41. The Synod Fathers noted that “cultural tendencies in today’s world seem to set no limits on a person’s affectivity”; indeed, “a narcissistic, unstable or changeable affectivity does not always allow a person to grow to maturity”. They also expressed concern about the current “spread of pornography and the commercialization of the body, fostered also by a misuse of the internet, and about those “reprehensible situations where people are forced into prostitution”. In this context, “couples are often uncertain, hesitant and struggling to find ways to grow. Many tend to remain in the early stages of their affective and sexual life. A crisis in a couple’s relationship destabilizes the family and may lead, through separation and divorce, to serious consequences for adults, children and society as a whole, weakening its individual and social bonds”.(Relatio Synodi 2014, 10)
Pope Francis appears to me to be trying to get at root causes. Self-centeredness. Porn. Immaturity. What are causes and what are symptoms? This is an important question for pastoral ministers. My sense is that if we focus on the addiction (to sex, let’s say) and don’t address the underlying impulse to addictions, compulsions, or risky behaviors, then we risk turning people into dry drunks if we’re successful in managing the outward appearances in a person’s life.
Marital problems are “often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another. Failures give rise to new relationships, new couples, new civil unions, and new marriages, creating family situations which are complex and problematic for the Christian life”.(Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the synod of bishops, Message, 18 October 2014.)
Patience is the virtue here Pope Francis identifies as lacking. But we find its poverty all over today. I’m thinking of the phenomenon of bile in social media. Not every perceived trespass is a matter of spiritual life and death. Sometimes we have to just sit with a problem and reflect before taking action.