When it comes to human sexuality, one of the predominant themes being discussed by participants at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family pertains to the certainty that truth and mercy cannot be separated. This is according to Fr. Stephen Fawcett of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, who is one of 27 volunteers serving at the Synod on the Family. Fr. Fawcett, whose role throughout the Synod has been in part to act as one of two secretaries to one of the small groups over this past week, told CNA that “one big strand that’s coming out of the groups echoes Benedict XVI’s reminder of the link between love and truth.” “God shows his mercy to all of us… to grow into the people we should be,” he said. “It’s not (that) some people need mercy, and some people don’t. All of us need the truth… and all of us need the grace to journey in that truth.” He explained that there has been neither a sense of toning “down the truth and raise up the sort of focus on mercy,” nor of a toning “down the mercy because it might be interpreted as weakness,” but rather “a harmony.” Fr. Fawcett added that while “the Church has been very clear in its teaching, sometimes people don’t understand the difference between simple and easy.” The Church’s teaching, he said, “is simple: the beauty of sexuality, realized in faithfulness, in commitment.” However, he added, “it isn’t easy.” Citing his own experience having worked with teenagers, Fr. Fawcett said he often hears that the Church’s teaching on these matters is “complicated.” “What they really mean is: I’m scared to accept that teaching because it’s too scary.” In response, he would say: “It’s not complicated. It’s hard. There is a difference.” On Oct. 13 a summary document was released to the media to mark the midway point of the Synod. The “relatio” sparked widespread attention, with some media outlets interpreting its tone as a signal of possible change in Church doctrine. Remarking on the media focus brought about by the document, Fr Fawcett noted that while the synod fathers were “aware of the media” attention, they were focused on the job at hand, all the while trusting “the media to do what they can do.” Highlighting the responsibility of the various language groups, Fr. Fawcett explained that their job was to go through this relatio to “see whether they think it’s accurate, whether it captures this nuance, whether it captures that sense of the teaching, and how to adapt it.” Remarking on the “massive divergence” of people participating in the various groups — in Fr. Fawcett’s group alone, there are couples from America and Iraq, laity from eastern Europe, bishops from Africa, Asia, and America -- he said that “when they’re trying to apply a Catholic teaching to experience, there is so much experience that people are sharing.” “There are so many, even recent documents on the beauty of sexuality, the beauty of marriage,” he said, while acknowledging that it is “difficult” to live out. “And in a world that doesn’t want difficulty, that wants instant solutions.” The Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality, Fr. Fawcett said, are “not easy to accept. But, Jesus’ message has never been easy to accept.” “Look what they did to him.” This being said, he noted that the synod fathers are sensitive to the need for communication, and the “need for helping people to understand about marriage” not only during marriage preparation, “but from an early age” and continuing after the sacrament has been effected. Over the course of the sessions, Fr. Fawcett said he had “not heard anyone say we should change Church teaching,” adding that “they’re all very clear on the Church teaching.” Rather, he noted an acknowledgement “that life’s difficult, but joyful, and the vast experience of the world, we’re trying to apply the teaching to all these different areas.”
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