BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge has called for a “pastoral creativity” and for the Church to “speak and act differently” as the synod on the family continues in Rome.
Archbishop Coleridge, one of two Australian bishops at the synod, said it was wrong to think the gathering of bishops had to adopt an “all or nothing” response to Church teaching and the trends of modern family life.
Writing on his blog on the archdiocesan website, Archbishop Coleridge detailed some of his input to the group discussions that form part of the synod process.
“I tried to say that during the synod discussions and those preceding there was a sense at times that it’s a matter of all or nothing – that we have two options: either to abandon the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family or to leave things exactly as they are, saying and doing what we’ve said and done for a long time,” the Archbishop wrote.
“I suggested that neither of these was a real option.”
“We weren’t going to abandon Church teaching; but it was unthinkable that we would simply say and do what we’ve always said and done.
“Why bother with the time, energy and expense of two synods and all that’s gone with them if nothing whatsoever is going to change?
“The impression at times is that there’s really no space between the two extremes, when in fact there’s a huge space – space for all kinds of pastoral creativity.
“We need, I said, to expand our vision of possibility, think laterally, outside the square.
“That’s the task of this synod and the real challenge to our corporate apostolic imagination: neither to abandon Church teaching or to leave things untouched, but to explore the vast territory that lies between iconoclasm and immobilism – and to do so in a way that’s practical at the point of both language and action.
“We have to speak differently and act differently, but staying within the wide parameters of Church teaching which has its roots in Jesus.”
The synod, which is held from October 4-25, is broken into three parts over its three weeks discussing the challenges of the family, the vocation of the family and the mission of the family today according to the working document Instrumentum Laboris.
The delegates divide into small groups to discuss the topics, with Archbishop Coleridge elected as the “relator” charged with reporting his group’s opinions back to the synod.
He wrote on his blog after each of the relators reported back their groups’ thoughts on the first week.
“The clear feeling was that the working document was too negative about history, culture and the current state of marriage and the family across the board,” Archbishop Coleridge wrote.
“We need rather to see with the eye of God who still looks upon all that He has created and still finds it good.
“After the reports, I found myself more buoyed than I thought I would be.
“After the uncertainty, even confusion of the early days, it seemed to me that some rough shape was beginning to emerge.
“Certain points of agreement were emerging, and it will be interesting to see how these fare in the second week when we look at Part II of the working document which focuses on the vocation of the family.
“One of the things I stressed at the end of my report was the need for patience in a process like this, the kind of patience that Pope Francis stressed in Evangelii Gaudium.
“I need to cool it and wait on the God who reaches far beyond politics and ideology.
“I doubt that I’m the only one in that situation.”
– Michael Crutcher