WHAT WILL THE SYNOD BRING
The starting bishops' synod about family is to be attended by three bishops from Poland and a married couple of the Pulikowscy. What postulates did they go to Rome with?
The representation of the Polish Church has taken a special document to Rome, which is an official attitude of our Episcopate. Bishops note inseparability of marriage in it. They also remind about inflexibility of teaching of the Catholic Church which clearly proves that the condition of permission for the Holy Communion is maintaining in the holy grace.
So, Polish bishops clearly opt against suggestions of giving forgiveness and the Holy Communion to people who are divorced or living in non-sacramental couples. - Living in another non-sacramental relation is, unfortunately, living in the state of adultery and in no way can it go together with attending the Eucharist – emphasizes archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, the chairperson of the Polish Episcopal Conference.
German 'progressive people'
Most followers of permission to the Holy Communion for people living in non-sacramental relations, are among bishops from a group of the German-speaking culture. The 'progressive fraction' is led by cardinal Walter Kasper supported by the chairperson of the German Episcopate cardinal Reinhard Marks. It was him who brought an appeal of most bishops to Vatican last year, in which German bishops demanded on the Holy Communion for divorced people living in non-sacramental relations. Moreover, the metropolitan of Vienna cardinal Christoph Schonborn is likely to support their attitude. According to the Austrian cardinal, the condition would be going through a kind of a proper process of purification and decision of a priest who is accompanying a couple.
The attitude of the 'progressive 'hierarchs' is explained with the fact that they are trying to appeal to those families which have departed from the Church and do not go to it. In dioceses of Western Europe divorces are a giant problem. And, just in this respect, Germany takes a disgraceful first place in Europe. So, the attitude of, among the others, cardinal Marks is an attempt of going out to people who are the majority in some parishes.
- I perceive two main reasons for the 'progressive' attitude of German bishops – says Tomasz Terlikowski, a Catholic publicist and author of the book about German bishops. - In western Churches there started to be a tendency of departing from an individual confession and there is gradually a disappearance of awareness of conditions for the penance sacrament. After all, it is in the confessional where we express our grief for our sins and commitment for our behaviour improvement. So, it even caused a situation in which there are attempts to sanction 'the lack of improvement', that is, life in non-sacramental marriages – says Terlikowski. - Another reason may even be much more earthly. Believers who are not allowed for the Holy Communion, do not want to assign their taxes to keep the Church. So, economic reason cannot be excluded, either.
In the mid of September, chairs of Europe episcopates were debating in the Holy Land. Among many discussions, they were also talking about the forthcoming synod. - Worrying voices are also coming mainly from German-speaking hierarchs. Whereas, attitudes of other European Churches are similar to the one from Poland. I expect that we will also have support from Africa – says archbishop Gadecki. - Surely we will not be alone during synodal voting or discussions.
Problems of the family
Besides archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, at the synod, there is also the chairperson of the Council for the Family of the Polish Episcopal Conference bishop Jan Watroba and the chairperson of the Team of Experts of the Polish Episcopal Conference for Bioethics, archbishop Henryk Hoser. For, these three bishops are synodal fathers with the equal right of vote. Beside hierarch, pope Francis invited auditors of the synod to Rome. Among 17 married couples there is one from Poland.
Jadwiga and Jacek Pulikowscy, who have been activists in the family pastoral ministry in Poznan for over 30 years.
- People who depart from faith and religious practices, get divorced hundred times more frequently than those who are active members of the Church. I do not say it on the basis of my religiousness, but my observations for many years – emphasizes Jacek Pulikowski. - Faith and sacramental life help people overcome the most difficult problems. Even married couples engrossed in a deep crisis, can rebuild their relation quickly and permanently, if they decide for a prayer, confession and the Holy Communion – says Pulikowski.
In his opinion, the most common reason for divorce is the sphere of sexuality. At present it is very weakened and misunderstood. Despite the teaching of the Church, the aspect of sexual pleasure is offered today as a goods, not a sign of love and marital unity. Among the others, the modern mentality and depriving of the marital act of fertility are to be blamed for it, and what it entails, also responsibility.
- Contraceptive mentality developed today to such an extent, that a family with many children is treated as pathology. After all, the contemporary world treats families with many children as victims of their fertility – says archbishop Henryk Hoser. - We know that such families are often more united and are an unusual social capital because they are the first school of communication and socialization of a man.
The most important part of the synod will be devoted to a discussion about the contemporary concept of pastoral ministry of families. A lot of time is taken by a debate on how to prepare fiances , so that their marriages would be permanent and mature. - It is impossible to replace direct meetings with a priest and with happy married couples who can share their experiences with fiances. We all are called for accompanying people on their way to marriage, and later for building a happy family – says bishop Jan Watroba. - I hope that the synod will help the Church in Poland find new ways and forms of pastoral ministry of families, especially that one can hear such drastic voices about our pre-marital courses.
Will an Exhortation be created?
During the last year's extraordinary session of the bishops' synod, the chair of the Polish Episcopal Conference was called by foreign media as the main 'brakeman' of the progress in the Church.
For, it was archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, who strongly and bravely stood in defence of the teaching of the Church. - At that time a discussion was going on more in a sociological and psychological form than the theological one, although it is the theology of the marriage sacrament which concerns the very essence of the teaching of the Church about the family – says archbishop Gadecki.
During a press conference in Warsaw, preceding the synod, the archbishop reminded Jesus' words, who said clearly that the possibility of divorce, allowed by Moses, had been introduced only because of 'hardness' of human hearts. Such a possibility corresponds to the human nature and is popular and practised in judaism and islam till today.
- But marriage is not understood as a sacrament there, that is, a visible sign of invisible reality – said the metropolitan of Poznan.
During the starting bishops' synod, particular fathers will be able to talk freely with media, and the way of passing over content will be presented to their responsibility. At the end of the third week, a final document will be elaborated, which once being approved of by the participants, will be passed over to the Holy Father.
In the last months there appeared voices that the document elaborated by bishops, would be the culminating point all works at the synod. It would be a great change in the previous practice of the Church, as before that synods used to be only an advisory voice for the Holy Father, who, having considered all arguments, edited a post-synodal exhortation.
- I do not know whether such a document will be created. However, it is difficult to imagine that suddenly the concept of the very synod would change so much that it would become a decisive body out of an advisory one. In this case, synodal fathers would replace the Holy Father – archbishop Gadecki answered the question of 'Niedziela'. - However, if an exhortation was to be created, it should be a development and a better form of 'Familiaris consortio' by John Paul II.