October 9, 2015
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'Flawed, inadequate' – bishops skewer synod's working doc in new report

Vatican City, October 9 (CNA/EWTN News) .- A controversial working document for the Vatican's synod on the family took a hard hit from numerous bishops who've called the text overly negative, unclear, and possibly inaccurate in its translations.


'Flawed, inadequate' – bishops skewer synod's working doc in new report


What is the future of marriage? First we have to look at its history, author says
Chicago shrine seeks help to rebuild after devastating fire


For Cubans, the Pope’s visit brought hope - but will it last?


'Flawed, inadequate' – bishops skewer synod's working doc in new report

VATICAN CITY, October 9 (CNA/EWTN News) .- A controversial working document for the Vatican's synod on the family took a hard hit from numerous bishops who've called the text overly negative, unclear, and possibly inaccurate in its translations.

“While various elements of the (document) are admirable, we found much of the text to be flawed or inadequate,” says a new report from group “D” of the four English-speaking synod circles.

The document – officially called an Instrumentum Laboris – also fell short “especially in its theology, clarity, trust in the power of grace, its use of scripture and its tendency to see the world through overwhelmingly Western eyes,” the bishops said Friday.

The group added that they felt “limited” in their ability to respond to challenges of the family today because the audience of the instrumentum wasn't clear – asking whether they were writing for the Pope, families or the world.

Pope Francis officially opened the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops Sunday, Oct. 4, with the event closing on Oct. 25.

Small groups are playing a larger role in this year’s gathering. While the groups’ individual reports were only published once last year, they are now being published after each of the three synod phases.

Divided into three parts, with each week dedicated to one of the three sections of the instrumentum. So far the bishops have spent the first week of the meeting discussing the document’s first section, titled “Listening to the challenges of the family.”

Afterward, discussion will shift to the second part, titled “Discernment of the family vocation,” before culminating with the third, “The mission of the family today.”

Divided by language into 13 groups with around 20 members each, one small group is in German, four in English, three in Spanish, two in Italian and three in French. Groups were determined by both the language of participants and the requests of the synod fathers.

In their report, the English-speaking “D” group said that rather than beginning with the failures and challenges of the family, the document ought to begin “with hope,” since many families are already successfully living the Gospel’s message about marriage.

They expressed concern that readers would ignore the document “if it begins with a litany of negatives and social problems” rather than a biblical vision of joy and confidence in the Word of God.

“The huge cloud of challenges pervading the first section of the text unintentionally creates a sense of pastoral despair,” they said, noting how many in their group suggested that the first and second sections of the instrumentum be switched.

“If marriage is a vocation, which we believe it is, we can’t promote vocations by talking first about its problems.”

Also noted by the group was the lack of serious reflection on gender ideology, the role of men and fathers as well as women, the destructive nature of pornography, the misuse of technology and pastoral care for the differently-abled.

With the instrumentum's presentation appearing “chaotic, without inherent logic,” both Pope Francis “and the people of the Church deserve a better text, one in which ideas are not lost in the confusion,” they said.

Language was another topic the group found problematic, and in their report expressed concern that “the English translation may not be faithful to the official Italian text.”

Others, they said, “complained that many of the document’s statements were too general and not specific enough. Still others felt the text had many inaccurate generalizations, was verbose and repetitive.”

Members of group “D,” supported by various other English speaking groups, found the scope of the instrumentum to be “narrow” and “excessively inspired by West European and North American concerns, rather than a true presentation of the global situation.”

Terms such as “developing nations” and “advanced countries” were considered to be “condescending and inappropriate for a Church document.”

Others members said that the language was “too careful and politically correct,” and therefore made the content “unclear and sometimes incoherent.”

Group “A” echoed the concern, fearing that the document gave “an overly Euro-centric or Western mindset,” and suggested using a more cultural and global tone that is “open to the richness and real experiences of families today, in various nations and continents.”

Similarly, all of the other English-speaking groups referred to the document as too negative, and suggested that a greater emphasis be placed on hope and families who already strive to be faithful to the Gospel and their vocation.

The “C” group said that terms used in the instrumentum such as “the Gospel of the family” and “the domestic Church” that at first were seen as illuminating, have instead become “cliché” and unclear in their meaning.

“We felt that it may be a good thing if they were given a rest and if we chose instead to use a language which was more accessible to those unfamiliar with our particular speak,” the group said.

They stressed the need to beware of “a kind of Church speak of which we are barely conscious,” saying that the instrumentum “more than its share of it, and it would be good if the final document moved in a different and fresher direction.”

