Bishop Antun Škvorčević, the delegate of the Croatian Bishops Conference at the family Synod, which will start tomorrow, spoke recently with Croatian website Bitno.net about what he expects of the Synod, what the consequences may be and shares his views on the discussions in the media.
Here’s my translation of the full interview. (Published with exclusive permission of Bitno.net editors).
Bitno.net: Your Excellency, during these pre-Synod discussions there was a lot of speculation as to which of the topics will be in the focus of addresses of Synod fathers. It even seems that among the bishops themselves there is no consensus on what are the main problems which ail the Christian family at the moment and how to overcome them. What is it that should, in your opinion, be the focus of attention of the Synod? What are the urgent issues related to the family?
Bishop: We should keep in mind that Catholics live around the world in different cultural circumstances, and therefore it is understandable that the problems of marriage and the family are not the same everywhere –that there are different approaches and theological thinkings about the efforts to resolve them. But, I believe that globalization, which derives from liberalism, considering the natural and Christian view of the man, marriage and the family, develops a new culture. That is the fundamental challenge the Church should seek to answer. Pope Francis surely has not convoked the Synod to make agreements with the bishops on changing that which Catholic Church, on he basis of Revelation, believes about marriage and the family, nor to fight against contemporary culture but to better determine the problems it brings with it so the said culture can be evangelized and people helped so they can, in current social circumstances, discover the beauty of man, marriage and the family which live according to God’s plan.
Bitno.net: It seems that this period between two Synods was marked by the bishops’ debate in the media about some “controversial” issues. Do you think these media debates are useful in “sharpening” the positions or is it all unnecessary and counterproductive?
Bishop: I consider precious the public debate on such an important issue. It contributes to a greater number of people to be familiar with what the Church believes about marriage and family, to discover the different dimensions of the problem and help responsibly find solutions to challenges of our time. I consider this discussion very important, despite often superficiality and sometimes malice of some of the media in the approach to these issues and regarding to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.
Bitno.net: How do you comment the statements of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Gerhard Müller, who recently in Regensburg said that the behaviour of the German bishops on the eve of the Synod can be risky and cause divisions in the Church? Do you think such judgment is grounded?
Bishop: It is not grateful to comment on what is happening in another country, but I follow Church-related news in Germany so I can express some of my impressions and assessments. The Prefect of CDF, Cardinal Gerhard Müller is a German theologian of broad erudition who knows the historical and contemporary German context in which these debates on the issues of marriage and family take place. They are led in an ambience strongly permeated with Protestant thought and practice and in which the well-known “anti-Roman affect” is present. Some theologians and other experts in Germany often reflect on matters of marriage and the family – including the question of possibility of communion for divorced and remarried – imprisoned in their own circle of problems without sufficient breadth and sensitivity to what is going on in other communities –at the level of the universal Church- and insist on some solutions and models that all others should take over. Everything mentioned is connected with the question of acceptance of the entire content of faith among Catholics in Germany, and with what will be concluded at the Synod, especially if it is not tailored to their expectations. Certain studies prove that there is a significant number of people in Germany who recognize themselves as Catholics but do not accept all the fundamental truths of the faith. On one occasion Pope Benedict XVI warned that it is not enough to be a well-organized Church, but that it also needs to work on rebuilding her faith. Of course, I do not want to say that there are no similar problems elsewhere, nor deny the great contribution of German Catholics, particularly on theological and social level, as we have felt on many occasions in Croatia too.
Bitno.net: Can you reveal to us some of the topics you will talk about in your “relatio”? What will you focus on?
Bishop: “Instrumentum laboris”, the starting text for Synod discussion, in its first part speaks of the context in which a modern family lives and then of the approach to marriage and family from the Gospel standpoint with the emphasis on treatment rather than the judgment of everything that is not in accordance with natural and Christian marriage. Therefore, I consider it appropriate to point out to Synod fathers some specific circumstances in which we live marriage and family in Croatia, especially the multi-layer consequences of the communist system and the Homeland War, the impoverishment and departure, not just of young people, but whole families – people who were recently joined by a river of refugees and displaced from the Middle and Far East passing to Western Europe in search of a better life. Speaking from the experience of working with our families, I would like to draw attention on the impact of the legislation that does not promote the dignity of marriage and the family nor is sufficiently occupied with pro-family actions as strategic direction on which the future of the Croatian people depends on. Based on the experience we have in Croatia, especially after many years of organizing courses of preparation for marriage, I believe that the importance of faith as the basic precondition for Christian marriage should be emphasized and that we should talk about divorce and remarriage that are associated to belonging to Church community in accordance with the teachings of Vatican II and the attitude of the Church towards the Eucharist.
Bitno.net: Last year’s extraordinary Synod on the family was very “dynamic”. Part of the faithful seems to await the new one with, we might say, anxiety of some new “turmoil”. How do you comment?
Bishop: I am glad that the faithful manifest interest in the Synod and its outcome. Part of the public media has created even in our country the mood that the Synod could betray the Church understanding of marriage and family. I think all fear is unfounded because the Synod will certainly not do it. Primarily because we believe that during her work the light of the Holy Spirit and the Synod fathers faithful attention to Holy Spirit presence and activity will not lack. Finally, Synod as an advisory body, as opposed to general conference, does not issue binding decisions, but thinkings on the basis of which the Holy Father addresses his word to the Church.
Bitno.net: Finally, what would be your message, as the only bishop of the Republic of Croatia to participate in the Synod, to Catholics in Croatia on the eve of its beginning?
Bishop: I call on the faithful to pray for the Synod and that with interest and great confidence follow its work, to try to get information about it from reports that present it wholly and objectively.