Friday, 27 November 2015

Something the Synod said (3) ....

The final relatio of the Synod, in n.5 addresses, or attempts to address the social-cultural context facing the family today. Using a terminology of an "anthropological-cultural transformation", this paragraph appears to me to give an account on the one hand of an increased sense of individual satisfaction as a purpose to be gained from a marriage whilst on the other trying to maintain that the commitment to the other in the community of marriage is still strong. And I couldn't put my finger on the exact intention of the term "anthropological-cultural transformation". During a train journey a couple of weeks ago I read an essay by Mary Ann Glendon entitled "Family Law in a Time of Turbulence". This essay in part surveys the impact of social changes on families and family law in the late twentieth century. It seems to me to articulate rather more effectively than does the Synod relatio the sense of individualism that is now often present on the part of those entering marriage and of its impact on the institution of marriage.

The final relatio of the Synod, in n.6, addresses the religious context facing the family today. I use below the translation by Bishop Campbell, but with some adaptations of my own from the original Italian:
The Christian faith is strong and alive. In some parts of the world can be seen a marked decline of religious influence in the social ambience which has its effect on the life of the family. This orientation tends to relegate the religious dimension to the private and family sphere, and risks obstructing the witness and mission of Christian families in the present day world. In the social setting of an advanced well being in society, people run the risk of entrusting every hope to the exaggerated search for social success and economic prosperity. In other regions of the world, the negative effects of an unjust world economic order lead to forms of religiosity embracing sectarian and radical extremism. One can mention movements animated by a political-religious fanaticism,  often hostile to Christianity. Creating instability and sowing disorder and violence, they are the cause of great misery and suffering for the life of families. The Church is called to accompany the religiosity lived out in families to direct it to a gospel sense.
 One can see in this paragraph an attempt to speak to the different situations of the developed nations and those where there is a lack of development. Apart from its reference to the impact of secularisation, the paragraph seems to me to fail to address the essentially religious dimensions of the context of Christian families today. Among my work colleagues, for example (and this came to the fore recently when one of my colleagues brought in sweets to celebrate Diwali), are Muslims who fast during Ramadan, a Sikh colleague, at least two Catholics and at least one Hindu. A number of these colleagues are younger people who have recently married. So the religious context against which the Christians live out their married life is one of dialogue with the idea of marriage as manifested by other religions.

One hopes that, if Pope Francis is going to include something of these paragraphs in his Apostolic Exhortation, he draws on more substantial work which I am sure could be available to him through the work of the relevant Pontifical Councils and Academies.

[I expect that I will skip commenting on the rest of this chapter of the relatio, for reasons which might be apparent from the above.]

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