Read below the full text of the report released Wednesday by the German-speaking small group at the Synod on the Family. The reports of the 13 small groups, or circoli minori, were all released Oct. 14 in their own languages: four English, three French, three Italian, two Spanish, and one German. The text below is CNA’s translation of the German original:
We extensively debated the concepts – that are, again and again, considered to be opposites – of mercy and truth, of grace and justice, and their theological relationship to each other. In God, they are not opposites: because God is love, in God justice and mercy are one. God’s mercy is the foundational divine truth of revelation, which is not in opposite to other divine truths of revelation. Rather, it reveals to us the deepest foundation of revelation, since it tells us, why God emptied himself in his son and why Jesus Christ through his Word and through his sacraments is present and remains for our salvation in his Church. The mercy of God through this reveals to us the reason and the goal of the entire work of Redemption. The justice of God is his mercy, with which he makes us just.
We also considered what consequences this interpenetration has for how we accompany marriages and families. It precludes a one-sided, deductive hermeneutic, which subsumes concrete situations under a general principle. In the sense of Thomas Aquinas and also the Council of Trent, the application of foundational principles is expected to be applied with prudence and wisdom to each specific, often complex situation. This is not about exceptions, in which the Word of God would not apply, but about the just and proper application of the words of Jesus – for instance the words on the indissolubility of marriage – in prudence and wisdom. Thomas Aquinas illustrated this necessity of making a concrete application when he says: “to prudence belongs not only the consideration of the reason, but also the application to action, which is the end of the practical reason.“ (STh II-II 47.3: “ad prudentiam pertinet non solum consideratio rationis, sed etiam applicatio ad opus, quae est finis practicae rationis”).
Another aspect of our discussion was the topic of gradually leading people to the sacrament of marriage as mentioned repeatedly in the third chapter of the second part [of the instrumentum laboris], from informal relationships to unmarried cohabiting couples to couples married by the state up to ecclesially valid, sacramental marriage. To accompany these people on the different steps pastorally, is a great pastoral responsibility, but also a joy.
It also became clear to us, that in many discussions and perceptions we think too statically and not sufficiently biographically-historically. The Church’s teaching on marriage has developed and deepened historically. At first it was about humanizing marriage, which led to the conviction of monogamy. In the light of the Christian faith, the personal dignity of the marriage partners was recognized more deeply and the image of God in man perceived through the relationship of man and woman. In a further step, the ecclesiology of marriage was deepened, and marriage understood as a domestic Church. Finally the sacramental nature of marriage became fully conscious to the Church. This historical path of deepening is also today reflected in the biography of many people. They are first touched by the human dimension of marriage, they are then convinced by the Christian view of marriage in the life of the Church, and from there find their way to the celebration of a sacramental marriage. Just like the historical development of the Church’s teaching on marriage took time, so the pastoral approach must give time to people to mature on their way toward sacramental marriage, and not act according to the principle of “all or nothing”. It is here that the thought of a “dynamic process” developing (FC 9) is to be brought further towards the present, which John Paul II already expounded in Familiaris consortio: “The Church’s pastoral concern will not be limited only to the Christian families closest at hand; it will extend its horizons in harmony with the Heart of Christ, and will show itself to be even more lively for families in general and for those families in particular which are in difficult or irregular situations.” (FC 65) The Church unavoidably finds herself in a situation of tension here, between on the one hand a necessarily clear teaching on marriage and family, and on the other hand the concrete pastoral responsibility to accompany people and convince them, when their lifestyle only partly complies with the basic principles of the Church. With them, the Church must walk on the path towards a life of marriage and family in fullness as the gospel of the family promises.
For this a pastoral care is required that is directed at the person, and that includes the normativity of the Church’s teaching and the personhood of the human being in equal measure, keeping an eye on a person’s ability to form a conscience and strengthening their responsibility. “For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged. Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths.“ (GS 16)
Furthermore, we request for the final version of the text to consider two aspects:
Any impression should be avoided that Holy Scripture is just used as a source of quotations for dogmatic, juridical or ethical convictions. The law of the New Testament is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the faithful (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1965 – 1966). The written word is to be integrated into the Living Word which dwells in the Holy Spirit in the heart of humankind. This gives Holy Scripture an extensive spiritual power.
Finally we struggled with the concept of natural marriage. In the history of humankind this natural marriage always is also shaped culturally. The concept of natural marriage can imply that there is a natural form of life for humankind without any cultural imprint. We therefore suggest to write instead: “marriage, as it is based in Creation”.