Softer language doesn’t mean softer teaching, cardinals say

Momentum is building at the synod on the family for a change in the language the Church uses in its teaching on sexuality.

But that doesn’t mean a change in Church doctrine, two leading cardinals have said.

“Everybody wants to show God’s love and mercy, but it also brings you to very difficult situations and as Christians we follow Jesus,” said Australian Cardinal George Pell.

The Church has to be intellectually coherent and consistent, he said, adding that “Catholics are people who stand under the Scriptures, we are people of tradition”.

“But we believe in the development of doctrine, not in doctrinal back-flips,” the Table reported him saying.

Cardinal Pell added: “I confess that I might have been tempted to hope that Jesus might have been a little softer on divorce; he wasn’t, and I’m speaking with him.”

Last week, synod members said the Church should stop using “harsh language” such as “ living in sin”, “intrinsically disordered” and “contraceptive mentality” in aspects of its teaching.

Too often the theology of marriage was “filtered through harsh language”, members said.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said the question of language had been a major part of discussions in the gathering’s opening days.

He said it is a question of the consistency and immutability of the Church’s truth.

“But our burning desire is to find a language that can present it in a more gracious, compelling and cogent way.”

Both the cardinals stressed that bishops at the synod were acutely aware of the problems facing family life in their communities.

Australian Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne told Vatican Radio that what is needed is language that is faithful to Church teaching, but which also engages with the experiences of families.


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