The Truth and Beauty of the Family and Mercy towards Broken and Fragile Families (Marriage and the Path of Mercy in the Life of the Church)
This morning in Rome, Cardinal Wuerl presented to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and the members of the Synod on the Family, his intervention: “The Truth and Beauty of the Family and Mercy towards Broken and Fragile Families.”
Members of the Synod
I want to begin by once again thanking you, Holy Father, for your recent pastoral visit to the United States, especially to Washington, and most particularly for your canonization of Saint Junipero Serra – the great evangelizer of a part of our nation.
I want to reflect on paragraph #58, “The Truth and Beauty of the Family, and Mercy towards Broken and Fragile Families.”
How can the Church’s teaching and discipline in the often contentious and challenging lived experience of marriage, sexuality and family be understood through the lens of mercy and love?
This is a critical question at the heart of our efforts especially for our priests who work each day not just with the doctrine in abstract but with individuals in broken situations.
The question is not about a change in the doctrine, but rather to make sure that pastoral care takes account of the limitation of real, actual, concrete situations and of what each person is able to do, capable of doing. It has been the longstanding practice in the Church to present her teaching in its entirety while at the same time to accompany, pastorally and with mercy, those, all of us, who struggle to live out as best we can the fullness of the teaching. The proclamation of Christ’s Gospel and the welcoming embrace in Christ’s mercy are two equally valid and intrinsically related aspects of Church life and should be reflected in good pastoral practice.
In understanding the Church’s teaching and discipline regarding marriage, it is important to recognize the role of the faith community and participation in it. The community of disciples, the Church, is the context of our faith. The community of faith and love sustains and provides the necessary support for the full living out of the teaching and for the healing when needed.
The perception of being alienated permanently and essentially from the Church raises a barrier for those struggling with the teaching, and the effort to live it in real, concrete situations.
To envision the Church’s teaching and discipline regarding marriage through the lens of mercy and charity, as we are invited to do, requires attention to the pastoral dimension and application of the Church’s teaching, the progressive nature of personal conversion to Christ and the fullness of his way, and the necessity of authentic Christian community in the lives of her members. In these ways we can begin to fashion a pastoral response in which we experience the Church as that field hospital where the wounded are attended by the Great Physician.