Due to the rumors swirling through the mainstream media, Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Holy See Press Office issued a statement to the Catholic News Agency that the preparatory document is “only a document sent to bishops' conferences throughout the world by the secretary general of the synod of bishops, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, in preparation for the synod of bishops.”
Fr. Lombardi stressed that the questions “are not regarding the doctrinal position of the Church” and are meant to serve the bishops in an advisory manner.
The synod, which will be held from Oct. 5-19, 2014, will be dedicated to "the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.”
As Vatican Radio reports, "the document gives an overview of Church teaching on the family and spells out in a frank manner the many daunting challenges facing the family in today’s society, saying there is an urgency for the Church to address these challenges. The document also includes a questionnaire or consultation containing 39 questions on family issues that has been sent to bishops conferences around the world asking them to share it as widely as possible so that input from local sources can be received."
For instance, in the area of divorced, remarried or cohabiting couples, the questionnaire asks:
c) Are separated couples and those divorced and remarried a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage? How do you deal with this situation in appropriate pastoral programmes?
d) In all the above cases, how do the baptized live in this irregular situation? Are aware of it? Are they simply indifferent? Do they feel marginalized or suffer from the impossibility of receiving the sacraments?
e) What questions do divorced and remarried people pose to the Church concerning the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation? Among those persons who find themselves in these situations, how many ask for these sacraments?
On same-sex marriage, the questionnaire asks:
a) Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?
b) What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?
c) What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?
d) In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?
At a press conference in Rome yesterday, Archbishop Bruno Forte, special secretary for the synod, addressed popular misunderstandings of the questions that are directed in the preparatory document to the world’s bishops.
These questions, he said, are intended to elicit discussion of pastoral strategies, rather than debate on Church teachings. The archbishop explained: “It is not, therefore, a matter of debating doctrinal questions, which have in any case been clarified by the magisterium recently.”
The Synod is meant to address these issues from a pastoral, rather than a doctrinal, point-of-view.
Click here to read the full text of the preparatory document.
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