THE SERVANT GENERAL
COMMENTARY ON RELATIO FINALIS - 2
The English version has not come out and so we cannot read
the text directly as yet.
My comment is that the Relatio Finalis passed by
a thread!! If there had been one more vote not in favor (thus
176), it would not have passed with the required 2/3 majority!
This is intriguing, given that the two contentious paragraphs
on irregular unions actually passed with more votes, 178 and
180. I can imagine the tension if the last pro vote came towards
the end of the voting.
What does the final vote mean? For one thing, 1/3 of our prelates
are not happy with the result! Are these the liberals or the
conservatives, or cuts across the board? And so the tensions
within our Church will continue. We continue on our path?
We continue on a tumultuous path. The intent of the liberals
will not change.
Even just with this write-up below, we can see the potential
for future challenges. I cite two of them.
“There must be no discrimination against people with
homosexual tendencies.” While the Church affirms opposition
to same-sex unions, the language on discrimination has been
abused and so used to get acceptance of the gay lifestyle
in its fullness, including the legalization of same-sex
marriage, giving transgenders access to women’s bathrooms,
and the like.
text includes extensive reflection on the need to modify
the language of the Church.” If this means becoming
politically correct and not confronting people with their
sin, then this is very dangerous (see Synodos Part 101).
Now the Relatio Finalis has been passed on to Pope
Francis for his disposition. We continue to pray for the Holy
Father, that the Holy Spirit will guide him in whatever document
he comes out with. We also pray that the Spirit thwart the
designs of those liberal prelates around the pope and so protect
Final Document: 'We Continue on Our Path'
of 94 paragraphs given approval by 2/3 majority of synod fathers
The Synod Fathers approved by
177 votes out of 265, a two-thirds majority, the final Relatio
of the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod on the
Family, made up of 94 paragraphs, each one of which was voted
on individually. The director of the Holy See Press Office,
Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., gave a briefing on the document,
which was authorised for publication in Italian by Pope Francis.
Fr. Lombardi remarked that the text takes into account the
many difficulties faced by the family, but also its great
capacity for facing and reacting to them. The conclusive document
of the Synod includes many of the amendments to the Instrumentum
Laboris presented by the Synod Fathers and therefore reflects
the voice of the Assembly.
With reference to the two paragraphs dedicated to complex
family situations, which were approved by a very slender majority
of 178 and 180 votes, Fr. Lombardi noted that they regard
the pastoral approach to wounded families or those that are
irregular from a canonical point of view and in terms of the
discipline of the Church: in particular, cohabitation, civil
marriage, divorced and remarried persons and the way of pastorally
addressing these situations.
Fr. Lombardi underlined that the tone of the document is positive
and welcoming, and that it has greatly enriched the Instrumentum
Laboris. Similarly, the Pope's Motu Proprio on the reform
of marriage annulment procedures made an effective and decisive
contribution to the theme of the Synod.
final Relatio reaffirms the doctrine of the indissolubility
of sacramental marriage, which is not a yoke but rather a
gift from God,
a truth based in Christ and in His relationship with the Church.
At the same time, it underlines
that truth and mercy converge in Christ, which
leads to welcome to wounded families. Without expressly mentioning
access to the Eucharist for remarried divorcees, the Synod
document recalls that they are not excommunicated and refers
the analysis of complex family situations to the discernment
of pastors. This discernment, the text underlines, must be
applied in accordance with the teaching of the Church, with
trust in God's mercy that is denied to no-one. With regard
to cohabiting couples, the text reiterates that this situation
should be faced constructively, seeking to transform it into
an opportunity for a path to conversion towards the fullness
of marriage and family, in the light of the Gospel.
Other salient points of the document refer to homosexuality.
There must be no discrimination against people with homosexual
tendencies, but at the same time the text states that the
Church is contrary to same-sex unions and external pressure
on the Church in relation to this matter is not accepted.
