Church must listen to married couples, Martin tells synod

Many ‘hardly recognise’ own life in Catholic ideal, archbishop says

A bishop takes a picture with a tablet during a synod of bishops in Paul VI’s hall at the Vatican . Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters

A bishop takes a picture with a tablet during a synod of bishops in Paul VI’s hall at the Vatican . Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters


The Catholic church must listen on a more regular basis to what married couples have to say, the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin told the extraordinary synod of bishops in Rome this morning.

“Consulting married couples is not simply an option which we take up on special occasions,” he said. “The authentic living out of the married vocation, sanctified by a sacrament, can become in a unique way a true theological source.”

The synod in Rome has heard from two married couples, one Australian and one Filipino.

The archbishop noted that where the church was concerned “there is still difficulty in accepting the significance of human endeavour which fails to reach the high ideals but is part of the struggle for perfection.

“None of us would be capable of living the teaching of our calling in the church without the help of the mercy of God,” he said.

Dr Martin represents the Irish Episcopal Conference at the synod.

He said parents, especially in poorer areas, who have experienced all the economic and social difficulties which have affected Ireland “during a dramatic economic crisis” still “continue to live the daily realities of family relationships and commitment to the education of their children”.

Such people, he said, “would hardly recognise their own experience in the way we present the ideals of married life. Indeed many in genuine humility would probably feel that they are living a life which is distant from the ideal of marriage as presented by church teaching.”

What was needed in the church, he said, was “a new language for this dialogue between the teaching of the church and the lived experience of Christian spouses”. To many, thecurrent language of the church appeared one of telling people what to do and a “one way” conversation.

“The lived experience and struggle of spouses can help find more effective ways of expression of the fundamental elements of Church teaching,” he said. Jesuwas never “unmoved by the concrete human situation in which people could come to be embraced by the good news”,he said.

The church “must also listen to where God is speaking to the church through the witness of those Christian married couples who struggle and fail and begin again in the concrete situations of the harshness of life today and fail again,” he said.

“The experience of failure and struggle cannot surely be irrelevant in arriving at the way we proclaim the church’s teaching on marriage and the family.” he added.

Dr Martin worked at the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family at the beginning of 1977 where his task was to prepare an examination of church literature on being divorced and remarried in the church. It was a contribution to a document of the International Theological Commission.

He also attended the synod of 1980 which produced the document Familiaris Consortio which dealt with the role of the family in the modern world.