Group “B” also voiced the need for a more simple language, which is more accessible to families, and shows “that the synod fathers had listened to and heard their contribution and comments to the synodal process.”

Released in June, the synod's Instrumentum Laboris builds on the final report of last October’s extraordinary synod, and incorporates suggestions from Church entities like bishops’ conferences and even individuals who freely sent their opinions.

The document will serve as a basis for this year’s synod report, which will be written at the end of this week and developed throughout the next synod phases. At the end of the process, a 10-member global commission nominated by Pope Francis will draft the final synod report.

However, many of the groups suggested a single editor review the final document for clarification, rather than a committee, in order to maintain clarity.


What is the future of marriage? First we have to look at its history, author says

WASHINGTON D.C., October 9 (CNA) .- June's Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, which mandated recognition of same-sex marriages across the United States, was largely recognized by both supporters and opponents as a groundbreaking ruling.

What are the factors that led to this wide-reaching Supreme Court decision? And what will happen next in the marriage landscape?

Ryan T. Anderson, an author and Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, seeks to answer those questions. He traces what he sees an erosion of marriage over the past half-century – as well as examine the future of marriage in the U.S. – in his latest book, Truth Overruled: the Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom.

Anderson begins by saying that the overall restructuring of marriage began long before legalizing homosexual marriage was even a discussion.  

“It's not gays and lesbians who were the first to come up with the idea that 'love makes a family,'” Anderson told CNA, saying the slogan came out of the '60s and the birth of the sexual revolution, which backed the notion that marriage lasts only as long as the feeling of love does.

“In general, the values that come out of the sexual revolution are saying that consenting adults can do whatever consenting adults want to - the only value that matters is consent,” he continued, saying this sentiment is an all-too-familiar quality that has carried itself into the modern-day discussion of marriage.

Post-sexual revolution, America saw the steady rise of the hookup culture, non-marital childbearing, divorce, and cohabitation, he said. This escalation ignored the traditional, comprehensive understanding of marriage as a life-long, permanent bond between a man and a woman - making it more and more feasible to redefine its meaning.

“It's only after a generation or two of heterosexuals making a mess of marriage that it is even plausible to have justices legally redefine what marriage is,” Anderson asserted.

Allowing same-sex marriage across the country is not the only problem with the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, according to Anderson, who says this decision also tackles an additional political hurdle.

“The U.S. Constitution does not define marriage one way or the other - they leave that up to the states,” he said, and it is “unclear” why five Supreme Court justices were given the ability to make the decision for all 50 states when the Constitution remains silent on the matter.

Ever since the ruling in June, Anderson said, religious freedom and democratic justice have been threatened by the very fact that the tradition of democracy was usurped during the proceedings of the 5-4 ruling.

“The Supreme Court's ruling is not just going to impact marriage, but also civil society, religious freedom, education, our children and grandchildren,” he wrote.

First, “redefining marriage teaches that men and women are interchangeable, that moms and dads are replaceable,” stated Anderson.

“It makes it further difficult for us to say that fathers are essential, whereas redefining marriage makes them optional,” he continued, saying that every family with a mother and father have been undermined by this decision, cheapening the very fabric of familial culture.

Secondly, Anderson says that the ruling paves the way for polygamy, which is currently illegal in all 50 states.

“Once you get rid of the male-female part of marriage, there is no reason for marriage to be monogamous, exclusive, or permanent,” he said.

The author also pointed to other effects of same-sex marriage on Americans, such as the Colorado cake baker who is facing a lawsuit for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex ceremony. Anderson said, this is just one example of how individuals and religious freedom are being manipulated in the name of tolerance.

In addition, he said, the Supreme Court ruling “has shut down debate just as we were starting to hear new voices - gay people who agree that children need their mother and father, and children of same-sex couples who wish they knew both their mom and dad.”

As an example, he pointed to Heather Barwick, a daughter of same-sex parents, who has said that being raised in this way is harmful for children because it deprives them of their right to both a mother and a father.

Despite these consequences, Anderson does not see the legalization of same-sex marriage as inevitably being the final word.

“The Supreme Court got marriage wrong, and got the Constitution wrong,” he asserted, but every American should be working to protect their liberties and freedoms – by going out into the public square and bear witness to traditional marriage.

“We can do this in our own lives, by living out the truth about marriage in our families,” Anderson concluded, saying that “we also have to be prepared to make the argument about marriage, what it is, and why it matters.”

