This Sunday, Pope Francis launched the Extraordinary Synod on the Family — an assembly consisting of bishops and cardinals that will review the Catholic Church’s teachings regarding sex and marriage.
As the public continues to express increasingly liberal attitudes toward hot button issues like same-sex marriage, divorce and contraception, Francis said the Church must also reconsider its position on these topics — insisting that church leaders and clergymen “lend an ear to the rhythm of our time.”
Aside from a possible amendment to the marriage annulment process that would make it easier for couples to obtain a Church-recognized divorce, this week’s synod is not expected to establish major changes within the Church.
We believe, however, that major change with regard to sex and marriage is needed and that this synod may be the first of many steps necessary to bring the Catholic Church to where it needs to be in the modern era.
Despite the numerous controversies engulfing the Catholic Church in the past few years, the Church remains one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world and a massive trendsetter for both Catholic and Christian congregations alike. It is also one of the largest organizations that asserts “love and charity” as one of its primary goals.
It is the unfortunate truth, though, that many of the current beliefs the Catholic Church endorses have created a major obstacle, walling off factions of believers — like couples whose marriages have gone awry, homosexuals who have been told their love is sinful and generally people who have embraced a different lifestyle than the one supported in this strict paradigm — who still support the underlying loving philosophy of the church.
Current ideologies regarding sex and marriage have also unintentionally supported social ills worldwide, especially in third-world countries where the faith has grown rapidly. People in Africa are needlessly dying from AIDS and starvation due to overgrown populations because they have been told that the use of contraception is wrong; men and women alike are suffering in an unloving marriage because they believe divorce is wrong; militant groups, claiming to be Catholic, are brutally murdering gays in Africa under the guise of moral superiority.
Let’s pretend that this week, the result of Francis’ meeting would be a wholesale acceptance of homosexuality, as well as a more lax view on divorce and contraception. Calling the reaction to this change uproarious would be a gross understatement. Forget every other major news story, this announcement would be on every pundit’s lips for weeks to come.
Such commotion would be misplaced because the Catholic Church is fundamentally an organism of change. The modern Catholic Church is an entirely different beast than the one Peter and the apostles built, and this is how it should be. The leaders of the Church are well aware that any religious organization must evolve and adapt if it hopes to survive.
It is again time for evolution and adaptation. It is no longer enough for the Catholic Church to assert a pro-life agenda in matters of war, abortion and capital punishment alone. It is now time for an overhaul of Catholic attitudes concerning beliefs of marriage and sex, especially considering the severe, albeit unintended, consequences. Though they cannot change the hearts and minds of all misguided, or downright malicious, people within the Church, this change begins at the Vatican.
Regardless of each of our own religious beliefs within this editorial board, we all agree that the Catholic Church is an institution that has a tremendous ability to do good and cause overwhelmingly positive changes throughout the world. This, in and of itself, is reason enough to change these policies because to continue to do good, the church much cease hemorrhaging active participants. In addition, the church can serve as a home for everyone, including the downtrodden and dejected alike; the word Catholic, after all, means universal. No man, woman or child should be ostracized from the promise of universal love.