Answers to a Survey on the Family–part 13

In early 2015, our Archdiocese like many others was offered a 47-question open-ended survey in order to gather information about what people throughout the world understand about the Church’s teaching, her pastoral practice, current conditions, and the reality of marriage and family life.  The survey was probably a poor translation, and the questions were ill-structured, so I ended up writing about 15,500 words in the one week window for completing it.  I have chosen to share a few of these, here, as well, for your comments.  I will quote the question, and what follows is my answer.  I have edited the answers slightly for brevity, politeness, and clarity.

Several questions with shorter answers this time; by this point, many of my answers had already been mostly given in other parts of the survey.

25. Are people aware that the rapid evolution in society requires a constant attention to language in pastoral communication. How can an effective testimony be given to the priority of grace in a way that family life is conceived and lived as welcoming the Holy Spirit?

People are aware that “the rapid evolution in society requires a constant attention to language in pastoral communication” is the sort of language we are constantly offered, these days: whether people think those words mean anything, or whether they know what if anything they mean, is a question that one would need “attention to language in pastoral communication” to answer. As a scholar of literary theory and a teacher of rhetoric, let me say simply that “rapid evolution in society” has not resulted in any changes in human being; it has only led to “constant attention” to the lack of clarity about essences which bedevils any self-authorizing human discourse. Or still more simply, that we only feel compelled to change our terms constantly when social pressure seems more real to us than the realities we are discussing.

I have no idea what the second sentence of this “question” has to do with the first. I also have no clear idea what that sentence could possibly mean. Perhaps we could begin “constant attention to language in pastoral communication” with speaking plain English.

32. The pastoral accompaniment of couples in the initial years of family life — as observed in synodal discussion — needs further development. What are the most significant initiatives already being undertaken? What elements need further development in parishes, dioceses or associations and movements?

NFP training is gradually increasing its profile, but needs to be more clearly integrated into total marriage preparation and enrichment. Efforts to support marriage in prominent movements such as Retrouvaille require identifying a marriage as “troubled” first, which makes it unlikely that couples who want to grow but do not face a crisis will pursue them. Resources for faithful couples who want training and help with practical problems must be greatly multiplied, and the best way to do that is family-to-family with a priority on training in families at all levels. See above.

33. What criteria in a proper pastoral discernment of individual situations are being considered in light the Church’s teaching in which the primary elements of marriage are unity, indissolubility and openness to life?

What I see generally is a tension between proclamation-as-ideal and reality-as-compromise. If we proclaim the reality, we ought to be able to teach how to conform what is mistakenly, ignorantly, or rebelliously mistaken for truth to the truth about reality. If we begin from the assumption that we cannot do so, we will certainly fail to do so. See above.

39. With regard to the divorced and remarried, pastoral practice concerning the sacraments needs to be further studied, including assessment of the Orthodox practice and taking into account “the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances” (n. 52). What are the prospects in such a case? What is possible? What suggestions can be offered to resolve forms of undue or unnecessary impediments?

This has been extensively discussed already, and really does not need further study. See the work of Walter Cardinal Brandmüller; Raymond Cardinal Burke; Carlo Cardinal Caffarra; Velasio Cardinal De Paolis, C.S.; Robert Dodaro, O.S.A.; Paul Mankowski, S.J.; Gerhard Cardinal Müller; John M. Rist; and Archbishop Cyril Vasil’, S.J. in Remaining In The Truth Of Christ. As to how to help resolve such situations, See Above.