Chicago shrine seeks help to rebuild after devastating fire

CHICAGO, ILL., October 8 (CNA/EWTN News) .- This morning the Shrine of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in Chicago launched an online restoration fund following Wednesday's fire at the church, which collapsed much of its roof.

Firefighters responded to the conflagration shortly before 6 a.m. Oct. 7.

The following day the shrine, a certified charity, launched a GoFundMe campaign aimed at raising $500,000 for its restoration. In the last nine hours, it has already raised more than $11,000.

“We have been tested by fire, but this outpouring of support especially from our neighbors helps sustain and renew our faith in our work at the Shrine, in the local community and beyond,” Canon Matthew Talarico, the substitute for the U.S. provincial of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (the community to whom the shrine is entrusted), said in an Oct. 8 statement.

The community writes that “This church has an aura of hope. The Canons and staff at the Shrine are fully committed to carry on the work of restoration, in spite of the devastating fire.”

While the choir loft and part of the roof collapsed, and the windows and much of the interior furnishings were destroyed, the building's walls and bell tower were secure following the fire. Adjoining the shrine are a rectory and a women's shelter (formerly a school), both of which were unharmed.

No one was injured, and among the valuables rescued from the blaze were the tabernacle and an 18th century statue of the Infant of Prague.

“Unfortunately, most of the roof collapsed into the structure,” said Deputy Fire Commissioner John McNicholas, according to the local CBS affiliate. “So as beautiful as the structure is, it sustained an awful lot of damage.”
The church is a historic landmark – it was built in 1923 as St. Gelasius parish, and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest was already in the midst of renovating the building.

The shrine is located in the Woodlawn neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. It forms the United States headquarters of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, a society of apostolic life whose aim is to spread the reign of Christ in all spheres of life, and which celebrates the extraordinary form of the Roman rite.

Parishioners at the Shrine participating in the Mass of Palm Sunday. Photo courtesy of the ICKSP.

The shrine had offered concerts and social events to edify the neighborhood since having been entrusted to the Institute in 2004.

Mike Medina, president of the Woodlawn Residents Association, said that “From organizing block clean-up days and hosting meetings with city and civic leaders, to promoting local businesses and teaching hockey to neighborhood youth, the Shrine of Christ the King has been a tireless advocate for Woodlawn and serves our neighborhood with a giving and gracious heart. We stand together with the Shrine!”

Canon Talarico stated: "Hundreds of prayer requests come in weekly from the local area and across the country and it has been a great source of joy in watching this devotion grow."

Fire officials have said the fire may have been started from rags which were improperly stored after varnishing a portion of the shrine's floor.


For Cubans, the Pope’s visit brought hope - but will it last?

HAVANA, CUBA, October 9 (CNA/EWTN News) .- After Pope Francis’ visit as a “missionary of mercy,” Cuba is now in a prime moment to move forward in its relationship with the Church and work for the common good, said a representative of an aid group that works in the country.

“What he brought them above all was his message of the ‘logic of love’ of Jesus – a love of selfless service to our fellow men, a love that is capable of transforming hearts with a glance of mercy, a love that is active, goes out and builds bridges, a love that is revealed in a special way in family life,” said Ulrich Kny, head of the Latin American section for Aid to the Church In Need.

Kny is responsible for the Germany-based international Catholic charity’s projects in Cuba. He was in Cuba for the Sept. 19-22 papal visit.

Kny recounted that the Pope had exhorted Cubans to “live the revolution of tenderness like Mary, the Mother of Mercy.” The pontiff also encouraged Cubans to establish friendships that seek the common good despite their differences.

The Pope’s success in mediating closer diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba had already generated enthusiasm among Cubans, Kny told CNA Oct. 6.

“For most Cubans he had given new hope of an imminent end to the U.S. economic embargo. Consequently, as soon as he arrived in Havana, he was jubilantly welcomed by tens of thousands of flag-waving Cubans.”

Despite the small percentage of active Catholics in Cuba, the papal visit dominated media coverage. Cuban state media televised live broadcasts of papal events and documentaries about the Pope.

Kny believes the Pope’s “gestures of openness, warm-heartedness and humanity” touched the hearts of all Cubans. He cited the Pope’s manner of approaching people and giving total attention to those who met him personally.

Despite the difficulties facing the Church in Cuba, the Church’s efforts to promote the well-being of the Cuban people is being recognized by the government, Kny said. “More and more of her activities are at least being tolerated.”

