Focused on the Dysfunctional? A Consideration of the Need for the Synod on the Family to Refocus ON the Family

122114Many breathed a sigh of relief when the summary document of the extraordinary Synod on the Family was much improved and the seriously flawed sections (which no one seems to know who wrote!) were removed.  But in this case we cannot allow the better to become the enemy of the best. And frankly the relatio, though improved, ought not escape sober scrutiny by those who seek to allow the upcoming (Ordinary) Synod to become what it really ought to be: a synod on families, not on dysfunction.

No doubt the family is in grave crisis, not just in the West, be really throughout most of the world. But to focus only on the dysfunction and to make it the main matter of discussion is to miss the solution which comes from focusing on what is functional and healthy.

Consider the medical world. It is clear that they must look to the pathologies and diseases that afflict the human family. But the definition and picture of what is healthy must drive everything doctors do (except perhaps in the palliative care department). The role of doctors is not to make sick people feel better about being sick, it is to make them well; it is to restore them to good health. I suppose it is not a bad thing that doctors make patients feel welcome and comfortable in the office or hospital, but that is secondary. If I go to the doctor with cancer and all the doctor says is “I affirm you! Don’t feel embarrassed or hurt; lots of people are sick. Heck, I get sick too.” Well then I am going to have to say, “Thanks Doc, but how about the cancer? What are we going to do about that?”

Yet too often in the Church today those entrusted with the care of souls talk like that chatty, affirming doctor. Too easily it’s all “bedside manner” stuff, and not enough good, strong medicine that calls disease what it is is and points to the charts and indicators of what true health is.

It would seem that an awful lot of the time at the Synod, at least in the discussions that were most publicized, was spent talking about what is dysfunctional and trying to make people in dysfunctional situations feel better and “included.” It would seem that less time has been spent looking at what true family health and functionality is and working to rebuild that by insisting on it, preaching it, and getting people used to it again. Where is the focus on functional families? How have they succeeded? What are the elements that most contribute to family health? Where are the panels of couples married 25, 40, and 50 years being consulted for solid advice? Where is the pointed and solid exegesis of scriptural texts, teachings from the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and witnesses to married love down through the centuries?

Sadly, most of the oxygen thus far has gone toward what is not working. The “Synod on the Family” might need to be renamed the “Synod on Divorce, Remarriage, and Alternative Families.”  As such, we seem more like the “cheerful” doctor above who spends all his time welcoming and reassuring but misses his most essential role: combating pathology and restoring health.

A recent article in Catholic World Report highlights the seemingly skewed emphasis in the Relatio and in current discussions. The article highlights what the Synod did NOT say and focuses on two specific omissions. Here are some excerpts from the article (by Matthew Christoff) in bold italics, with some additional commentary by me in plain red text. The full article can be found here: The Bishops and the Man-Crisis.

Christoff begins by listing two serious omissions he sees and then detailing them. (Remember I am presenting excerpts.)

The Synod completely ignored the essential importance of men in the faith lives of the family and the broader Catholic “man-crisis.” The second shocking omission is that the Synod failed to acknowledge and address the majority of families in the pews, families with married moms and dads who are facing crushing challenges with successfully passing on the faith to their children.

Omission 1: Men

In the Relatio Synodi, the Synod Fathers offered only one sentence with 25 words addressed to men and fathers who represent about half of Catholics. For perspective, homosexuals, who represent 1-2% of Catholics, merited two whole paragraphs. Wow, ONE sentence, ONE. 

Rather than recognize the contributions of fathers or their unique spiritual and evangelization needs, the Synod Fathers offered this short, critical admonishment to men and fathers:

Fathers who are often absent from their families, not simply for economic reasons, need to assume more clearly their responsibility for children and the family (Paragraph 8).

Well, admonishment is good. A lot of men are sinfully absent and/or passive husbands and fathers.  

But admonishment without instruction is ineffective. This is especially true today when many men hear the message that seeking to be the head of their household, to provide for their wife and children, and to be be a leader are bad things. Men who talk like this are often scolded for being patriarchal, insensitive, misogynistic, etc.

Thus scolding without teaching men, women, and even children of the biblical vision of a man as the head of his family, is ineffective because it does not provide men or families with a framework that clarifies the “responsibility” the bishops speak of and how it is to be properly described and fulfilled.  

