Synod on the Family: Consultation of the New Zealand Bishops

FamilyThe New Zealand Catholic Bishops have released their consultation questionnaire in preparation for this year’s Synod on the Family which is to be held in Rome, October 5th to 19th.

Bishop Charles Drennan of Palmerston North will be participating in the Synod this October.

Responses to the questionnaire need to be submitted before Monday 9th March.

The focus of this second phase is supposed to be “on practical pastoral approaches which strengthen the beauty of married life and accompany those whose relationships are not unfolding within the bond of marriage.”

However, this paragraph is found in the Bishop’s statement:

We are acutely aware of the many people who in their hearts consider themselves Catholic but are not regularly at Church. Please encourage these family members and friends to participate. Also of particular interest to us are those who see themselves as beyond the Church: perhaps some divorced and remarried, or gay women and men. We urge you to share your experiences through the questionnaire. No-one walks beyond the reach of the Good Shepherd.

And it was concerning to read the following (emphasis mine):

The proposed questions which follow and the reference numbers to the paragraphs in the Relatio Synodi are intended to assist the bishops’ conferences in their reflection and to avoid, in their responses, a formulation of pastoral care based simply on an application of doctrine, which would not respect the conclusions of the Extraordinary Synodal Assembly and would lead their reflection far from the path already indicated. 

Given the grave scandal that occurred during the last Synod on the Family, every Catholic, especially those who are faithfully trying to live their vocation, is encouraged to speak the truth in love.

Family Life International NZ is one of the supporting organisations of Voice of the Family, an initiative which has been formed specifically to offer expertise and resources on family issues before, during and after the Synods on the Family.

The submission made by Voice of the Family to the Pontifical Council of the Family’s consultation is a useful document to read prior to answering the questions in the survey.

Familiaris Consortio – On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World – is another very important document to peruse.  This document was prepared by Saint Pope John Paul II at the end of the 1980 Synod on the Family.

The Lineamenta “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World” contains the text of the Relatio Synodi (the final document of the last Synod) and the discussion questions.

The questions in the New Zealand Catholic Bishops survey are presented below for your reflection.  A Word document can also be downloaded at the Catholic Bishops website.  Answers to the questions can be submitted on this online form.

As well as filling out the survey, let each of us ensure that we pray daily for Pope Francis, as well as every Cardinal, Bishop and Priest – especially those who will participate in the Synod on the Family.

Consultation Questions in preparation for the Ordinary Synod on the Family October 5th to 19th, 2015

Does the description of the various familial situations in the Relatio Synodi correspond to what exists in the Church and society today? What missing aspects should be included?

The proposed questions which follow and the reference numbers to the paragraphs in the Relatio Synodi are intended to assist the bishops’ conferences in their reflection and to avoid, in their responses, a formulation of pastoral care based simply on an application of doctrine, which would not respect the conclusions of the Extraordinary Synodal Assembly and would lead their reflection far from the path already indicated.

1. What initiatives are taking place and what are those planned in relation to the challenges these cultural changes pose to the family (cf. ns. 6 – 7): which initiatives are geared to reawaken an awareness of God’s presence in family life; to teaching and establishing sound interpersonal relationships; to fostering social and economic policies useful to the family; to alleviating difficulties associated with attention given to children, the elderly and family members who are ill; and to addressing more specific cultural factors present in the local Church?

2. What analytical tools are currently being used in these times of anthropological and cultural changes; what are the more significant positive or negative results? (cf. n. 5)

3. Beyond proclaiming God’s Word and pointing out extreme situations, how does the Church choose to be present “as Church” and to draw near families in extreme situations? (cf. n. 8). How does the Church seek to prevent these situations? What can be done to support and strengthen families of believers and those faithful to the bonds of marriage?

4. How does the Church respond, in her pastoral activity, to the diffusion of cultural relativism in secularized society and to the consequent rejection, on the part of many, of the model of family formed by a man and woman united in the marriage and open to life?

5. How do Christian families bear witness, for succeeding generations, to the development and growth of a life of sentiment? (cf. ns. 9 – 10). In this regard, how might the formation of ordained ministers be improved? What qualified persons are urgently needed in this pastoral activity?

6. To what extent and by what means is the ordinary pastoral care of families addressed to those on the periphery? (cf. n. 11). What are the operational guidelines available to foster and appreciate the “desire to form a family” planted by the Creator in the heart of every person, especially among young people, including those in family situations which do not correspond to the Christian vision? How do they respond to the Church’s efforts in her mission to them? How prevalent is natural marriage among the non-baptized, also in relation to the desire to form a family among the young?

7. A fixed gaze on Christ opens up new possibilities. “Indeed, every time we return to the source of the Christian experience, new paths and undreamed of possibilities open up” (n. 12). How is the teaching from Sacred Scripture utilized in pastoral activity on behalf of families. To what extent does “fixing our gaze on Christ” nourish a pastoral care of the family which is courageous and faithful?

8. What marriage and family values can be seen to be realized in the life of young people and married couples? What form do they take? Are there values which can be highlighted? (cf. n. 13) What sinful aspects are to be avoided and overcome?

9. What human pedagogy needs to be taken into account — in keeping with divine pedagogy — so as better to understand what is required in the Church’s pastoral activity in light of the maturation of a couple’s life together which would lead to marriage in the future? (cf. n. 13)

10. What is being done to demonstrate the greatness and beauty of the gift of indissolubility so as to prompt a desire to live it and strengthen it more and more? (cf. n. 14)

11. How can people be helped to understand that a relationship with God can assist couples in overcoming the inherent weaknesses in marital relations? (cf. n. 14) How do people bear witness to the fact that divine blessings accompany every true marriage? How do people manifest that the grace of the Sacrament sustains married couples throughout their life together?

