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  • A Conference on the Family - God's Dream is His People

    Friday, October 31, 2014

    Joseph Yawney is Director of Public Relations at Dominican University College and has a Master's in Philosophy from DUC in the area of virtue ethics. He lectures across the province of Ontario to high school students introducing them to philosophy through socratic dialogue.

    The Synod on the Family was all the buzz. “Progressive Catholics” and the media had high hopes for “Big Change” in the Church. The midterm report produced had their hopes up. They came away mostly disappointed due to the change in tone in the final report.

    There is indeed a lot on the table for the discussions happening this year and next. If you look at the Instrumentum Laboris that was prepared as an outline to the discussions, you see that there are few controversial issues that are not on the of family in the sunset.

    Same sex unions, abortion, contraception, divorce and remarriage . . . they’re getting into it all.

    But “winning” or “losing” debates does not seem to be top of Pope Francis’ mind. He’s not interested in hot button issues to see what clamor he can raise within or outside the Church. His goal appears practical, and his modus operandi is anything but the lofty style most often presented by high-ranking Church officials.

    He starts out by reminding those gathered:

    “Synod assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent…”

    He’s not interested in “discourse”. He’s pushing for us to focus on what will help people lead better human and Christian lives.

    “God’s dream is his people . . .”

    Family - We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.This telling phrase from his opening address points us toward where he’s hoping the ongoing discussions take us.

    There’s been enough discussion of “Truths” in the Church. We’ve been well steeped in theological discourse. We’re much poorer when it comes to applying the universal to the particular. How do we encourage? Build up? Meet people where they are at and help them take the next good step? These questions are not often asked.

    You wouldn’t know it from the polemical nature of the coverage of the discussions that were held, but I believe the Pope created space for the wide variety of voices within the Church in an attempt to enamore us to true communication. A “fusion of horizons” (à la Gadamer et al) encourages “communicative action”, listening intently to conversations to the point of taking on the heart and mind of the other with whom you are in dialogue so as to come to mutual understanding. To be radically open to the realities on the ground instead of clinging fervently to doctrine, we must be willing to take up the hearts and minds of those on both sides of the discussion.

    Living the Truth

    We must be willing to be honest about problems in the Church.

    Much is left wanting. As a Catholic community, we need to fess up. To take stalk. To be realistic.

    Too often I hear:

    “This is not a kindergarten,”

    from some people at Mass when kids are a little out of hand.

    I resist responding:

    “Would you prefer it be a graveyard?”

    What are our parishes doing to make children welcome? Active participants? Could we go so far as to say cherished and central to the whole thing?

    According to doctrine, birth control is a strict no no for Catholic families. For all sorts of good reasons. But what of the lived reality? What does the average parishioner understand of it and how to practice it? A Church that preaches NFP as the only form of fertility care should perhaps ensure it’s members have access to it?

    Basic NFP methods work for some, while others need professional and ongoing support in order to be successful. These options can be costly and are not covered by the health care system. If the church preaches them, it’s only just to provide them to those who would otherwise have no access to them. Seems not too absurd.

    We’re up in arms about the possibility of assisted suicide being made possible in Canada. But when was the last time we visited an elderly person? Went out of our way to go to a nursing home or hospital? Tried to make the lives of the dying that much more pleasant?photo of grandfather and grandson.

    Truths are not going to live themselves.

    They don’t exist out there in some platonic ideal.

    Living the Truth in the Family<

    The Church is beautiful. Her Truths are indeed “here to stay” and the best thing going for those who can follow them. But, as Saint Thomas Aquinas argued, before asking someone to be moral we must first make sure their basic needs are met.

    If we’re to follow our Pope’s lead when he says that:

    “The Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity,”

    We’ll have to realize we’re in this together.

    Moral acts take place in a context. So, if we want people to live morally, we must provide them with the means to do so.

    For truths to be lived realities there must be a loving community, strong families who are committed to one another, to see them brought about. If the Church is broken, don’t be fooled: it is a communal fault.

    I’m not negating individual conscience or the possibility of a true blue sin, but people need to be in the position to commit one. They need to first be given a fighting chance. Morality does not occur in a vacuum.

    If we’re going to be successful in all this, we’re  going to need to buckle down. Gear up. Start making plans for the basic needs of everyone to be given the means necessary to live the Catholic faith. The financial and material support, moral education . . . and until we get there, we can begin with basic courtesy and trust.

    We tend to forget that the Church is for the people. WE are his plan. His DREAM. Not a set of absolute truths and beautiful dogma. But rather a set of broken, reeling, sometimes wonderful lives, living day by day in more beauty and truth.


    As family.

    November 20th-21st, we at DUC will be looking into the helpful ways we can assist those in our communities to better live their lives as family. “Debate” will intentionally be avoided . . . helpful conversations encouraged. We will be working through the teaching documents of the church on family life. It will also be a chance to hear from church leaders on the fruits of the Synod. You are most welcome to join us. Register here.

  • Another Little Culture Shock

    Thursday, October 16, 2014
    Louis Roy O.P.



    In a previous blog, I described a little culture shock among academics. This time, the other little culture shock I will introduce involved ordinary people. It took place, in Cambridge, at the Dominican priory, whose name is ‘Blackfriars.’ This is how the British Dominicans are named, after the black cappa they wear in winter. We in Canada display it on special occasions, such as at Commencement.

                One summer, for a few weeks we had as a guest at Blackfriars an adolescent, aged sixteen, the daughter of a German doctor who was a close friend of our prior. Almost as soon as she settled among us, young Dorothea was taken aback by the eccentricities of the English. Being a teenager, she was slightly impatient with regard to their oddities, which she used to question in a tone that was – unwittingly of course – a bit self-righteous and reprimanding. She may have assumed that the Germans did things in a way that was more natural and efficient than the strange, awkward British.

                Her reaction was characteristically summed up by her question, ‘why?’. Given that her voice was still rather childish, her succession of ‘whys’ sounded like a small dog’s barking. In face of her perplexity at what she was observing in British mores, the latter, somewhat at a loss on how to explain and after unsuccessfully trying to do so, could only respond by saying: “It’s odd, you know, but it works!” This is what they would exclaim, almost in desperation, whenever foreigners would insinuate they could not make sense of the weird habits of proud Albion’s inhabitants.

                The bottom line was: “it works!” And having repeatedly heard this assertion, it dawned on me that it was typical of a staunchly empirical and pragmatic culture, which endlessly produced practical fruits, owing to its roots deeply set in a very long experience. It was indeed the common sense of a nation of great mariners, explorers, traders, politicians, scientists, writers and artists. They had run a vast empire, which lasted three centuries precisely because “it worked!” The remarkable thing – probably a mixed blessing – is that those insulars have now managed to export their pragmatism worldwide. It has by and large dislodged and replaced the idealistic view of life held by the Germans, the French and the Spaniards.


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