by Rev. Nicholas L. Gregoris
The "Final Document" (also known as the "Relatio Synodi" or "Relatio Finalis") of the Synod of the Bishops on the Family was written by a "commission" of ten bishops who, well in advance, were handpicked by Pope Francis. The members of the commission supposedly worked all night last Friday trying to put together a document that would be acceptable to the entire Synod Assembly. In the end, the "Final Document" was comprised of 94 paragraphs.
The Synod Fathers voted on each paragraph separately but, for some reason, never voted on the entire document as many logically thought would have happened. Each of the 94 paragraphs received a two-thirds majority vote, with some of the more contested paragraphs barely making it past the 177 member threshold needed for approval. It is clearly a document of compromise that will inevitably disappoint people on all sides of certain contentious and controversial issues like homosexuality and Holy Communion for the divorced/remarriede.
Regarding homosexuality, those who had hoped that the Synod Fathers would move the Church in the direction of accepting homosexual acts as well gay civil unions and same-sex marriage will notice that the Final Document strongly reaffirms that marriage constitutes an indissoluble bond between one man and one woman open to procreation and furthermore states that homosexual unions and same-sex marriages are really a fiction, compared to natural marriage and the Sacrament of Marriage. With respect to homosexual persons, the Synod Fathers reiterated the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church about the need to respect the inherent creaturely dignity of homosexual persons. The Synod Fathers, however, did emphasize the need for particular care to be shown to homosexual persons in the family setting, especially with reference to any children involved in such relationships.
While the Synod Fathers did not explicitly state that divorced/remarried persons may receive Holy Communion, they did make the following recommendations to Pope Francis:
(1) Divorced/remarried people should not be treated as though they are formally "excommunicated" (which, of course, is true);
(2) They should be better integrated into parish life and considered for roles to play therein;
(3) Taking their inspiration from Cardinal Walter Kasper and the German-speaking "circuli minores" (small language groups) at the Synod, the bishops recommended that divorced/remarried persons deal privately ("internal forum") with their respective bishops and parish priests in order to achieve the aforementioned integration. It is this last recommendation that has caused not a few commentators to express concern that this might be “the camel’s nose in the tent.”
Here are ten areas where the bishops easily reached majority agreement:
(1) Protecting the right to life from conception to natural death;
(2) Reaffirming the teaching of Blessed Pope Paul VI's Encyclical "Humanae Vitae" against the use of artificial contraception;
(3) Disapproving of technological means for conceiving babies outside natural conjugal relations;
(4) Defending the dignity of woman, especially against domestic violence and all forms of exploitation;
(5) Expressing a preferential option for poor families;
(6) Resisting any attempt of developed countries to force underdeveloped countries to accept abortion and birth control as a condition for financial aid and other legitimate forms of support;
(7) Facilitating the well-being, physical and spiritual, of migrant and immigrant families;
(8) Caring for sick and suffering family members, especially those who are elderly and disabled;
(9) Assisting couples in their marriage preparation, so that they are properly disposed to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony;
(10) Accompanying young married couples as they begin their married life in the Church.
In the next several weeks, I hope to offer a more detailed commentary on the document, so be sure to read "The Catholic Voice" daily for updates.