It is strategically flawed to believe that the Church can bring the New Evangelization to the family without addressing the Catholic “man-crisis”. The New Emangelization Project has documented that there is a Catholic “man-crisis” that is widespread and serious. Fully one in three baptized Catholic men in the U.S. have left the Church … Of those who remain  50-60% are … men who don’t know the faith, don’t practice the faith and are not committed to passing the faith along to their children … Men are essential in the passing along of faith to the children. Various studies have been published that underscore the essential nature of the father in the transmission of the faith. The active involvement in the faith of an evangelized and catechized father is the single biggest influence on whether the children will remain in the faith when they become adults. The reason the Church is losing so many young people is that the fathers have not been evangelized and catechized. This is the essence of the Catholic “man-crisis.”

OK, are we clear: the Synod has to focus a LOT more on men and their role as husbands and fathers. One sentence is NOT enough. Some teachings regarding men that should be emphasized for the restoration of good, healthy families should include: What does scripture teach of the role of a man as a husband and father? What does scripture mean in calling a man the head of his wife? How is this role properly exercised (and not set aside as outdated)?  What are ways the Church can once again summon men to leadership roles in the parish and community? How can we better form young men to be husbands, fathers, priests, deacons, or religious? 

ONE sentence? Really? Major omission! Much more has to be said and done about the “missing man syndrome” in the Church and in the family. 

Omission 2: Intact Families

According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (Marriage in the Catholic Church: A Survey of U.S. Catholics – 2007), sacramentally married Catholics represent the single biggest portion of Catholics (some 35-40%). These Catholics received no pastoral emphasis by the Synod. N.B. There are still a lot of functioning families. Not enough to be sure, but there ARE still a good number.

[Instead, the Relatio] focuses on five [other] types of families for pastoral care: engaged couples, married couples in their early years, couples who are not sacramentally married, divorced and remarried couples and single parent families, and homosexual persons. Here is the relative emphasis based on word count:

Those to be married (7% of the word count)
Those newly married (7% of the word count)
Those living together or civilly married (17% of the word count)
Those who are divorced or single (61% of the word count)
Homosexuals (7% of the word count)

Each of these groups are certainly worthy of evangelization and are rightly acknowledged in the document. What’s missing is the largest portion of those families who are Catholic: sacramentally married with intact families.

Once again, WOW! 61% of the word count on the divorced or still single and almost nothing on functioning, traditional families. True, the engaged and newly married receive 14% of the word count. But the skew is clearly toward what is at variance with God’s plan and is dysfunctional: cohabiters, the divorced, and those with same-sex attraction. Hence the wonderment as to whether this really is the “Synod on the Family” and not the “Synod on Divorce, Remarriage, and Alternative Families.” I will admit that I am not sure how these percentages were determined, so I am just assuming the count as reliable, though I suppose what category every word goes into may be a matter of some debate, at least at the margins. 

Intact [traditional] families face grave issues that desperately require the Church’s attention. Many of these families are casual in their faith and will not be able to successfully transmit the faith to their children without dramatic new enthusiasm, catechesis, and skills.  All the trends suggest that the Church is failing in helping intact families pass their faith along to their children: since 2000 in the U.S., 14 million Catholics have left the faith, parish religious education participation of children has dropped by 24%, Catholic school attendance has dropped by 19%, baptisms of infants has dropped by 28%, baptism of adults has dropped by 31% and sacramental Catholic marriages have dropped by 41%. Something is desperately wrong with how the Church is evangelizing and catechizing existing families.

To use a common sense analogy from business: Businesses that flourish are extremely attendant to their loyal customer base (for the Church, those sacramentally married couples with children in the pews); great emphasis is placed on helping these customers grow in their loyalty (for the Church, helping parents grow in their faith and successfully pass their faith along to their children) and increasing their use of the product (increased Mass attendance and participation in Reconciliation). A losing strategy in business is to focus marketing efforts on wooing back those customers who don’t like the product (for the Church, those who reject the Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality) and have stopped using the product (those who have left the Church).

Admittedly, this analogy is only partially correct for the Church; Christ teaches that the lost sheep should be pursued, and so they should. But Christ’s last words to Peter are repeated three times: “feed my sheep.” Sadly, in the Relatio Synodi, the largest portion of families are completely ignored; the sheep in the paddock are not being fed. Amen! 

Christoff concludes with a plea to Bishops:

As fathers, bishops, and priests must begin to take responsibility for their own families (their dioceses, their parishes) and develop new ardor, methods, and expressions to successfully evangelize and catechize men and intact families in the pews….it is imperative that the Church realize and correct the Synod’s shocking omissions and realign attention to the evangelization and catechesis of men and those intact families who are in the pews. Without a new and dramatic hands-on effort to “feed the sheep” (i.e., men and intact families), the flock will continue to wander off in the coming decades.


