A father of four grown children, one of whom is homosexual, asked me my advice on how to manage a situation that developed in their family. His son David, not his real name, has same-sex attraction, is in his 20s and has returned home to live with them, circumstances demanding such. Before his return, domestic harmony prevailed. But the father and his wife are now distraught as David has adopted an activist role in his same-sex attraction and is urging, even insisting, that his parents do something themselves about helping gays.
They don't know what to do; they love each child, including David. But David refuses to allow them to remain and live with their own consciences and when the topic has come up they've quietly shared with David that though they love him in all respects, they do not accept nor believe that homosexual acts are natural, or healthy. Verbal confrontations are becoming more frequent.
In another family, Maria was divorced by her husband who left her for a younger woman, leaving her to raise two children. after four years, Maria met a Christian man, and they are thinking of cohabiting and then marrying. She will have conflicts with the church if she does, in the absence of an annulment, but she is drawn to the companionship and support of a loving man. she is in a quandary, both in conscience and in practicality.
These two families and their issues are representatives of a multitude of challenging contemporary families. Pastoral solutions to these many and varied issues are being discussed this month in Rome at a meeting of Catholic bishops and others -- a meeting called a synod.
Of the many issues to be discussed at the synod, which for the most part are germane to all of Christendom are: broken and fragile families --indissolubility of marriage -- pastoral care for civilly married or cohabitating couples -- caring for wounded families (separated, divorced and remarried, divorced and not married, single-parent families) -- pastoral care of children in broken families -- pastoral care of persons with homosexual tendencies -- challenges of the declining birthrate -- and the role of family in evangelization. Many of these issues will be contentious. the last time the topic of family was discussed was in 1980. needless to say, much has changed since then.
The concern over the modern family's deterioration was expressed by Pope Francis when he evoked the centrality of the family in everyone's lives:
"Evening falls on our assembly. it is the hour at which one willingly returns home to meet at the same table, in the depth of affection, of the good that has been done and received, of the encounters which warm the heart and make it grow, good wine which anticipates the unending feast in the days of man. It is also the weightiest hour for one who finds himself face to face with his own loneliness, in the bitter twilight of shattered dreams and broken plans; how many people trudge through the day in the blind alley of resignation, of abandonment, even resentment: in how many homes the wine of joy has been less plentiful, and therefore, also the zest -- the very wisdom -- of life. Let us make our prayer heard for one another this evening, a prayer for all."
In what manner the pope's final report might advise the above families remains to be seen. for the parents and their gay son, their hearts are wounded as they continue to follow their consciences and hold to their love. And Maria can only hope and pray for the mercy and compassion that Pope Francis spoke of recently.
May the Holy Spirit work not only in the minds and hearts of the synod members but also in the hearts, and minds, of all of us as we work our way through all of the current challenges to the family, seeking solutions, all the while knowing it's the family, and not as individuals, or the state, that will be our best defense against the decline of our culture and maybe our civilization.