Synod Affirms Church Teaching on Family

vatican st peters domeThe Synod of Bishops on the Family closed yesterday after delegates reached a two-thirds majority vote on a final document that affirms Church teaching on all aspects of the family, including the denial of communion for the divorced and remarried and opposition to same-sex marriage.

Vatican Radio is reporting on the close of the Synod which took place yesterday after a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

In his homily, he thanked the Synod fathers who “walked together” through this vitally important assembly. With their eyes fixed on Jesus, he said, they searched for paths “which the Gospel indicates for our times so that we can proclaim the mystery of family love.”

He went on to tell the Synod Fathers that now they have to “follow the path the Lord desires” not allowing “ourselves to be tarnished by pessimism or sin, let us seek and look upon the glory of God, which shines forth in men and women who are fully alive.”

On the last working day of the Synod, the delegates voted on a final document that stressed the beauty of marriage and the family and made strong references to the indissolubility of this sacrament. It also emphasized the indispensable role families play in the Church, echoing the message delivered to families during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

“So much was God’s love that he began to walk with humanity, he began to walk with his people, until it came time to mature and he gave the greatest sign of his love: his Son,” the document reads.

“And where did he send his Son? To a palace? To a city? To make an impression? He sent him to a family. God entered the world in a family.”

The family, founded on the marriage of a man and woman, is the “magnificent and in-substitutable place” of love and the transmission of life, it reads.

As the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports, even though the secular media focused on two main issues – Communion for divorced and civilly remarried, and Church teaching on homosexuality, discussions at the Synod were much more comprehensive.

“ . . . [A]ctual topics brought up during meetings were much broader, with synod fathers touching on themes such as domestic violence, violence against women, incest and abuse within families, marriage preparation and pornography,” CNA reports.

synod of bishopsAll 94 paragraphs in the final document were voted upon by the Fathers and only two showed any real disparity in the voting, both of them involving pastoral care for divorced and remarried persons.

Even though some called for a change to Church policy, the final report upheld current Church teaching on the issue.

“It’s therefore the responsibility of pastors to accompany the persons concerned on a path of discernment according to the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the bishop,” paragraph 85 read.

However, the document did call for the divorced and remarried to be more integrated into the Christian community by allowing them to become involved in more aspects of parish life as long as the occasion of scandal was avoided.

“Synod fathers emphasized a process of careful discernment in considering which of the areas of exclusion in the liturgy, pastoral, educational and institutional framework of the Church can be done away with for divorced and remarried Catholics,” CNA reports.

For instance, in some countries, divorced and remarried persons are not only asked to abstain from communion, but also from teaching catechesis and from being godparents.

The document goes on to encourage the divorced and remarried to make an examination of conscience, asking themselves “how they behaved toward their children when the marriage entered into crisis; if they were tempted to reconcile; what the situation is for the abandoned partner; what consequences does the new relationship have on the rest of the family and the community of faithful; what example this offers to the youth who must prepare for marriage.”

Pastoral discernment and accompaniment of such individuals must direct them “to the awareness of their situation before God.”

They were also advised to consult with a priest to help them form correct judgement about “what hinders the possibility of full participation in the life of the Church and on the steps that can foster it and make it grow.”

The Church’s stance on homosexuality was also affirmed. Even though this was one of the most hotly debated issues at last year’s Extraordinary Synod, particularly in the wording of the final document, this year’s document contains just one paragraph on the issue.

It reiterated that “every person, independently of their sexual tendency, must be respected in their dignity and welcomed with respect,” but clarified that “there is no foundation whatsoever to assimilate or establish analogies, even remotely, between homosexual unions and God’s design for marriage and the family.”

Synod fathers also condemned ideological colonization in regard to acceptance of homosexuality to be “unacceptable in every case,” as well as the pressure local Churches often face to succumb to the secular push allowing for gay “marriage.”

Church teaching on life issues, such as abortion and contraception, was also addressed and reiterated that all human life “is sacred because, since its beginning, it involves the creative action of God.”

“The biotechnical revolution in the field of human procreation has introduced the ability to manipulate the generative act, rendering it independent of the sexual relationship between a man and woman,” the document reads.

By undergoing this manipulation, “human life and parenthood have become modular and separable realities, subject mainly to the wishes and desires of individuals or couples, not necessarily heterosexual and in a regular marriage.”

Cardinal George Pell, who is serving as head of the Vatican’s economy secretariat, issued a statement on Saturday in which he summarized the final document.

“It expresses well what the current pastoral practice and teaching of the Church are on sexuality, marriage and families,” the statement read. “No doctrinal developments, no doctrinal surprises, no doctrinal backflips. No changes in praxis or discipline,” but rather a “beautiful commendation of large families and of the witness of happily married spouses and their children as agents of evangelization.”

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