Here’s a complex song. But among other things, it celebrates the formation that takes place in families.

51 Replies to “Focused on the Dysfunctional? A Consideration of the Need for the Synod on the Family to Refocus ON the Family”

  1. Thank you Msgr. Pope for so clearly articulating the issues that have so troubled many many Catholics.This skewing towards the dysfunctional is a horrid trend our Church leaders seem to be set on. We NEED more of these good, faithful Catholic fathers to be front and center within our parishes. They are our lighthouses and guides to forming within our own families, good Scriptural based family lives.

    Why is it suddenly so very important to stress the dysfunctional in our population? It looks and feels as if the Church has embarked on the very slippery slope into feel good relativism. A huge error and an even bigger loss to the souls on this planet, Catholic or not, who have looked to the Church to remain steadfast to the teachings of God and His Christ.

    Men need to be reaffirmed as paterfamilias. Strong, faithful, steady and loving. i had that, thanks be to God with my David. He treated me with the utmost respect, truly sought and valued my thoughts and opinions, but when necessary, he knew when to exert his authority as the head of our family. We need classes for all our family men where they can be taught, bolstered up and encouraged to be the best they can be. Our Deacons all should come from these faithful and true men.

    Msgr. Pope, i am becoming increasingly uneasy about what i perceive in our Church. And i confess it hurts… badly. Too many of our priests are not preaching Catholic doctrine or Scriptural for that matter. This is costing souls a price they will pay unless these evils are remedied. i pray every day for the Holy Spirit to shine the light of clarity and truth over us all.

    1. Could it be because we need to witness to the Gospel of Jesus to those not in traditional marriages, to evangelize, to help Jesus bring the lost sheep home.

      Merry Christmas!

  2. Very true, I never thought of it like this. Why spend so much time and energy on those who have already rejected the teachings instead of more focus on those who are still trying to adhere to the teachings, but who might be struggling or lukewarm.

    While I do think the damage was done in earlier generations, I really think this generation of parents is where the rubber will meet the road so to say. There is no feeling of societal or even familial obligation to even do the bare minimum anymore, like take your child to be baptized or to enroll them in CCD for First Communion, etc.

  3. So much was missing from that synod. The church takes tremendous hits over contraception, but the synod refused to even utter the words “NFP” If the church is going to offer a position that runs completely contrary to current secular thinking, it had better be prepared to present its case for its alternative in the strongest, clearest terms. So far, the synod has refused to do that. They merely mouthed vague generalities.

    The Pope should realize that the media is bound and determined to undermine his attempt to strengthen families. If the regular people are to hear anything about the synod, the church had better take those gay and divorced and remarried issues off the table, to be addressed elsewhere. The media has been primed to believe that these synods will be the place where “Liberal” Pope Francis and his allies confront the “conservative” bishops, and will be the place where Francis announces the new gay friendly policies of the church (or so they fantasize) As a result, that is all the synod is to the regular media. Best to remove those issues so real work can be done on the real family issues and that work can be communicated to the public. The question is, is a synod really held if the public never hears about its real work?

      1. Well, NFP should be promoted to Catholics who are contracepting. I know the lame arguments of those who would argue that NFP is a Catholic birth control. However, people who argued this way are unlearned and won’t take the time to understand the differences.

        Contraception is a grave sin for it DISMANTLES the Mechanism that joins the body and soul composite together.

        Contraception/tubal ligation/vasectomy deliberately DISMANTLES and MUTILATES the system of God.
        Natural Family Planning follows the fertility system that God already set up in the female body.

        There is no mutilation nor the separation of the sperm and egg with the Natural Family Planning method.
        There are times in the female body when she is fertile and infertile (this is a monthly cycle), thus, to avoid birth, the practitioner practices PERIODIC ABSTINENCE.

        The practice of NFP HONORS God’s fertility system. NFP can only be used for serious or grave reasons.

  4. Homosexuals, who represent 1-2% of Catholics, merited two paragraphs: could this be evidence that the “Velvet Mafia” has infiltrated the Synod? Obviously, these gay bishops and cardinals appear to be more concerned with their gay brethren than with married heterosexuals and their families. Bishops need to shepherd all of their flock, not just the “1-2%”.

    1. Though I agree with your central point, I would like to discourage accusations of this sort about velvet mafias and “gay” bishops. The evidence of such needs to be more than speculation.

