Don’t expect ‘sound bite solutions’ from synod, U.S. cardinal says

While there will not be any quick fixes unveiled at this year’s synod, a fair amount of talk can be expected on the application of the Church’s pastoral practice, predicted Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.
“I think one of the things that’s a challenge is that this synod is not going to be offering sound bite solutions. It can’t,” Cardinal Wuerl told CNA Oct. 4.
“We live in a world that loves quick answers, quick fixes, sound bites that take care of having to think through something,” he said, but “that’s not what the Church’s message is all about. It’s something much more beautiful than that, and it’s much more all-inclusive and all-enveloping than that.”
Synod meetings, which began this morning with an address by Pope Francis and the synod’s relator, Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdö, are taking place over the next two weeks in Rome.
The Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family reflects on the theme, “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization,” the conclusions of which will form the “Instrumentum Laboris,” or working document, for the Ordinary Synod to take place in 2015.
Cardinal Wuerl is one of three U.S. bishops participating in this year’s synod. He is joined by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, who is the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Although there will most likely be no immediate changes or decisions coming out of this year’s synod discussions, Cardinal Wuerl explained what can probably be expected is talk regarding “two areas in the life of the Church: her teaching and the lived application, the pastoral practice.”
Teaching and pastoral practice, he explained, are “interrelated, but they’re not the same thing. We have to make sure that the teaching is clear, it’s unchanging because it comes to us from God, it comes to us from Jesus.”
“But the effort to live it in all of the human condition today, with all of the challenges and all of the things we have to face today, that’s the pastoral practice, that’s the application,” he observed. “I think we’re going to see a lot of discussion around that.”
Questions that arise will most likely include what to do in situations of dysfunctional families or broken marriages in which a remarried person is attempting to live their faith as best as possible, as well as questions surrounding mercy, the cardinal noted.
“That’s going to be the challenge. Trying to put all of that together in a way that is faithful to the teaching, faithful to the practice, and yet open to the spirit.”
Having the voices of so many from different states in life, including both consecrated and married persons, he said, is “a great opportunity for the Church to present all over again to the world the beautiful vision of marriage, the beautiful vision of family that is a part of God’s revelation.”
Cardinal Wuerl said during the free discussions he will emphasize how the church has “been at this for 2,000 years: proclaiming the good news of Jesus’ revelation of his Father.”
“What a beautiful story. God loves us, God brought into being all that is, created us, there’s a plan in life, he wants us to be happy, he wants us to be with him, and God will make the journey with us through life.”
And the family is one of the most concrete ways we experience God in our lives, he observed, noting how “the family is that wonderful expression of communion, of community, of people coming together.”
“But they come together out of a bond that is rooted in the marriage of the mother and father, and the generation of these children. It’s a beautiful story,” the cardinal said.
Cardinal Wuerl explained that after doing a two-year evaluation of his archdiocese in Washington, the local church had many of the same concerns that will be raised during the synod, including how to help young people understand church teaching regarding marriage and family life.
“How do we help young people understand that human sexuality is a great and beautiful gift, it’s not just for casual entertainment? How you help people understand that a marriage and children should be the norm for how we carry out our life, even when we don’t live up to the norm?”
“I think that’s all going to be part of it… how do we help people, all of us, live as best we can that Gospel of Christ embraced by the mercy of God?”
The cardinal also said Pope Francis might pay a visit to the diocese of Washington next fall if he comes for the World Meeting of Families, set to take place in Philadelphia.
“I have invited him on a number of occasions now to include Washington in his visit, and I’m regularly told ‘we’ll see,’” he explained. “I’m hearing a little bit more now from voices in the Holy See saying ‘well that could be a very real possibility.’ It would be a great blessing.”
“A visit to Washington in a way is a visit to the country because it’s not only the center of the government of the United States, but so much of the church is centered there,” Cardinal Wuerl pointed out.
“So it’s a natural, at least I keep telling him that. And I think it would be a great joy for the whole country if he visited the nation’s capital.”

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