AT THE PRESENT TIME in Rome, the Synod of Bishops on the Family is underway. This has been quite a highly anticipated event among Catholics, non-Catholics, and the media.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., who is among the bishops who were invited to participate in this Synod, gave remarks on two topics that bear not only on Church doctrine but also on liturgy.
The word “inclusive” has been applied to many aspects of Church life, sometimes appropriately, sometimes erroneously, and very often unclearly. Here, Archbishop Chaput reflects on the meaning inclusivity should have in the Church:
E HAVE HEARD many times that the Church should be inclusive. And if by “inclusive” we mean a Church that is patient and humble, merciful and welcoming – then all of us here will agree. But it’s very hard to include those who do not wish to be included, or insist on being included on their own terms. To put it another way: I can invite someone into my home, and I can make my home as warm and hospitable as possible. But the person outside my door must still choose to enter. If I rebuild my house to the blueprint of the visitor or stranger, my family will bear the cost, and my home will no longer be their home. The lesson is simple. We need to be a welcoming Church that offers refuge to anyone honestly seeking God. But we need to remain a Church committed to the Word of God, faithful to the wisdom of the Christian tradition, and preaching the truth of Jesus Christ.
The other significant phrase on which the archbishop reflected is the phrase “unity in diversity.” This has often been discussed as it relates to the inculturation of sacred music. The oversight of episcopal conferences with regard to sacred music is another common matter of debate. Here, Archbishop Chaput reflects more broadly on the meaning of unity & diversity and the role of bishops’ conferences:
The Church is “catholic” or universal. We need to honor the many differences in personality and culture that exist among the faithful. But we live in a time of intense global change, confusion, and unrest. Our most urgent need is unity, and our greatest danger is fragmentation. Brothers, we need to be very cautious in devolving important disciplinary and doctrinal issues to national and regional episcopal conferences – especially when pressure in that direction is accompanied by an implicit spirit of self-assertion and resistance.
Five hundred years ago, at a moment very like our own, Erasmus of Rotterdam wrote that the unity of the Church is the single most important of her attributes. We can argue about what Erasmus actually believed, and what he intended with his writing. But we can’t argue about the consequences when the need for Church unity was ignored. In the coming days of our synod, we might fruitfully remember the importance of our unity, what that unity requires, and what disunity on matters of substance implies.
As the work of this important Synod goes on, let’s all commit to prayer for the Holy Father and the Synod Fathers. May the Holy Spirit guide the Church in all ways!