This is the most helpful address I've seen so far at the Synod:
Arturo and Hermelinda As Zamberline, married for 41 years with three children, addressed the Synod during the morning session Oct. 9. The designated subject for the session was the "pastoral challenges concerning an openness to life."
"We must admit without fear that many Catholic couples, even those who seek to live their marriage seriously, do not feel obligated to use only the natural methods" of birth control condoned by the Church, said the Zamberlines, leaders in their country of an international Catholic movement, Teams of Our Lady. "We must add that generally they are not questioned by their confessors" on the subject.
The Zamberlines, who are participating in the Synod as non-voting auditors, said the "rhythm of life" today makes it difficult to find time to learn natural methods of family planning, which they said have acquired an "unjust reputation of being unreliable," because they are badly explained and thus badly practised.
"The great majority of couples do not reject the use of contraceptive methods. In general, they do not consider them a moral problem," the Zamberlines said.
The Brazilian couple concluded with an appeal to the Pope and the Synod to help Catholics understand and obey Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI that affirmed Church teaching against contraception.
"If couples, as well as clergy, could at least find illumination and support, that would already be a great encouragement! Often, contradictory advice only aggravates their confusion. We ask, may the magisterium hasten to give priests and faithful the major lines of a pastoral teaching program to help people adopt and observe the principles laid out in Humanae Vitae," the Zamberlines said.
In remarks introducing the couple to the assembly, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris, one of three Synod presidents appointed by the Pope, said Catholic couples "often do not believe that the use of contraceptive methods is a sin and therefore they tend not to speak of them in confession and so they receive Communion untroubled."
"It is necessary to encourage a mentality of openness to life to thwart the contraceptive mentality and the spread of an individualist anthropological model that in certain countries has led to a strong demographic drop whose social and human consequences are not sufficiently considered today," the cardinal said.
This address outlines clear and concise challenges:
- natural methods of spacing children are not being taught;
- couples don't know that contracepting is a serious sin;
- a mentality has accrued that separates married love from its natural fruitfulness.
Fine -- that's one of the primary reasons for this Synod -- to see how mammon has confused the faithful, who are called to be lights amidst the darkness. Too much of that confusion has seeped into the Church, and it must be resisted with the light of Christ. As I note in my latest column (not yet online):
Scripture makes clear that the Church cannot bow to secular conventions, as Saint Paul cautioned: “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2) or as Chesterton pithily remarked, “those who marry the spirit of this age will find themselves widows in the next.” So what do we do for a generation that insists that Church teaching is too demanding, uncharitable, and unlivable? We reject capitulation and insist on that transformation which makes all things possible.
Just as a parent doesn’t coddle a child who finds algebra “impossibly hard,” the Church should lovingly but firmly explain the foundational principles that make authentic chastity entirely possible. Just as reviewing the groundwork for equations—the nature of constants and variables—prepares a student for success in math, reminding the faithful about divinely revealed truth and God’s passionate love for humanity will allow them to “renew their minds” according to his purpose. And in that equation, while there is nothing so variable as the whims of man to live in a world of his own making, there is nothing so constant as divine grace which restores him to reality, drawing him back to the love that will set him free.
My prayer is that the Synod proposes concrete ways to "illuminate and support" married couples so that they can live the fullness of their vocation, and provide inspiration to those who want something more than what the world offers. Illuminate the darkness, support the good, and remind people of their inherent dignity!