The official midterm report from the Synod of Bishops, which uses strikingly conciliatory language toward divorced and remarried Catholics, cohabitating couples and same-sex unions, has proven highly controversial inside and outside the synod hall, with some synod fathers saying it does not accurately reflect the assembly’s views.
Following a nearly hour long speech Oct. 13 by Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, who, as the synod’s relator, has the task of guiding the discussion and synthesizing its results, 41 of the 184 synod fathers present took the floor to comment the same morning, the Vatican said. Read more
In strikingly conciliatory language on situations contrary to Catholic teaching, an official midterm report from the Synod of Bishops on the family emphasized calls for greater acceptance and appreciation of divorced and remarried Catholics, cohabitating couples, and homosexuals.
“It is necessary to accept people in their concrete being, to know how to support their search, to encourage the wish for God, and the will to feel fully part of the church, also on the part of those who have experienced failure or find themselves in the most diverse situations,” Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest told Pope Francis and the synod Oct. 13. Read more
In their discussions of sexual and medical ethics, participants at the Synod of Bishops on the family are giving emphasis to the concept of “graduality,” as a way of thinking about morality that allows for human imperfection without compromising ideals.
In an address to the assembly on its first working day, Oct. 6, Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, said that “Humanae Vitae,” the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI that reaffirmed the church’s prohibition of artificial birth control, “needs to be considered in light of the law of graduality.” He suggested that it was unrealistic to expect immediate acceptance of the widely flouted teaching.
The cardinal quoted “Familiaris Consortio,” a 1981 apostolic exhortation by St. John Paul II on the role of the Christian family in the world that was inspired by the last synod on the family in 1980. According to St. John Paul, each person is a historical being who “knows, loves, and accomplishes moral good in stages of growth.”
Several bishops referred to graduality in their remarks during an afternoon session dedicated to the theme of “God’s plan for marriage and the family.”
“Despite serious flaws that we always identify in Western culture, we also have to discern and to declare what the steppingstones are for Christian wisdom,” one bishop said, according to Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, an assistant to the Holy See Press Office, who did not identify the bishop in accordance with synod rules.
Discussing the church’s attitude toward “irregular” relationships, such as those of civilly-married or cohabitating Catholic couples, another bishop drew an analogy with the Catholic understanding of other Christian churches. While the church is said to subsist fully only in the Catholic Church, other Christian communities are believed to possess important elements for sanctification.
By the same token, “there is a full and ideal vision of the Christian family, but there are absolutely valid and important elements even of sanctification and of true love that may be present even when one does not fully realize this ideal,” the bishop said, as paraphrased by the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, who also spoke at the Oct. 6 session, told reporters the next day that the “law of graduality” is a “law of pastoral moral theology which permits people, all of us, to take one step at a time in our search for holiness in our lives.”
The cardinal, who attended the 1980 synod as a priest assisting a participating bishop, recalled that St. John Paul II had made an important point on the subject at the conclusion of the synod.
“He said, yes, there is a law of graduality, but it should not be confused with a graduality of the law,” Cardinal Nichols said. “He was saying the vision, the teaching of the Church is consistent and is offered to everybody. So it’s not as if there’s one law at this time in your life and another law later in your life, but there is a pathway on which we’ll walk.”
Another synod father, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany, told reporters Oct. 6 that the idea of graduality could help the Church develop a new way of speaking about sexuality.
“We cannot have always 100 percent, and I would say good and bad, that’s not so easy to make the difference,” the cardinal said in English. “There is a development, a way, in the biography or in a relationship and so on.”
Cardinal Marx, chairman of the German bishops’ conference, also said that the “great majority” of German bishops support German Cardinal Walter Kasper’s controversial proposal to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, even if they have not obtained annulments of their first, sacramental marriages.
“I think it is very important to see that we have ways or that there is a graduality also in the way to the sacrament,” Cardinal Marx said.
The highest ranking US bishop at the Vatican says this month’s Synod of Bishops on the family should mark the end of a high-level debate over whether to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.
“The matter really has to be clarified at this point so that this doesn’t continue,” Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, told Catholic News Service Oct. 1. “For this to go on for another year, it can only do harm.” Read more
The working document for the October 2014 extraordinary Synod of Bishops offers a picture of the Catholic Church today struggling to preach the Gospel and transmit moral teachings amid a “widespread cultural, social, and spiritual crisis” of the family.
The 75-page “instrumentum laboris,” published by the Vatican June 26, is supposed to “provide an initial reference point” for discussion at the synod, whose theme will be the “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” Read more
Pope Francis opened the first working session of an extraordinary Synod of Bishops Oct. 6, urging participants to speak fearlessly and listen humbly during two weeks of discussion of the “pastoral challenges of the family.”
Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest then outlined some of the major challenges the bishops would discuss, including such controversial topics as cohabitation, divorce, birth control, and the impact of social and economic pressures. Read more
Starting his first visit to Asia, Pope Francis urged South Korean political and civic leaders to seek peace on their divided peninsula and strengthen their nation’s commitment to democracy and social justice.
“Peace is not simply the absence of war, but the work of justice,” the pope said Aug. 14 in a speech at Seoul’s Blue House, the official residence of Pres. Park Geun-hye. Read more
Praying for peace in the Holy Land alongside leaders of long-antagonistic nations, Pope Francis called on God to act where human efforts had failed, to end what he described as violence inspired by the devil.
“More than once we have been on the verge of peace, but the evil one, employing a variety of means, has succeeded in blocking it,” the pope said June 8 at an evening ceremony in the Vatican Gardens. “That is why we are here, because we know and we believe that we need the help of God.” Read more
Pope Francis spent the morning and early afternoon of July 26 with about two dozen young people from different countries and diverse backgrounds, in a range of encounters that illustrated his characteristic emphasis on inclusion and reconciliation.
The most dramatic meeting was the half hour he spent in the Rio de Janeiro archbishop’s residence with eight young offenders from four area prisons.
According to the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the six men and two women sat in a circle with the pope, Rio Abp. Orani Tempesta, a judge, and a lay minister who works with incarcerated youths. Read more
Pope Francis had been pope for less than six days when he was formally installed March 19, but he had already made a distinctive and overwhelmingly favorable impression on the world.
That is an especially remarkable accomplishment given that, until his election, the former Card. Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been practically unknown to the public outside his native Argentina. Read more