  5. Pope St. John Paul II has a lot to offer on the relationship and roles of men and women, and on the family. Yet, the rich legacy he left for us was all but ignored at the Synod. Why were the experts from the Pontifical St. John Paul II institute on the Family shut out of the Synod? Why was Falimiaris Consortio, the document published by St. John Paul II after the last synod on the family, basically ignored – as though it didn’t exist? Perhaps it should have been used as a starting point for this synod? I don’t think the current cabal in Rome care much for St. John Paul II or his teachings. Perhaps they think that we’ve tried his ideas and they didn’t work, so we need something new. I submit that his ideas have not really been tried. I think this current focus on the dysfunctional, coupled with trying to make everyone feel okay about the dysfunction, will be disastrous in the end.

  6. I have a suggestion. Exclude from the Synod anyone who has not preached a sermon in the last year on the evils of fornication. I realize there would be none left to keep the Synod going, but maybe they could try again next year.

  7. This is spot on, Monsignor. My friends and I felt hurt and betrayed by the Synod. Here we are in the trenches trying our best to raise families in this post-Christian, post-modern world and we were offered not a word of hope. Only controversy and confusion. It’s pretty tough when you feel that even your Church doesn’t have your back. I know this is wrong to think — I’m just being honest.

  8. The manipulations and then media exploitation at work in the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family exposes clericalism at its finest. Yes, needed is a less distracted affirmation of the family at the concluding Ordinary Synod in 2015. But since the recent synod a second survey of dioceses around the world already has been announced.

    A broad question—even above any survey—is raised by the postured equivalence between compassionate practices and (discounted) doctrines. As a “field hospital” the Church surely must simply continue to open its arms to those in difficult situations (as already in St. John Paul II’s 1981 Familiaris consortio). Pope Benedict XVI once stated that even “a council is something that the Church does, but it is not what the Church is.” And Pope Francis reminds us that the Church is “not a parliament,” but can the center of the Church-as-field-hospital stand in the winds that blow if at the periphery we pull up the tent stakes, e.g., by inviting sacrilegious access to communion, and by scrambling every which way to avoid any solid treatment of,what, solid families? The Eucharist and the reality of marriage and family are more than quaint doctrines—one is the reality of the constituting Real Presence that assembles a Eucharistic Church, and the other affirms the reality and indissoluble nature of marital union (and therefore these are expressed doctrinally).

    When is a “field hospital” no longer a field hospital? During the first days of the Second Vatican Council the working drafts were abruptly rejected. The commissions were reconstituted and the real Council began. Surely the recent synod’s repudiation of Cardinal Kasper’s scripted virtual synod is equally the surprising work of the Holy Spirit. In American history, Kasper’s term “gradualism” (into novel terrain) refers to our broken-promise pattern of territorial expansion from sea to shining sea. Does the second survey action conjure a similar Manifest Destiny against the perennial truths of the Catholic faith, or instead might it help proclaim the new evangelization?

    In 2015 will the synod’s secretariat still presume to touch up any collegial report by re-inserting lines of doctrinal/practical novelty where the full synod withholds its two-thirds endorsement (but also remains unwittingly silent)? Will warmed over survey responses be cut-and-pasted into any blanks left vulnerable to doublespeak doctrinal dementia? Upon his election, the Holy Father asked for prayers that he “not make mistakes.” Likewise the synod fathers.

  9. I think that something needs to be said about single Catholics who follow Church teaching but can’t get married precisely for that reason. We are suffocating, starving, dying of loneliness yet we are treated like space aliens in our own parishes or just ignored, because after all, every one else who wants to get married has opted to join the hookup culture or to simply disregard those teachings which are inconvenient.

    It’s like we have been abandoned and left behind enemy lines.

    I recently met a divorced woman who lives alone and still actively practices her faith, yet she was horrified and saddened at the proposals that divorced and civilly-remarried people be mainstreamed back into the Church. If the Eucharist is for people who live in mortal sin, what’s the point of it anyway? What’s the point of her suffering for many, many years, on her own and all alone?

    I think the situation is similar for single Catholics. We are under tremendous pressure to engage in premarital sex as the price of having any relationship, even a temporary one. Whether it is hooking up, what used to be called sleeping around, cohabitation or some other irregular union — we’re the oddballs and weirdos because we won’t participate. I tell you, the loneliness is just like having one’s head in a vise. All the time. Now we are being told, by much of the Catholic press, that we should just go ahead and do whatever we want, then come to communion anyway.