“The Church in Cuba has learned over decades to survive in an atheist environment. She has now emerged from the catacombs and – despite all the opposition and difficulties – has become an active force in society and has earned for herself great respect in all levels of Cuban society. The Church in Cuba can today offer the universal Church her own experience in dialogue with a society that for the most part has no knowledge of God.”

Kny has been particularly impressed by the creativity of the bishops, priests, religious and laity who are able to “slowly but steadily expand the limited room for maneuver allowed them in their work of evangelization.”

The visit of Benedict XVI in 2012 brought the re-establishment of Good Friday as a public holiday, but did not yield much substance improvement in the government’s stance toward the Church. Kny hopes that Pope Francis’ visit will mean the Church “will really be granted more room to develop.”

The Cuban government officially professes to respect religious freedom, but in practice the Catholic Church is still “very far from a normal pastoral situation,” according to Kny. The Church must seek official permission for all events or celebrations outside church walls, a difficult process that is “fraught with chicanery.”

Ahead of the papal visit, organizers had to wait until the last minute for official permission for the preparatory program for the Pope’s meeting with young people in Havana. Many dioceses had to fight for enough places on planes and trains for pilgrims who wanted to travel to the three papal Masses.

Other major problems include insufficient access to communications media and the lack of permission to import vehicles for pastoral work. Church construction also faces large obstacles.

With few exceptions, “the Catholic Church is again and again not granted permission to build new churches, whereas Protestant groups and sects such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been allowed to build more and more temples in recent years.”

“Yet despite all the difficulties, it is noticeable that the Catholic Church is becoming an ever more important player within Cuban society,” Kny affirmed.

He encouraged prayers for Cuba and efforts to strengthen support for the Church so that she can overcome financial obstacles and reach her full potential for evangelization. This will help the Church give Cubans the opportunity for “a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”

He said the time after Pope Francis’ visit is a “very favorable moment” for this support.

At the same time, he cautioned, the Church in Cuba lacks the human, material and logistical resources to strengthen and deepen the faith of the Cuban people, decades after the communist revolution.

“The hunger for God is enormous, yet many Cubans have only a very sketchy knowledge of their faith. The task of deepening this knowledge, by means of an extensive catechetical program and through the experience of a personal encounter with the living Christ, represents an enormous challenge for the Church in Cuba and one for which she simply has too few pastoral workers available,” Kny told CNA.

Young Catholic laity have few prospects and tend to emigrate, meaning it is very hard to guarantee continuity in lay formation, he said. The failures of Cuba’s transportation system and high fuel costs also limit Catholic gatherings. Church vehicles are antiquated and in constant need of repair, which hinders the capacity for pastoral visits.

While the Church is reacquiring properties confiscated after the communist revolution, these require costly restoration work when building materials and money are in short supply, he continued. Securing official permissions for repair work is again a drawn-out process.

For Kny, the greater problems for Cuba include “moral deformation.” Not only is abortion widely practiced, but there is a general absence of Christian values from education, which is run by a state monopoly.

The country is continuing to struggle economically since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s main economic partner. Cubans also face drastic food rationing. People are often dependent on financial support from relatives abroad, they buy stolen goods on the black market, or even feel forced to steal state property.

They describe this practice using the Spanish word “resolver,” which roughly means “to find a solution.”

“This kind of basic attitude, which is of course contrary to Christian moral values, is one that no one can blame the Cubans for, given the current situation,” Kny said. “Yet for the future it harbors great dangers, for it is another thing that contributes ultimately to a thoroughly corrupt society.”

Recent changes in U.S.-Cuban relations have helped Cubans strengthen their connections with relatives in the U.S. Kny reported that many people gather at newly established internet hotspots to surf on the internet or to chat and e-mail their U.S. relatives.

“Most of these gadgets and their expensive access codes are paid for by their relatives abroad,” he said.

The Cuban government has long been controversial because of its actions against its own people, especially political dissidents. Catholic human rights advocates and others are frequently detained.

However, Kny hoped for a way forward.

“For all the justified criticism of the human rights abuses and the restriction of the freedoms of the Cuban people, we should avoid any kind of polemics and confrontation,” he recommended. “The Cuban leadership has realized, thank God, that the Church is not interested in political opposition but in the welfare of the Cuban people.”

He said the Church does not restrict herself to denouncing injustice. Rather, she seeks dialogue with the government and with society while “doing everything possible to introduce Christian values and convey to the Cuban people a hope that unites and that offers life and future.”

“I believe that the Church in Cuba is on the right path here.”

The Aid to the Church in Need website is

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