By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — After nearly three weeks of intense discussion and debate, the Synod of Bishop’s final document on the family was not expected to have any hard-hitting answers, a member of the drafting commission said.
Rather, the report was aiming to be a reflection of the overall sense of the “mind of the house” and indicate some general pastoral directions, Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai told reporters at a Vatican news conference Oct. 22.
That is because “very clearly we are not touching doctrine, this synod is not making doctrine, but it’s really seeing what’s the pastoral approach, what guidelines can we give” the pope, who convoked the synod for their input.
The drafting commission’s goal was to compile a text that would represent all the different concerns and opinions expressed during the synod as well as create “a text which would give a pastoral direction acceptable to everybody,” the cardinal said. He added that the 10-person commission voted unanimously in favor of the contents of the resulting draft.
Adhering to the synod’s theme of “The vocation and mission of the family in the church and in the contemporary world,” the completed draft “doesn’t get into very, very specific points in that sense, it is more general speaking of the great needs” facing today’s families, Cardinal Gracias said.
“I don’t think we have seen the solutions yet,” he said, “but at least we have begun to speak about the problem and we’ve begun to say that this has to be tackled and this has to be studied.”
“As we deepen our understanding, I’m sure we will find a way forward. This happened in the church before,” he said, adding that by confronting and discussing challenges directly, the church “will find a way forward.”
The pope appointed the commission to oversee the compilation and writing of the final text, called the “relatio finalis.”
Cardinal Gracias said that as of noon Oct. 22, there were fewer than 100 numbered paragraphs in the draft version being presented to the synod fathers for review and amendments. The original working document for the synod had 147 numbered paragraphs. ¬†
Here is a tentative schedule of the final days of the synod, which ends Oct. 25:
— Oct. 22: In the afternoon, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, synod general secretary, was to explain to the assembly how the final draft was prepared. Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest would give a brief presentation outlining the document and the text would be distributed. Synod participants will review the full written text at their leisure.
— Oct. 23: The synod assembly will discuss the final draft report in the morning, make comments and submit additional amendments and concerns in writing until early afternoon. The drafting commission will work the final suggestions and changes into a more polished final report by the evening.
— Oct. 24: The final document will be presented to the assembly in the morning and come up for a paragraph-by-paragraph vote by the synod fathers in the afternoon. The text’s approval will require a two-thirds majority vote. Pope Francis will receive the final text in Italian. The pope will decide whether to make the text public or not.
— Oct. 25: Closing Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Synod groups deliberate on how to support, accompany families
By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican published the third reports of the small working groups of the Synod of Bishops on the family. The following is a sampling of what some of the groups had to say:
— English Group A, in a report read by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, emphasized the importance of religious freedom for families, the need for thorough marriage preparation and the role of parents as the primary educators in proper sex education.
While affirming the church’s teaching and practice that the divorced and civilly remarried may not receive the Eucharist, the group said that “pastors should accompany them with understanding, always ready to extend God’s mercy to them anew when they stand in need of it.”
— English Group C, led by Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, Northern Ireland, said the third part of the synod’s working document focuses heavily on families in trouble while “little is said of walking with families who persevere in the ups and downs of everyday life, especially perhaps those in the early years of marriage.”
The group also emphasized a pastoral approach to responsible parenthood that promotes the teaching of “Humanae Vitae” on openness to children and asked that the synod’s final document include a clear statement of church teaching that same-sex unions are in no way equivalent to marriage.
“We were equally insistent that we address this issue as pastors, seeking to understand the reality of people’s lives rather than issues in some more abstract sense,” the group said.
— Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia read English Group D’s report, stressing that the working document “paid inadequate attention” to chastity formation not only for priests but also for families, couples preparing for marriage and for married men and women.
— Spanish Group A, led by Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, called for a pastoral itinerary for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics and urged the church to “do everything possible to draw those who are far away.”
“It is not enough to speak about paths of mercy and closeness, rather it should lead to concrete proposals because if not, we will remain with very nice, but empty, words,” the group said.
— On the other hand, the report of Spanish Group B, read by Venezuelan Archbishop Baltazar Porras Cardozo, said that while access to the sacraments for divorced and remarried Catholics is important, “the result and success of this synod does not hinge” on the question.
— Archbishop Laurent Ulrich of Lille, France, read the report of French Group A, which said that in “situations that are considered irregular” the church must have a clear plan for receiving and accompanying couples and families.
Group members also insisted that “marriage preparation must have a catechumenal appearance,” a process of growing in faith, especially since many adults come to faith due to their marriage.
— French Group B, led by Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, discussed the formation of priests in their ministry to families, the importance of catechesis for marriage preparation, and helping couples “understand the long-term” commitment in marriage.
— Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher’s report of French Group C, using Jesus’ parable of the sower, said the group was struck by the diversity of the “fields” where families grow.
The group’s discussions were sometimes polarized, the report said, particularly regarding the issues of Communion for divorced and remarried couples and the role of women in “certain ministries of the church.” The archbishop had suggested the synod look at the possibility of women deacons.
Despite the differences, the report said, “we all have the same desire: to help these fields live and flourish so that they bear fruit.”
— Italian Group A, led by Cardinal Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento, underlined the importance of seeing marriage and starting a family as “the fruit of a vocational discernment.”
“Marriage is the answer to a specific call to live conjugal love in Christ and in the Spirit, becoming a credible sign of the love of Christ and the church,” the group said.
— Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, read the report of Italian Group B, which focused on two issues: the courage of women who “eloquently witness” to respect for life and raising their children in often violent situations; and couples who are suffering due to separation.
Pastors, the group said, “must identify and find every valid doctrinal means to help those who have experienced failure to find the path toward the full embrace of the church.”
— Italian Group C, led by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, stressed the need for catechesis on the beauty of openness to life for families and society. The desire for a large family, the group said, often “clashes with economic-cultural conditionings that decrease the desire for a more generous birth rate and requires family policy that supports the fruitfulness of the family.”