Blog Post

Synod Diary: The New Minority

Originally posted in The Catholic World Report

Timothy Cardinal Dolan summed up the Synod’s fuzzy focus on peripheral issues to the point of creating a New Minority—faithful Catholic families who also struggle against the riptide of secularism

Cardinals Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, vice president, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, leave the opening session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 5. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Each daily press briefing during the Synod on the Family features a panel of three or four Synod participants who have been invited to “meet the press.” Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, the director of the Vatican Press Office, opens with a brief overview of that morning’s work in the synod hall. After the guests of the day are introduced, journalists pose their questions to the panel.
Questions are not limited to that day’s overview, and indeed, most questions cover old territory searching for clarifications. Very often, the questions are aimed at the headlined, hot button topics: those divorced and remarried outside the Church, pastoral “welcoming” of same-sex attracted persons, cohabiting couples. Down one tier in the list of groups of special merit are immigrants. And near the bottom of the hierarchy of families with sufficient status to warrant Synod attention are those living in dire poverty. There is a footnote here and there about Catholics whose daily struggle is to stay alive—the persecuted Catholics of the Middle East and India.

Catholics of good will agree that those in our universal family who suffer, for whatever reason, should be part of the discussion at a synod whose focus is The Family. But a family, at its core, needs to survive. The core family must be healthy enough to offer hope and help to the suffering “peripheries” as Pope Francis named them. Recall the safety directive that stewardesses give prior to take off: If an emergency occurs,put on your oxygen mask before helping those who cannot put on their own masks.

That is where this Synod stands at midpoint in the three week process. The secular assault on the virtues and values of the Church constitute a grave emergency. All families are suffering. No family is immune to the ravages of the secularized global battle to eject God from public spaces. Only the Church can stand astride history to turn back the tyranny of secularism.

For this mission the Church must truly be One, Holy and Catholic. The core of Catholicism is families. Christ was born of Mary. The Savior of the World came to a family, not to an institution, a charity, an NGO or a religious order. His Incarnation first sanctified families; from families come civilizations; from healthy families come healthy civilizations.

And yet, this core truth is apparently ignored, for the most part, in Synod deliberations. Instead those factions who dash after “solutions which are very appealing but which obscure in varying degrees the truth and the dignity of the human person” demand top priority. The African bishops and others have repeatedly objected to the weight given the “Euro-centric” questions of pastoral approaches to sexual irregularities. In the Sala Stampa, the Vatican press office, journalists reinforce those topics simply because the big news of the millennia will be the day that the Catholic Church “comes into the modern era” by joining the sexual revolution.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan summed up the Synod’s fuzzy focus on peripheral issues to the point of creating a New Minority—faithful Catholic families who also struggle against the riptide of secularism. When prelates take to their own websites to communicate their gnawing worries, journalists are tempted wonder if the process of this Synod is closing off too many venues for discussion. Nonetheless, we have from Cardinal Dolan anexcellent account of the loss of our core, the normal family, the forgotten minority.

Can I suggest as well that there is now a new minority in the world and even in the Church?  I am thinking of those who, relying on God’s grace and mercy, strive for virtue and fidelity: Couples who…inspired by the Church’s teaching that marriage is forever, have persevered through trials; couples who welcome God’s gifts of many babies; a young man and woman who have chosen not to live together until marriage; a gay man or woman who wants to be chaste; a couple who has decided that the wife would sacrifice a promising professional career to stay at home and raise their children — these wonderful people today often feel themselves a minority, certainly in culture, but even, at times in the Church!  I believe there are many more of them than we think, but, given today’s pressure, they often feel excluded.

The remainder of Cardinal Dolan’s column on the New Minority is well worth your time.

Mary Jo Anderson is a Catholic journalist and speaker whose articles and commentaries on politics, religion, and culture appear in a variety of publications. She is a frequent guest on the Women of Grace® television program on EWTN. . She was appointed to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops National Advisory Council (NAC), 2010-2014 and served as member of the NAC Executive Committee in 2011.  Mrs. Anderson is co-author with Robin Bernhoft of Male and Female He Made Them: Questions and Answers about Marriage and Same-Sex Unions, published in 2005 by Catholic Answers.

Follow her on Twitter @maryjoanderson3.