Friday, October 9, 2015

Synod 2015: German Language Group Report (English)

Moderator: Card. SCHÖNBORN, O.P. Christoph

Relator: S.E. Mons. KOCH Heiner

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn
In the German group under the leadership of Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, O.P., we deliberated over and worked through the first part of the Instrumentum laboris in a very open and positive atmosphere. The various viewpoints of the participants were enriching and perceived accordingly. In my opinion, the work in this group demonstrates yet once again: Diversity enriches.

The overarching style of the text received unanimous approval. We are also very much in agreement with the order - that is, with the ordering of the three chapters - given in the Instrumentum laboris. It hearkens back to the structure of the documents of earlier Synods and Conferences, which progress from seeing to judging, and finally to acting.

We have also, however, introduced elements which are important to us. Thus, we propose and request the introduction of a section at the start of the first chapter which describes the beauty of marriage and the mission of marriages and families, to take up again the matter of the meditations of Pope Francis. With thankfulness and awe, we observe that marriage is called to participate in the creative power of God and His work of salvation. Marriage is not only a topic germane to the Catholic Faith, but rather manifests itself, in its deepest meaning, as a fundamental desire of man. It reveals itself, far beyond cultural and religious boundaries and above all social transformations, as a remarkable constant. Man longs to be loved and to love. Love is the most all-encompassing and unconditional 'Yes' to another human being - for his own sake, without ulterior motives and without reservation. It is also a basic feature of humanity that love constantly desires to give of itself. In this way, marriage develops in the love felt towards children and other family members. In this way, family grows out of marriage and radiates into society and the Church. The Christian marriage is thus a part of the living Church.

As part of these introductory thoughts, we also propose to thank married couples and families for their tremendous service to one another, to our society and to our Church. We also want to specifically thank those who have remained together through difficulties and have thus become living signs of the fidelity of God.

We would also like for this introduction to mention why it is that we as bishops comment upon the issues of marriage and family: we come from families, live as a family and participate in the life of the family. We concern ourselves with the life of marriage and families in our capacity as shepherds. But we also wish to listen to the circumstances of their lives and their challenges, to accompany and strengthen them with the loving vision of the Gospel.

In another addendum, we would like to take up the topic of kinship as an example. In their respective cultural contexts, the relationships of kin offer many possibilities of support in the rearing of children and in familial cohabitation which go far beyond those of the nuclear family. They are particularly important wherever not only migration, catastrophe and taking flight, but also the effects of labor mobility or the results of broken human relationships have made the life of the nuclear family difficult, complicated or even impossible. It is precisely in such situations that a broad network of kinship proves itself to be a valuable source of aid.

These two examples show how we have adopted the text before us positively, but also tried to develop and supplement it.

I would like to make an additional remark in regards to the perception and evaluation of varying cultural realities. A synodal document must take proper account of respective cultural peculiarities and differences - especially when dealing with elements of today's cultural reality which are ambivalent or problematic from the perspective of the Church. A differentiated analysis and evaluation is absolutely necessary here in order to contribute to a proper and nuanced ecclesiastical-intercultural exchange. I would like to clarify this by way of an example: In the first chapter, individualism is spoken of frequently. As a fundamentally egotistical characteristic, it is, without a doubt, a great danger to the life of man. However, it cannot be allowed to be confused with the individuality of man. Each individual human being is uniquely and magnificently created by God, and each deserves respect and the protection of his personal dignity. Our text speaks often of individualism, but the positive signs of our times, which flow from the respect of the individuality of the human person, are undervalued. If we fail to differentiate our perception, we arrive at divergent evaluations of our society and, as a result, divergent pastoral suggestions. Our group requests that we refrain from putting too much stock in a rather pessimistic perception of our society.

Finally, there is a two-fold problem regarding translation: that of the literal translation of the Italian text and that of the cultural translation of the content.

The German translation follows the Italian text quite closely, which, however, sometimes makes the German text difficult to understand. Reasons for this include the overlong sentences, which require shorter sentences in German. Also, the nested structure presents difficulties. In this regard, shorter sentences and an improved structuring of the content is desired. In the translation of the final texts, good style, easy readability and a clear flow of thoughts should be sought after. The translation should not be strict [interlinear], but rather capture the gist of the original [sinngemäß].

During the composition of the text, attention should be paid to ensuring that ecclesiastical and theological positions are not only internally understandable, but also accessible to the secular environment. This calls for a "cultural translation" - an "inculturation," as it were. This will effect the editing of the entire document as to whether negative-limiting and normative-judgmental language is used (forensic style), or positive language which both develops the Christian position and implicitly reveals which positions are incompatible with the Faith. This includes the willingness (cf. Gaudium et Spes) to seize upon positive developments in society. Perhaps we require a kind of "Hermeneutic of Evagelization" for the overarching style, which then considers the subject under examination "in light of the Gospel."

We look forward to further fraternal collaboration, and we thank everyone for their many efforts towards a harmonious progression and conclusion of the Synod.

[01665-DE.01] [Original language: German]

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