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Synod ends by affirming tradition, leaving questions open

VATICAN CITY—After several days of animated debate over its official midterm report, the Synod of Bishops on the family agreed on a final document more clearly grounded in traditional Catholic teaching. Yet the assembly failed to reach consensus on especially controversial questions of Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried and the pastoral care of homosexuals.

The synod’s last working session, Oct. 18, also featured a speech by Pope Francis, in which he celebrated the members’ frank exchanges while warning against extremism in the defense of tradition or the pursuit of progress.

Discussions in the synod hall had grown heated after the Oct. 13 delivery of a midterm report that used strikingly conciliatory language toward people with ways of life contrary to church teaching, including divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, cohabitating couples and those in same-sex unions.

The summaries of working-group discussions, published Oct. 16, showed a majority of synod fathers wanted the final document to be clearer about relevant church doctrine and give more attention to families whose lives exemplify that teaching.

The final report, which the pope ordered published almost at once after the synod’s conclusion, featured many more citations of Scripture, as well as new references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the teachings of Pope Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict VI.

Synod fathers voted on each of the document’s 62 paragraphs. All received a simple majority, but three failed to gain the two-thirds supermajority ordinarily required for approval of synodal documents.

Two of those paragraphs dealt with a controversial proposal by German Cardinal Walter Kasper that would make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion. The document noted disagreements on the subject and recommended further study.

The document’s section on homosexuality, which also fell short of supermajority approval, was significantly changed from its counterpart in the midterm report.

The original section heading —”welcoming homosexuals” — was changed to “pastoral attention to persons with homosexual orientation.”

A statement that same-sex unions can be a “precious support in the life of the partners” was removed.

The final report quoted a 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters that the absence of a supermajority indicated a lack of consensus and a need for more discussion, but stressed that none of the document carried doctrinal weight. The synod’s final report will serve as an agenda for the October 2015 world synod on the family, which will make recommendations to the pope.

Pope Francis said he welcomed the assembly’s expressions of disagreement.

“Personally, I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn’t been these temptations and these animated discussions,” the pope said, “if everybody had agreed or remained silent in a false and quietistic peace.”

“So many commentators, or people who talk, imagined they saw the church quarreling, one part against the other, even doubting the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of unity and harmony in the church,” he said.

While reassuring the assembly that the church’s unity was not in danger, Pope Francis warned against several temptations that he said had been present during the two-week synod.

One of the temptations he cited was that of “hostile rigidity” that seeks refuge in the letter of the law, “in the certainty of what we know and not of what we must still learn and achieve.” This temptation, he said, is characteristic of the “zealous, the scrupulous, the attentive and — today — of the so-called traditionalists and also of intellectuals.”

Another temptation for the synod fathers, the pope said, was that of “destructive do-goodism, which in the name of a misguided mercy binds up wounds without first treating and medicating them; that treats symptoms and not causes and roots. It is the temptation of do-gooders, of the timorous and also of the so-called progressives and liberals.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement that he was “grateful that the clarifications and deepening of scriptural and theological reflection shine consistently” through the final report. “Now the real work begins!”


Fiesta an opportunity to share traditions

COLUMBIA—Anna Tovar of Johns Island saw her two children bring their heritage to life on a recent Saturday.

Her daughter Kimberly, 14, and son Ray, 12, both belong to “Danza de Holy Spirit,” a traditional Mexican dance group based at Holy Spirit Church on Johns Island and led by parishioners Guillermo and Maria Luisa Macias.

Accompanied only by the mesmerizing beat of one small bass drum and the rhythmic jingle of hand chimes, they joined in a series of intricate dances and then marched in a procession of nations and flags that kicked off the Diocese of Charleston’s 2014 Hispanic Fiesta. The event was organized by the Office of Hispanic Ministry.

The performance was emotional for Tovar and other parents who stood on the sidelines and watched.

“We’re actually bringing the traditions from Mexico to this nation, and seeing my own children involved in the kind of dances we saw performed as children back there is very emotional for me,” she said. “My daughter is also getting ready for confirmation, so to have her involved in this dance ministry at this time in her life is also very special.”

The dancers from Holy Spirit were part of a cross-cultural collage of dancers, musicians, and singers who lent their talents to a day that drew more than 1,000 people from 25 different nations.

After the procession, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated Mass in the gymnasium at St. John Neumann School. He offered a moving homily that talked about the sanctity of family, which was the day’s theme, and reminded the crowd that they were part of a larger community of the faithful.

“You are here as people from various traditions, but you’re not just here as a Hispanic community,” he said. “We create a human family that includes everyone. We’re Catholics and we belong to a church that is worldwide ... we don’t give up who we are individually, but we share our humanity with every human being. Sometimes, as in our own families, we do not agree with all the ways others live their lives, but we have to remember we are all children of the same God, and we must interact and treat each other with dignity.”

After Mass, participants shared a box lunch and watched a cultural program that included singers, dancers and musicians from Holy Cross and St. John of the Cross Church in Batesburg-Leesville.

