The Vatican recently sent out a questionnaire to all the Catholic bishops around the world. The questionnaire asked some direct questions about views on marriage and the family. The answers from Japan were particularly interesting. After all, Japanese Catholics represent only about 0.35 percent of the country’s population.
The most amazing observation, however, came during the question about couples cohabiting before marriage (something almost 100% common in Japan). They observed, “The pastoral practice of the Church must begin from the premise that cohabitation and civil marriage outside the church have become the norm.
In developing a pastoral orientation, it is perhaps important to recall that the only time in the gospels that Jesus clearly encounters someone in a situation of cohabitation outside of marriage (the Samaritan woman at the well) he does not focus on it,” they state. “Instead, he respectfully deals with the woman and turns her into a missionary.”
This observation was as spirit-filled a response as I could have imagined. Instead of a pastoral stance which would beat others up and taken a hard-line approach – preaching and admonishing – they took their observations straight from Christ himself. Christ called out the woman’s situation clearly and truthfully, but he treated her with respect and love as the same time.
It’s a reminder that a pastoral response calls a spade a spade, but never loses sight of the beauty and worth of every human life.