In his most recent post, Kyle Keating draws attention to a post by Corey Widmer at the Gospel Coalition. In Traditional Sexuality Radical Community, Widmer discusses the need for churches to provide a more effective pastoral support to make traditional teaching on sexual ethics more plausible to those who are called to make difficult sacrifices.
In the same vein, but a Catholic context, I wanted to draw attention to the Preparatory Catechesis for the World Meeting of Families, Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive:
167. But if ordinary parishioners understood the rationale behind celibacy as a community practice, and if more domestic churches took the apostolate of hospitality more seriously, then the ancient Catholic teaching on chastity lived in continence outside of marriage might look more plausible to modern eyes. In other words, if our parishes really were places where “single” did not mean “lonely,” where extended networks of friends and families really did share one another’s joys and sorrows, then perhaps at least some of the world’s objections to Catholic teaching might be disarmed. Catholics can embrace apostolates of hospitality no matter how hostile or indifferent the surrounding culture might be. Nobody is limiting lay or ordained Catholics in the friendship which we can offer those who struggle.
168. In her pastoral care of the divorced and remarried, the Church has sought to combine fidelity to Jesus’ teaching on the indissolubility of marriage — which dismayed his disciples — with the mercy at the heart of his ministry. Consider, for example, Benedict XVI’s teaching on the pastoral situation of divorced men and women:
I see here a great task for a parish, a Catholic community, to do whatever is possible to help them to feel loved and accepted, to feel that they are not “excluded.”… This is very important, so that they see that they are accompanied and guided…. They need to realize that this suffering is not just a physical or psychological pain, but something that is experienced within the Church community for the sake of the great values of our faith. I am convinced that their suffering, if truly accepted from within, is a gift to the Church. They need to know this, to realize that this is their way of serving the Church; that they are in the heart of the Church.
169. In other words, Pope Benedict presupposed the truth of what Christ taught, but he did not simply dismiss the divorced and remarried, telling them to grit their teeth or suffer in loneliness. That is not the Church’s way, and any Catholic who acts as if it is should remember that one of the crimes of the Pharisees was burdening others with laws, yet not “lifting a finger” to help people with these burdens. (Mt 23: 4) Rather, Benedict echoes the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says “priests and the whole community must manifest an attentive solicitude” to divorced Catholics, so that they do not feel excluded.
170. The bonds of friendship make the demands of discipleship bearable. “Bearing one another’s burdens,” within the Christian community, enables its members to walk a path of healing and conversion. Fraternal charity makes fidelity possible. It also offers a witness and encouragement to the wider Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has something like this in mind when it says spouses who persevere in difficult marriages “deserve the gratitude and support of the ecclesial community.” The same should be said for all who find themselves in challenging family situations.
171. In a culture that swings between anonymity on the one hand and voyeuristic curiosity “about the details of other people’s lives” on the other, Pope Francis calls us to accompany each other in the work of spiritual growth. He says: “Someone good at accompaniment does not give in to frustrations or fears. He or she invites others to let themselves be healed, to take up their mat, embrace the cross, leave all behind and go forth ever anew to proclaim the Gospel.” Those being healed are thus able to extend the invitation of healing to others.