    The present conversation inflicts devastating damage on faithful singles and divorced alike, especially those who are looking and spending decades of their life alone, and in old age too.

    So why no mention of fathers, intact families, and the faithful living alone? Any objective measure of the situation reveals that the marginal cases getting attention are not the only ones who need help now.

    1. Take heart. Don’t believe the omnipresent lies. Christ is with you in your suffering. He will not fail to repay you a hundred times over.

      1. I suffered the pain of being rejected by men for not agreeing to illicit sex. But I hung in there and ended up with a wonderful man who respected me. We have been married 25 years and God has blessed us. I will pray for John and those who are lonely.

    2. Hi John, from this Catholic single to another, my prayers and support. a good and blessed Merry Christmas!

  10. We are inundated 24/7 with lust and materials.The Church is like “a ship without a rudder”, and the man who said this (Cardinal Burke) was demoted.

    Why was he demoted? I blame the top (and you know my frustration).

    We need to go back to theology and show man that life on earth is short.

    What did Jesus reveal to us on the 3rd day? He revealed to us the state of everlasting life.


    “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.” – John 6:55

    If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, believe me, there would be no Catholic Church.

    If we preach this truth, then everything will fall into place.

    If we don’t preach this, then the Church is nothing more than a social club, and we’re just the same as the “health” and “wealth” groups focusing on this life only.

    That is why we need to explain the mystery of John 6:55! Once this mystery is revealed then everything will fall into place, and we can even achieve the unity of faith. Supernatural Graces need to be release, NO WAY can we save society without Supernatural graces from God.

    I believe in this prophecy, and it will come to pass, even if no one cares to help me!

    “And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Until we all meet into the unity of faith, AND OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SON OF GOD, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ; That henceforth we be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive.”- Ephesians 4:11 – 14

    1. That’s what is confusing. The Pope says he does not want bishops who worry about advancement. He does not want bishops who say nice things about their boss to get ahead. Yet he turns around and transfers, demotes, and banishes anyone who disagrees with him? He promotes, say in Chicago, those who go out their way to agree with him and do everything to advance their career. He seems to say one thing, and do another. He has surrounded himself with “Yes” men. Very odd…

  11. I prayerfully await when the Synod joyfully endorses welcoming divorced Catholics (indeed all who seek a deeper relationship with Christ) to the Eucharist with open arms, unconditionally of marital status. The spirit of Pope Francis is alive and well. It is a new day of inclusion and openness – including the special gifts all of God’s people bring to the table.

    1. But Jesus said to them, Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” 8 He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, unless the marriage is unlawful, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.” (Mt 19:4–9).

      Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (1 Co 11:27–32).

      I don’t think your reference to Pope Francis is fair, but even if it were (and remember Francis has the charism of infallibility so he can’t go with your little fantasy of joyfully setting aside the Scripture), I’ll go with Jesus.

    2. “welcoming divorced Catholics….to the Eucharist with open arms, unconditionally of marital status.”

      WOW, so a polygamous can go and receive the Eucharist?

      Gee, now let’s see… I’ll have Betty for Monday, Judy for Tuesday, Wendy for Wednesday, Trisha for Thursday, Veronica for Friday, Margaret for Saturday and ON SUNDAY, I’ll go receive communion, HOORAY!

      How about the Orgy people, Paul? How about the Porno people, Paul? How about the abortionists, Paul?
      How about the pimps, Paul? How about guys who do drive-by shooting, Paul?

      There is NO thought process in a Liberal Brain!

      So Let’s IGNOR Jesus’ words: “Go and sin no more.”

      If the leaderships go this direction (the Devil’s TROJAN HORSE) why even fight sin???…..It’s Voodoo time baby….THE END!

      DIABOLIC DISORIENTATION Indeed….Hey man I didn’t think Orgy people could go and receive communion?
      Oh man this is a disorientation for me. Hey man, I didn’t think people who support killing babies in the womb could go receive Communion….well this is a disorientation for me.

      THE DEVIL MESSING WITH YOUR BRAIN…insane in the membrane!

      How is abortion ever going to end when Bishops give communion to UNREPENTANT public sinners?

      Hear Ye….Hear Ye….Trojan Horses are here and they are in the city of God…..the Church.

      THEY ARE ALL TROJAN HORSES BABY…the Devil’s Style…..Why fight sin? Hey maybe it’s not sin at all…who am I to judge?….We will teach them gradually……gradually….to lose their faith!

