Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Synod 2015: 2nd German Language Group Report (English)

Moderator: Card. SCHÖNBORN, O.P. Christoph

Relator: S.E. Mons. KOCH Heiner

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn
We extensively discussed the notions - repeatedly understood as opposites - of mercy and truth, grace and justice, and their theological relationship to one another. In God, they are not opposites: because God is love, justice and mercy become one in God. The mercy of God is the fundamental truth of revelation - one which does not stand opposed to other truths of revelation. Rather, it opens to us their deepest foundation, as it tells us why God revealed Himself in His Son and why Jesus Christ remains in His Church through His Word and His Sacraments for our salvation. The mercy of God thus opens to us the foundation and the goal of the entire work of salvation. The justice of God is His mercy, with which He makes us just.

We also considered the consequences of this interplay for our accompaniment of marriages and families. It precludes a one-sided, deductive hermeneutic which subsumes concrete situations under a general principle. According to Thomas Aquinas and the Council of Trent, fundamental principles are to be applied with prudence and wisdom to the particular, often complex situation - whereby we are concerned not with exceptions to which God's word does not apply, but rather with the question of the fair and equitable application of Jesus' words - for example, His words regarding the indissolubility of marriage - in prudence and wisdom. Thomas Aquinas underscores the necessity of such a concretizing application, for example, where he writes: "To prudence belongs not only the consideration of the reason, but also the application to action, which is the end of the practical reason." (S. Th. 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 that spoken of frequently, particularly in the third chapter of the second part, i.e. the gradual leading of people to the Sacrament of Marriage, from non-binding relationships, to cohabiting unmarried couples, to couples married civilly, to those in a valid, sacramental marriage recognized by the Church. To accompany those who find themselves at these various stages is a great pastoral challenge, but also a delight.

It also became clear to us that, in many discussions and observations, we are too static and give the biographical-historical dimension too little thought. Historically, the Church's teaching on marriage has developed and deepened. Initially, it was about humanizing marriage, which manifested in the conviction for monogamy. In the light of the Christian faith, the personal dignity of spouses was better recognized and the imago Dei was clearly perceived in the relationship between husband and wife. In a next step, the ecclesial dimension of marriage was deepened, and it was understood as the domestic church. Finally, the Church became explicitly aware of the sacramentality of marriage. This historic path of deepening is also apparent in the biographies of many individuals today. First, they are touched by the human dimension of marriage; they allow themselves to be convinced of the Christian view of marriage in the habitat [Lebensraum] of the Church and thus find their way to a celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage. Just as the historical development of the ecclesial doctrine required time, so must the Church's pastoral approach allow time for the people of today to mature along their path towards sacramental marriage, and stop acting according the principle of "all or nothing." Here, the notion of a "step-by-step process" (FC §9) towards the present [auf die Gegenwart hin] should be further developed. The foundation for this was laid by John Paul II 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 thus stands in an inescapable field of tension between a necessary clarity of doctrine regarding marriage and family on the one side and the concrete pastoral task of accompanying and convincing those individuals whose lifestyle correspond only partially with the principles of the Church on the other. With these latter, steps should be taken on the way to the fullness of life found in marriage and family as promised in the Gospel of the family.

Here it is necessary to have a pastoral approach oriented to the individual which equally involves both the normativity of doctrine and the personality of each human being, keeping sight of his capacity for conscience and strengthening his 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)

We request that the final version of the text consider two additional aspects:

Every impression that Sacred Scripture only serves as a source of quotes for dogmatic, legal or ethical convictions should be avoided. The Law of the New Covenant is the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the faithful (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1965-66). The written word is to be integrated into the living word residing via the Holy Spirit in the heart of man. This gives Sacred Scripture a broad spiritual power.

Finally, we have struggled with the concept of "natural marriage." In the history of humanity, the natural marriage is always culturally informed. The term "natural marriage" can imply that there is a natural form of human life without such cultural influence. We therefore suggest the formulation: "that marriage founded in creation" [Die in der Schöpfung begründete Ehe].

[Original language: German]


  1. The justice of God is His mercy, with which He makes us just.

    Seems to be a pretty clear claim that only in mercy will justice be found, not that mercy requires the possibility there will be no mercy for sins that you do not repent.

    God is reduced to mercy. The whole reward/punishment, heaven/hell thing was a big misunderstanding these past two thousand years.

    Which is what Luther was after.

    The Church accompanies you, to no place in particular, to ease your mind that you do not sin. A radical take on "go and sin no more".

    This always seems shocking to me when I hear it, more so than trying to set aside "natural marriage" as merely procreative. But I'd be interested to hear you develop your thoughts as it would indicate setting aside natural law.

  2. German is the language that is spoken by almost 2 billion peoples around the world. Learning this language would give one self confidence to look the world in a different perspective. You have made me to realize that in a moment on reading this article. Thanks for sharing this in here. By the way you are running a great blog.

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  3. Thanks for the kind words, Jhon. And thank you for reading and commenting!


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