2015-10-21 (Vatican Radio) “It is my hope that the Synod will be one that leaves us with open doors, not closed ones,” said Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Germany at the daily press briefing for the Synod on the Family. Marx was present with Cardinal Daniel Sturla Berhouet of Uruguay, and Archbishop Eamon Martin of Ireland. The prelates spoke about their experience of the Synod and then answered questions.
Click below to listen to the full report by Fr. Russell Pollitt, SJ
Cardinal Berhouet explained that this was his first Synod so he was “learning many new things.” He said the he was struck by the intensity of work and the diverse opinions of the delegates. He said that he thought the delegates had done what they could to assist the Holy Father decide on a way forward. Berhouet explained that he thought it very important that the Church find ways of accompanying people when they are in fragile situations.
Archbishop Martin said that this was also his first Synod and that he had found it to be a “marvellous experience.” He thought that the delegates were finding a real convergence which was built upon common hopes and struggles. He spoke of the importance of accompanying the vocation of marriage just as the Church accompanies vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Martin said that there were two things that were most important: first, that we pray for families and, second, that the Church offers positive and clear guidance on its teaching on the family.
Cardinal Marx said that, in his small group, they had spent much time looking closely at the question of finding a way forward so that people who are divorced and civilly re-married can be reconciled with the Church. He pointed out that the proposals his group made were agreed upon unanimously – both Cardinals Walter Kasper and Gerhard Muller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, were in this group. Marx told the briefing that there had been great effort by the group to do good theology. “You can say I have an opinion but you must be very clear in your knowledge so that you can explain it,” the Cardinal said. He said that it was hard work but that they had to discuss difficult issues and find a common way which was “acceptable to everyone.” He said that the Church has started a discussion all over the world about the importance of family life for society and for human existence. Marx said they had also discussed gender and condemned any discrimination of women.
In the question session Berhouet was asked why his Spanish group seemed more open to ways forward. The group had begun their report saying “We must listen to the cry of people who want access to sacraments.” He replied that it was probably because of the situation they faced in South America. He said that there were many layers to family life which made things complicated. “Young women have children from different fathers in the slums for many reasons; because of our situation we have to be more sensitive,” he said.
Marx was asked many questions about finding a way forward for the divorced and civilly re-married to be admitted to the Eucharist. He said that this was a complicated matter and that his group had spoken about a numerous things. He listed a few criteria that might help in considering a way forward: look at individual situations, discern the circumstances, help them notice what they have done in their first marriage, look at the responsibilities they might still have to that relationship, towards children, other persons and to the ecclesial community. He said it would also be good to help people notice any other people they may have offended.
Cardinal Marx went on to say that doctrine is the living tradition of the Church – “not closed but living.” He said that truth does not change but we gain greater understanding of the truth as we grow. “We don’t own the truth,” he said. He also said that theology, doctrine and pastoral praxis go together, they cannot be separated. “We cannot say we have a pastoral Synod and not talk about theology and doctrine… We have to live the doctrine, it is not a book.”
Archbishop Martin said that the hallmark of the Synod was “opening up a space, sometimes uncomfortable” that has allowed a deepening understanding of Church teaching. “We are influenced and shaped by those we listen to and those who listen to us.”
Martin was asked about the role women played in the small group discussions. It has been reported that in one small group a religious sister was dealt with in a very condescending manner. He said that he was sad to hear this but that in his group there was a great richness and diversity brought by the presence of women. He said that women participated fully and frankly, and there was no distinction made between their contributions and those of others.
At the end of the press briefing Cardinal Marx quoted Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice “The quality of mercy is not strain’d, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”