      The Devil needs human agents….Ya know.

      Trojan Horses baby….we’ve been played for fools!

  12. Good points, but I would argue this Synod was just round one. There is still another one to go and the faithful should not be passive or silent on these issues. To sit back and wag your finger at the Cardinals is no better than Monday morning quarterbacking and equally as useless.

    Pray and talk to each other. A revolution that exists only in your minds never gets off the ground. We must live the future we want. We must make ourselves better. Be the change you want to see. Be not afraid for the Lord is with you always.

    And on a picky note, 25 words is a crazy long sentence. Break it down into manageable parts and it could be a paragraph in its own right. Also, since the people who wrote the document are all men, why is it so easy for them to trivialize the role of men in the church and family?

    It seems to me the more problematic issue we have is that these men appear to forget they are one of us regular folks. We men/women/priests will all suffer or benefit by the outcome of these synods equally, as we are all one body in Christ.

    1. Round one, yes, However, (unfortunately) the relatio sets the stage for the discussions to follow. Hence the concern for the silence on some issue and the focus on dysfunction

  13. Once in awhile, I can feel the Holy Spirit’s hand in articulating a thought that moves us to prayerful
    consideration of what is needed on our spiritual path as Catholics. This is one of those times. Thank you.

  14. “And so, to atone for that sin, it was fitting that Christ should suffer by being fastened to a tree, as if restoring what Adam had purloined; according to Psalm 68:5: “Then did I pay that which I took not away.””–St. Thomas Aquinas

  15. The man crisis has some serious roots in John Paul II. All of his documents about the family pretty much just admonish and debase the father as the head of the family.

  16. As a convert to Catholicism and a divorce widower of many years,what has saddened me, since Vatican 2, has been the lack of solid teaching on the way of Christian life based on the teachings of Jesus that were reinforced and developed by that council.
    Too many priests and religious, men and women, have not stood firmly with Christ in their teaching. As a consequence, the average lay person, who relys on them for guidance, becomes confused and often led astray.
    The more I listen to and read what Pope Francic is teaching and doing his words and action is firmly based in Christ’s teaching.
    Hopefully he will be able to lead the Church, which is the Kingdom of God on earth, to fullness of loyalty and obodiene to Christ our King.

  17. You should send this to Pope Francis since he is the one “hell bent” on changing the Church’s perspective on sodomy and Holy Communion and the divorced Catholic.

  18. I think it is pretty clear that the Church is in a state of confusion. It doesn’t know what to do about the family and about fatherhood, hence, all the confusion at the synod. Even smart and virtuous people get confused when they lose site of first principles. Consider that the first principle in the family is the father, and the father’s main spiritual role is protection. I think the Pope and the Bishops have forgotten this core principle of fatherhood. All good fathers are inspired to protect first. We don’t know if St Joseph evangelized, but he did protect. If fathers and bishops understand St Joseph, they will know what to do.

    My sense is that if the Church had a strong and active protective principle, bishops would be encouraging the formation of ghettos—parish gardens, if you will. (All plants have to be heavily protected from toxins and pests until they are big enough to survive on their own.) The analogy in parish life is to clearly identifying spiritual toxins and nutrients. Exclude the toxins, reinforce the nutrients; pull up the weeds, etc.. Instead, we hear mostly about “evangelization” which is a kind of missionary work. But this is mixed up. First you set of a strong perimeter and consolidate your position, nurture your plants/souls until they are strong, and then you do expeditionary work. Today we hear about expansion without consolidation and protection. It’s strange, and it obviously isn’t working. Without the protection of families first, nothing will work. The toxins, get in, the weeds sprout up, and everything gets choked off. With the spiritual ghetto, the family flourishes. Ghettoes protect families. Think ghetto.

    1. Every parish could found a local endowment to pay teacher salaries at the nearest Catholic school. Staff it with volunteers, invest funds in Ave Maria Rising Dividend Fund or similar, get 5001(c) 3 qualification to make contributions tax deductible, encourage baby boomer grandparents to make it their first or second most important charity, reduce tuition for middle class families. Religious have no concept of how difficult it is for middle class families to pay $6k+ after tax per child to send them to a school where the Name of God may be invoked prayerfully. In our government schools the Name of God is only allowed as a curse. And our Church leaders are oblivious to the plight of faithful families as we witness in the perversely misdirected agenda of the Synod on the Family.
      Dear Fathers, you are not going to fill the pews with broken marriages and broken sexualities. “Feed My lambs.”

