discussions and decision making on family life. We need to take the time to ponder the issues presented in their working document (lineamenta). We need to share and discuss our own understanding of the church’s teachings on family life; an understanding based on thoughtful reflection, yes. But, more importantly, an understanding based on the reality of experience.

My humble plan is to use this blog in the weeks and months preceding the October synod to promote some online dialogue on family life, using the lineamenta as a stepping-stone. I will not be using a linear method, or attempting to address all the proposed questions. My hope is that, together, we can generate a more personal discussion. A discussion that will reflect the diversity of family life lived in all its joys and struggles.

My thoughts and your thoughts will most probably not make it onto the synod floor.

But….who knows?

5 thoughts on “let’s have a personal dialogue on family life

  1. The actions of Church leadership, Pope Francis excepted, have made me question most every action or statement that they make. I don’t like that I have become such a sceptic, but time after time I have been very disappointed by a perceived attitude of “institutional self preservation” that seems to take priority over the welfare of the flock. The Institutional Church’s treatment of prophetic voices within the Church, both historically and at present, is shameful. This, coupled with a general unwillingness to admit and apologize for failures, has alienated me from things I have held dear for my 73 years as a Catholic.

    I was one of those who took everything the Church said as Gospel. The blind trust in that authority, now errorded, sadly leaves me questioning everything I have been taught. In a strange way, it may open me to a new understanding of my Creator not shaped by people with a “vested interest” in controlling what I think and what action the Spirit may lead me too.

    I have lost faith in the Church as an “Institution” when it puts itself above and in control of the Church as “The People of God.”

    I know wonderful people in the Church and out. I hope that Pope Francis is strong and long lived enough to lead the very significant changes required to get back to the living Gospel.

    1. Hi Jerry. There is good company to found among disillusioned Catholics. The process of transitioning from blind trust to scepticism, for some, can lead to a deeper and more mature faith. At least that has been my experience. The key, I believe, is not to stop pondering and searching. (Which you obviously haven’t.) Leaders have to be questioned to judge their trustworthiness. They have to be held accountable for their own words and actions before they judge the words and action of others. Wrapping edicts in pious words with no regard or true intimacy with those you serve will no longer do. Thanks for your comments, as always, Jerry!

      1. Isabella,
        I think you nailed my current position. I am seeking, but not in the usual places. I am heartened that the Pope completely vindicated the Religious Women in America. At least one witch hunt has ended. Francis is a brave man to take on the Curia; a formidable foe/ally? He needs all our support.

  2. Welcome back Isabella. Be comfortable with the realization that your family is your church matter and it is prime. After reading the NCR article on the Anglican/Episcopalian effort to come to grip with same-sex union/marriage I am even more discouraged with “our” initiative.
    One obeservation for the moment. I am sure I am plagarizing someone or at least paraphrasing when I reflect on what I see as the “big” question: do I speculate on a world as I think it should be and reject what is; or do I see the world as it is and seek to make it better?
    An over-simplification admittedly but it seems to be one critical dimension of the issue. Our Church “Fathers” seem to have adopted the former as their operating principle and to that extent are doomed to simply repeat what does not address the contemporary reality of family.

    1. Thanks for the reference to the NCR article, Dennis. (http://ncronline.org/blogs/small-c-catholic/how-churches-can-keep-evolving-definition-marriage ) It is good to see the Episcopal church getting to the root of the marriage question. The simple act of questioning and attempting an honest study is to be admired. In the last synod on the family, any thinking “outside of the box” was stifled by those bishops who obviously fit into your first category. Sigh.

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