Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Synod of Bishops on the Family wrapped up its last working day by approving its final report, which will now go to Pope Francis. The pontiff will examine the document, and decide whether he agrees with it or not, and eventually issue his own views on the matter.
Each of the report’s 94 points was approved by a qualified majority of two thirds. In some cases, the vote was close. For example, the readmission of remarried divorced people to the Sacraments based on pastors’ discernment squeaked by a single vote (178 in favour, 80 against, and 7 abstentions).
"We can say that we constantly kept in mind the families of the world, their joys and hopes, their grief and anguish," said the introduction. The Church is fully aware that it must follow the example of Jesus, who showed "the true meaning of mercy, which implies the restoration of the Alliance" (n. 41).
If the Church "has the joy and duty" to announce that "the sacrament of marriage – as a faithful and indissoluble union between a man and a woman who are called to accept one another and welcome life – is a great grace for the human family," in this day and age, it feels even more the sense of “responsibility of making the baptised rediscover how the grace of God works in their lives – even under the most difficult circumstance – in order to lead them to the fullness of the Sacrament" (n. 73).
Indeed, the report goes on to cite Familiaris Consortio, John Paul II’ encyclical, where he says, “Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is in fact a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned, and those who through their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage. Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children's upbringing, and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid (n. 84).”
“For the Church, drawing near to the family as a companion on a journey means to adopt a prudent and differentiated mentality. At times, this means to be at one’s side and to listen in silence; at other times, to stand in front to indicate the way forward; and at still other times, to stand behind to support and to encourage (n.77). Hence, a “ministry dedicated to those whose marriage relationship was broken" (n. 78) is urgent.
“The baptised who are divorced and civilly remarried must be more integrated into Christian communities in various possible ways, avoiding every occasion of scandal. The logic of integration is the key to their pastoral accompaniment, so that they not only know that they belong to the Body of Christ, which is the Church, but that they can have a joyous and rich experience. They are baptised, they are brothers and sisters, and the Holy Spirit pours out gifts and charisms on them for the good of all. Their participation can express itself in various ecclesial services; for that reason, it is necessary to discern which of the different forms of exclusion actually practiced in the liturgical, pastoral, educational and institutional arenas can be overcome. They not only must not feel themselves excommunicated, but they can live and mature as living members of the Church, viewing it as a mother who always welcomes them, takes care of them with affection, and encourages them on the path of life and the Gospel (n. 84).
“Thus, priests have a duty to accompany the people involved on the path of discernment in accordance with Church teachings and episcopal guidance. In this process, it will be useful to examine one’s conscience, through moments of reflection and penance. The divorced and remarried should ask themselves how they behaved towards their children when their conjugal union went into crisis; if they made an effort at reconciliation; what is the situation of the abandoned partner; what consequences have the new relationship had on the rest of the family and the community of the faithful; [and] what example it offers to young people who have to prepare themselves for marriage (n. 85).
“The path of accompaniment and discernment orients these faithful to understand their situation before God. Speaking with their priest, in foro interno, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church and the steps that can foster it and make it grow" (n. 86).
As for homosexuals, as Card Schönborn indicated this morning, "The Church has modeled its attitude on the Lord Jesus who offered himself in boundless love to everyone without exception” (MV, 12). For this reason, the report says, “Taking care of the families that have a member who has homosexual tendencies, the Church insists that every person, regardless of their own sexual tendency, be respected in his dignity and welcomed with respect, trying to avoid ‘any kind of unjust discrimination’” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons, n. 4).
“Proper attention should be paid to families that have a member with homosexual tendencies. Regarding schemes that equate homosexual unions to marriage, ‘There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.’ In any case, the Synod believes that it is unacceptable for local Churches to be pressured on this matter or that international organisations subordinate financial aid to poor countries to the adoption of laws that institute ‘marriage’ between same-sex people.”
For the full text of the final report (in Italian), click here.