  19. Just to illustrate the point… As I am arriving at mass with my family yesterday morning (4th Sunday of Advent), I spot another family that often sits close to us during mass. As usual, I am happy to spot them, and I looked forward to talking to them after mass, perhaps go grab a bite to eat or something. Mass ends, and we meet half of the family in the narthex… I ask what happened to the “boys” (father and son); and I am told the that went… for a jog! Priorities, eh?

  20. Thank you for writing this, and your other blogs on the family. You have said many things I’ve wanted to communicate to our priests and bishops. Thank you for encouraging us in our married vocation!

  21. I spent a year discussing these issues with my (now former) parish leadership. Though it wasn’t put in such direct terms, their basic answer was: How dare I ask for spiritual food for my family, when other people suffer so much more than us? The parish offered us the following:

    1) For my husband: Ignore his own spiritual needs. Serve in (85%+ female) parish groups where his masculine opinions and gifts are disdained.

    2) For me: Bake cookies. Be a busybody. Participate in “women’s spirituality” and “social justice” groups dominated by women who hold unorthodox beliefs.

    3) For my children: Attend a silly Religious Ed program that is scheduled during Sunday Mass. Pay obscene amounts of money for unimpressive “Catholic” education at the parish school.

    Fed up, we eventually switched to a different parish in a poorer neighborhood. I don’t like that answer (feels a little like parish shopping), but I am a mother of young kids. I need support right now, not scorn. I am happy to serve, but I also need to be fed.

  22. God saves society by …. mal 3:1-4, 23-24…..

    “Lo, I will send you
    Elijah, the prophet,
    Before the day of the LORD comes,
    the great and terrible day,
    To turn the hearts of the fathers to their children,
    and the hearts of the children to their fathers,
    Lest I come and strike
    the land with doom.”

  23. Even though we’re not part of the married group and were part of the group that got the most words (61%), I really think that part of what’s wrong with families in the Church and in the country is that there is this expectation that everyone is going to get married and if you don’t do that or have a religious vocation then there is something wrong with you. That’s a lot of pressure on people to get married or at least couple up when perhaps a focus on living and contributing to the world as a single person, a very content aunt or uncle who is supportive of brothers and sisters who were called to marriage, would lead to others being more content with their single status and more willing to take the time, if they’re called to the married life, to make sure they know what they are doing so that they will have a strong marriage.

    I realize that there are lots of other things that were left out and that would contribute to the strengthening of marriages. But the social emphasis on getting married may lead to problems with the marriages that result.

    1. Yeah, I know this is a irritation with you that you express a lot. But I think the historical truth is that cultures that are not successful in steering most people to marriage and family are dying cultures. I remain firm int eh conviction that there is no vocation to the single life per se. There may be a vocational call to do some sort of apostolic work for the Church or dedicated work for society that means one will at least temporarily forsake marriage for the sake of that work. But the vocation in the work, not the single life. Celibates such as myself also see our call as marital in that priests are wed to the Church, Sister wed to Christ. It is true some cannot marry for various reasons: didn’t find a spouse, weren’t asked, are same-sex attracted and so forth. But the single status is not a call. Only what one might do with their availability might be termed a call or vocation.

  24. Somewhere in his writings Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, offered the suggestion that it might be good if the Church fasted for a whole year from producing written documents.
    Already many churchmen and certainly 99.9 percent of the laity fast from reading these tomes.

    In where we are for the present moment, what is there to prevent a bishop here and there from teaching clearly that which needs to be taught, perhaps blatantly, without using an unfinished synod document as air cover for more waiting, waiting, waiting. Where is G.K. Chesterton when we need him? Speaking of bishops in history he said: “Those runners gather impetus as they run. Ages afterwards they still speak as if something had just happened. They have not lost the speed and momentum of messengers; they have hardly lost, as it were, the wild eyes of witnesses . . . We might sometimes fancy that the Church grows younger as the world grows old” (The Everlasting Man, 1925). Today is the Church getting younger???

    What is a sacrament? What is a sin? What is grace? What is a family? What is the self-disclosure of God Almighty into human history, and what is the reason for the past fifty years of growing muddle? And who will finally own up to it, so that we can really move on? Who actually needs another finely honed compendium report? What is the decisive turning point by which the Church will propose St. Paul’s “new life” to an entire civilization now in freefall?

    The Second Vatican Council “aggiornamento” of the Church actually refers to “todaying”, and not to updating as accommodation with the drift of things. Todaying, not Tomorrowing. So when does the TODAYING of the really good news of the entire Gospel begin? What, really, is the New Evangelization, and when?

