Full text of Seventh General Congregation: Cardinal Vingt-Trois and testimony of Brazilian spouses

Below is a translation of the 7th General Congregation of the Synod of Bishops which took place at the Vatican this morning:

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SYNOD 14 – 7TH GENERAL CONGREGATION: PASTORAL CHALLENGES REGARDING OPENNESS TO LIFE” (PART III, CHAPTER 1), 09.10.2014

Introduction by the President Delegate, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois

Testimony of Spouses Arturo and Hermelinda As Zamberline, Directors of the Equipe Notre-Dame Movement for the Sub Region of Brazil (Brazil)

The 7th General Congregation of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family opened in the Synod Hall, in the presence of the Holy Father, continuing the general debate, which is following a thematic order in correspondence with the Parts and chapters of the Instrumentum laboris.
This morning’s topic: “The Pastoral Challenges Regarding Openness to Life” (Part III, chapter 1). The rotating President Delegate, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, France, introduced the testimony of spouses Mr. Arturo and Mrs. Hermelinda As Zamberline, Directors of the Equipe Notre-Dame for the sub region of Brazil, present at the Synod as Auditors.

Here is a translation of the texts:

Introduction of the President Delegate, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois

Today, this 7th General Congregation will be dedicated to a subject presented in the 3rd Part of the Instrumentum laboris, which addresses openness to life and educational responsibility. We will concentrate our attention and debates this morning on chapter 1, which addresses more particularly the pastoral challenges regarding openness to life. In this area, one touches very intimate dimensions and aspects of existence, so that substantial differences emerge between a Christian vision of life and sexuality and a way of life that is intensely secularized.
This is why knowledge and reception of the Magisterium on openness to life (123-125) are essential. In fact, numerous are those who have difficulty in making the distinction between natural methods for the regulation of fertility and contraception. The main causes of this difficult reception (9126-127) come from the difference between the Christian anthropological conception and that of the prevailing mentality. Thus, it is that from the pastoral point of view (128), it is important first of all to make known – in a new language and in collaboration with the university world –, the coherence of the anthropological vision proposed by the Church.
All this is not without consequences on the sacramental practice (129) of couples that, often, do not think that the use of contraceptive methods is a sin and therefore, tend not to make it a matter for Confession and thus receive Communion without problems.
In the end, it is necessary to encourage a mentality open to life (130-131) to counteract the contraceptive mentality and the spread of an individualistic anthropological model that determines, in certain regions of the world, a strong demographic fall whose social and human consequences are not sufficiently taken into consideration today. In this context, it is necessary to recognize the utility of family planning linked to dioceses and family associations that become witnesses of the beauty and value of openness to life.
Conscious of the importance of this witness of life among our contemporaries, let us now listen to the attestation of spouses Arturo and Hermelinda As Zamberline, couple responsible for the sub-region of Brazil of the Equipes Notre-Dame, who come to us directly from that great country where the monumental statue of Christ the Redeemer reminds us that His sacred image is the symbol of His protection and blessing, which radiates over Brazil and the Brazilians.

Testimony of Spouses Arturo and Hermelinda As Zamberline, Directors of the Equipe Notre-Dame Movement for the Sub Region of Brazil (Brazil)

