Timothy Cardinal Dolan has written a terrific blog post about a new minority in the Church.
Can I suggest as well that there is now a new minority in the world and even in the Church? I am thinking of those who, relying on God’s grace and mercy, strive for virtue and fidelity…these wonderful people today often feel themselves a minority, certainly in culture, but even, at times in the Church!
He mentions that within this new minority there are people who seek the Church for the sacrament of Matrimony, believe marriage is forever, try to wait to live together, try to be chaste even though they have a same-sex attraction, and who welcome children as a blessing from God. These are the faithful members of the Church who seek to live the Gospel and the Church teaching as fully as possible. If the Synod is to be strongly effective, I believe it is best for it to focus on encouraging the faithful to live according to the demands of the Gospel and teaching of the Church because it is only becoming more difficult to live God’s call for our lives. Just because a Catholic is not in an irregular situation does not mean that their road is easy. It is painful to go through the suffering of infertility and be faithful to the Church’s teaching on the sacredness of life. It is a suffering to keep one’s passions in check to remain continent both within and outside of marriage. It is overwhelming to try and raise children with a Catholic upbringing in a culture that oppresses us with immoral marriage-like alternatives. However, these important issues as well as many others that affect the family trying to live the Gospel faithfully do not appear to receive much attention.
Instead, it seems that many Catholics—including many at the Synod—are more focused on the so-called-minorities of those in irregular situations such as the divorced and remarried or those in same-sex attraction difficulties. This attention seems to draw the potential pastoral energy of the Church away from those struggling faithfully to live a holy family life to the world by trying to make the teachings of the Church more palatable or less offensive to those who do not understand God’s plan or have truly been hurt by Christians. I fear that this will neglect the faithful families trying so hard in this world to follow Jesus which will ultimately fail to strengthen the family because it is mostly families in irregular circumstances that are being addressed without calling them to attempt as much as possible to a heroic Christian witness. This stems from a faulty form of evangelization where the Gospel is made to affirm people where they are but neglects challenging them to live a new life in the Holy Spirit.
Although I disagree with those bishops who focus so much on those in irregular circumstances, I do believe that they are well intentioned by trying to leave the 99 sheep to find the lost one. However, I think even those who live the Church’s teaching as faithfully as they are able—with constant recourse to the sacrament of reconciliation—can also be considered lost or at least fighting not to be lost in the waves of secularism and modernism that threaten the existence of the family. In today’s world, it is probably more accurate to see that there is 1 secure sheep and 99 who are lost and I am sure there are some faithful Catholics out there who feel excluded from the Church because they are “following the rules” but following rules without pastoral love will only last so long, which will cause serious consequences down the road.
I am not suggesting that the Church only take a dogmatic approach. The irregular circumstances of the family have become more typical than those families in faithful circumstances. Pastoral approaches are needed for those with same-sex attractions or those with disabilities to guide them to God’s plan of salvation found within the institution of the family He has created. To evangelize those who have found themselves in a situation that is not ideal (and to be honest there is no perfect family), it is necessary to strengthen those families striving to live God’s design of the family so that witnesses will abound for everyone to work better towards living God’s love in our concrete family lives. Otherwise, if the family striving to live the Gospel is forgotten, they will feel more marginalized and possibly dissipate. If this happens, those in irregular situations will find fewer families living according to God’s plan to love them.