Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles at the Synod of Bishops on the family. Photo: CNS/Paul Haring
As the Synod on the Family nears its end in Rome, one of the bishops participating, José H Gómez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, has contributed a commentary to the series Letters from the Synod, edited by Xavier Rynne II. In the following excerpt Archbishop Gomez argues that Catholics need to respond to what is a real crisis of the family with “positive ways to proclaim God as Creator and to show the beauty of his plan for the human person and the family.”
The family crisis
Some of my brother bishops have remarked on the sense of urgency – some even call it anxiety – that has been felt during this Synod. The somber mood is reflected in the working document that has formed the basis for our discussions during these past three weeks. Pope Francis has spoken often of the profound cultural crisis facing the family. And there is a sense in this Synod that the family “as we know it” is in danger of disappearing – threatened by forces that are economic, cultural and ideological.
At the root of the family crisis is a crisis of confidence in God – a loss of the sense that he is our Father and Creator, and that he has a plan, a “dream” for his creation, a plan for our lives. The family today is threatened by the same “anthropocentric” and “technocratic” mentality that Pope Francis warns about in Laudato Si’, his encyclical on creation. This mentality rejects the “realities” of creation and human nature. Everything – nature, the human body and mind, social institutions – is is seen as so much “raw material” to be “engineered” using technology, medicine, even law and public policy. What the Pope calls the “technocratic paradigm” underlies the existential threats that confront human life and the family today – from artificial contraception and embryonic experimentation, to the surgical manipulations of femininity and masculinity required for “transgenderism,” to the redefinition of marriage and the forced sterilisation and abortion policies prevalent in some parts of the world.
The way forward
In confronting this broad cultural crisis of the family, the Church needs to proclaim once more the beautiful truth about the human person and God’s loving plan for creation and the family. “The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place … is to speak once more of the figure of a Father who creates and who alone owns the world,” Pope Francis writes in Laudato Si’. At the centre of our Father’s plan for the world, we find the married couple and the family. That is why the Church cannot allow marriage and family to be reduced to cultural constructs or arbitrary living arrangements. Because if we lose the family, we lose God’s plan for our lives and for the world.
Marriage and the family are gifts from the Creator that are “written into” the order of his creation and expressed in the bodily differences of men and women and their vocation to a communion of love that is faithful for life and fruitful in creating new life. Pope Francis affirms this in Laudato Si’ and he emphasised it again during his year-long catechesis on the family. The human person is God’s “masterpiece,” created body and soul in his image and likeness, the Pope said. The natural differences between men and women and their “complementarity” stand at the “summit of divine creation,” and order the couple to “communion and generation, always in the image and likeness of God.”
These basic truths of creation are the source for everything that the Church believes, teaches and practices about marriage and family. The Church is called to proclaim these truths to the world in all their fullness and in all their beauty. We are called to do everything that we can to support those couples and families who are trying to live these truths – to be “holy spouses” and “holy families.” The Church is also called to reach out with tenderness to those who are having trouble understanding and living these truths. But Pope Francis has also urged us in strong words not to sacrifice the truths of creation in a vain effort to “please the people” or to make the Church’s teachings sound less demanding. At the end of the extraordinary synod last year he cautioned against “a destructive tendency … that in the name of a deceptive mercybinds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots.” This is always a natural temptation when we are faced with human weakness and misunderstanding. But the Pope reminds us that kindness and compassion can never be separated from the truth of God’s plan. A person’s conscience is sacred. But our conscience is only reliable if it is formed according to the truth that God has written into our hearts and the loving plan he has for our lives.
The words we speak in mercy must always be the truth, or our words are not merciful at all, just sentimental feelings. Telling people what they want to hear will never do them any good, unless what we are saying is the truth they need to know.
All of us in the Church, in these difficult times, are called to accompany people, to meet them where they are at and to walk with them in charity and tenderness and compassion. But the journey of the Christian life is always a journey of conversion. Our “destination” is not where we want to go, but where God wants to lead us.
A moment for mission
So as we enter these final days of the Synod, I find myself turning to our newest saints. Not only the holy spouses Saints Louis and Zélie Martin. But also our newest American saint, St Junípero Serra, who blazed the trails of holiness in the New World.
I believe that all of us in the Church need a new missionary confidence and courage for the times we are living in. In fact, we are living in a time of hope, a new missionary moment – a time when the Church has a great opportunity for the new evangelisation of our continents and the world. Every day, as bishops from around the world gather in this Synod Hall, we are witnessing the reality that the Gospel has been inculturated in “every nation under heaven.” This has been striking for me, this experience of the universal Church: to realise that the Church today is able to truly pray, teach and evangelise in one voice – as one family of God, drawn from every nation, people and language, united in our faith in the Gospel and our communion with the Holy Father in Rome.
With the unity of our doctrine and practice, and the rich diversity of our local traditions of popular piety, the Church has tremendous resources to resist pressures and worldly powers and to proclaim the Gospel to a new generation.
We need to challenge the “orthodoxies” and the “anthropology” of our culture. We need to find creative, positive ways to proclaim God as Creator and to show the beauty of his plan for the human person and the family.
This excerpt is reproduced from The Catholic Weekly, Sydney. Read the full article by Archbishop Gomez here. (Scroll down)