At the beginning of each session of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, the Synod Fathers receive some very valuable information. It comes from one of the 12 married couple auditors participating in this Synod who give their perspective on the pastoral needs of families based on their personal experience. It has been a course in Reality 101 for the Synod Fathers as the couples from all parts of the world share their intimate insights of conjugal spirituality, sexuality, birth control, children, including those who have chosen a gay or lesbian lifestyle and the pain of separation and divorce.
It is interesting to compare the approach to pastoral needs of the family at this Extraordinary Synod with the approach taken at the Second Vatican Council. To begin with, unlike the Synod, artificial birth control was taken off the table by Pope Paul VI. In comparison to the Extraordinary Synod’s 12 married couples, there was only one married couple among the auditors of Vatican II. They were Pepe and Luzma Alvarez-Icaza of Mexico City, who were present at the third and fourth sessions and contributed in committee meetings but not to the assembly of Council Fathers.
It would be unfair to imply that the bishops at the Synod had no understanding of the challenges faced by families today, but to hear such frank statements from couples from so many areas of the globe brings the reality of their pastoral need home in a strong manner. It also counters a tendency among many bishops to dismiss many difficulties faced by families as uniquely American.
Council Fathers at Vatican II did address the family, primarily in terms of conjugal spirituality, conjugal love and as primary educators of their children but did little to address the situations that are so pressing today that were not as center stage 50 years ago.
To his credit, Pope Francis asked for candor. It appears he is getting just that from the auditor couples. Please join me in continuing to pray for the success of this very important Synod.
Image Credit: CNS photo/Paul Haring