12. How can people be made to understand that Christian marriage corresponds to the original plan of God and, thus, one of fulfillment and not confinement? (cf. n. 13)

13. How can the Church be conceived as a “domestic Church” (Lumen Gentium, 11), agent and object of the work of evangelization in service to the Kingdom of God?

14. How can an awareness of this missionary task of the family be fostered?

15. The Lord looks with love at the Christian family and through him the family grows as a true community of life and love. How can a familial spirituality be developed and how can families become places of new life in Christ? (cf. n. 21)

16. What initiatives in catechesis can be developed and fostered to make known and offer assistance to persons in living the Church’s teaching on the family, above all in surmounting any possible discrepancy between what is lived and what is professed and in leading to a process of conversion?

17. What initiatives can lead people to understand the value of an indissoluble and fruitful marriage as the path to complete personal fulfilment? (cf. n. 21)

18. What can be done to show that the family has many unique aspects for experiencing the joys of human existence?

19. The Second Vatican Council, returning to an ancient ecclesial tradition, expressed an appreciation for natural marriage. To what extent does diocesan pastoral activity acknowledge the value of this popular wisdom as fundamental in culture and society? (cf. n. 22)

20. How can people be helped to understand that no one is beyond the mercy of God? How can this truth be expressed in the Church’s pastoral activity towards families, especially those which are wounded and fragile? (cf. n. 28)

21. In the case of those who have not yet arrived at a full understanding of the gift of Christ’s love, how can the faithful express a friendly attitude and offer trustworthy guidance without failing to proclaim the demands of the Gospel? (cf. n. 24)

22. What can be done so that persons in the various forms of union between a man and a woman — in which human values can be present — might experience a sense of respect, trust and encouragement to grow in the Church’s good will and be helped to arrive at the fulness of Christian marriage? (cf. n. 25)

23. How is the family emphasized in the formation of priests and other pastoral workers? How are families themselves involved?

24. 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?

25. In proclaiming the Gospel of the Family, how can the conditions be created so that each family might actually be as God wills and that society might acknowledge the family’s dignity and mission? What “pastoral conversion” and what further steps towards an in-depth examination are being done to achieve this?

26. Are people aware of the importance of the collaboration of social and civil institutions on behalf of the family? How is this actually done? What criteria are used to inspire it? In this regard, what role can be played by family associations? How can this collaboration be sustained even in a bold repudiation of the cultural, economic and political processes which threaten the family?

27. How can relations between family, society and civil life be fostered for the benefit of the family? How can the support of the State and the international community be fostered on behalf of the family?

28. How is marriage preparation proposed in order to highlight the vocation and mission of the family according to faith in Jesus Christ? Is it proposed as an authentic ecclesial experience? How can it be renewed and improved?

29. How does the catechesis of Christian initiation present an openness to the vocation and mission of the family? What practices are seen as most urgent? How is the relation among Baptism, Eucharist and marriage proposed? What emphasis is given to the character of the catechumenate and mystagogy which is often a part of marriage preparation? How can the community be involved in this preparation?

30. Does marriage preparation and accompanying couples in the initial years of married life adequately value the important contribution of the witness and sustenance which can be given by families, associations and family movements? What positive experiences can be reported in this regard?

31. 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?

32. 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?

33. Is the Christian community able to be pastorally involved in these situations? How can it assist in discerning the positive and negative elements in the life of persons united in a civil marriage so as to guide and sustain them on a path of growth and conversion towards the Sacrament of Matrimony? How can those living together be assisted to decide to marry?

34. In a particular way, what response is to be given to problems arising from the continuity of traditional forms of marriage in stages or those between families?

35. Is the Christian community in a position to undertake the care of all wounded families so that they can experience the Father’s mercy? How does the Christian community engage in removing the social and economic factors which often determine this situation? What steps have been taken and what can be done to increase this activity and the sense of mission which sustains it?

36. How can the identification of shared pastoral guidelines be fostered at the level of the particular Church? In this regard, how can a dialogue be developed among the various particular Churches cum Petro and sub Petro?

37. How can the procedure to determine cases of nullity be made more accessible, streamlined and possibly without expense?

38. 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?

39. Does current legislation provide a valid response to the challenges resulting from mixed marriages or interreligious marriages? Should other elements be taken into account?

40. How can the Christian community give pastoral attention to families with persons with homosexual tendencies? What are the responses that, in light of cultural sensitivities, are considered to be most appropriate? While avoiding any unjust discrimination, how can such persons receive pastoral care in these situations in light of the Gospel? How can God’s will be proposed to them in their situation?

41. What are the most significant steps that have been taken to announce and effectively promote the beauty and dignity of becoming a mother or father, in light, for example, of Humanae Vitae of Blessed Pope Paul VI? How can dialogue be promoted with the sciences and biomedical technologies in a way that respects the human ecology of reproduction?

42. A generous maternity / paternity needs structures and tools. Does the Christian community exercise an effective solidarity and support? How? Is it courageous in proposing valid solutions even at a socio-political level? How can adoption and foster-parenting be encouraged as a powerful sign of fruitful generosity? How can the care and respect of children be promoted?

43. The Christian lives maternity / paternity as a response to a vocation. Is this vocation sufficiently emphasized in catechesis? What formation is offered so that it might effectively guide the consciences of married couples? Are people aware of the grave consequences of demographic change?

44. How does the Church combat the scourge of abortion and foster an effective culture of life?

45. Fulfilling their educational mission is not always easy for parents. Do they find solidarity and support from the Christian community? What suggestions might be offered in formation? What steps can be taken to acknowledge the role of parents in raising children, even at the socio-political level?

46. How can parents and the Christian family be made aware that the duty of transmitting the faith is an intrinsic aspect of being a Christian?

 

 

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