Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, gestures during an interview at the Vatican in this Aug. 5, 2014 file photo. CNS photo/Robert Duncan

Cardinal Pell expects October Synod to uphold traditional doctrine on family

  • May 11, 2015

ROME - Australian Cardinal George Pell expects the upcoming Synod on the Family in October will uphold traditional Church teaching.

“I don’t anticipate any deviancy from that,” the Prefect for the Secretariat for the Economy told about 200 participants May 9 at the annual Rome Life Forum organized by Voice of the Family, a coalition of pro-life and pro-family groups from around the world.

Voice of the Family was created in August 2014 to provide a faithful lay Catholic response to last October’s extraordinary Synod on the Family.

“I think the Synod will massively endorse the teaching of the Church,” he predicted. “I believe the delegation will recognize the Christian tradition of John Paul II, Benedict and the Council of Trent that are well established in the Western Church and also in Scripture.”

Asked why the teachings for St. Pope John Paul II on marriage and the family were not stressed at last October’s extraordinary Synod, Pell said, “The teaching of John Paul II is the teaching of the Church.”

“The teachings of the Church have never been abrogated,” he stressed. “They won’t be abrogated and they never will be. They can’t be abrogated because they are based on the teachings of Christ.”

Though the issue of Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics received a lot of media attention at the last Synod, Pell pointed out St. John Paul was “quite clear on proper reception of the Eucharist."

Asked if he agreed with Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who said the Church is facing its fourth great crisis after the Arian Crisis, the great Schism of East and West, and the Protestant Reformation, Pell said the present challenge is “quite different from the Protestant crisis” because 500 years ago “both sides agreed on God and Christ.”

“Now the tension is between those who believe growth comes from starting with Gospel teaching, versus those who believe growth comes from adaptation to the modern world,” he said. “The second adaptation brings death.

“The way to growth is fidelity to the core teachings of Christ and the Church,” he said. “Those who play down the demands are hastening the way to the exits. One only has to look at Holland and Quebec.” (Holland has legalized euthanasia while Quebec has passed a law to allow for physician-assisted suicide).

It’s the same story in liberal Protestant denominations, he said.

“Where this is growth it is almost exclusively among the evangelicals.”

The institution of marriage goes back to the Creator, the cardinal said, noting that marriage and human rights are recognized by the state, not conferred by the state.

“Most Western countries are removing the laws that defend the ideal of exclusive lifelong marriage,” he said. “Are we digging our own graves?… When we violate the natural moral order harmful consequences will follow.”

Pell said the context for marriage has changed. Marriage as a lifelong exclusive institution is in the context of “a culture of modernized efficiency and short-term satisfaction. Now marriage is seen as an affectionate social relationship of tentative commitment and uncertain duration.”

Catholics should remember the beginnings of the Church at a time that “was far more violent, promiscuous and unjust than any Western society today,” he said. There were also no public schools, hospitals or charitable agencies, he added.

Up until the 1960s, lifelong marriage was endorsed and there was no Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, he said.

The pill brought the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the call for impersonal, recreational sex, he said. Sexual activity was separated from procreation.

Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae foretold the radical effects artificial contraception would have, he said.

“Now Western countries are not producing enough children to maintain their populations.”

In today’s pan-sexual environment, Pell said it’s easy “to drift away from Christ’s harder teachings and to disaffiliation.”

Divorce isn’t good for spouses and it is not good for children, he said. Though there was a belief that quarrelling parents were worse for the children than their divorcing, a 1993 study showed the enduring unhappiness experienced by children, who were more likely to have problems in school, and to “describe themselves as miserable.” They are two to three times more likely to drop out of school, more likely to have a teen pregnancy, nine times more likely to end up in poverty, and have higher rates of divorce and cohabitation as adults than children from intact families, he said.

“Family breakdown is creating a momentum that makes the situation worse,” he said. Those from broken homes are less likely to have religious faith; cohabitating couples less happy than married couples.

Pell suggested that if you want to raise good Catholic children, parents should have more children.

“Children train parents to unselfishness,” he said.

“Many parents whose Mass attendance on Sunday is perfunctory and whose daily prayer life is non-existent find their children have drifted even further from the faith. Parents need allies and community support. New Catholic movements often offer support in ways that many parishes no longer provide.”

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