There are special paragraphs dedicated to immigrants, refugees
and persecuted families who are often divided and whose members
can become victims of trafficking. A welcoming approach was
invoked for them too, recalling their rights and also their
duties in their host countries.
There are specific paragraphs on women, men and children,
the mainstays of family life: the text emphasises the need
for the protection and the recognition of the value of their
respective roles. It is hoped that a more prominent role will
be identified for women in the formation of ordained ministers,
while in relation to children mention was made of the beauty
of adoption and fostering, practices which reconstruct ruptured
family bonds. The Synod does not forget widows and widowers,
the disabled, the elderly and grandparents, who enable the
transmission of faith in the family and must be protected
from the throwaway culture. Unmarried people must also be
acknowledged for their commitment to the Church and society.
Among the “shadows” that are frequently cast on
the family, the Synod notes the presence of political and
religious fanaticism hostile to Christianity, growing individualism,
gender ideology, conflicts, persecution, poverty, precarious
employment, corruption, economic difficulties that can exclude
families from education and culture, the globalisation of
indifference in which humanity's place at the centre of society
is usurped by money, pornography, and the declining birth
The Relatio therefore gathers together suggestions for strengthening
preparation for marriage, especially for the young who appear
intimidated by it. They are in need, says the Synod, of an
adequate emotional formation, following the virtues of chastity
and self-giving. In this regard, mention was made of the bond
between the sexual act and procreation between spouses, of
which children are the most precious fruit, since they bear
the memory and hope of an act of love. Another bond is that
between the vocation of the family and the vocation to consecrated
life. Education in sexuality and corporeality and the promotion
of responsible parenting would also be central, in accordance
with the teachings of Paul VI's encyclical “Humanae
Vitae” and the primary role of parents in the education
of their children in faith.
An appeal is launched to institutions to promote an support
policies in favour of the family, and Catholics engaged in
politics are exhorted to protect the family and life, as a
society that neglects them loses its openness to the future.
In this respect, the Synod reaffirms the sacredness of life
from conception to natural death, and warns against the grave
threats posed to the family by abortion and euthanasia. Further
paragraphs are dedicated to mixed marriages, whose positive
aspects in relation to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue
are underlined, while confirming the need to protect religious
freedom and the right to conscientious objection in society.
The text includes extensive reflection on the need to modify
the language of the Church, making it more meaningful so that
the proclamation of the Gospel of the family may truly respond
to the deepest human aspirations. This means not only presenting
a series of regulations but rather announcing the grace that
gives the capacity to live well the good of the family.
Finally, the Relatio emphasises the beauty of the family:
as a domestic church based on marriage between a man and a
woman, the fundamental cell of the society whose growth it
contributes, a safe entry to the deepest sentiments, the sole
point of connection in a fragmented age, and an integral part
of human ecology, it must be protected, supported and encouraged,
also by the authorities.
The document concludes by a plea to the Synod Fathers by the
Pope, regarding the possibility of producing a document on
the family. As Fr. Lombardi explains, “The Synod Fathers
do not say that all is complete, but affirm that they offer
the Relatio to the Holy Father to enable him to evaluate whether
to continue on this route with a document, on the basis of
the Synod text, to further examine the theme of the family
from the perspective he wishes to offer. 'We continue on our
(October 26, 2015) © Innovative Media Inc.
THE SERVANT GENERAL
COMMENTARY ON RELATIO FINALIS
Here is a positive outlook on the recently-concluded Ordinary
Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. It illustrates the deep
challenges that were present at the start and how it finally
While things did not turn out as the liberals would have wanted
(praise God), this is not the end of the struggle. The liberals
will not simply quit. They will await another opportunity.
We must remain vigilant.
As the way forward, I emphasize two things mentioned here.
Couples and their children are agents of evangelization.