  25. For example, here, in Familiaris Consortio, JPII is using a few more words to say essentially the same thing the most recent Synod said: 25. Within the conjugal and family communion-community, the man is called upon to live his gift and role as husband and father.

    “In his wife he sees the fulfillment of God’s intention: “It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him a helper fit for him,”(67) and he makes his own the cry of Adam, the first husband: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”(68)

    Authentic conjugal love presupposes and requires that a man have a profound respect for the equal dignity of his wife: “You are not her master,” writes St. Ambrose, “but her husband; she was not given to you to be your slave, but your wife…. Reciprocate her attentiveness to you and be grateful to her for her love.”(69) With his wife a man should live “a very special form of personal friendship.”(70) As for the Christian, he is called upon to develop a new attitude of love, manifesting towards his wife a charity that is both gentle and strong like that which Christ has for the Church.”

    Love for his wife as mother of their children and love for the children themselves are for the man the natural way of understanding and fulfilling his own fatherhood. Above all where social and cultural conditions so easily encourage a father to be less concerned with his family or at any rate less involved in the work of education, efforts must be made to restore socially the conviction that the place and task of the father in and for the family is of unique and irreplaceable importance.(72) As experience teaches, the absence of a father causes psychological and moral imbalance and notable difficulties in family relationships, as does, in contrary circumstances, the oppressive presence of a father, especially where there still prevails the phenomenon of “machismo,” or a wrong superiority of male prerogatives which humiliates women and inhibits the development of healthy family relationships.

    In revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God,(73) a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family: he will perform this task by exercising generous responsibility for the life conceived under the heart of the mother, by a more solicitous commitment to education, a task he shares with his wife,(74) by work which is never a cause of division in the family but promotes its unity and stability, and by means of the witness he gives of an adult Christian life which effectively introduces the children into the living experience of Christ and the Church.”

    Elsewhere, such as in his Letter to Families and Mulieris Dignitatem, he goes out of his way to over emphasize equality and mutuality to the complete exclusion of the inherent inequality between husband and wife Pius XI observed in Casti Connubii. Men are merely admonished and debased as the head of the family, but women are only constantly affirmed and encouraged to be disobedient, exactly the opposite of what the St. Paul says in Titus: “The aged women, in like manner, in holy attire, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teaching well: 4That they may teach the young women to be wise, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5To be discreet, chaste, sober, having a care of the house, gentle, obedient to their husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”

    It seems John Paul II based his whole mutual subjection theme of husband to wife and vice versa that runs through everything he wrote about the family on that one verse St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 5. He never mentions Paul’s instruction in Titus, among other passages. And of course he neglected the instruction of he predecessor Pius XI: “74. The same false teachers who try to dim the luster of conjugal faith and purity do not scruple to do away with the honorable and trusting obedience which the woman owes to the man. Many of them even go further and assert that such a subjection of one party to the other is unworthy of human dignity, that the rights of husband and wife are equal; wherefore, they boldly proclaim the emancipation of women has been or ought to be effected.”

  26. I agree that the “man crisis” is paramount. However, no correction of the crisis can occur unless there is a simultaneous, unambiguous call for married women with children to return to the home. The Church has been silent on the massive rebellion of mothers leaving the home which is now a multi generational destructive phenomenon. Men now compete with their spouses in the West. This disorder must be called out. We have been waiting for decades to hear a peep from Rome on this social cancer of women outsourcing their motherhood from 9 to 5.

  27. I do not expect, at all, under the current Pope that any good related to the family or to marriage will come about.

    As in the old game, perhaps a baby step forward and a giant step backward…..

  28. I have experienced a great pedagogical formation in the Neocatechumenal Way that is addressing family life, based on solid Catholic teaching, especially from the encyclicals, apostolic exhortations and writings of St. John Paul II. We have to encourage and invite the faithful to this type of evangelization, recognizing that we all need more to go against the strong secular trends, as the Neocatechumenate does in the parish by inviting to catechesis for adults and youth (13 and older). As Archbishop Myers of Newark said in a homily, that we have lost 2 generations through bad catechetics, calling it the bubble gum and balloons catechetics. I am grateful to God for this instrument that is rebuilding lives, families and getting vocations to the priesthood and religious life. I encourage other pastors to welcome this gift to their parish.

    Thank you, Msgr. Pope, for your insightful articles. Mutual prayers!

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