Vatican Radio is reporting that the first general debate in the Synod on the Family got underway on Monday afternoon with the President Delegate on duty, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, noting that “even when Church teaching on marriage and the family is known, many Christians have difficulty fully accepting it.”
This is why pastors “need to be able to introduce the truths of faith concerning the family, so its profound human and existential worth can be properly appreciated.”
He then introduced the first married couple to directly address the Synod Fathers about the reality of married life, Romano and Mavis Pirola, who have been married for 55 years. They are the parents of four children and the grandparents of eight children, and serve as the Directors of the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council.
The Pirolas address focused on how "messy" family life can be in this day and age with cohabiting couples, single and divorced parents.
As Zenit reports, the most controversial part of their address concerned a story they told about friends who were planning a Christmas family gathering “when their gay son said he wanted to bring his partner home too. They fully believed in the Church’s teachings and they knew their grandchildren would see them welcome the son and his partner into the family.
“Their response could be summed up in three words, ‘He is our son’,” the couple said. “What a model of evangelization for parishes as they respond to similar situations in their neighborhood! It is a practical example of what the Instrumentum laboris says concerning the Church’s teaching role and its main mission to let the world know of God’s love.”
Maria Madise, coordinator of Voice of the Family, an international coalition of pro-family groups, expressed her belief that the Pirolas statement was "damaging" because welcoming a homosexual and his lover to a gathering with children “gives a false lead to families and parishes [which] is no example of love and mercy towards anyone.
“The unqualified welcome of homosexual couples into family and parish environments in fact damages everybody, by serving to normalize the disorder of homosexuality. It damages children by presenting homosexual relationships as models which may legitimately be chosen,” Madise continued.
"It damages adults by making them complicit in tacit endorsements of the immoral and dangerous homosexual lifestyle. And it damages the homosexual couples themselves by failing to guide them with the truth in charity – that their relationship is gravely harmful for their moral and spiritual health.”
Madise added: “It is because we desire the eternal happiness of those we love that we need to support them to overcome temptation and to live chastely. This path is not easy, but nor is any cross that is the way of true mercy, love and new life.”
The testimony of Alice and Jeffrey Heinzen of Wisconsin focused more on how the Church needed to develop "more robust and creative methods to share the fundamental truth that marriage is a divine gift from God, rather than merely a man-made institution," the Catholic News Service reports.
Alice Heinzen, who is director of the Office for Marriage and Family Life at the Diocese of LaCrosse, and her husband Jeff, who is president of McDonell Catholic Schools in Chippewa Falls, said existing diocesan programs and Catholic organizations aimed at helping Catholic families fulfill their vocation clearly are not strong enough to meet modern needs.
This is why they believe the Church needs to review the methods with which she teaches children about the nature of human sexuality and the vocation of marriage. The priesthood and religious life are not the only vocations to which God is calling the faithful. "Marriage should be included in all programs designed to explore vocations," they said.
The couple spoke about how their parents' example and the family life they enjoyed while growing up were major factors in how they managed their own family today. Attending Mass as a family, praying the rosary together during the month of May, were all part of the family life they enjoyed in childhood.
"To all this we can add our mothers who reminded us to always love our siblings, to use our best manners with others, and to save our pennies to help those less fortunate," she said. "Our homes were schools of love and virtue and our parents were the primary educators."
But many of today's youth don't have similar experiences and are being raised without the blessing of married parents who created a home full of faith and love. As a result, these children grow up being unable to trust in God or neighbor. Coming from this kind of a background, "How can they create lifelong marriages?"
The church is not confused or in a state of crisis about its teaching on marriage and family life, Alice said. But there is "a crisis of methodology. How do we as a church effectively share what we know to be true in practical, simple and convincing ways, so that all men and women are challenged and supported to live lifelong marriages and build homes that reflect the domestic church?"
The Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which has been called to respond to the “widespread cultural, social and spiritual crisis” which threatens the family today, will conclude on October 19.
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