Long piece by Antonio Spadaro, SJ on the Synod

In America Magazine.  Some excerpts.  


When the pope speaks of the church as a “field hospital after a battle” he is referring to this image of St. Ignatius. He explains the role of the church in light of God’s gaze upon the world: “so many people that ask us to be close, that ask us for what they were asking of Jesus: closeness, nearness.”[xiv] It is the opposite image of a fortress under siege. The image of a church as a field hospital is not just a simple, pretty poetic metaphor; from this very image we can derive an understanding of both the church’s mission and the sacraments of salvation.[xv]

Where is the battlefield today? Here are a few challenges concerning the family: the decline in birthrates and the aging population have reversed the relationships between young and old persons; contraception enables the splitting of sexuality and procreation; assisted procreation divides the process of giving birth from being a parent; stepfamilies lead to new bonds and new parental roles that have complex relational geographies; de facto couples place the social institutionalization of their relationships into question; homosexual persons ask why they cannot live a life of stable affective relationships while remaining practicing believers. Yet in reality the real problem, the true mortal wound of humanity today is that people struggle ever more to go beyond themselves and to establish relationships of trust with others, even if they love the other person. It is this individualistic humanity that the church finds before itself. And the first concern of the church should not be to close doors, but rather to open them. The church must shine with the light that lives within itself, it must go out and encounter human beings who—even though they believe that they do not need to hear a message of salvation—often find themselves afraid and wounded by life.


According to Pope Francis today more than ever we need “a church that is again capable of restoring citizenship to so many of its children that walk as if in exodus.”[xvi] Christian citizenship is above all the result of God’s mercy. If the church is truly a mother, it needs to respond to its children from its “guts of mercy”(Lk 1:78). Not only from its heart, but precisely from its “guts.” Thus “all are able to participate in some way in the life of the Church, all can be a part of the community, and even doors of the Sacraments should not be closed for any reason”(EG, no. 47). Many Fathers in fact asked themselves the following question: for the visceral mercy of God, can there in fact be a sacramental economy that considers some situations unredeemable, that permanently preclude access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Let us take one example. What can we do when we find a woman who, after a failed marriage and after years of rebuilding her life, with a new marriage and with children, repents of grave sins that she committed in the past (for example, an abortion which she had before her divorce) and wishes to sacramentally reconcile herself with God?


The light of the church’s journey—along which we certainly find many such temptations—must remain Christ the servant, who himself desires “a Church that is not afraid to eat with prostitutes and sinners.” The “Message” of the synod to all families confirmed this notion: “Christ wanted his Church to be a house whose doors are always open and welcoming, without excluding anybody.”The same idea was also boldly expressed by the Relatio Synodi in no. 11, which is perhaps the evangelical core of the document: “People need to be accepted in the concrete circumstances of life. We need to know how to support them in their searching and to encourage them in their hunger for God and their wish to feel fully part of the Church, also including those who have experienced failure or find themselves in a variety of situations. The Christian message always contains in itself the reality and the dynamic of mercy and truth which meet in Christ.”

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