Family synod working document takes firm yet merciful approach

A new working document for the upcoming synod on the family has hinted at initiatives to help divorced and remarried Catholics.

The 85-page “Instrumentum Laboris” was released by the Vatican on June 26.

It was drafted after consultation last year, when a questionnaire about family life was sent to bishops’ conferences.

The working document stresses the truth of Church teaching, but calls for mercy and support for those who struggle.

It devotes eight pages to separation, divorce and remarriage.

It does not propose changes to Church practice on admission to Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, but it does “obliquely” refer to such, a National Catholic Reporter story says.

“The Church needs to equip herself with pastoral means which provide the possibility of her more widely exercising mercy, clemency and indulgence towards new unions,” the document states.

There is an acknowledgement the Church must find ways to accompany people towards reconciliation.

“With patience and understanding, she must explain to these people that their not being able to celebrate the sacraments does not mean that they are excluded from the Christian life and a relationship with God.”

The document also lamented that people who are separated, divorced or single parents can be made to feel unwelcome in parishes and by some clergy.

The document has six pages on contraception, sometimes fiercely defending Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae.

It was also blunt about bishops’ reaction to same-sex marriage, stating: “Every bishops’ conference voiced opposition to ‘redefining’ marriage.”

It states: “The great challenge will be to develop a ministry which can maintain the proper balance between accepting persons in a spirit of compassion and gradually guiding them to authentic human and Christian maturity.”

The document noted that bishops’ conferences were “in agreement on the underlying reasons for the difficulty in accepting Church teaching” in modern society.

Among those reasons: “the hedonistic culture; relativism; materialism; individualism; the growing secularism; the prevalence of ideas that lead to an excessive, selfish liberalisation of morals;. . . [and] a culture which rejects making permanent choices.”

But the document also acknowledged that sex abuse scandals had weakened the Church’s moral credibility.

According to the NCR, the document paints the October synod as an event for prelates to evaluate how to re-articulate current teachings, not to evaluate the teachings themselves.


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