We wish, initially, to register our gratitude to the Holy Father for the confidence he placed in us in convoking us. We are immensely honoured. Nevertheless, we do not hide our fear of such a great responsibility. From now we say: we are here as a married couple, bringing our family and pastoral experience. We are not theologians or specialists in the matter, only are trust in God calms us.
We are Hermelinda and Arturo, Brazilians, married 41 years ago. We have three children, a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter. We belong to Our Lady’s Teams Movement since 1994, and at present we are responsible for the Movement in Brazil, whose charism is conjugal spirituality. It has been in existence since 1938 and is present in 70 countries. At present, we are 137,200 members in the world, of which 45,500 are in our country.
We were asked to talk on “The Openness of Spouses to Life,” text found in the 3rdPart of the Instrumentum laboris, chapter 1. We begin with a quotation from Sacred Scripture:
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ’Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it!’” (Genesis 1, 27-28).
God created us man and woman, so that we would be joined in one flesh, so that we would love one another with a love that comes from Himself, so that we would build ourselves mutually through that love and so that we would generate life. No married couple is allowed to keep for itself the wonderful graces and fruits of matrimonial life.
Recalling our Movement’s mission, to help married couples to sanctify themselves, Father Henri Caffarel, our founder, affirms: “no married couple has the right to be sterile.” Of course, sterility is not limited to not having children. We understand it as a deliberate closed position to God’s creative gift, which is expressed in the different dimensions of conjugal love. To transmit to their descendants human life, the man and the woman, as spouses and parents, cooperate in a unique way in the work of the Creator.
The sexual act is legitimate, desired and blessed by God, and the pleasure that derives from it contributes to the joy of living and to the wholesome structuring of the personality. It is the expression of love, which in the beginning can be passion, but which will have to be increasingly humanized. Married couples who make love are the ones who express with the body what is happening in their heart. To arrive at harmony, it is necessary to be able to cultivate the desire to the point of a wholesome eroticism. It is necessary to continue to be passionate and to be attentive to one another.
The way of managing one’s sexual life is very important for the humanization of the human being. Father Caffarel proposes a fascinating course: from sexuality to love. A married couple is the place where the three functions of sexuality are articulated: the function of relation, the function of pleasure and the function of fertility. The married couple commits itself to integrate, in a balanced way, those three dimensions.
Sexuality is lived in relation with one’s neighbor and with God. It is called to become a language of love, of communication of life.
Something imposes itself: it is absolutely necessary to guide married couples for the human and Christian perfection of the sexual relation. Sexuality is a factor of sanctification, and at present it needs to be saved from the unhealthy eroticism that reduces the human being to only one dimension.
The generation of children is a sublime gesture of love for the donation of life. It is to make possible for a new being the entrancing adventure of life, of love, of discovery, of encounter and of final plunging into the heart of a God who is the supreme fulfilment of every being. The married couple is not fecund only because it generates children, but because it loves itself and, loving itself, opens itself to life. Different from those that, by free choice, decide, egotistically, not to receive life. “The fundamental task of matrimony and of the family is to be at the service of life” and, therefore, “every marital act must remain open to the transmission of life.”
For good reasons, without egoism, spouses might want to space the birth of their children, aiming at responsible maternity and paternity. Periodic continence and regulation of birth based on self-observation are in agreement with the objective criteria of morality.
Given the seriousness of the environment in which we find ourselves, we must admit without fear that many Catholic married couples, including those who try to live their marriage seriously, do not feel obliged to use only natural methods. It is no different in Our Lady’s Teams. We must say, moreover, that in general, they are not questioned by confessors. On one hand, married couples are open to life and reject abortion; this is a fact. On the other, we do not perceive in preaching and spiritual attention insistence on the doctrine of Humanae Vitae.
Theoretically, birth control through natural methods is good; however, in the present cultural environment it seems to be lacking in practicality. Married couples, mainly young ones, live a pace of life that does not enable them to practice those methods, once they are asked for time for training, and time is a rare product in the world in which we live. And worse still: for being superficially explained and, because of this, badly used, the natural method earns a reputation for being unsafe and very often inefficient. Therefore, we admit once more, with sincerity, that it is not followed by the majority of Catholic married couples.
As birth control must be shown as a necessity, married couples, in the great majority, do not reject the use of other contraceptive means. In general, they do not consider them a moral problem. We must consider, however, that sexual relations are oriented to the transmission of life, but also to the service of conjugal love. “There is nothing surprising, at that moment keeping in view the force of the sexual instinct. However, what is not normal is that a great number of Catholic married couples is immerse in this anguish.
The ENS Movement elaborated a subject of study, years ago, entitled “To Evangelize Sexuality.” In that document we see the disparity between the moral doctrine and the practice of married couples. As it is an important matter, a study began in the Movement, entitled “The Theology of Sexuality,” based on the catecheses of Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body
Holy Father, Synodal Fathers, ladies and gentlemen, if at least married couples found light and support with the clergy it would already be a great encouragement! Many times contradictory advice aggravates their confusion. We ask, the Magisterium to give the Fathers and faithful the great lines of a pastoral pedagogy, which helps to adopt and observe the principles agreed by Humanae Vitae.
Necessary and urgent is the pronouncement of an easy and safe orientation, which responds to the needs of the present-day world, without wounding what is essential of Catholic morality, which must be amply diffused.
We end by reiterating our total and unconditional fidelity to Jesus Christ, through the Holy Father and the church.

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