Do we simply forget the moral teachings of the church and welcome everyone no matter what their lifestyle? That can’t be right. On the other hand, do we fall into the other extreme of rejecting those who are not abiding by all the rules? I doubt whether the synod this week in Rome will find any instant answers. Instead, what is needed is a fresh approach with a fresh generation, and the answer lies in Francis’s exhortation.
He says we must first listen carefully to the situation of our people so that we can find how to propose the good news of the family with credibility. I am convinced that the only way we can do that is not primarily through theological and theoretical discussions but through the radiant reality of ordinary Catholic life.
It is only as Catholic men and women live faithful lives of loving self-sacrifice within marriage that the Catholic proposal for marriage will become attractive to others. As the world descends into increasingly chaotic sexual morality and a totally open-ended understanding of marriage, it will be faithful and joyful Catholic families who show a different way. That way will be one of lovingly supportive, self-sacrificial love. Within Catholic marriages, the love of God himself will be glimpsed, and that love will be so attractive and glorious that the crude alternatives will pale in comparison.
It is by holding to the highest ideals and ambitions of marriage that Catholics will show the world the way forward, and this example will help steady the tightrope stretched between an open pastoral approach and one that upholds the goodness, sanctity and beauty of Christian marriage.
TheRev. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville, South Carolina. His latest book is The Romance of Religion—Fighting for Goodness, Truth and Beauty.Learn more about it at his website, dwightlongenecker.com.