There was an article on Sandro Magister’s blog which I did not see commented on anywhere. Titled “The Married Couple Knocking at the Doors of the Synod”, it gave the testimony of a Polish couple, Ludmila and Stanisław Grygiel, who teach at the Pontifical Institute for Studies on the Family, which was set up by the late Pope John Paul II. According to Magister, none of the professors at this Pontifical Institute were called on to speak at the synod – even though the synod was meant to be about marriage and family, and you would think the institute would have had some expertise to offer on the subject.
Blogger Paul Priest commented, when interviewed about the synod along with Mark Dowd on Radio 4 yesterday morning, that the synod had been “hijacked”. From the way the media has excitedly reported it, some of us would agree that highly liberal pressure groups were given too much airtime at the expense of more crucial voices. At any rate, the voice of this Polish couple should have been heard. Civilisation passes by way of the family and helping to support marriage, which is in dire need of it, should be the central task of a Synod on this subject.
At the pre-synodal assembly where the couple spoke, Ludmila quoted the private diary of John Paul II from 1981, in which he had written: “Lack of confidence in the family is the first cause of the crisis of the family.” She added that this “lack of confidence” starts with pastors, those involved in the pastoral care of the family and concluded: “I get the impression that we Christians talk too much about failed marriages and too little about faithful marriages. We talk too much about the crisis of the family and too little about the fact that the community of marriage and the family assures man not only earthly happiness but also that of eternity, and is the place in which the laity’s vocation to holiness is realised.”
These words are terrific – but where in the reporting of the synod did we hear about faithful marriages, lived according to the Church’s teaching, as the path to holiness? Ludmila’s husband, Stanisław, had further strong words to say. He reminded readers that John Paul II approached every marriage, even broken ones, as Moses approached the burning bush: “He did not enter their homes without first taking the sandals from his feet, because he saw present in them the ‘centre and history of the universe…’” The Pope, he said, did not bend the truth to fit the circumstances: “First he accepted the truth, and only afterwards the circumstances.”
He recalled the Pope telling him: “There are things that must be said without regard for the reactions of the world… Christians who, out of fear of being reproved as enemies of humanity, bend to diplomatic compromises with the world, distort the sacramental character of the Church.”
Personally, I wish the voices of the Grygiels had been allowed at the synod and given press coverage. Then, although there might have been an angry or uncomprehending response from the world’s media, we would not have had the confusion and distress of faithful Catholics that has ensued.
But closing the synod with the beatification of Pope Paul VI was a fine symbolic gesture of hope, for Pope Paul, upon whose work John Paul II built, was a supremely courageous defender of marriage and the Church’s teaching. Canon lawyer and blogger Dr Edward Peters, pays his own tribute to Pope Paul here. It reminds one that the great divide between faithful Catholics and all those, both inside and outside the Church, who want to see her teaching changed, began in 1968 with the publication of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.
All the later problems besetting marriage, including its attempted redefinition, have in my view, flowed from the massive silence of the hierarchy about this encyclical.