Indice > Dialoghi Interconfessionali > L-R-RC > The Theology of Mariage | CONT. > sez. 5

  IV. (MARRIAGE FOR LIFE) - selez.
Pastoral Care

  (CONCLUSION) - selez.



46. The problems the Commission has been given to deal with are theological problems and have been dealt with theologically; but the concern of the Commission is also a practical, that is, a pastoral one. The Commission has dealt with the question of the sacramental aspects and the lifelong character of the marriage of one man and one woman of whatever Church, and with what our Churches can say and do in the immediate situation in which we live to enable that man and woman to live together in marriage under the Lordship of Christ.

47. The Church has always been acutely aware that it does not live in an ideal world, and over the years the different communions have developed their own ways of preparing people for marriage. Generally these provisions for pastoral care have been worked out by the Churches in isolation from each other, and even in opposition to each other. However, the crisis the Churches face today in a world that has to a considerable extent rejected the Christian faith lays upon all Churches the common task of exercising a stronger prophetic and pastoral mission. needless to say, the pastoral mission should not be concerned exclusively with the casualties of marriage but should aim to play a constructive role in building up individual marriage and in the realization and fulfilment of our human potentialities. Moreover, the mission could be more effectively carried out, it is believed, if it could be regarded as a common task to be dealt with by the Churches working together in concrete situations, such as a common approach to mixed marriages and even common celebrations of the marriage rite through the use of common liturgical elements.

48. Although it is aware that it is working in a constantly changing situation and that the need for pastoral care in relation to marriage can never be precisely anticipated, the Commission has identified a number of areas where special attention must be given to the nature of the pastoral care likely to be required.

1. The nature of pastoral care

49. In the first place the Church must give attention to what it will mean by pastoral care, assisting both pastor and people to come to a deeper understanding. The Commission recognizes the broad dimensions of this pastoral task. It is persuaded that marriage counseling as generally conceived is only a part of the pastoral responsibilities of the Church and, in fact, cannot be done apart from the larger job. It is persuaded also that the care for the needs of individuals and families is not the task of the pastor alone but is the responsibility of the whole Church. Members of the Church have by virtue of their vocation an obligation of mutual care for one another, of providing insofar as they are able a community of grace in which everyone may find comfort and strength and in which everyone may extend comfort and support to his neighbor. Some Churches have come to regard pastoral care as including social and political action in the community, thinking of it as whatever the organized Church as individuals and groups may do in the name of the Church to improve the conditions in which people live.

50. It will be the pastor's task to assist members of his congregation in understanding their calling and in equipping themselves to enter into it faithfully. Obviously he will do this through a wide variety of activities - in his preaching from the pulpit, in the teaching in the school of the Church, in his special classes for parents, in his own relationship with the children and young people of the congregation, in vocational groups, and in other groups organized to meet particular needs of the larger community. In effect, the Church provides pastoral care for its members and equips them for marriage by drawing them into a worshiping, studying, witnessing community where they may know themselves to be a part of the ongoing people of God who have been called to live together under the Lordship of Christ and to minister to the needs of the world.

2. The preparation of the pastor for pastoral care

51. The second task of the Church in its work of pastoral care will be the preparation of the pastor for his responsibility of equipping individuals and families for life and therefore for marriage. This will include but will not be limited to couples who will enter mixed marriages or who have already done so, and will thus require of them a new way of looking at Church regulations. Time is running out to save Christian marriages of the future and it is urgent that the Church interpret its rules as an expression of God's love and concern for human nature as he made it and therefore as written for our good and for our happiness.

52. It will be no easy task to overcome the limitations of the traditional approaches to marriage. But fortunately seminaries are awakening to the need for providing a broader course of study for their ministerial students, going beyond the traditional biblical, theological and historical studies and including pastoral studies and even apprenticeships in pastorates under capable and experienced pastors. The recent Apostolic Letter issued by Pope Paul VI in 1970 on Mixed Marriages opens new possibilities of understanding the nature of the regulations of the Roman Catholic Church. This letter shows Canon Law as is no doubt intended as an expression of Christ's loving care for his people, and the Church's attempt to carry out the love in the daily circumstances of life. Students who hope to enter the pastoral ministry should be encouraged to interpret Canon Law from this point of view, and to work with pastors of other Churches to enable the couple to overcome the difficulties inherent in a mixed marriage.

53. The nature of pastoral care of mixed marriages presents the Churches with an urgent challenge to provide joint pastoral preparation and continuing pastoral care. It presupposes the training of our pastors on the special nature of mixed marriages (Norm 14 of Matrimonia Mixta), as to the new approach to presenting rules, in a manner to which married people can relate, and taking into account the vast growth of knowledge and understanding which was not available when many church norms were formulated.

