Synod: questions raised about the divorced and remarried in terms of openness, mercy and doctrine
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - At today’s daily press briefing for the Synod on the Family, a bishop related the story of a young boy. His parents are divorced and remarried, and when he received the host, he broke off two small pieces and gave them to his parents. Such a deed best illustrates today’s Synod session as participants focused on the issue of communion for the divorced and remarried.
Many of the 93 participants who spoke about the third part of the Instrumentum laboris yesterday and this morning centred their address on this issue. In his briefing, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, noted that "some Fathers contend that the Church cannot forever exclude from the Eucharits some of the faithful. Others said that the Church's role is not to follow public opinion." A number of “Synod Fathers noticed that in the Instrumentum laboris the word forgiveness occurs only once. That is not enough."
Among the issues discussed, some Synod Fathers, especially those from Asia and Africa, spoke about mixed marriages in positive terms, highlighting the prospect of "living the dialogue and proclamation of love."
Some asked what the Church is doing for the divorced and remarried with some suggesting a "well-structured path" towards greater awareness. One proposal made would entail a "penitential path to be evaluated case by case." Speaking on the same issue, another synod Father suggested a spiritual path, noting that neither the divorced nor the remarried have been excommunicated.
The French-speaking group was divided between "those who stress that the role of the Church is to remain faithful to the Lord and those who believe that it is necessary to accompany the people in their failure without diluting the doctrine." For many, "the objective is not to ensure indiscriminate access to the Eucharist, but to propose a customised approach, with many nuances."
Overall, the issue of the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist for the divorced and remarried "did not dominate” the discussions, “but it came up frequently," said Father Bernard Hagenkord.
Many from the German language group focused on the importance of "defending the Catholic teaching on marriage and family,” he said. “The Church, one of them said, does not have the power or the authority to change the Word of God.” Still others noted, “We are not officials charged with checking up on Christians’ purity.”
A few Fathers suggested a catechumenal path, because "if they are not excommunicated, they are [still] part of the Church." For many, the question was, "What is the Church doing for those who live in this situation?"
Some Fathers proposed to “evaluate each case and have some openness in particularly significant cases.” Others talked about the “meaning of sin, the restructuring of family ministry in parishes where some families can accompany others."
Father Thomas Rosica said that, among English-speaking participants, many stressed the link between doctrine and mercy. For many Fathers, “what is needed is a language that can teach the truths of the Church, one that is understandable and targeted to the needs of young people.” This means “a solid teaching of the doctrine, strongly fuelled by Word of God."
For many Fathers, “what is needed are ways, remedies, to heal the wounds of those who are in difficult situations". This also means a "solid training" for priests. "The Christian marriage,” many noted, “is an integral part of society and the Church has an important mission" to play.
Some Fathers talked about the importance of "seeing, welcoming, and healing", as well as teaching through the Scriptures “the beauty of marriage and family life."
Participants insisted that the Church should never join those groups that are making the family "invisible", whose members are suffering from joblessness, homelessness, hunger or violence around the world. Instead, the Church is called to meet many expectations people have, and bear witness to the truth of Christ's mercy.
Several participants focused on “social issues that families face, like immigration, trafficking of women and children, refugees without family" as well as the impact on families of the terror sown by ISIS. For many, the by-word was "open doors".
In an interview with Vatican Radio, Card George Pell said that “the atmosphere was very good. We are, I believe, making substantial progress on most issues. A broad consensus is already noticeable."
Differences of opinion have been expressed over issues like communion for the divorced and remarried, and same sex couples, "but group after group, in their reports, clearly stated that marriage is between a man and a woman, [and ] open to life.” This means that “we do not only follow the whole history of the Church, but also the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament."
In another interview, Card Angelo Scola said that atmosphere was “very positive”. In his opinion, there is agreement on “95 per cent of all the issues” discussed. “We strongly agree, and our in-depth work is very harmonious.”
“In addition to setting out the value and beauty of the family, especially highlighting its significance in response of the needs and challenges of our times,” said Mgr Bruno Forte, special secretary to the synod, said, "I believe that a concrete pastoral way can be based first of all in how we accompany people. This means welcoming everyone, [acting like] a fellowship of life and faith; hence, one of closeness, heed and sharing.” This requires “a commitment to integrate everyone so that the charisms and ministries of each might be appreciated."