ROME — A handbook of 100 questions and answers explaining the Church’s doctrine on marriage and the family has been launched with the aim of clearing up confusion ahead of the October Synod of Bishops on the Family.
The booklet’s authors — Archbishop Aldo de Cillo Pagotto of Paraíba, Brazil, Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa, Calif., and Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary of Astana, Kazakhstan — describe the publication as a “vade mecum [handbook] on the family.”
Said Bishop Vasa, “There is nothing new or revolutionary in this book. We just simply felt that, in light of the upcoming synod on the family, it was time to reiterate those things the Church has clearly and consistently taught.”
“We want to call attention to the truth of certain doctrines, many of which were raised at last year’s Extraordinary Synod [of Bishops] on the Family,” philosophy professor Tommaso Scandroglio told the Register at a Tuesday launch of the booklet in Rome.
Scandroglio, who presented the booklet entitled “Preferential Option for the Family — 100 Questions and Answers Relating to the Synod,” said it was “important to show the pastoral solutions we can apply as principles in our day.”
The authors write that they wish to address relevant fundamental issues on marriage and the family.
“The pastoral needs of the moment also require us to be entirely clear on crucial and delicate points debated in the latest synod, whose interpretation was partially distorted by some theological schools with overwhelming support from the mass media,” the bishops write in the introduction.
“It, therefore, seems appropriate to reiterate some fundamental doctrinal truths and pastoral requirements essential to the problem of the family, whose real situation is quite different from the one they would have us believe.”
Countering the ‘Anti-Family Offensive’
They add that the publication is designed “primarily” to serve as a guide not only for “bishops, priests, religious, catechists” and individual lay faithful in positions of responsibility and leadership, but also any laity concerned about attacks on the family who are “wishing to counter the reckless and powerful anti-family offensive of the mass media.”
The booklet, available in several languages, is divided into 13 chapters, with simple questions and answers. It begins by explaining the synod of bishops and its authority and preparation for the upcoming synod. It then goes on to answer questions on the Church’s relationship with the family, the sexual revolution, moral teaching and pastoral practice.
It discusses personal conscience and the magisterium, the nature and purpose of marriage, declarations of nullity, divorce and separation and Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried. It also covers homosexuality and same-sex unions, applications of mercy to the family situation and the role of supernatural grace in the commitment of family chastity.
The answers to each of the questions “continually recall doctrine of the Catholic Church on these matters,” Scandroglio said.
One chapter is given to analyzing some key words used at the last synod — what it calls “talismanic words” — that carried “strong emotional content” and therefore were perceived as “entirely flexible and changeable.”
Words such as “hurt persons,” “mercy,” “welcome,” “tenderness” and “deepening” have an “elasticity,” the authors write, that make them “susceptible to being used for propaganda purposes and abused for ideological ends.”
When these words are used, they continue, it can “push the faithful to replace a moral judgment with a sentimental one or a substantial judgment with a formal one, coming to regard as good, or at least tolerable, what at first was considered bad.” The booklet then goes to explain in more detail what this means for each of the words mentioned.
In his preface, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship, underlines that most objective observers would agree that the family finds itself in a “real and profound crisis.”
“Facing this reality, it would not be a wise attitude to ignore or minimize this crisis,” he writes, adding that the Church must “evaluate its scope and magnitude and strive to find ways to overcome it.”
“This is the goal pursued, with realism and hope, by this booklet,” he says, and he later stresses that what is most important when facing the crisis of the family is conversion of heart, something that presupposes a “radical purification of thought.”
The Tradition, Faith and Property (TFP) movement is backing the publication of the booklet, which is being sent to all of the world’s bishops.
Those involved in the booklet project, including spokesman Scandroglio, are also promoting the “Filial Appeal” on the future of the family — a petition to the Holy Father calling for more clarity on the Church’s teaching in this area. The petition has gained more than 250,000 signatures, including those of four cardinals, 23 bishops and archbishops, academics and public figures, and will be presented to Pope Francis before the October synod.
Speaking at the launch of the booklet, John Smeaton, chief executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said it is a “wonderful publication” that addresses the “confusion of ordinary Catholics, formed in the faith but overwhelmed by the cultural whims of the sexual revolution.”
“It provides us with a language with which to speak to young people about marriage, faithfulness, chastity and salvation,” he said. “It gives us a sense of the power of God, of his grace, which brings true human happiness.” By contrast, he added, the sexual revolution has been orchestrated by powerful lobbies “in order to destroy families and destroy happiness.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
Copies of the ‘Preferential Option for the Family’ booklet can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling +39 366-9971856.