As we approached the beginning of the time of the Extraordinary Synod in Rome I was mindful of Pope Benedict's counsel about Vatican II: that there was a council of the media, and there was the real council. One cannot fail to appreciate the truth of this especially as a convert, for one encounters more and more Catholics who say, "well that changed at vatican ii" but who haven't actually ever read any document of Vatican II! So I have taken with a pinch of salt most of the reports we have received about this synod. I am waiting for the true result of the Synod, which of course won't be produced until part 2 of the synod has happened next year.
I have however read about the press conference with 3 Cardinals and an Archbishop here and share, if it is an accurate representation, disappointment at an opportunity lost. We desperately need our Shepherds to proclaim with confidence to the world the good news of Catholic teaching on marriage and sex. They should not be reticent about this. But I sometimes wonder if they know that Catholic teaching is indeed good news.
I entered the full Communion of the Catholic Church only a few years ago. Part of my relief in making the journey from being an Anglican clergyman to being a pastor of the Catholic Church was that at last the truth that I wanted to proclaim in my preaching and teaching about marriage, family and sex would be the teaching of the Church in which I was ministering. That prospect filled me with joy.
As an Anglican clergyman whenever I spoke about abortion, marriage, family size, population etc I would frequently be greeted with scepticism or outright opposition, and most of the time, a silence that spoke loudest of all. Rarely would I find support. What I found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church was an affirmation of what my wife and I had tried to live in our marriage, and I looked forward to being in full communion with the Church which had produced that Catechism.
Despite the ridicule, the 'jokes', and the embarrassment we obviously caused people, my wife and I have come to believe that the teaching of the Church regarding marriage and sexual morality is actually good news. Yet when expressing this belief amongst Catholics, including groups of Catholic clergy, too often I find people who are not so sure. There is a lack of confidence.
Only recently I spoke with a priest who essentially was trying to say we ought not to "burden" people with this teaching too much. My response was, "Well if you teach it as if it is merely a set of commandments, 'don't do that...' then of course it will come across as a burden. But we have the Catechesis of St John Paul on the Theology of the Body - we do not have to teach it merely as a set of commands." I went on to spell out why our culture is a culture of death and in part is because we have failed to proclaim the good news of the Catholic vision of marriage, family and sex. As a university chaplain I see some of the effects of this in the young men and women I try to offer pastoral care to. Whether it is the corruption of men's hearts because of a long-term use of pornography and masturbation, or women who have had multiple abortions; in every direction we see the terrible effects of a culture of death. What people need is the confident and joyful proclamation of the culture of life. The priest I spoke to was shocked. He had not thought about it in quite that way!
The Church has the treasure of the truth revealed by God for our salvation, and it is very good news - this includes the treasure of its teaching about marriage and about the most intimate part of marriage life, sex. This teaching is very, very good news! The Church needs to find those with a voice to proclaim this good news - perhaps this should not necessarily be cardinals and archbishops.
One of the most joyful experiences I have had in the Catholic Church has been on a campsite! For the last two years we have taken part in a camp for Catholic home-schooling families. It has been a very great privilege to offer mass at the home-schooler's camp. It is on such occasions that one can appreciate the very great joy of the Catholic vision for the family. Yes it is very hard work. Yes it means one has to renounce a lot of things for oneself. But isn't that the essence of caritas, of Christian love? Perhaps we home-schoolers should invite along some of our bishops and priests to see it too?
Sometimes I am referred to as Father Quiverfull! I don't mind. For Holy Scripture says, "Blessed is the man who has his quiver full of them!" The Lord has truly blessed me with ten children. And I am very blessed to have discovered the very good news of the teaching of Holy Mother Church.
My prayer is that the Church will find the voice to speak this good news confidently and joyfully.