Synod final document seen as ‘historic step’ of inclusion

The final document of the synod of bishops on the family has stressed that the Church must involve the divorced and civilly remarried in all ways possible.

While the document does not mention Communion for such people who are baptised, it calls for their integration into the Church community, while “avoiding every occasion of scandal”.

The synod fathers noted that the parties in a divorce may not be equally to blame and the Church must consider this.

The final document reiterates the recommendations of St John Paul II in Familaris Consortio in looking at the reasons why people might have left a first marriage.

“Therefore, while upholding the general norm, it’s necessary to recognise that the responsibility for certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases,” the document continued.

“Pastoral discernment, taking account of the correctly formed consciences of people, must take up these situations.

“The consequences of the acts committed are also not the same in all cases.”

Suggesting use of what is called the “internal forum”, the document states that priests can help remarried Catholics “in becoming conscious of their situation before God” and then deciding how to move forward.

“ . . . The necessary conditions should be guaranteed of humility, discretion, and love of the Church and its teachings in the sincere seeking of the will of God and in the wish to give a more perfect response to it,” it added.

The way the synod fathers treated the overall issue is seen as leaving the door open for further development of Church teaching on the subject.

German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a leading progressive voice at the synod, called the document an “historic step”.

Several synod prelates have said they expect Pope Francis to develop themes of the gathering in his own document sometime in the future.

All the paragraphs in the synod final document received the necessary two-thirds majority vote to be accepted.

But the most contentious paragraph – number 85 dealing with response to divorced and remarried people – only did this by one vote (178-80).

Among other issues discussed in the document were respect for homosexual people, welcome for co-habiting couples, contraception, supporting families in difficulty and the welfare of children.

Sources

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