Teach with love and caring while remaining loyal to the church
On October 8, 2013, Pope Francis announced to the world that in October of 2014 there would be an Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on topics related to the family and evangelization.
From Oct. 5-Oct. 19 of this year, representatives from around the world gathered in Rome to discuss issues regarding families, marriage, sexuality and related topics.
In reading the secular accounts of that synod, one could be led to believe that the Catholic Church was in the process of changing its doctrine in these crucial areas. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.
First, it should be noted that this “extraordinary synod” was simply a preliminary discussion on the issues facing the church and world. From October 4-25, 2015, a representative group of bishops and lay people will reengage these topics again. According to canon law, synods such as these do not change doctrine or even make new laws and rules. It is again a discussion of advisors to the Pope, who sometime after the synod is completed, will issue his own document with his own conclusions from the discussions held over the past two years.
Pope Francis has startled the world with some of his comments; however, so far he has not changed actual teachings of the church. What is different is the way that Pope Francis articulates our teachings on marriage, family and sexuality. Throughout his pontificate, he has stressed the centrality of the person, the dignity with which we need to hold all human life from conception to natural death.
When engaging the world on topics relating to marriage such as cohabitation prior to marriage, the place in the church for people who are gay, procreation, etc., his emphasis is that we always start with loving and caring for the person. Other characteristics such as orientation, how we build families, how we marry and finding a place in the church for the divorced and remarried, are secondary issues.
The Pope also gives us an important clue to his thinking when discussing the hot button topics of our day by ending many of his comments with the statement that he is “a loyal son the church.” In other words, he adheres to the churches teaching from scripture and tradition but wants these teachings to be articulated positively and in a way that the church and world can appreciate and understand.
The Pope’s statements on these controversial topics are really a call to be more Christ-like, as Jesus came to save all of us, saints and sinners. In fact, when a reporter once asked Pope Francis who he is, he began his comments by saying that first of all, he was a sinner.
We are living an extraordinary moment in the church and the world. As Jesus told his disciples to go out into “the deep” in order to evangelize the world, we must do it with nothing short of courage, faith, hope, and love.