There should be a closer link of family to mission. This
is exactly the life and mission of CFC-FFL. Our vision is
evangelization founded on family renewal. The two intimately
go together. We strengthen families in order that such families
will bring the light of Christ into the world.
is not our Catholic Church or her pastoral practices that
need to change and to conform to the culture of the world,
but rather the task of the Church is to change the world
darkened by sin. We must stand for authentic Church teaching
and defend our Magisterium. We must not fall into the errors
of political correctness.
and commentary, from Rome and elsewhere, on the XIV Ordinary
General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
Final Report of Synod-2015
Relatio Finalis [final report] of Synod-2015, adopted
this evening by the Synod Fathers, is a massive and encouraging
improvement over the Instrumentum Laboris [working
document] that was the baseline for the Synod’s work.
The tremendous difference between the two documents illustrates
just how fruitful a path the Synod walked over three sometimes-challenging
differences, considerable improvement
as it was with sociology, and not-too-good sociology at that,
the working document was, at more than a few points, hard
to recognise as a Church document. The final report is clearly
an ecclesial text, a product of the Church’s meditation
on the Word of God, understood as the lens through which the
Church interprets its contemporary experience.
working document was biblically anorexic. The final report
is richly biblical, even eloquently biblical, as befits a
Synod meeting on the fiftieth anniversary of the conclusion
of the Second Vatican Council and its Dogmatic Constitution
on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum .
times, the working document seemed almost embarrassed by the
settled doctrine of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage,
on the conditions necessary for the worthy reception of Holy
Communion, and on the virtues of chastity and fidelity.
final report reaffirms the Church’s doctrines on marriage,
Holy Communion, and the possibility of living virtuously in
the post-modern world. And it does so without
cavil, even as it calls the Church to a more effective proclamation
of the truths it bears as a patrimony from the Lord Jesus
himself, and to more solicitous pastoral care of those in
difficult marital and familial circumstances.
working document was virtually silent on the gift of children.
The final report describes children as one of the greatest
of blessings, praises large families, is careful to honor
special-needs kids, and lifts up the witness of
happily and fruitfully married couples and their children
as agents of evangelisation.
working document made something of a hash out of conscience
and its role in the moral life. The final report does a much
better job of explaining the Church’s understanding
of conscience and its relationship to truth, rejecting the
idea that conscience is a kind of free-floating faculty of
the will that can function as the equivalent of a “Get
Out of Jail Free” card.
The working document was full of ambiguities about pastoral
practice and its relationship to doctrine. The final report,
while not without some ambiguities, makes clear that pastoral
care must begin from a bottom-line of commitment to the settled
teaching of the Church, and that
there really is no such thing as “local-option Catholicism,”
either in terms of regional/national solutions to challenges
or parish-by-parish solutions. The Church remains one Church.
working document was also ambiguous in its description of
“family.” The final report underscores that there
can be no proper analogy drawn between the Catholic understanding
of “marriage” and “family” and other
social arrangements, no matter what their legal status.
and truth sometimes seemed in tension in the working document.
The final report is far more theologically developed in relating
mercy and truth in God, and thus inseparable in the doctrine
and practice of the Church.
working document was not much from a literary point of view,
and was more than a little laborious to digest. The final
report is quite eloquent at a number of points and will enrich
the lives of those who read it, however much they may disagree
with this or that formulation.
sum, the final report, though not without flaws, goes a very
long way – and light years beyond the Instrumentum
Laboris – in doing what Pope Francis and many Synod
fathers wanted this entire two-year process to do: lift up
and celebrate the Catholic vision of marriage and the family
as a luminous answer to the crisis of those institutions in
the 21st century.
and missed opportunities
has also brought to light several serious problems that remain
to be addressed as the Church moves beyond the twinned Synods
of 2014 and 2015, with the Synod-2015 final report as a framework
for further reflection (and for whatever post-synodal document
Pope Francis eventually chooses to issue).
first of these problems might be called one of theological
and pastoral digestion. It was painfully clear from more than
a few of the interventions in the Synod general assembly –
and from some of the reports of the Synod’s language-based
discussion groups – that large sectors of the world
Church have not even begun to internalize the teaching of
Familiaris Consortio (John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic
exhortation completing the work of the 1980 Synod on the Family),
much less John Paul’s Theology of the Body.