3. The pastoral care of the congregation as a whole

54. A third situation which calls for pastoral care on the part of the Church is the crucial need of all its people in relation to marriage and family life in this period of stress and change. It is clear to the Commission that in marriage as in all areas of life Christ creates a crisis. His presence at one and the same time brings to the world forgiveness and new life and calls into question all accepted values. The Churches, then, have with regard to marriage, and especially mixed marriages, a two-fold responsibility. The first is to teach all of its people a strongly theological view of marriage as rooted in the covenant of God with his people and of the Christian family as a community of love and a fellowship of faith. The second is to mediate the liberating grace which will assist the members of the Church not only to live their own marriage under the Lordship of Christ but to become a supporting, sustaining community for the mutual strengthening of one another.

4. The pastoral care of individuals

55. In addition to the provisions it makes for the congregation as a whole the Church through pastor and congregation must provide pastoral care for individuals as they move through life.

a) Pastoral care of children

56. Preparation for marriage like preparation for all of life should begin at an early stage. The child of a Christian marriage comes into the world as an expression of the couple's love for one another, and knows himself to be the beloved creature of God through the full creative love of his parents. Thus the child's preparation for life and for marriage will not begin with verbal admonitions but he will know the love of God from the experience of living in a community of love and grace from the moment of birth. To assist parents in receiving the grace of God so that their household may become a community of grace is the Church's first task in the pastoral care of the child. Knowing from the beginning the meaning of God's grace by living with parents who have themselves experienced God's grace, who have dealt with their own sin and its attendant problems and deficiencies and are able to assist the child in dealing with his-hers, the person may approach marriage with confidence and clear intent, having been set free to enter into a covenant with his marriage partner and having the assurance that in this covenant Christ already awaits them.

57. Should persons, whose development has occurred in a family and community of grace, love and security, contract a mixed marriage, they will be prepared to enter into it in the love of Christ, the foundation of the grace and faith they know they share. Such a marriage, like any other marriage between Christians will bear witness to the grace of God in Christ.

b) Pastoral care of adolescents

58. Present-day adolescents, who increasingly reject the institutional Churches and their rules, in which they claim not to find Christ, will nonetheless rise to a challenge and an ideal, and it is in this context that the Churches must strive to present the theology of marriage and their regulations, in relation to God's plan for those he has created and loves. Marriage must also be presented in relation to the Church and secular community.

c) Pre-marriage counseling

59. This will lead naturally to actual pre-marriage training. Sex education should from the beginning be linked to love, which, in marriage, God has made the symbol of the Covenant, seen in the Bible. Training must include factors common to all marriage, but which assume even greater importance in the context of mixed marriage. The pastor must be able to give information about the different Churches, particularly the Churches of the two partners. The couple will need to know, for example, not only the differences in doctrinal belief in the two Churches, but also their different regulations regarding the marriage ceremony. They must be clear about the expectations the Churches may have with regard to children. These regulations and expectations are set forth in Chapter VI of this report. A major concern of such intending couples will be to decide on the best way to bring up their children, in the knowledge, love and service of God in the light of these regulations and expectations. This demands mutual understanding of the possible consequences of different theological and practical interpretations of the faith they share, not only in the chosen form of religious instruction, but also on such basic matters as family planning and abortion.

60. The Commission lays great emphasis on the need for joint pastoral support for the partners of broken marriages, including cases where there has been a civil divorce, and on a permanent concern for those whose marriages are performed and lived outside the Church.

61. We would refer to the valuable guidelines on joint pastoral care, contained in paras. 73-76 of the final report of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on the same subject as that of the present commission. Examples include the wide diversities between national temperaments and socio-cultural patterns, to which pastoral care must be related and the various experiments in this connection which have been made in different parts of the world. It is stressed that the clergy have a duty to exercise a high degree of mutual understanding and trust, which will help better joint pastoral preparation and support for mixed marriage. Furthermore, there is the need to realize that the solution of delicate personal problems involved in mixed marriages, of which no two are alike, is to be found in the maturing and sensitive growing together of the family itself. This sensitiveness must be matched by any source of outside assistance from which, if joint pastoral care is assumed, all hints of competitiveness, suspicion or possessiveness must be banished, since these would inhibit the necessary sensitiveness from the start.

62. The Commission has been heartened by the new insights which have come to it through its work together and which hold out to it the hope of even greater understanding of the nature of marriage under the Lordship of Christ. It is the hope of the Commission that through its work this gift of understanding may be reflected day by day in the Churches' pastoral care of the People of God. The Commission also hopes that through the common work of the pastors of the various Churches, the Churches themselves may be brought into a closer fellowship with one another. As the Churches make joint provision for training their pastors, as pastors work together across denominational lines in the case of particular couples and particular families who are involved in mixed marriages, it may be that these instances can point us towards oneness which is God's will for his Church. Already little ecumenical groups are emerging in places where pastors are discovering that they are already one in understanding the sacramental and life-long character of marriage and one in the call they have from God to minister to his people as they attempt to live out their lives under his Lordship. It may be that the consequences of our work as a commission may bring healing to individuals and families but may also seem in some measure to bring our Churches into a unity that is visible to the world.

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