“This celebration is a sign of unity and hope for the Church here in South Carolina,” said Gustavo Valdez, director of Hispanic ministry. “We were all united by a common denominator. The Christian family of God gathered to celebrate the Eucharist with our shepherd, Bishop Guglielmone. We all have different cultural backgrounds, but the same goal — to be part of the Catholic culture of life, love and unity among diversity.”

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LARCUM bishops continue their discussion on education

COLUMBIA—Living in poverty doesn’t just affect a child’s physical quality of life, such as what they eat, what they wear and where they live. It can also have a profound effect on their brain and how they learn, influencing not only how they do in school but their chance for success later in life.

These stark realities were discussed at the annual Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic and United Methodist Bishops’ Dialogue on Oct. 13 at Our Lady of the Hills Church.

Tammy Pawloski, director of the Center for Excellence and professor of early childhood education at Francis Marion University, was the keynote speaker. She used statistics to show how poverty impacts the way students function in a classroom.

The information is crucial to implementing the public education initiative set forth in the LARCUM bishops’ pastoral letter, issued in April, which set out a commitment to support public education in the state.

“It’s a myth that poverty doesn’t matter in the classroom,” Pawloski said. “Some people say ‘teaching is teaching,’ but if you think that, talk to a teacher in a Title 1 school and listen to their struggles.” Title 1 schools have large numbers of students from low-income families.

Pawloski described how the brains of infants and young children are influenced by positive stimuli and factors such as touch, conversation, good nutrition, constant opportunities for learning and social interaction. Kids who come from families with more financial resources, for instance, often hear more words spoken each day and build bigger vocabularies from an early age than low-income children.

Living in poverty often means dealing with constant stress, and Pawloski illustrated how that can influence brain activity. Stress factors include everything from not having enough to eat to not being able to take part in school activities or other programs because of cost. Even something as simple as a teacher scolding a student for not bringing the right school supplies can exacerbate stress.

Intense stress can reduce your measured IQ, she said, adding that it affects physical and mental health, and the ability to pay attention.

She said that being born into or living in poverty does not mean children can’t improve and develop over time. That’s where the church community can step in, she said, to help kids access resources they might not have at home.

That help could take many forms, she said, by donating school supplies and money to help students participate in school activities or books and conversation.

“One thing we all can do is find a way to interact,” she said. “It can be as simple as somebody volunteering to go in and read with kids, help them grow that vocabulary.”

Faith communities can help relieve stress on poor families by helping parents with transportation or medical costs, or finding ways to teach students organizational and communication skills they might not have.

“The problem for many of these kids is not a lack of love, it’s a lack of resources,” she said. “If you change the child’s experience, you change the brain. Environment matters ... We have to be the touchstone for kids in poverty.”

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Adornos raise funds to help their Filipino house rebuild after typhoon

Sometimes big storms also bring big blessings.

That is a lesson Adorno Father Teodoro “Ted” Kalaw has learned in recent weeks.

He has been organizing fundraising efforts statewide to repair damage to his order’s Theology House in Lipa City, Philippines, which was hit by Typhoon Glenda in mid-July.

Father Kalaw, parochial vicar at Jesus Our Risen Savior Church in Spartanburg, originally helped raise funds to build the house by holding concerts with two of his fellow Adorno priests. He was overjoyed when the home to five seminarians was completed in June.

Barely a month later, the storm hit and his spirits were crushed.

“I kind of felt destroyed, asking ‘What is going on, I don’t understand,” the priest said. “But I learned that God has a better plan, God will make it stronger if we build our faith in Him.”

The actual structure of the house was spared, but much of the surrounding soil was washed away, causing flooding and massive drainage problems which led to cracks in the building. The garage was destroyed and the one car the seminarians used was washed away.

There was no insurance available so the full cost to fix the property damage fell to the Adorno Fathers.

Father Kalaw said the repairs alone totaled more than $65,000, on top of the money that was still owed on the new building.

Despite his sadness, he and his fellow Adornos in South Carolina prayed and decided to do what they could. They received permission from Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone to take up second collections for the repair efforts. He said about $11,000 was raised at Jesus Our Risen Savior, and donations came to $15,000 at Immaculate Conception Church in Goose Creek. A future collection is planned at St. Philip Benizi Church in Moncks Corner.

Individuals also donated privately.

After all the giving was done, more than $130,000 had been raised, enough to complete the repairs, pay off the mortgage debt on the house and purchase a new car for the seminarians.

Father Kalaw will travel to the Philippines soon to check on the work, which he said is about 95 percent complete.

“Because of the repairs, the Theology House is now stronger because the drainage has been fixed, so no matter what water comes, it won’t be affected,” Father Kalaw said. “The overwhelming support and response of the people was amazing. This experience has not only strengthened the structure, but strengthened our faith. No storm can destroy us. Maybe our property was damaged, but never our faith.”


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