some parts of the Western European Church seem to regard any
reference to such material as hopelessly old hat, even though
it’s only thirty-some years old. The enthusiasm with
which the Theology of the Body has been received in the more
alert parts of the Church in North America was certainly part
of the discussion at Synod-2015; but a great deal of work
remains to be done to bring this uniquely Catholic perspective
on embodiedness, sexuality, and human love to pastoral fruition
in Latin America and Europe.
it’s perhaps not surprising that it takes awhile for
genuinely original teaching that stretches and develops the
Catholic tradition to take hold; these things always take
time. But given the rapidity with which cultural change (or
cultural deconstruction) is washing over the western world,
it’s certainly to be hoped that local churches which
have not yet availed themselves of these resources hit the
accelerator. Synod-2015 would also have been more honest had
the debate brought to the surface the hard fact that the
communion issue and the conscience issue often functioned
as stalking horses for episcopates, largely from the German-speaking
world, that want to forget Humanae Vitae
and deconstruct Veritatis Splendor.
Those parts of the world Church have never forgiven Paul VI
for reaffirming, in Humanae Vitae, of the classic
Catholic view of the appropriate means for regulating fertility.
Neither have they forgiven John Paul II for rejecting the
proportionalist moral theology of such major German theological
figures as Bernard Häring and Joseph Fuchs and insisting,
in Veritatis Splendor, that some acts are, in and
of themselves, gravely evil (malum in se).
prominent Synod father from German-speaking Catholicism even
went so far as to suggest, in an interview prior to Synod-2015,
that there was always some good to be found in every situation,
that malum in se had no real meaning in our world.
(One immediately thinks of rape, the torture of children,
sex-trafficking of young girls, ISIS crucifixions and beheadings
of Christians, and wonders just what was going on in this
addition to the intellectual pride that I’ve already
noted as a problem in these contestations, one can’t
also help wonder about a certain blindness to history. The
unraveling of the moral fabric of the West is leading, step
by step, to what Benedict XVI aptly called the “dictatorship
of relativism” – the use of coercive state power
to impose a thoroughly relativistic moral code on all of society.
Why can’t prominent German-speaking bishops see this?
subtext to the debates at Synod-2015 was a question as old
as the controversy between Augustine and Pelagius –
and probably a lot older than that: Are we sinners in need
of redemption, or are we basically good people who can, by
our own efforts, pull ourselves up to the nobility to which
latter option now comes packaged as “expressive individualism”
– the term used by Notre Dame law professor Carter Snead,
in remarks reported earlier this week in Letters from
the Synod, to sum up the postmodern notion of the
human person as simply a bundle of desires, an embodied will.
bad enough, as Professor Snead said, when five justices of
the US Supreme Court believe this and then use it as the excuse
to find “rights” in the Constitution that would
have been unimaginable to those who wrote and adopted that
text and its amendments. It’s far worse when one
finds Catholic bishops who seem to be veering in a similar,
misguided direction, acting under cultural pressures that
seem to be creating a sense of pastoral desperation.
Here, then, is another issue that needs serious examination
in the post-Synod-2015 Church.
and despite all the good things in the final report,
it’s a shame that a Synod intended to be about changing
the world ended up being a battle over changing the Church
– or remaining faithful to its constitutive doctrine
is not, one expects, what Pope Francis wanted, but it’s
what happened, and that in itself is a missed opportunity.
It also suggests that the passion
for a “Church permanently in mission” of which
the Holy Father speaks has yet to be communicated to some
very important sectors of the world Church.
Church turned inward is not the Church of the New Evangelisation.
So it remains for those committed to the evangelical rebirth
of Catholicism in the 21st century to more closely link family
to mission than Synod-2015 was able to do.
Senior Fellow and
E Simon Chair in Catholic Studies,
and Public Policy Center
* * *